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Asia, Pacific Rim
Mar 24, 2021 China's Civil Nuclear Sector: Plowshares to Swords? (Occasional Paper 2102)
  Today, Reuters reported that China is pushing the development of a new generation of fast breeder reactors that make significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium. The article draws on reports that China is building not one, but two large reprocessing plants (the first likely to come on line in 2025; the second sometime before 2030) and two large fast breeder reactors (projected to begin operation in 2023 and 2026). With the normal operation of fast breeder reactors of the size China is building comes the annual production of hundreds of bombs’ worth of weapons-grade plutonium. This has major military implications. To help clarify them, the Reuters article, cites NPEC’s research report, “China’s Civil Nuclear Sector: Plowshares to Swords?”, which NPEC is releasing today. The senior-most nuclear nonproliferation policy officials of both the Trump and the Obama Administrations — Christopher Ford and Thomas Countryman — coauthored the report’s preface and endorsed its determinations. The report’s key finding is that given China’s large fast reactor program, China could conservatively produce 1,270 nuclear weapons by 2030 simply by exploiting the weapons-grade plutonium this program will produce. If China chose, in addition, to make weapons that either used highly enriched uranium or composite (uranium-plutonium) cores, it could increase this number by a factor of two or more. The report makes several recommendations. First, our government needs to learn why, after 2017, China stopped reporting privately on its civilian plutonium activities and holdings to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). China, Russia, the United States, France, the UK, and Japan agreed to make these reports and have done so since 1997. Second, the US, South Korea, Japan, and China should make this information public and also publicly share their uranium holdings and enrichment related activities. On the defense side, Washington should ask Beijing to reveal what its military plutonium and uranium holdings are. The United States already did so in 1996 and 2001. Finally, the report recommends that the United States explore with China, Japan, and South Korea the idea of taking a commercial plutonium production timeout. Currently, fast reactors are far less economic than the least economic of conventional reactors. Japan, South Korea, and the United States could and should offer to delay their fast reactor and commercial plutonium programs if China would agree to do the same. The full report includes work by Hui Zhang of Harvard’s Belfer Center, Greg Jones, Frank Von Hippel of Princeton University, David Von Hippel, and two appendices consisting of previously published NPEC studies. The later examine the difficulties of preventing abrupt and incremental diversions from commercial nuclear fuel-making plants of the type China and Japan have or are planning to build and that South Korea and the United States are considering developing.  
Occasional Papers & Monographs
Feb 22, 2021 NPEC's Public Policy Fellowship Research Retreat 2021
Presentations; Audio & Video
Jan 06, 2021 How to Think about Our Rivalry with China and Russia
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Henry Sokolski gave an interview with The John Batchelor Show. We’re trading a lot, at least with China; quite unlike the Cold War.  Another complication is that our ideological opposition to what's going on in China and Russia is a lot less than the fear and loathing were during the Cold War. Finally, our allies have reason to want to do business with them.  China’s and Russia’s militaries work hand in glove with each other. A change is that many people know the malice of China in intentionally releasing the virus, with over 300,000 deaths.  However, many of China’s trading partners want nothing to do with China’s strategic cooperation. South Korea wants to rejoin with the North; not fully [aligned] with Japan. India and Australia.  A lot of other stuff needs attending to beneath that. It's a lot more complicated than formerly. Space: does this moot the success of strategic arms treaties of the last century?  No.  . . . an upcoming period of US vulnerability is space. Deterrence: a different meaning from during Cold War; no longer based in seas, air, ground, but on eyes, ears, voice from space. Absent these, a sort of lobotomy.      
Interviews; Audio & Video
Nov 05, 2020 Three Neglected Space Issues: Laser ASATs, Cooperation with China and Russia, and Space Secrecy
Earlier this summer, NPEC and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security held their fifth space policy workshop, “Three Neglected Space Issues: Laser ASAT's, Cooperation with China and Russia, and Space Secrecy.” Attached is the workshop report. Very little has been said publicly about the Chinese and Russian ground-based anti-satellite weapon threat. The first panel clarified this threat. Like rendezvous satellites, ground-based lasers have perfectly legitimate civilian applications. However, they also can be used to disrupt, dazzle, and destroy important military satellites. Some technical fixes against this threat are possible. It also would be desirable to have certain rules governing the operations of these ground-based systems. Devising either set of fixes, however, are not possible without discussing these matters in a more open fashion. The second panel focused on how excessive secrecy is hobbling America’s military space programs and related space control diplomacy. The details of how self-defeating some forms of secrecy are and what should be done about it were extensively discussed. Finally, the third panel focused on space cooperation with Russia and China. What is the future of such cooperation? Might more cooperation help sort out rules for military space operations or is additional space cooperation ill-advised? On these matters, the participant’s views were divided: Some thought space cooperation was the best way to promote needed space control rules; others believed it would be unlikely China would ever comply. Below is the workshop’s report. The impressive list of speakers and participants included James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers former Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Michael Gold, acting associate NASA administrator, and Simon “Pete” Worden of Breakthrough Initiatives.
Testimony & Transcripts
Oct 31, 2020 A China Wargame for the New Administration
As President Biden fills out his national security team, deterring Chinese adventurism, particularly towards Taiwan, will be necessary to keep the peace. Last October, NPEC conducted a series of wargames that had Beijing stopping all cargo ships bound for Taiwan and demanding that they pay a duty to Mainland China. Attached is a final report on these games, which engaged 20 Hill, Pentagon, State, and Intelligence Community staff. Although the United States and its Pacific allies did all they could to avoid military conflict in the games, a shooting war ensued. Fortunately, the U.S. and its allies were able to produce a stalemate without going nuclear. There were two important take-aways. The first is that the United States needs to work more vigorously with its Indo-Pacific allies to deter Beijing from using military force to intimidate Taiwan and China’s other neighbors. The report lists several ways to do this.  Second, the U.S. needs to revitalize its efforts to dissuade Japan and South Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. This needs to begin now, before any regional crisis, such as an invasion of Taiwan, might prompt Japan or South Korea to get their own nuclear weapons. Any such U.S.-led nonproliferation effort must also address China’s nuclear materials and weapons build-up.   
Wargame Reports
Oct 29, 2020 Alternative Asian Futures
On October 29, 2020, NPEC Executive Director Henry Sokolski gave a lecture to University of San Diego students on the subject of "Alternative Asian Futures."
Presentations; Audio & Video
Oct 22, 2020 Strategic Deterrence: Its Future if the Bomb Spreads
Just before this week's presidential election, Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. envoy for arms control, pleaded with NATO members not to share sensitive nuclear technology with China. He made this request to pressure Beijing to join nuclear arms negotiations with Washington and Moscow. Certainly, reaching limits on the future growth of Russian and Chinese nuclear forces is desirable. In China's case, special attention needs to be paid not just to how many warheads it has, but to how it might exploit its "peaceful" civilian nuclear infrastructure to ramp up those numbers. Limiting such a possible ramp up should have a more prominent place on America's arms control agenda. Mr. Billingslea's NATO plea is a start. What more is needed? Last week, I spoke to this question before the Air Force Association's Nuclear Deterrence Breakfast Series. It is unclear just how large China plans to make its nuclear arsenal over the next decade. Compounding this uncertainty is China's latent capacity to make many hundreds of nuclear weapons by tapping existing and planned uranium enrichment and plutonium recycling plants. This possibility puts our Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, on edge. With any bad luck this could prompt them to go nuclear. To address this, the United States should propose a time-out on reprocessing and cap existing enrichment capacities at their current levels throughout the Pacific Rim, including the United States. I make a number of other suggestions at the close of my talk.  
Presentations; Audio & Video
Oct 21, 2020 "What Missile-driven Competition with China Will Look Like," American Purpose
Earlier this week, administration officials said they were close to reaching an agreement with Moscow to extend the New START arms control agreement for an additional year. They made it clear that they wanted to use the year to get China to join the talks with Washington and Moscow. Assuming this takes place, though, what would the US, Russia, and China talk about? In the short-run, it's unclear. In the long-run, the matter of China's missiles (they have more than anyone else) must come up. In the below analysis published by American Purpose, I look out the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.  The United States and its allies have their work cut out for them. China is likely to bubild up its nuclear and conventional missile forces even further in an attempt to gain advantage over the United States and its friends not just in the Western Pacific, but globally. The United States and its friends, however, can and will compete militarily and diplomatically, all of which is discussed below. 
Articles; Op-Eds & Blogs
Sep 13, 2020 A Project Best Not Done: South Korean Nuclear Submarines
  Churchill once remarked the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them. Reviewing South Korea’s plans to build nuclear submarines, one gets the impression that Seoul may unwittingly be trying to do both: If it proceeds to acquire nuclear submarines, Seoul will needlessly spend more to achieve less to counter both surface and underwater naval threats and will weaken its military operational ties to the U.S. Navy. In fact, South Korea could buy far more nonnuclear anti-submarine and surface capabilities by foregoing the nuclear option and tighten their operational ties with the U.S. in the process.   It does not help that South Korea’s pursuit of nuclear submarines raises nuclear proliferation concerns. Any attempt by Seoul to fuel these boats will require renegotiating the U.S.-South Korean nuclear cooperation agreement. There is a good reason why: Getting into the uranium enrichment business would give Seoul a sure-fire nuclear weapons option.   To examine how much sense South Korea’s proposed nuclear submarine program makes militarily, NPEC commissioned James O. Campbell Jr., Lead Yard Production Manager at the Naval Sea Systems Command, to contrast these nuclear systems against the military potency and economic efficiency of their nonnuclear alternatives. The attached year-long study makes the case that Seoul’s enthusiasm for building their own nuclear submarines is misplaced.    It may well be that the United States will always have difficulty dictating to its allies what weapons they must buy from the United States. At a minimum, however, friends don’t let friends spend more to make everyone less secure. Given the much better nonnuclear anti-submarine and anti-surface system alternatives that Mr. Campbell has identified, South Korean enthusiasm for building nuclear submarines is just such a case.    
Occasional Papers & Monographs
Aug 24, 2020 "Will North Korea Benefit from Joe Biden's Plan for Iran?," The National Interest
 "Will North Korea Benefit from Joe Biden's Plan for Iran?" is an op-ed Henry Sokolski wrote. It appeared in The National Interest on August 24, 2020. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
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founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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