Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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By Tom French

Cranfield University's Hazel Smith once argued that the major flaws in most analyses of North Korea were the assumptions that the communist regime was either; 'bad' i.e. 'evil', malevolent or belligerent; or 'mad', irrational, unknowable or unpredictable. The sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in disputed waters on 26th March by a North Korean submarine, as now tacitly admitted by the South Korean Defence Ministry, at first glance clearly seems to fit Smith's definitions, being classified by most as a belligerent, or even irrational, act.

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By Baker Spring

The Obama Administration released its overdue Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on April 6, 2010. [1] The review establishes five specific objectives for the future nuclear force of the United States. Missing from these five objectives is what should be the most important objective of all: defending the U.S. and its allies against strategic attack. Accordingly, Congress, the American people, and America's allies need to ask the Obama Administration a simple and straightforward question: Why won't you defend us?

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By Matthew Smith

Israel has a history of military intervention in Arab nuclear programs. In 1981 Israel launched an air strike that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. In 2007, the Israeli Air Force similarly attacked a partially constructed nuclear reactor in Syria after intelligence sharing with the United States. With Iran announcing the implementation of new third-generation centrifuges and improvements to its air defence systems, has an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear targets become more probable? The answer to this question is yes, but not dramatically so. An early strike is still unlikely given the current political climate, the still needed for Iran to develop a capability and the limited likelihood of significantly hindering Iran's nuclear programme. The continued vulnerability of Iran's air defence network also removes the military necessity for action now.

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By Rep Ike Skelton, Chairman of the US House of Repreentatives Armes Services Committee

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 required the Secretary of Defense to perform a review of our nuclear posture, in coordination with the Departments of State and Energy.

The Administration's Nuclear Posture Review seeks to establish a bipartisan approach to nuclear policy, and, in my view, properly balances the role of our nuclear deterrent forces with the goals of preventing nuclear terrorism and weapons proliferation.

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By Jorge Rivera

Last week, President Obama and his Russian counter-part President Medvedev signed an agreement for further reductions to their nuclear arsenal. It is being labelled as the most significant pact for a generation, and will limit the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550, which is 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty. It also limits the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) to 800 launchers.

The effects of this pact will take several years to be fully realised but it will put pressure on NATO to re-evaluate its stance on its nuclear capabilities. NATO's nuclear deterrence strategy has evolved significantly since the end of the Cold War as has the Alliance's force posture in order to meet the new security challenges. Changes to the international security environment on the other hand have posed serious obstacles to the nuclear free world that President Obama envisioned in his speech in Prague, Czech Republic 2009. However, the arduous journey towards complete worldwide nuclear disarmament has begun this month, albeit slowly, creating ripples rather waves in this area of policy.

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Sr. Colonel Yao Yunzhu, People's Liberation Army of China

M y topic is about China's perspective on deterrence, but before I deal with the topic, I must point out that for a long time in the Cold War, China strongly opposed the concept of nuclear deterrence, which, as so frequently used by the US government, had carried with it such derogatory connotations as "nuclear blackmail," "nuclear coercion," "nuclear containment," and "nuclear threat." And China, as the country most frequently threatened by nuclear attack, was understandably reluctant to use such a term. Not until the late 1980s or early 1990s, when China's drive toward defence modernization inspired academic debate, did deterrence gain acceptance as a key concept in strategic studies and lose its pejorative sense. However, even though the term remained taboo for some time, the logic of deterrence has always played a major role in Chinese nuclear thinking. To facilitate understanding, I explain China's nuclear policy, making use of US deterrence terminology, and compare China's deterrence thinking with that of the United States.

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