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Westlake Legal Group > Nuclear Weapons

France, Germany and U.K. Serve Notice on Iran Under Nuclear Deal

Westlake Legal Group 14eu-iran-facebookJumbo France, Germany and U.K. Serve Notice on Iran Under Nuclear Deal United States International Relations United Nations Nuclear Weapons Iran Great Britain Germany France Embargoes and Sanctions

BRUSSELS — Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a tough warning to Tehran and the first step toward reimposing further United Nations sanctions on Iran.

The move, which had been expected for more than a week, was delayed when the United States killed a top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with repercussions that are still playing out in Iran and across the region.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism will set the clock running on what could be some 60 days of negotiations with Iran about coming back into full compliance with the deal, and could end up with a “snapback” of United Nations sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has imposed several rounds of American sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has repeatedly moved beyond the limits that the agreement had placed on its nuclear program, raising fears that it could be close to building an atomic bomb.

The Europeans want to save the deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities, a senior European official said.

But the three European countries, all signatories to the deal, clearly felt that they had to respond to Iran’s progressive movement away from compliance with the deal’s limits on centrifuges and uranium enrichment.

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Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-nukes-facebookJumbo Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions Zarif, Mohammad Javad Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Nuclear Weapons Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

That, at least, appeared to hold open the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp to the major escalation in hostilities since the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful official in Iran and head of the Quds Force.

But some leading experts declared that the effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy was over. “It’s finished,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview. “If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal.”

To some of the Iran deal’s most vociferous critics, the announcement was a welcome development. Among them was John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser who was ousted by Mr. Trump last summer because, the president said, he was concerned Mr. Bolton was forcing him into conflict with Iran.

“Another good day,” Mr. Bolton wrote on Twitter. “Iran rips the mask off the idea it ever fully complied with the nuclear deal, or that it made a strategic decision to forswear nuclear weapons. Now, it’s on to the real job: effectively preventing the ayatollahs from getting such a capability.”

But to much of the world — especially the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, who were partners in the nuclear deal — Mr. Trump’s decision to back out of the accord led to the crisis.

The president’s unilateral action started a sequence of events — the re-imposition of American sanctions, Iran’s gradual return to nuclear activity over the past year, actions that led to the targeting of General Suleimani — that could be speeding the two countries toward conflict.

Iran’s announcement means that it will no longer observe any limits on the number of centrifuges it can install to enrichment uranium or the level to which it enriches it.

Iran did not say if it would resume production at 20 percent, a major leap toward bomb-grade uranium, or beyond. But by allowing inspectors to remain in the country, as the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Tehran would, Iran will have witnesses to its own “maximum pressure” campaign against the West.

The primary American objective in the 2015 agreement was to keep Iran at least a year away from getting enough fuel to fashion a warhead.

Even before Sunday’s announcement, a series of steps by Tehran discarding elements of the agreement had reduced that warning time to a matter of months. The risk now is that uncertainties about how close the Iranians are to their first weapon will grow, and perhaps become fodder for calls in the United States and Israel to take military action.

In essence, Iran is saying it now can produce whatever kind of nuclear fuel it wants, including bomb-grade material.

Now, the United States and Israel must confront the big question: Will they take military or cyberwarfare action to try to cripple those production facilities?

More than a decade ago the United States and Israel cooperated on a mission code-named Olympic Games, the most sophisticated cyberattack in history, to get into the computer code driving the centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear enrichment site and make them blow up.

The Iranians recovered, and rebuilt the facility, tripling the number of centrifuges that existed before the cyberattack and opening a new centrifuge center deep in a mountain called Fordow, which is far harder to bomb. Israel repeatedly considered bombing the facilities, but was stopped by the United States and internal warnings about starting a war.

Now, after the killing of General Suleimani, those restraints could evaporate.

The nuclear deal also laid out unusually stringent scrutiny for all of Iran’s main nuclear facilities — “including daily access” if international atomic inspectors requested it.

Sunday’s announcement left unclear whether Tehran intends to obey that heightened scrutiny or will lower its adherence to the standard level. In a Twitter post, Mr. Zarif, the foreign minister, said “Iran’s full cooperation” with the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency “will continue.”

Mr. Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said that reduced visibility into the Iranian nuclear program could end up increasing fears of worst-case scenarios — and, perhaps, miscalculations — related to military strikes and war.

“They were added to gain comfort,” Mr. Albright said of the strengthened inspections. “Having daily access reduced suspicions and the chance of conspiracy theories taking root.”

For example, Mr. Albright said, new ambiguity could darken views in the West on how long it would take Iran to make enough fuel for a single atomic bomb — what nuclear experts call “breakout.” Such estimates are based on the number and efficiency of the whirling machines that concentrate a rare isotope of uranium to levels high enough to make weapon fuel.

The Iran deal was designed to keep Tehran a year or more away from getting enough highly enriched uranium to fashion a single warhead — what international inspectors call “a significant quantity.”

Mr. Albright said his group’s worst-case estimate for an Iranian breakout is four to five months. But some experts, he added, have estimated as little as two months.

He noted that the international inspectors still would have regular access to Iran’s nuclear facilities as part of the safeguard agreements of nuclear nations.

But if “the high level of transparency that the nuclear deal provided” should come to an end, Mr. Albright added, “it could undermine confidence” in the West’s assessments of Iran’s nuclear acts and intentions.

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Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It’s Not That Easy.

Westlake Legal Group 01dc-ASSESS-2-facebookJumbo Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It’s Not That Easy. United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons North Korea Kim Jong-un Iran Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

President Trump entered the new year facing flare-ups of long-burning crises with two old adversaries — Iran and North Korea — which are directly challenging his claim to have reasserted American power around the world.

While the Iranian-backed attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be under control, it played to Mr. Trump’s longtime worry that American diplomats and troops in the Middle East are easy targets — and his longtime stance that the United States must pull back from the region.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s declaration on Wednesday that the world would “witness a new strategic weapon” seemed to be the end of an 18-month experiment in which Mr. Trump believed his force of personality — and vague promises of economic development — would wipe away a problem that plagued the last twelve of his predecessors.

The timing of these new challenges is critical: Both the Iranians and the North Koreans seem to sense the vulnerability of a president under impeachment and facing re-election, even if they are often clumsy as they try to play those events to their advantage.

The protests in Iraq calmed on Wednesday, at least for now, and Mr. Kim has not yet lit off his latest “strategic weapon.” But the events of recent days have underscored how much bluster was behind Mr. Trump’s boast a year ago that Iran was “a very different nation” since he had broken its economy, and belied his famous tweet: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Today the most generous thing one could say about those statements is that they were wildly premature. Many foreign policy experts say he fundamentally misjudged the reactions of two major American adversaries. And neither seem to fear him — precisely the critique he leveled at Barack Obama back in the days when Mr. Trump declared America’s toughest national security challenges could be solved as soon as a president the world respected was in office.

The core problem may have been Mr. Trump’s conviction that economic incentives alone — choking off oil revenues in Tehran and the prospect of investment and glorious beach-front hotels in North Korea — would overcome all other national interests. He dismissed the depth of the Iran’s determination to re-establish itself as the most powerful force in the region, and Mr. Kim’s conviction that its nuclear arsenal is its only insurance policy to buoy one of the last family-controlled Stalinist regimes.

“After three years of no international crises,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Tuesday, Mr. Trump is “facing one with Iran because he has rejected diplomacy and another with North Korea because he has asked too much of diplomacy.”

“In neither case has Trump embraced traditional diplomacy, putting forward a partial or interim pact in which a degree of restraint would be met with a degree of sanctions relief.”

Mr. Trump does not engage with such arguments, simply repeating his mantra that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and that North Korea — which already has fuel for upward of 40, much of it produced on Mr. Trump’s watch — has committed to full denuclearization, even though that overstates Mr. Kim’s position.

His top national security officials, starting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, offer a somewhat more nuanced view, saying that over time Iran will realize it has no choice but to change its ways, and expressing optimism that “Chairman Kim will make the right decision and he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.”

Increasingly, though, such lines sound like a hope, not a strategy. And that is Mr. Trump’s fundamental problem as he enters 2020: His diplomacy has not produced a comprehensive plan to gather the nation’s estranged allies into a concerted course of action.

The absence of a common approach is hurting the most in Iran. When Mr. Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal — declaring it a “terrible” piece of Obama-era diplomacy because it did not create permanent restraints on Iran’s ability to produce nuclear fuel — his aides sounded confident that the Europeans, China and Russia would follow suit. They did not.

Europe has flailed in its efforts to counteract American sanctions against Iran, but has insisted that the deal remains in place, even though both Washington and Tehran are violating key aspects of it. Russia and China have taken the next step: Last week they opened joint naval exercises with Iran in the Gulf of Oman. The exercises were not militarily significant, and the three nations have plenty of differences. But to the Iranians, they symbolized having two nuclear-armed superpowers on their side.

Vice Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, a deputy commander for the Iranian navy, was quoted in the Financial Times declaring that “The most important achievement of these drills” was the message “that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be isolated.”

It is possible the Trump administration’s strategy will still bear fruit: Mr. Pompeo was doing everything he could in recent weeks to express support for Iranians who were mounting protests inside their own country. But the history of past protests — most notably in 2009 — offer little hope that they can threaten the government. Hundreds of protesters appear to have been killed by internal security forces this time.

Meanwhile, the Iranians have a fine sense that “maximum pressure” campaigns work in both directions. They are vulnerable to cutoffs in oil flows. But the United States is vulnerable to highly public attacks on troops and tankers. And the attack on the outer walls of the American embassy in Baghdad, even if short-lived, was clearly designed to send a shiver down the spine of Mr. Trump’s political aides, who remember well that a hostage crisis led to President Jimmy Carter’s re-election defeat forty years ago.

Mounting a strike and pulling back is a familiar technique from Iran in recent months, including its attacks on oil tankers, an American drone and Saudi oil facilities.

The Iranians have made clear what Mr. Trump needs to do to reopen negotiations: Essentially, return to the deal struck with Mr. Obama, largely by lifting sanctions Mr. Trump imposed starting in May 2018. There are signs Mr. Trump is eager to resume talks, including his effort to lure President Hassan Rouhani to the phone when the Iranian leader was in New York in September for United Nations meetings.

That diplomatic initiative will doubtless continue in secret. But the Iranians have found new leverage: the ability to turn anti-Iran protests in Iraq into protests against American troops there, complete with Iran’s signature “Death to America” street chants.

Mr. Trump returned to a well-known stance on Tuesday, emphasizing that he did not want a war but also warning Iran that if it started one, any conflict “wouldn’t last very long.”

North Korea is a harder problem because there Mr. Trump had a diplomatic process underway, one that was both bold and imaginative. By breaking the mold and agreeing to meet the North Korean leader face to face, the first for an American president since the end of the Korean War, he had the makings of a breakthrough.

But he made key mistakes. He failed to get a nuclear freeze agreement from the North in return for the meeting, meaning that the country’s nuclear and missile production churned along while the two old adversaries returned to their old stances.

And Mr. Trump’s team, internally divided, could not back itself out of the corner the president initially put them with his vow for no serious sanctions relief until the arsenal was disbanded. Mr. Trump did cancel joint military exercises with South Korea — over Pentagon objections — but that was not enough for Mr. Kim.

But perhaps Mr. Trump’s biggest miscalculation was over-relying on the personal rapport he built with Mr. Kim, and overinterpreting the commitments he received from the young, wily North Korean leader.

That continues. On his way to a New Year’s party at his Mar-a-Lago club on Tuesday night, the president focused on their relationship, as if Mr. Kim’s declaration that he was no longer bound by any commitment to cease missile and nuclear testing didn’t exist. “He likes me, I like him, we get along,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s representing his country, I’m representing my country. We have to do what we have to do.”

Then he misrepresented the agreement in Singapore, describing it as if it were a real-estate deal. “But he did sign a contract,” he said of the vague declaration of principles reached in Singapore in June 2018. In fact, it was not a contract, it had no binding force, and it referred to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” That phrase means something very different in Pyongyang than it does in Washington: It means the North expects the United States to pull back its own nuclear-backed forces, including submarines and ships that can deliver such weapons to the peninsula.

So now Mr. Trump finds himself in roughly the same place his predecessors did: Awaiting a new missile test. It may be a solid-fuel, intercontinental missile, according to some experts like Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to show that the North has finally mastered a weapon that can be rolled out and launched with little warning. And it may carry some kind of payload to demonstrate that the country now knows how to make a warhead that can withstand re-entry into the atmosphere, a difficult technology.

But buried in Mr. Kim’s New Years statement was a suggestion of what he really had in mind: talks with the United States about the “scope and depth” of the North’s nuclear force. That means he really isn’t interested in denuclearization at all. He’s interested in arms-control talks, like the United States conducted for decades with the Soviet Union, and then Russia. And arms control, of course, would achieve what Mr. Kim, his father and his grandfather all sought: that insurance policy for the family.

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What Kim Jong-un’s Latest Threats Say About His Trump Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 01northkorea1-facebookJumbo What Kim Jong-un’s Latest Threats Say About His Trump Strategy United States International Relations United Nations Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Tests North Korea Kim Jong-un Embargoes and Sanctions

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has long threatened to “find a new way” if the United States persists with sanctions. And when North Korea announced his “revolutionary” new way on Wednesday, the strategy revealed both a defiance and a deep caution in confronting President Trump.

Mr. Kim vowed, in a lengthy policy statement, to expand his country’s nuclear force, making vague threats to show off a “new strategic weapon” in the near future​ and “shift to a shocking actual action.” He warned that North Korea would not be bound by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests.

But he also moderated those threats by leaving out the specifics. Mr. Kim did not explicitly say that he was formally lifting the test moratorium or that he was terminating diplomacy. Instead, he said his efforts to expand his nuclear weapons capabilities could be adjusted “depending on the U.S. future attitude.”

It’s a wait-and-see approach that leaves room for more negotiations.

Analysts say that Mr. Kim is making a calculation against the backdrop of the political uncertainty in the United States, where Mr. Trump faces both a Senate impeachment trial and an election. The North Korean leader, they said, doesn’t necessarily want to rush to strike a deal that could be overturned if Mr. Trump does not win a second term.

“Kim Jong-un continues to hedge his bets,” said Jean H. Lee, a North Korea expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “I think we’ll see Kim continue to find ways to provoke Washington as a way to gain the upper hand in future nuclear negotiations without directly challenging President Trump.​”

As he waits, Mr. Kim can continue to play the role of tough guy, increasing the stakes in his nuclear brinkmanship. North Korea can expand its nuclear arsenal, produce more bomb fuel, build more nuclear warheads and improve its missile capabilities.

Less predictable is whether or when Mr. Kim might deliver an infuriating message to Mr. Trump by testing a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile.

Such a test could precipitate another “fire and fury” response from Mr. Trump. When Mr. Kim last conducted such tests, in 2017, Mr. Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” inciting fears of possible war.

Tensions eased after North Korea declared a test moratorium in April 2018. And after Mr. Trump met with Mr. Kim in Singapore later that year, the president said the two “fell in love.”

That moratorium remains the best outcome Mr. Trump can cite from his on-and-off diplomacy with Mr. Kim — one that the North Korean leader may be wary of yanking away too soon.

By treading carefully, Pyongyang also avoids more economic pain. Launching a long-range missile would set off another round of United Nations sanctions, and such tests could also provoke China and Russia at a time when Mr. Kim strongly needs their help to blunt the pain of current internationals measures.

Those sanctions required China, Russia and other countries to send North Korean workers home by late last month, depriving Mr. Kim’s government of a key source of hard currency. North Korea also increasingly depends on Chinese tourists as an alternative source of income, and Mr. Kim has recently built a number of tourist zones to attract them.

In his policy report this week, Mr. Kim acknowledged that his country’s efforts at economic reform faced “grave problems” and were “not making visible progress,” according to the state news media. He also reported “evil practices and stagnation” in key industries and criticized his economic officials for “merely shouting the slogan of self-reliance” while lacking leadership and “responsibility” to revamp the economy.

(The North’s state-run news agency watered down Mr. Kim’s criticism in its English version of the report, indicating that it was mostly for domestic consumption.)

Mr. Kim also indicated that he was preparing for a “protracted” standoff with Washington, exhorting North Koreans to accept it as “a fait accompli that we have to live under the sanctions.” After 18 months of faltering diplomacy, he said he was convinced that his country should stick to “self-reliance” rather than embracing the “brilliant transformation” of its economy that Mr. Trump promised if Pyongyang abandoned its nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kim also called on his people “never to barter the security and dignity” that the North’s nuclear deterrent provided, “even though we tighten our belts.”

With that, he was essentially admitting that his previous approach with Washington has failed.

In 2012, in his first public speech as the country’s leader, Mr. Kim had promised that North Koreans would “never have to tighten their belts again.” When he convened the party’s Central Committee the following year, he declared the parallel pursuit of economic growth and a nuclear arsenal. And in an April 2018 committee meeting, Mr. Kim said that he had completed his nuclear force and could therefore now halt nuclear and ICBM tests and focus entirely on economic growth.

Mr. Kim met Mr. Trump in Singapore two months later. But talks between the two broke down last February in Vietnam, and the two leaders failed to reach a denuclearization deal. Mr. Kim returned home empty-handed, without the sanctions relief that his country badly needed to achieve economic growth.

That stasis led to the deadline set by Mr. Kim, who warned that the United States had until the end of 2019 to offer concessions. Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” if Washington didn’t make progress on lifting sanctions, making an implicit threat that North Korea might return to its old ways and end the self-imposed moratorium.

But the deadline also showed how desperately Mr. Kim wanted economic relief. By shifting to a harder line, Mr. Kim was juggling an increasingly tricky balancing act.

“​Kim’s long buildup to his New Year message has inadvertently made North Korea look constrained,” said Prof. Leif-Eric Easley at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “He tries to use China and Russia for financial benefit, but doesn’t want to appear dependent or beholden. He pushes his military engineers to develop more sophisticated weapons, but has to consider the risks of tests failing. He wants to increase diplomatic pressure on South Korea and the United States, but knows a major provocation is likely to bring more sanctions upon his regime.”

On New Year’s Day, Mr. Kim did not face his people with a nationally televised speech as he had done in previous years. Instead, the state news media carried his policy statement, which came after a four-day meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, North Korea’s highest decision-making body.

Mr. Kim’s new guidelines meant that “North Korea will give up denuclearization talks with the United States, accept a prolonged standoff and sanctions as reality, and strengthen its self-empowerment, including its nuclear and missile capabilities,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

And Mr. Kim does appear to be giving the hard-line military a more prominent role in his government, even if it is unclear when and whether he will test an ICBM.

North Korea’s state news media recently reported that he was expediting the development of new weapons technologies, such as solid-fuel missiles that are harder to intercept and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

“We should expect that elements of the regime favor tests of several new systems, which likely include new solid-fuel and intercontinental-range missiles, as well as new warhead designs,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

“As talks stalled,” Mr. Mount said, “these elements will have steadily gained in influence.”

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North Korea Is No Longer Bound by Nuclear Test Moratorium, Kim Says

Westlake Legal Group 00nkorea-icbm-hfo-facebookJumbo North Korea Is No Longer Bound by Nuclear Test Moratorium, Kim Says United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Tests North Korea Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Kim Jong-un Embargoes and Sanctions Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ​said his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, its official media reported on Wednesday, the strongest indication yet that the country could soon resume such tests.

Mr. Kim also said the world would witness a new strategic weapon “in the near future,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, though no details were provided.

North Korea has not conducted a long-range missile test or a nuclear test in more than two years. Mr. Kim had announced his moratorium at a time when he hoped negotiations with the United States — and his budding personal relationship with President Trump — would prompt the United States to begin lifting crippling sanctions.

Mr. Trump, who has met Mr. Kim three times, has often cited the North’s restraint as a major diplomatic achievement.

The North had set a Dec. 31 deadline for the United States to make at least some concessions, complaining that its 18 months of diplomacy with Mr. Trump had yielded limited results. And for weeks, American officials feared Mr. Kim might test an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, to make his point.

During the party meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Kim said his country “will shift to a shocking actual action to make” the United States “pay for the pains sustained by our people,” the North Korean news agency said.

Mr. Kim was expected to make his annual New Year’s address within hours, and it remained unclear if a test was imminent. It is possible that Mr. Kim’s announcement on Wednesday is, by itself, the warning shot he wants to send to prod Mr. Trump, on the eve of a presidential election year, to begin lifting sanctions.

Mr. Kim, who had hoped to shift his focus to finally reviving his country’s economy, has been growing frustrated in recent months as his negotiations on denuclearization with the Trump administration have stalled.

He made the latest remarks about the moratorium on Tuesday, the last day of a four-day meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, the North’s highest decision-making body. The remarks threatened a major shift in North Korean policy.

He stressed that North Korea “should more actively push forward the project for developing strategic weapons​” now that Washington’s “gangster-like acts” have stymied economic growth.

The unprecedented rapprochement between the United States and North Korea began nearly two years ago, after months of nuclear and ICBM tests and threats from both sides. Two months after Mr. Kim announced his moratorium — saying he had now completed his nuclear force — the two leaders met in Singapore in June 2018 in the first summit meeting between the two countries.

The summit ended with a commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but the pledge was never understood the same way by the two sides. The administration insisted that meant Mr. Kim would give up his nuclear weapons, his stockpile of fissile material and his missiles, but the North argued that it also meant the United States would withdraw troops and offshore ships and submarines that could launch nuclear weapons.

Subsequent negotiations have failed to close the gap.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kim addressed denuclearization saying, “If the U.S. persists in its hostile policy toward the D.P.R.K., there will never be denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula,” using the initials for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The scope and depth of bolstering our deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the U.S. future attitude to the D.P.R.K.”

That remark, and Mr. Kim’s reluctance to clarify when North Korea would officially resume testing, indicated that he might still be open to further negotiations with Washington.

While the North has demonstrated that its fleet of missiles could likely reach parts of the United States, the country still has not shown it could design a nuclear warhead that would survive the heat and huge forces that come with re-entry of a warhead into the atmosphere.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday night that the Trump administration continued to hope that Mr. Kim would “take a different course.”

“President Trump came into office with the threat of war from North Korea real, and a true concern for the American people. He took a tack — we said we can deliver a better outcome for the people of North Korea,” Mr. Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.

“We’re hopeful that Chairman Kim will make the right decision, and he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war,” he added.

Washington had dismissed the Dec. 31 deadline imposed by the North as “artificial,” urging Pyongyang to maintain a dialogue and not revert to the provocations that had raised fears of war on the Korean Peninsula two years ago.

Since taking over his country following the death of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, in 2011, Mr. Kim has accelerated his country’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. North Korea has conducted the last four of its six underground nuclear tests under Mr. Kim. It flight-tested three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017.

As his diplomacy with Mr. Trump has failed to bring about the benefits he had sought, especially the lifting or easing of sanctions, Mr. Kim has sounded increasingly impatient. North Korea broke an 18-month hiatus in weapons tests in May, launching 27 mostly short-range ballistic missiles and rocket since then and warning of more provocative tests to come. In December, it conducted two ground tests at its missile-engine test site to bolster what it called its “nuclear deterrent.”

At the same time, Mr. Kim has exhorted his people not to expect any immediate easing of sanctions and to brace for a prolonged struggle against the Americans by building a “self-reliant” economy.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting.

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Russia Deploys Hypersonic Weapon, Potentially Renewing Arms Race

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-missile1-facebookJumbo Russia Deploys Hypersonic Weapon, Potentially Renewing Arms Race United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Treaties Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Russia Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons Moscow (Russia) Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Defense Department Defense and Military Forces Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

WASHINGTON — The Russian military on Friday said it had deployed a hypersonic weapon that flies at superfast speeds and can easily evade American missile defense systems, potentially setting off a new chapter in the long arms race between the world’s pre-eminent nuclear powers.

American officials said Friday they have little doubt that the Russians have a working hypersonic weapon — which sits on top of a modified missile and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour.

Moscow has been working on the technology for years and has invested heavily in it, determined to reverse the pattern in the Cold War, when it was often struggling to catch up with American nuclear weapons systems. If the new system, called “Avangard,” works as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia boasted when he described the weapon a year ago, it would significantly enhance Moscow’s already powerful nuclear forces, American officials said.

Hypersonic weapons fly extremely fast and can maneuver along unpredictable trajectories, making them incredibly difficult for current systems to track, much less shoot down. Senior American military officials said the United States plans to deploy its own hypersonic weapons by 2022, but some experts believe that schedule may prove optimistic.

Yet the Russian announcement may be as much about spurring a new round of diplomatic talks as it is about reviving an arms race, current and former diplomats said. Moscow is anxious for President Trump to renew the last remaining arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, called New START, which limits strategic nuclear missile launchers and deployed warheads for both nations. The treaty expires soon after the next presidential inauguration in 2021.

The Trump administration has been noncommittal about extending the treaty, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that he would only renew it if it includes China and other nuclear powers. China has said it is not interested in any numerical limits on its arsenal, which is one-fifth of the size of America’s and Russia’s.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “the world has changed” in the decade since the Obama administration negotiated New START and arms control treaties can no longer be limited “to the United States and Russia.”

By showcasing its new weapon, Russia could be trying to pressure Mr. Trump to open talks. Mr. Putin said earlier this week that Russia was ahead on hypersonic technology, reveling in a rare moment of superiority to American and Chinese technology. The Russian leader has been unafraid to use “nuclear diplomacy” in the past and Moscow has been designing new weapons that can threaten the United States.

Mr. Trump has at times called for starting a new arms race, saying that American technology would ultimately win. Yet while the United States military was once thought to be well ahead in hypersonic technology, the pace of development flagged in recent years.

“China and Russia made hypersonic weapons a national priority. We didn’t,” William B. Roper, the head of Air Force acquisitions and technology, said on Friday. “Every service now has a major hypersonics program in a departmentwide effort to catch up.”

The United States Air Force has two hypersonic prototypes in testing and while development is on an accelerated pace, the weapons are not scheduled to be operational until 2022. Other parts of the Pentagon, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have other hypersonic initiatives, but they are many years down the road.

Still, experts say the threat to the United States appears limited. Russia’s system is being deployed in relatively low numbers, likely no more than a couple of dozen, according to Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. As a result, the system “does not significantly increase the threat to the United States and the world” of Russia’s already fearsome nuclear arsenal, Mr. Kimball said.

But he said the two countries should discuss hypersonics as part of any new treaty negotiations.

“Washington and Moscow should immediately commence talks on how new weapons technologies and all types of nuclear weapons should be regulated so that neither side believes they can gain an advantage by ‘racing’ ahead of the other,” Mr. Kimball said.

The Russian weapon — known as a hypersonic glide vehicle — can fly lower in the atmosphere, avoiding ballistic missile defense radars. It is mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, allowing the warhead to be initially carried toward a target on a traditional piece of technology. But as it gets closer to the target, it is designed to fly at hypersonic speeds in an unpredictable path — making detection, tracking and interception extremely difficult. Most American missile defenses work by predicting the path of an incoming weapon, and shooting an “interceptor” at it.

On Friday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, informed Mr. Putin that the first missile regiment armed with the glide vehicle was operational, the ministry said in a statement. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen. Sergei Karakayev, said at a meeting later in the day that the new missile was deployed with a military unit in the town of Yasny of the Orenburg region on the border with Kazakhstan.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the Russian statement, but other American officials said there was no reason to doubt Moscow had deployed the new weapon.

Nothing in the existing arms treaty would prohibit the new Russian weapon from being mounted atop an intercontinental weapon. In November, before Friday’s deployment of the hypersonic weapon, the Russian military exhibited it for American officials, as required under the treaty, and to show off the technology to the United States.

The weapons that Mr. Putin has tried to highlight in recent years have all been systems designed to reach the United States.

“The Russians are developing capabilities to reach out and attack us,” said Brig. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, a senior Air Force official said in an interview earlier this month, before the Russian technology was declared operational. “When you look at some of the capabilities Russia has announced, they are designed for offensive attack into the homeland of the United States.”

The Avangard project was among the few new Russian strategic weapons Mr. Putin unveiled during his State of the Union speech in March 2018. Mr. Putin boasted the new weapon “flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire” and is “absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense system.”

Russia began looking at ways to improve the capabilities of its strategic missile force after the United States withdrew from the antiballistic missile treaty in 2002 in order to expand its missile defenses.

Russia has several other projects underway, including a long-range torpedo that could detonate a nuclear weapon on the American West Coast, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Neither would be covered by New START but development is still years away.

The new American defense budget devotes significant funds to developing both new weapons and new defenses against hypersonic weapons. Progress has been cloaked in considerable secrecy. But Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman, said hypersonic weapons “remain a technical research and engineering priority” for the Pentagon.

Unlike the new Russian system, two Air Force prototypes are designed to be carried and released by aircraft, not launched atop ICBMs.

Dr. Roper said the Air Force is moving more aggressively than usual to test the prototypes in an effort to build new weapons faster. Even if the new prototypes work, he said there can be no “sense of comfort” and warned that the United States will need to continue developing new hypersonic weapons “if we want to dominate this new domain of fast flight.”

Ivan Nechepurenko in Moscow contributed reporting.

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Russia Deploys Hypersonic Weapon, Potentially Renewing Arms Race

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-missile1-facebookJumbo Russia Deploys Hypersonic Weapon, Potentially Renewing Arms Race United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Treaties Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Russia Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons Moscow (Russia) Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Defense Department Defense and Military Forces Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

WASHINGTON — The Russian military on Friday said it had deployed a hypersonic weapon that flies at superfast speeds and can easily evade American missile defense systems, potentially setting off a new chapter in the long arms race between the world’s pre-eminent nuclear powers.

American officials said Friday they have little doubt that the Russians have a working hypersonic weapon — which sits on top of a modified missile and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour.

Moscow has been working on the technology for years and has invested heavily in it, determined to reverse the pattern in the Cold War, when it was often struggling to catch up with American nuclear weapons systems. If the new system, called “Avangard,” works as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia boasted when he described the weapon a year ago, it would significantly enhance Moscow’s already powerful nuclear forces, American officials said.

Hypersonic weapons fly extremely fast and can maneuver along unpredictable trajectories, making them incredibly difficult for current systems to track, much less shoot down. Senior American military officials said the United States plans to deploy its own hypersonic weapons by 2022, but some experts believe that schedule may prove optimistic.

Yet the Russian announcement may be as much about spurring a new round of diplomatic talks as it is about reviving an arms race, current and former diplomats said. Moscow is anxious for President Trump to renew the last remaining arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, called New START, which limits strategic nuclear missile launchers and deployed warheads for both nations. The treaty expires soon after the next presidential inauguration in 2021.

The Trump administration has been noncommittal about extending the treaty, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that he would only renew it if it includes China and other nuclear powers. China has said it is not interested in any numerical limits on its arsenal, which is one-fifth of the size of America’s and Russia’s.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “the world has changed” in the decade since the Obama administration negotiated New START and arms control treaties can no longer be limited “to the United States and Russia.”

By showcasing its new weapon, Russia could be trying to pressure Mr. Trump to open talks. Mr. Putin said earlier this week that Russia was ahead on hypersonic technology, reveling in a rare moment of superiority to American and Chinese technology. The Russian leader has been unafraid to use “nuclear diplomacy” in the past and Moscow has been designing new weapons that can threaten the United States.

Mr. Trump has at times called for starting a new arms race, saying that American technology would ultimately win. Yet while the United States military was once thought to be well ahead in hypersonic technology, the pace of development flagged in recent years.

“China and Russia made hypersonic weapons a national priority. We didn’t,” William B. Roper, the head of Air Force acquisitions and technology, said on Friday. “Every service now has a major hypersonics program in a departmentwide effort to catch up.”

The United States Air Force has two hypersonic prototypes in testing and while development is on an accelerated pace, the weapons are not scheduled to be operational until 2022. Other parts of the Pentagon, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have other hypersonic initiatives, but they are many years down the road.

Still, experts say the threat to the United States appears limited. Russia’s system is being deployed in relatively low numbers, likely no more than a couple of dozen, according to Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. As a result, the system “does not significantly increase the threat to the United States and the world” of Russia’s already fearsome nuclear arsenal, Mr. Kimball said.

But he said the two countries should discuss hypersonics as part of any new treaty negotiations.

“Washington and Moscow should immediately commence talks on how new weapons technologies and all types of nuclear weapons should be regulated so that neither side believes they can gain an advantage by ‘racing’ ahead of the other,” Mr. Kimball said.

The Russian weapon — known as a hypersonic glide vehicle — can fly lower in the atmosphere, avoiding ballistic missile defense radars. It is mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, allowing the warhead to be initially carried toward a target on a traditional piece of technology. But as it gets closer to the target, it is designed to fly at hypersonic speeds in an unpredictable path — making detection, tracking and interception extremely difficult. Most American missile defenses work by predicting the path of an incoming weapon, and shooting an “interceptor” at it.

On Friday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, informed Mr. Putin that the first missile regiment armed with the glide vehicle was operational, the ministry said in a statement. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen. Sergei Karakayev, said at a meeting later in the day that the new missile was deployed with a military unit in the town of Yasny of the Orenburg region on the border with Kazakhstan.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the Russian statement, but other American officials said there was no reason to doubt Moscow had deployed the new weapon.

Nothing in the existing arms treaty would prohibit the new Russian weapon from being mounted atop an intercontinental weapon. In November, before Friday’s deployment of the hypersonic weapon, the Russian military exhibited it for American officials, as required under the treaty, and to show off the technology to the United States.

The weapons that Mr. Putin has tried to highlight in recent years have all been systems designed to reach the United States.

“The Russians are developing capabilities to reach out and attack us,” said Brig. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, a senior Air Force official said in an interview earlier this month, before the Russian technology was declared operational. “When you look at some of the capabilities Russia has announced, they are designed for offensive attack into the homeland of the United States.”

The Avangard project was among the few new Russian strategic weapons Mr. Putin unveiled during his State of the Union speech in March 2018. Mr. Putin boasted the new weapon “flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire” and is “absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense system.”

Russia began looking at ways to improve the capabilities of its strategic missile force after the United States withdrew from the antiballistic missile treaty in 2002 in order to expand its missile defenses.

Russia has several other projects underway, including a long-range torpedo that could detonate a nuclear weapon on the American West Coast, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Neither would be covered by New START but development is still years away.

The new American defense budget devotes significant funds to developing both new weapons and new defenses against hypersonic weapons. Progress has been cloaked in considerable secrecy. But Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman, said hypersonic weapons “remain a technical research and engineering priority” for the Pentagon.

Unlike the new Russian system, two Air Force prototypes are designed to be carried and released by aircraft, not launched atop ICBMs.

Dr. Roper said the Air Force is moving more aggressively than usual to test the prototypes in an effort to build new weapons faster. Even if the new prototypes work, he said there can be no “sense of comfort” and warned that the United States will need to continue developing new hypersonic weapons “if we want to dominate this new domain of fast flight.”

Ivan Nechepurenko in Moscow contributed reporting.

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WATCH: Blackford: ‘We need to modernise our defence forces, Trident doesn’t play a part in that’

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Missile Defense Now – Beats Missile Defense in a Decade…Maybe

Westlake Legal Group ap-korean-missile-620x378 Missile Defense Now – Beats Missile Defense in a Decade…Maybe War Terrorism Technology Science Russia republicans Politics Policy Nuclear Weapons north korea nuclear deal North Korea News missiles missile defense military Islamist terrorism islamist ISIS iran nuclear deal Government Front Page Stories Front Page Foreign Policy donald trump democrats Congress China Barack Obama

Let’s Play Some Defense, Shall We?

 

The planet has a bit of a nuclear weapon proliferation problem.

Many of the Good Guys have them.

The US Nuclear Arsenal

The Story of How Britain Got Nuclear Weapons

France Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons

India’s Nuclear Weapons Arsenal Keeps Getting Bigger and Bigger

Included herein is a Good Guy – who may or may not have them.

Does Israel Really Have Nuclear Weapons?

And more and more of the Bad Guys have them.

The Big China Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About

Russia’s Putin Unveils ‘Invincible’ Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons

How Did North Korea Get Nuclear Weapons?

Excellent question.  Often, because the alleged Good Guys – are very, VERY stupid.

You Can Thank Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton for North Korea’s Nukes

If a Bad Guy wants to get there – they can often count on an alleged Good Guy being very, VERY stupid.

Fact-Check: Yes, the (Barack Obama) Nuclear Deal Hands ‘$150 Billion’ Over to Iran

The planet has a bit of a nuclear weapon proliferation problem….

Since They All Have Nukes And Missiles – We Absolutely Should Have Missile Defense

Right now, the only missile defense system we have doing any missile defensing – is the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD):

“The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System provides Combatant Commanders the capability to engage and destroy limited intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile threats in space to protect the United States….

“Ground-Based Interceptors are emplaced at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A total of 44 interceptors are currently emplaced.”

A key component of the GMD – is the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV):

“The RKV is meant as an upgrade and supplement to the current Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle, or EKV.

“Both systems are ground-based interceptors for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency designed to defend the U.S. mainland against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

“The RKV offers improved maneuverability and targeting performance compared to the EKV, which has a poor test record.”

Except – the Defense Department (DoD) just killed the RKV.

Pentagon Terminates Program for Redesigned Kill Vehicle, Preps for New Competition

Have there been tech issues?  There have:

“The EKV, designed to destroy targets in high-speed collisions after separating from a booster rocket, has struggled in testing….”

There were problems.  As there always are at some point with almost all things – especially things this high-tech and uber-sophisticated.

But we can take solace:

In the history of each and every thing that has worked – there was a time when each and every one of them didn’t work.

And the problems we were having – were being fixed:

“(It) has performed reliably in major test events in recent years including a complex salvo test earlier this year.”

Instead of the current, intact, in-place, improving system – what does the DoD have planned?:

“Now that the RKV is dead in the water, the Pentagon plans to move forward with a new, next-generation interceptor competition, the statement said.”

Except – are we anywhere near a “new, next-generation interceptor?”  We’re not even close:

“The defense official said the Pentagon is still working through the details of a new, next-generation interceptor competition, including when it will be initiated and the pace at which the technology will be developed and fielded.”

The Defense Department hasn’t even yet decided what “new, next-generation interceptor” means.  Because the DoD doesn’t even yet know what a “new, next-generation interceptor” is.

This is like killing the automobile – and then beginning the process of identifying the next mode of transportation.  Which hasn’t even yet been conceived.

Well, in the meantime – we need to get around.  So don’t preemptively kill the car.

And in the meantime – we need a missile defense system.  So don’t preemptively kill the RKV.

Since the current missile defense system is the only missile defense system even conceived – let’s keep it around.

At the very least – until you can actually define what “new, next-generation interceptor” means.

Our national security is far too important – to go fishing all over again…without any safety net whatsoever.

The post Missile Defense Now – Beats Missile Defense in a Decade…Maybe appeared first on RedState.

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Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-turkeynukes1-sub-facebookJumbo Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons. Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kurds International Atomic Energy Agency Incirlik Air Base (Turkey) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip

WASHINGTON — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country’s border. He says he wants the Bomb.

In the weeks leading up to his order to launch the military across the border to clear Kurdish areas, Mr. Erdogan made no secret of his larger ambition. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” he told a meeting of his governing party in September. But the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I cannot accept.”

With Turkey now in open confrontation with its NATO allies, having gambled and won a bet that it could conduct a military incursion into Syria and get away with it, Mr. Erdogan’s threat takes on new meaning. If the United States could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?

It was not the first time Mr. Erdogan has spoken about breaking free of the restrictions on countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and no one is quite sure of his true intentions. The Turkish autocrat is a master of keeping allies and adversaries off balance, as President Trump discovered in the past two weeks.

“The Turks have said for years that they will follow what Iran does,” said John J. Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense who now runs the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But this time is different. Erdogan has just facilitated America’s retreat from the region.”

“Maybe, like the Iranians, he needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment,” Mr. Hamre said.

If so, he is on his way — with a program more advanced than that of Saudi Arabia, but well short of what Iran has assembled. But experts say it is doubtful that Mr. Erdogan could put a weapon together in secret. And any public move to reach for one would provoke a new crisis: His country would become the first NATO member to break out of the treaty and independently arm itself with the ultimate weapon.

Already Turkey has the makings of a bomb program: uranium deposits and research reactors — and mysterious ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black marketeer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan. It is also building its first big power reactor to generate electricity with Russia’s help. That could pose a concern because Mr. Erdogan has not said how he would handle its nuclear waste, which could provide the fuel for a weapon. Russia also built Iran’s Bushehr reactor.

Experts said it would take a number of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless Mr. Erdogan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdogan would be considerable.

“Erdogan is playing to an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but is highly unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons,” said Jessica C. Varnum, an expert on Turkey at Middlebury’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “There would be huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pocketbooks of Erdogan’s voters.”

“For Erdogan,” Ms. Varnum said, “that strikes me as a bridge too far.”

There is another element to this ambiguous atomic mix: The presence of roughly 50 American nuclear weapons, stored on Turkish soil. The United States had never openly acknowledged their existence, until Wednesday, when Mr. Trump did exactly that.

Asked about the safety of those weapons, kept in an American-controlled bunker at Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We’re confident, and we have a great air base there, a very powerful air base.”

But not everyone is so confident, because the air base belongs to the Turkish government. If relations with Turkey deteriorated, the American access to that base is not assured.

Turkey has been a base for American nuclear weapons for more than six decades. Initially, they were intended to deter the Soviet Union, and were famously a negotiating chip in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey in return for Moscow doing the same in Cuba.

But tactical weapons have remained. Over the years, American officials have often expressed nervousness about the weapons, which have little to no strategic use versus Russia now, but have been part of a NATO strategy to keep regional players in check — and keep Turkey from feeling the need for a bomb of its own.

When Mr. Erdogan put down an attempted military coup in July 2016, the Obama administration quietly drew up an extensive contingency plan for removing the weapons from Incirlik, according to former government officials. But it was never put in action, in part because of fears that removing the American weapons would, at best, undercut the alliance, and perhaps give Mr. Erdogan an excuse to build his own arsenal.

For decades, Turkey has been hedging its bets. Starting in 1979, it began operating a few small research reactors, and since 1986, it has made reactor fuel at a pilot plant in Istanbul. The Istanbul complex also handles spent fuel and its highly radioactive waste.

“They’re building up their nuclear expertise,” Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview. “It’s high quality stuff.”

He added that Ankara might “come to the threshold” of the bomb option in four or five years, or sooner, with substantial foreign help. Mr. Heinonen noted that Moscow is now playing an increasingly prominent role in Turkish nuclear projects and long-range planning.

Turkey’s program, like Iran’s, has been characterized as an effort to develop civilian nuclear power.

Russia has agreed to build four nuclear reactors in Turkey, but the effort is seriously behind schedule. The first reactor, originally scheduled to go into operation this year, is now seen as starting up in late 2023.

The big question is what happens to its spent fuel. Nuclear experts agree that the hardest part of bomb acquisition is not coming up with designs or blueprints, but obtaining the fuel. A civilian nuclear power program is often a ruse for making that fuel, and building a clandestine nuclear arsenal.

Turkey has uranium deposits — the obligatory raw material — and over the decades has shown great interest in learning the formidable skills needed to purify uranium as well as to turn it into plutonium, the two main fuels of atom bombs. A 2012 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Turkey and the Bomb,” noted that Ankara “has left its nuclear options open.”

Hans Rühle, the head of planning in the German Ministry of Defense from 1982 to 1988, went further. In a 2015 report, he said “the Western intelligence community now largely agrees that Turkey is working both on nuclear weapon systems and on their means of delivery.”

In a 2017 study, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks the bomb’s spread, concluded that Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate power and raise Turkey’s regional status were increasing “the risk that Turkey will seek nuclear weapons capabilities.”

In response to the German assertion and other similar assessments, Turkey has repeatedly denied a secret nuclear arms effort, with its foreign ministry noting that Turkey is “part of NATO’s collective defense system.”

But Mr. Erdogan’s recent statements were notable for failing to mention NATO, and for expressing his long-running grievance that the country has been prohibited from possessing an arsenal of its own. Turkey has staunchly defended what it calls its right under peaceful global accords to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel, the critical steps to a bomb the Trump administration is insisting Iran must surrender.

Turkey’s uranium skills were highlighted in the 2000s when international sleuths found it to be a covert industrial hub for the nuclear black market of Mr. Khan, a builder of Pakistan’s arsenal. The rogue scientist — who masterminded the largest illicit nuclear proliferation ring in history — sold key equipment and designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The most important items were centrifuges. The tall machines spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium, and governments typically classify their designs as top secret. Their output, depending on the level of enrichment, can fuel reactors or atom bombs.

According to “Nuclear Black Markets,” a report on the Khan network by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, companies in Turkey aided the covert effort by importing materials from Europe, making centrifuge parts and shipping finished products to customers.

A riddle to this day is whether the Khan network had a fourth customer. Dr. Rühle, the former German defense official, said intelligence sources believe Turkey could possess “a considerable number of centrifuges of unknown origin.” The idea that Ankara could be the fourth customer, he added, “does not appear far-fetched.” But there is no public evidence of any such facilities.

What is clear is that in developing its nuclear program, Turkey has found a partner: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. In April 2018, Mr. Putin traveled to Turkey to signal the official start of construction of a $20 billion nuclear plant on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Part of Russia’s motivation is financial. Building nuclear plants is one of the country’s most profitable exports. But it also serves another purpose: Like Mr. Putin’s export of an S-400 air defense system to Ankara — again, over American objections — the construction of the plant puts a NATO member partly in Russia’s camp, dependent on it for technology.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and William J. Broad from New York.

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