The first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) took place in Vienna from 21 to 23 June. The new Australian government sent an observer, Susan Templeman MP, to the meeting, marking Australia’s first engagement with a treaty that is firmly
Is North Korea going to test a nuclear weapon, or not?
The question has reverberated since March, when the supposed hawk Yoon Suk-yeol succeeded Moon Jae-in as South Korea’s president and Pyongyang broke a four-year moratorium by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile. The probability
A military parade in the streets of Pyongyang last month gave North Korea another chance to show off its new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile while marking the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Revolution Army. Kim Jong-un, lauding the country’s nuclear
Aside from Donald Trump’s bluster about “fire and fury” and Kim Jong-un’s similarly theatrical replies in the manufactured “crisis” of 2017, serious nuclear threats made during an international crisis have been happily MIA for the better part of the past 40 years. Not so now. Less than
Almost four years ago, I argued in The Interpreter that Vladimir Putin’s decision to pursue a range of weapons specifically designed to defeat America’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system was irrational behaviour, being an expensive solution to a problem which did not exist.
Prospects for US-China arms control run hot and cold.
China continues to vociferously oppose the recent Australia-UK-US agreement to cooperate on Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. And over the past six months there have been three significant revelations by open-source
Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with his colleagues in 1950 when he asked a now famous question: where is everybody? He was referring to the apparent contradiction that, despite the mathematical probability that humans should have seen evidence of intelligent extra-
Nuclear politics and nuclear policy shifts get plenty of coverage – atomic-powered submarines for Australia, China’s missile silo fields, North Korea’s enrichment activities in Yongbon, Iran’s compliance with international monitoring, as well as weapons modernisation all receive considerable
September is an important month for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to make a last ditch attempt to revive relations with a recalcitrant North Korea before the presidential election next March. To such an end, his administration has sought to use major inter-Korean anniversaries this month,
Book Review: Akimoto Daisuke, Japan’s Nuclear Identity and its Implications for Nuclear Abolition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
It has been rare in recent years for the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan to pass without controversy, invariably concerning remarks made by the prime
Over the last few weeks, evidence has emerged that China may be expanding its arsenal of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on a much larger scale than previously believed. Commercial satellite imagery analysed in June and July showed two huge missile silo fields, each capable
For the better part of a decade, the United Kingdom has witnessed a deteriorating security environment, whether from a more aggressive Russia, a retreating United States or the implications posed by Brexit. It is for this reason that the British government has raised two important approaches.
Given the widespread relief accompanying Joe Biden’s transition to the White House, it seems churlish to start picking apart his policy agenda. Yet, there are grounds for concern about how the incoming administration will reshape US nuclear weapons policy over the next four years.
Joe Biden has so many competing priorities to address after four years of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. Biden will naturally have an immediate focus on domestic issues but some foreign policy challenges will demand his attention earlier than others. One of the most urgent is
On 10 October, North Korea added to the woes of 2020 with an enormous military parade that revealed, among other weapons, what appeared to be an enormous new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). These weapons, dubbed the Hwasong
You could be forgiven for assuming that governments of the world inhabit two parallel universes. In July this year, Australia launched the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which concluded that its region “is in the midst of the most consequential strategic realignment since the
Last week saw the 50th state ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In just under 90 days, the treaty will enter into force, and at that point, nuclear weapons – like chemical and biological weapons, the other kinds of weapon of mass
Seventy-five years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put beyond argument that nuclear weapons are the most indiscriminately inhumane ever devised, the distressing reality is that the risk of nuclear catastrophe is as great as it has ever been, and the goal – shared by all members of the
In May, the Washington Post reported discussions within the Trump administration about the possibility of conducting the first US nuclear detonation test since 1992, ostensibly as a countermeasure to the nuclear programs of China and Russia. Last month, officials said no tests were planned, but, in
One of the most disturbing developments in international politics lately has gone mostly unnoticed by most commentators. Some will be aware that President Donald Trump has withdrawn – or plans to withdraw – the United States from specific arms control treaties.
But what is troubling is that
Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is a key part of the US global military network. The dispute over sovereignty of Diego Garcia is heating up, with the UK coming under increasing pressure to cede it to Mauritius. Mauritius has indicated that if it regained control over Diego Garcia, it would allow
Ever since Chairman Kim Jong-un issued the end-of-year deadline in April for nuclear negotiations, North Korea has displayed a stubborn attitude. From launching a series of new short and medium-range missiles, dragging its feet at the working-level talks, to showing no signs of compromise at
The political talk in South Asia at this moment is reminiscent of the 1990s. The Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and conflict is escalating between India and Pakistan in a seething Kashmir region. There is even debate on the potential use of nuclear weapons amid India-Pakistan crises –
“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best”, wrote Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century. Maya Angelou improved on that in the last century: “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between”. Hugh White in his latest book How to Defend Australia
Verifying North Korea’s nuclear stockpile will be a critical part of any future disarmament negotiations. As past experience with other nations demonstrates, it is also a tricky process.
North Korea will be expected to supply an inventory of their weapons stockpile, its fissile material and the
Of all the countries on the sidelines of the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, few were watching more intently than China.
Chinese financial and trade support effectively facilitated North Korea’s nuclear program by keeping its economy afloat and thus fractured the chances of a
One of the most commented upon elements of this year’s outreach effort toward North Korea is the possible drift in the US-South Korean alliance.
It has been widely noted that the US is tightly focused on nuclear weapons and missiles, seeking a narrow arms control deal. The US would clearly be
Asia urgently needs new diplomatic initiatives aimed at reducing nuclear dangers and preventing arms racing in the region. There’s a glaring gap between the ambitious disarmament goals set out in the relevant global treaties – the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the ban treaty) was opened for signature on 20 September 2017. The treaty will enter into force when ratified by 50 countries – currently it has 19 ratifications. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was a major influence
Actors not invested in the Western liberal order are enjoying a period of resurgence. While analysts chase meaning in US President Donald Trump’s many erratic policies, there are some threads of consistency, including his affection for strongmen and his scepticism about the existing economic
If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a
The future looks ominous. There are grim warnings that Australia's strategic situation has worsened dramatically, with major power conflict increasingly likely. Some commentators fret over US withdrawal from the region, which would leave us disturbingly exposed. Others worry that the US is now too
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of war and therefore the ultimate weapons to prevent and avoid war. This two-axis struggle is captured in competing treaties for setting global nuclear norms and policy directions. This also reflects the mantra of realism - amended to include the importance
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for:
Its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of
As Donald Trump’s threats against North Korea have accelerated this year, the North has responded with its characteristically over-the-top rhetoric. Recently, it threatened to fire nuclear weapons into the sea around the US territory of Guam, leading to this crisis’ most memorable public
By David Vallance, an intern in the Lowy Institute's International Security Program, and Euan Graham, Director of the International Security Program.
The road to nuclear Armageddon is not straight.
The North Korea crisis has led commentators to reassess the conventional wisdom that, when it
If effective strategy requires realistic aims, then America is in trouble. US officials have shown themselves to be pathologically overconfident in their ability to achieve political outcomes with military signals, and the outcome they’re trying to achieve is utterly unrealistic.
Robert Kelly all but discounts the possibility of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. While this is plainly wrong, he is right on other points, namely the emotional differences between South Korea and America in how they react to the North Korean threat.
The American press does inflate
It is critical that we understand what North Korea’s test of a thermonuclear device means. North Korea claims that the weapon is miniaturised to fit onto a Hwasong–14 intercontinental ballistic missile. We must assume this claim is true. North Korea’s advances have exceeded every expectation
The crisis on the Korean Peninsula has for the first time introduced an element of confusion over the strategic goal pursued by the US and its allies in dealing with North Korea.
The stated US goal over the last three decades has been to prevent the DPRK from achieving any nuclear-weapons
On 7 July 2017 a UN negotiating conference adopted a draft treaty banning nuclear weapons – specifically, their development, production, possession, stationing and deployment, use, threat of use, testing, and so on. The treaty will be open for signature on 20 September 2017, and will enter
In August last year I wrote on why Australia should support negotiations on a nuclear weapon ban. Subsequently the UN General Assembly voted by a three-to-one majority to convene negotiations on a ban on 27-31 March and 15 June-7 July. The General Assembly will then review progress and decide on
Earlier this week the New York Times broke a story that Russia is fielding new cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This is significant, not because Russia stands accused of violating the Treaty, but rather how and why.
The INF Treaty
In this Lowy Institute Analysis, Brendan Thomas-Noone argues that advances in technology are making tactical nuclear weapons more precise and potentially more usable. He argues that new arms control measures are needed to promote greater transparency about the development of these weapons.
In this Report, Lowy Institute Research Associate Brendan Thomas-Noone and Nonresident Fellow Professor Rory Medcalf examine the implications of sea-based nuclear weapons for strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific.
This paper is part of a wider research and outreach project on nuclear