Russia may freeze weapons inspections in response to U.S. sanctions over Ukraine
Kathy Lally and Carol Morello, Washington Post – March 8, 2014
Escalating tensions, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it would consider stopping international inspections of its nuclear weapons in response to the U.S. threat of sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine situation. “The unfounded threat towards Russia from the U.S. and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture,” the Ministry said. Those threats have apparently “created new circumstances,” giving Russia the right to pull out of the inspections required under the START treaty with the U.S. and a separate agreement with the OSCE. The U.S. has been urging Russia to pull its troops back to its existing bases and to not annex Crimea.
China draws “red line” on North Korea
Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard, Reuters – March 8, 2014
China declared a “red line” on North Korea on Saturday saying that China will not permit further chaos or war on the Korean peninsula, and that peace can only come from denuclearization. Although China has been North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic ally, it has severely tested China’s patience with three recent nuclear tests and missile launches. “The Korean peninsula is right on China’s doorstep. We have a red line, that is, we will not allow war or instability on the Korean peninsula,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The Foreign Minister also called for a resumption of talks between North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia and China.
Catherine Aston first visit in Tehran for talks
Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg – March 9, 2014
European Union foreign policy chief and lead negotiator on Iran, Catherine Ashton, met with top officials in Tehran on Sunday, to build efforts on turning the interim nuclear deal into a final accord. “This interim agreement is really, really important but not as important as the comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in,” said Ashton on her first visit to Iran as EU top diplomat. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said, “The burden of proof is on the Iranians, to show that the use of nuclear capacity is for peaceful purposes.”
Obama Administration defends cuts on nuclear security
Aamer Madhani, USA Today – March 8, 2014
Weeks before he heads for the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, President Obama has revealed a budget which includes more than $220 million in cuts for nuclear security programs for the next fiscal year. The President asked for $114 million less for the International Material Protection and Cooperation program (which works to secure and eliminate vulnerable nuclear weapons/materials). He also requested $108 million less for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (which prevents terrorists in acquiring nuclear/radiological materials). With all these cuts, experts wonder whether Obama remains committed to nuclear non-proliferation. Obama Administration officials have dismissed such ideas, citing that President Obama has already created a significant legacy for himself on nuclear issues. Obama’s principal advisor on countering WMDs said, “I don’t think there is a problem with complacency…we are seized with this challenge—with preventing sensitive material from falling into the wrong hands.”
Senators fight for MOX facility in letter to DOE
Derrek Asberry, Aiken Standard – March 8, 2014
South Carolina’s senators and five others from various states have submitted a letter to the Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The letter advocates for the continued construction of the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility, also called “MOX.” President Obama’s 2015 fiscal budget proposed to place the MOX facility “on cold stand-by” while the National Nuclear Security Administration explore other options to dispose of the 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The MOX project has undergone cost overruns and delays and the project could have a life-cycle cost of $30 billion to complete. The MOX facility has a workforce of about 1,800 and retaining those jobs has been a major focus in the South Carolina community.