Saturday, October 30, 2010

North Korea gets lowest grade on ‘nuclear arms report card’

North Korea got a failing grade, with Iran and Syria not far behind, in the first nuclear arms control report card released Wednesday by the independent US-based Arms Control Association (ACA).

"North Korea, which has violated nearly every non-proliferation and disarmament standard over the past two years, warrants an overall grade of 'F'," ACA executive director Daryl Kimball told reporters.

North Korea failed all but three of the 10 equally-weighted categories used to calculate the overall grade.

In the three areas that Pyongyang didn't fail -- reducing nuclear weapons alert levels, meeting multilateral nuclear security commitments, and honoring commitments to prevent nuclear terrorism and the trafficking of nuclear material -- it got a "D", one step up from failure.

Iran and Syria, which don't have nuclear arms but which are being investigated by international bodies for suspected nuclear weapons activities, failed to meet safeguard standards covering all nuclear activities, including peaceful ones, set by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

They also fell short on basic nuclear export controls, each earning a grade of "D."
Eight countries with nuclear weapons were also graded in the report, but none received a top mark of "A."

Britain, France and the United States got Bs, China and Russia got B-minuses; India got a C-plus, and Israel and Pakistan got C-minuses.

"India, Israel and Pakistan, the only three states never to have signed the non-proliferation treaty, earn grades in the "C" range, due largely to their policies on nuclear testing, their continued production of fissile material and the gradual increase of their nuclear forces," Kimball said.

Kimball singled out Pakistan as being "responsible for the collapse of multilateral talks on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty" and India for "not taking on many of the obligations that are expected of nuclear armed states."

Israel, which has never admitted to having nuclear weapons, got a low grade because of its "systematic lack of transparency on nuclear matters."

"Israel, which will neither confirm nor deny the existence of its nuclear arsenal, has as many as 200 weapons," the report says.

Out of the five countries that got Bs or B-minuses, only China failed one "subject", getting an F for moves to expand its nuclear force.

China is believed to have around 240 nuclear warheads although the exact size of its nuclear arsenal is not known, the report says.

"Rather than reducing its arsenal, China is believed to be expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile by roughly 25 percent since 2005, according to Pentagon estimates," the report says.

The countries were graded on how committed they are to banning nuclear testing; their commitment to ending fissile material production for weapons; whether they have reduced nuclear alert levels, and the size of their nuclear arsenals; and whether they have pledged to not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

The other five grades were given for the countries' actions on creating or recognizing nuclear-arms-free zones; whether they allow IAEA checks on nuclear facilities; whether they abide by international export controls for nuclear materials; the strictness of domestic nuclear security rules; and the rigor of steps taken to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists.

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