Asan Plenum

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s disclosure that between 2001 and 2007 North Korea had secretly supplied Syria with a plutonium production reactor underscored the growing importance of collaboration among nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “outlier” states in advancing each other’s WMD and missile programs. This panel will explore recent and current WMD-relevant trade among North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Myanmar, the first two, possessors of nuclear weapons and not party to the NPT, and the latter three, party to the treaty, but widely seen as seeking nuclear weapon capabilities contrary to its requirements.

The panel will review the specifics of WMD-relevant trade among these states, with particular focus on nuclear- and missile-related cooperation. It will also examine the tools that have been applied to try to curtail these mutual assistance activities, which pose a grave threat to international nonproliferation efforts. The challenge is made far more complex by the fact that many of these states are already subject to international sanctions because of their own WMD programs, human rights abuses, and/or expansionist ideologies, making it difficult to implement an effective, differentiated strategy focused on their sensitive trade with the other outlier states.

Leonard Spector will offer a condensed review of the history of WMD-relevant cooperation among the five outlier states, examine the tools that have been developed to address this challenge, and identify possible additional measures that might be adopted to constrain it. Mr. Joshua Pollack will provide an in-depth look at North Korean assistance to Iran’s and Syria’s missile program and possible reciprocal assistance that Tehran may have provided to Pyongyang, as Iran’s program acquired more advanced capabilities. He will also explore mechanisms for curtailing this dangerous trade. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, will then examine North Korea’s assistance to what some specialists now believe is a nascent clandestine nuclear program in Myanmar and examine how that assistance could be constrained. (A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department, if able to attend, will discuss the use of financial sanctions, including denial of access to the Western banking system, to disrupt sensitive trade among the NPT outlier states.)