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Expert Comments

17 July 2013: Shadow trade: how North Korea's barter trade violates United Nations sanctions

Hugh Griffiths and Lawrence Dermody

Barter trade in essential goods and long-standing diplomatic relations are key to understanding the most recent attempted violation of the United Nations arms embargo on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea).

17 June 2013: Access to shipping companies’ data could help turn the tide against maritime smugglers

Lawrence Dermody, Aaron Dunne and Hugh Griffiths

Every year nearly half a billion shipping containers are transported across the globe. These movements are the lifeblood of global trade, and yet secreted within a relatively small number of containers are illegal consignments of drugs, hazardous waste, counterfeit goods, dual-use items destined for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes, and small arms and light weapons that end up in the hands of terrorists or fuel civil wars.

Realizing the full potential of the Proliferation Security Initiative

Aaron Dunne

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) High-level Policy Group Meeting in Poland this week marks the 10th anniversary of the PSI’s founding. It is also the first time in five years that all PSI participants have gathered to collectively influence its future.

A more inclusive Arctic Council faces new challenges

Kristofer Bergh, Linda Jakobson and Ekaterina Klimenko

The Arctic Council's ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, this week highlighted the global interest in the Arctic region. The fact that six non-Arctic states (China, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore) were granted permanent observer status indicates an opening up of the Council to the world and signifies a breakthrough that rejects ideas of Arctic isolationism.

11 Mar. 2013: The challenge of implementing the new sanctions against North Korea

Lawrence Dermody

Following North Korea’s third nuclear test explosion on 12 February, and after three weeks of negotiations, the United Nations Security Council has agreed on a new round of sanctions against North Korea. In response North Korea has threatened to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes and cancel the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War.

12 Feb. 2013: Testing times in North Korea

Shannon N. Kile


After weeks of speculation, North Korea appears to have fulfilled its pledge to conduct a third nuclear weapon test. According to the North’s official news agency, an underground nuclear explosion was carried out in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri test site in the north-east of the country. North Korea previously conducted two nuclear tests at the site (in 2006 and in 2009), although the first test was widely viewed as a failure.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Parchin: questions and concerns

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran failed again in two days of intensive talks held in Tehran this week to secure a deal to unblock the IAEA's long-stalled investigation into alleged atom bomb research in Iran. Agency inspectors were also refused access to visit a large military complex at Parchin that they have sought to visit for nearly a year. As tensions mount, it is worth considering why the Parchin visit has become such a hot-button issue in the dispute and whether it is really so important for addressing concerns about Iranian nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

The IAEA and Parchin: do the claims add up?

Robert Kelley

While the International Atomic Energy Agency has done an excellent job in verifying the nuclear material production activities in Iran’s uranium enrichment plants, it also appears to be willing to risk its technical credibility by insisting on visiting a military site called Parchin, near Tehran.

Explosive potential of North Korean missiles still more diplomatic than nuclear

Siemon T. Wezeman and Vitaly Fedchenko

Today's launch by North Korea of an Unha-3 (or Taepodong-2) long-range rocket is already drawing strong negative reactions from many governments. However successful today's launch was, it does not mean that North Korea has, or is anywhere near having, the capability to launch a long-range ballistic missile strike, especially a nuclear-armed one.

15 Nov. 2012: China’s new leaders - looming domestic crises, not ideologies, will steer the agenda

Bernt Berger


This morning (15 November) the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party officially endorsed the members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top leadership body. Despite the secrecy, speculation and rumors in the run-up to the announcement, the make up of China’s fifth generation of leaders was predictable. Although it reflects the outcome of protracted behind the scenes power struggles, generally speaking the result might have little impact on the government’s political directions.