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Expert Comments

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 E. 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.

11 Oct. 2012: Turkey’s interception of a Syrian passenger aircraft

Edin Omanovic


The interception on 10 October 2012 of a Syrian passenger aircraft travelling from Moscow to Damascus was the latest in a long line of actions taken by Turkey to stem the flow of arms across its territory. Given the current international impasse over the conflict in Syria, practical measures such as the interception of aircraft will become increasingly important for states seeking to restrict Syrian Government forces' access to military-related goods from external sources.

21 Sep. 2012: Where to next for China and the European Union?

Oliver Bräuner


On 20 September 2012 Chinese and European leaders met for the 15th European Union–China High Level Summit in Brussels. It was Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s tenth and final appearance at the yearly gathering. Despite the current economic and political turbulence in both Asia and Europe both sides focused instead on consolidating the progress that has been made in the past 10 years. Nevertheless, the question remains: where is the EU–China relationship heading?

22 Sep. 2012: Rise in insider attacks against foreign soldiers in Afghanistan

Dr Bruce Koepke


An escalation in insider attacks, also known as ‘green-on-blue’ incidents, signifies a new trend of violence that is having a serious impact on the military strategy of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). These attacks have been perpetrated against foreign soldiers (US, ISAF and NATO) and civilian contractors by Afghans either affiliated with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) or wearing ANSF uniforms.

13 Sep. 2012: Proposed merger would create the world’s largest arms and military services company

Dr Susan T. Jackson

The statement to the London Stock Exchange made on 12 September 2012 by BAE Systems and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) on the subject of a proposed merger of the two companies raises a number of interesting questions within the context of the world arms and military services industry. 

Syria’s chemical weapons and protection against their use: a brief overview

Dr John Hart

The escalation of the current conflict in Syria gives greater impetus to efforts to determine the fate of Syria's weapon programmes and, in particular, its reported stocks of chemical weapons.