ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 19
Front Page Columns
Issue of the week

Nuclear hypocrisy: Let’s learn to live with a nuclear North Korea and Iran

By Ameen Izzadeen

Is North Korean leader Kim Jong Il bluffing? In recent years, he has boasted of his country achieving nuclear capability. He has even indicated that North Korea actually possesses nuclear weapons. Last week, North Korea announced that it was getting ready for a nuclear test. Whether it is mere rhetoric or reality will be known only when North Korea goes ahead with the test.

North Korea watchers believe that the much-talked-about, much-bragged-about and much-feared nuclear test will take place today. But given North Korea's unpredictable political behaviour, none can be sure of anything until that thing happens.

In the same club with North Korea is Iran. The six major powers — five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France) plus Germany — are pondering whether to slap sanctions on Iran for failing to heed their demand that Teheran suspends its uranium enrichment programme. Iran claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes but the six major powers — all but Germany are nuclearweapons states — suspect that the Iranian programme is weapons-oriented.

Iran is adamant that it would not bow to pressure and stop its enrichment programme but has said it is ready for talks provided the six nations do not insist on suspension as a condition.

North Korean leader KimJong Il.

Many analysts believed that with the lapse of the August 31 UN-imposed deadline for Iran to suspend its nuclear activities, Teheran would face international sanctions or perhaps a military strike. But very little did happen in terms of punitive measures, even as Iran's defiance grew.

The Untied States huffed and puffed and sent a strong message to Iran that all options, including a military strike, were on the table. But now the United States is said to be mellowing its stance and probably adopting a position "let's deal with Iran when it reaches the bomb stage". Two weeks ago, senior US intelligence analysts at a meeting unanimously concluded that little could be done to stop Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from acquiring the technology to develop the bomb. But Iran's nuclear programme is not Ahmadinejad's programme. It has the blessings of Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran's supreme leader. Even if a moderate like Mohamed Khatami returns to power, Iran will still pursue its nuclear programme which it asserts is its sovereign right.

The six major powers are in a dilemma. If they impose economic sanctions, it will send oil prices soaring, probably to US$ 100 mark. If the United States or Israel launches a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, such action will also send oil prices up. Further, it will add to the instability of the already volatile region. A military strike is also unlikely because the George W. Bush administration, which is finding itself plunging deeper into the muddle which it itself has created in Iraq, does not want a second front.

Another disadvantage the six major powers face is that they do not represent the international community. At last month's Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana, 118 nations in their final declaration endorsed Iran's right to conduct peaceful nuclear programmes, thus virtually reducing the concern expressed by the six major powers to a minority global view fashioned by each country's national interest.

If the major powers are finding it difficult to cope with Iran's 'peaceful' nuclear programme, how are they going to deal with North Korea's actual weapon?

The threat of sanctions or military strike will only increase North Korea’s intransigence.

At last month's Havana conference, North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, claimed his country would not need even a single nuclear weapon if there no longer existed a US threat. He said US financial sanctions had driven the situation into an unpredictable phase.

The North Korea-United States relations have remained sour for the past six decades. Soon after World War II and after the Japanese occupation force surrendered, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel with the Soviet Union backing the government in the north and the United States the south. The North Korean Leader Kim Il Sung, who led a guerrilla war against the Japanese was very popular not only in the north but also in the south. Efforts by Kim Il Sung to unify the two Koreas were frustrated by the pro-US puppet regime in the south. The south held elections in 1948 to establish a democratic government with the United Nations acting as observers. But independent observers saw the UN more as a collaborator with the pro-US parties than an independent monitor. The elections in short were a UN sponsored sham, which provoked North Korea to resort to military means to unify the two Koreas in 1950. That was the beginning of the Korean War which went on for three long years, resulting in the deaths of about 2,000,000 Koreans, 600,000 Chinese, 37,000 Americans, and 3,000 Turks, Britons, and other nationals.

More than half a century after the end of the Korean War, the then US President Harry Truman's policy of containment - a doctrine he promoted to stop the spread of communism-appears to be still haunting, harassing and throttling North Korea, although Communism as a global political force capable of challenging the capitalist West is long dead and gone.

North Korea is today ruled by Kim Jong Il, son of Kim Il Sung. If as North Korea claims, it has achieved nuclear weapons capability, then indeed it is a great feat by a country that has little economic or technical cooperation with the developed world.

North Korea achieved nuclear weapons capability probably in the early 1990s. Some analysts believe it was with North Korean assistance that Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea, which the Bush administration has labelled as an evil state, feels that it was the United States that is posing a threat to world peace using its war on terror as a tool of aggression. Iran, too, holds a similar view. Iranian President addressing the Non-Aligned Summit and the UN General Assembly sessions last month said it was the United States' nuclear weapons which were posing a threat to world peace.

If the major powers themselves are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, then their concern for nuclear proliferation is nothing but hypocrisy. Their concern is more an effort to protect their exclusivity to nuclear weapons and prevent others from joining the nuclear club. These major powers will not talk about nuclear disarmament.

Instead of non-proliferation, the United Nations' attention should be focused more on total nuclear disarmament. It should be done - and done urgently - before a murderous terrorist group lays its hands on a tactical nuclear weapon.

Since the major powers are averse to any serious discussion on total nuclear disarmament, let's learn to live with more and more nuclear-power states, with the optimistic view that no two nuclear weapons states will go to war.

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