politics with a nuclear rogue state
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
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
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
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
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.