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World Affairs


 Korean crisis: Double standards in nuclear proliferation

The concern expressed by powerful Western nations about the nuclear test conducted by enigmatic North Korea last week could well be described as yet another example of the double standards of the West, like in human rights, in  international relations.

Last year there was speculation that the North Korean Leader Kim  Jong II, had suffered a stroke because of his failure to appear in public for many months and it was hoped that if this eccentric leader was no more, much of the problems in North East Asia would cease to be. But that did not happen and Kim re-appeared in public to view his military parades although with a slight limp.

He then test fired a long range nuclear missile last month which the West alleged as capable of carrying a nuclear warhead while North Korea claimed it was carrying a communication satellite. Last Monday North Korea conducted a nuclear test, its second, the first being in 2006, which Russia said was comparable to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, equivalent to about 10 to 20 kilo tonnes.


The development of nuclear weapons, capable of wiping out entire cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, should be condemned by all people and all nations. But the West has developed a nuclear hypocrisy just as it has done with regard to human rights. There is a special nuclear non proliferation club sanctified by the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) where only five nations are recognised as nuclear powers — United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China. This NPT Treaty came into being after India tested a nuclear weapon in May 1974  and it was feared that nuclear proliferation would spread throughout the world.

The West applied strict sanctions on India’s nuclear programme as well as on Pakistan which soon followed India’s foot steps. But with the end of the Cold War, the emergence of India in South Asia as a nation with the potential of taking on China militarily and matching it economically, America soon relaxed its nuclear non proliferation curbs on India and last year signed the nuclear power deal with India which officially implies assistance for civilian nuclear power generation but analysts point out has many loopholes that would enable India to go ahead with its nuclear weapons programme.

Soon after India’s nuclear explosions in 1998, Pakistan followed with its own nuclear tests and  two South Asian nuclear powers were born.

The hypocrisy about nuclear non proliferation is that America, Britain, France together with Russia and China still possess the largest nuclear arsenals that could blow up this planet apart and despite disarmament agreements signed between the former Soviet Union and America much of the nuclear armouries remain intact.

Besides, the West is turning a blind eye to other pro-West non official nuclear powers. It is widely believed that Israel is a nuclear power even though it has not physically carried out nuclear tests but achieved its objectives through computer simulations. Now India has been let off the hook and America has Pakistan’s nuclear bombs firmly under its control.

Nuclear pariahs

The West however is ‘horrified’ at what they called ‘nuclear pariahs.’ The Axis of Evil, as described by President George W. Bush comprised Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraq of Saddam Hussein was invaded on the grounds that it had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that included a nuclear development programme. Now Iran is being pressurised, intimidated and censured on its nuclear development programme but Iran insists that it is only developing nuclear energy for power generation and is within the international rules of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA).

Nonetheless Iran’s continued programme of uranium enrichment that could result in generation of plutonium used for manufacture of atomic weapons has led to the United Nations resolutions against such a programme and even UN sanctions being imposed.

Cat and mouse

Kim Jong Il, has been playing a cat and mouse game with the US on the nuclear issue. Five nations namely China, US, Russia, Japan and South Korea, had been negotiating with North Korea to shut down its nuclear facilities and give up its nuclear weapons stored away. North Korea agreed to do so and even blew up its water cooling tower and its main nuclear facility under the glare of international TV.

But last year it abandoned the six nation talks. Western analysts say that this walk out came at the point of agreement to tight international verification rules. Now it maintains it won’t go back to the six party talks. Analysts say that Kim Jong Il, wants his country accepted as a nuclear power just as much India was accepted. This is another instance of American double standards backfiring.

North Korea is also accused of promoting nuclear proliferation. It is accused of helping Syria to build a nuclear reactor which was destroyed by Israel in an air raid. It is alleged that it collaborated with Iran in building nuclear capable missiles and it is also suspected by the West that it has made available nuclear material available to Libya while also having helped Pakistan in its nuclear programme.

North East Asian Security

North Korea’s second nuclear test has raised questions on security concerns in the region. Japan has been particularly worried but reports last week said that the US had assured Japan that its Nuclear Umbrella for the region would cover Japan and analysts say that it would also cover South Korea even though the US withdrew its last nuclear weapon  from South Korea in 1991.

Since 1991 the Nuclear Umbrella has been intact. Some analysts say South Korea, particularly its bustling capital Seoul is vulnerable to artillery attacks from guns buried in North Korean hills just 25 miles away from the border. Last week South Korea which has resisted joining the US led Security Proliferation Initiative to stop and search ships transporting materials used in nuclear bombs joined the coalition.

North Korea declared it as an act of war and announced that it was ending its truce with South Korea which brought the Korean War to a halt in 1953. The protection of South Korea is well assured with 25,000 US troops and 655,000 South Korean troops under a bi- national command — described as one of the world’s largest defence forces.

Many reasons are attributed to Kim  Jong’s recent show of belligerence. It could be pressure building up within the army itself. The other explanation is that because of his failing health he is preparing for a dynastic succession by one of his three sons — Kim himself having succeeded his father Kim Il Sung.

There is much pressure building up in the West for stronger UN sanctions. Others however say that even though China has been severely critical of North Korea’s nuclear policy, it will not support sanctions against this poorest nation on Earth because it would lead to an exodus into neighbouring China in the event of famine.

Whatever the reasons are for the recent belligerence, the double standards of the West backed by the UN indicates that if a nation  is prepared to defy the West and be belligerent enough for long, it could ultimately have a nuclear bomb with the approval of the nuclear club. India’s defiance of US non proliferation laws for almost 25 years proved that. Now Kim  Jong Il, wants the same favours extended to him.









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