Monday, October 9, 2006

The "Right" to Own Nuclear Weapons?

The US Congressional Research Service has an interesting paper on North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Arsenal (PDF) in which one discovers that it is probably a fairly modest stash of atomic Armaggedon whose essential molecular substance could fit under Kim Jong Il's bed. But now the national leader with the weirdest hairdoo in the world has very likely exploded something underground near the city of Gilju, Hamgyong province (0136 GMT) strong enough to be detected as a 4.2 magnitude earthquake by the US Geological Service.

The geopolitical shockwaves already far exceed the seismic waves announcing North Korea's entrance into the exclusive Nuclear Club of the World, whose members are: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and now North Korea. Coupled with missile tests a few months ago, North Korea has made a noisy entrance.

I must admit I did not see this coming quite so suddenly with North Korea, though many have been warning that the strange guy that runs North Korea is strange enough to set off one of his firecrackers just to get some attention. With the South Korean foreign minister BAN KI-MOON about to take over Kofi Annan's job at the United Nations, he must be in serious need of some right now.

Speaking of the United Nations, a favorite topic of debate that often arises at Philippine Commentary whenever that subject comes up is the following question:

Would you support the abolition of the UN Security Council and the adoption of "TRUE DEMOCRACY" in the U.N. with all powers going to the General Assembly which would operate under the principle of ONE NATION, ONE VOTE?

Many readers who lean in the direction of YES on this question also support the notion that ALL nations have the "right to own nuclear weapons" since SOME nations already have them. It is perhaps no coincidence that the UN Security Council's five permanent members are in fact also the so called nuclear weapons states of the Non Proliferation Treaty. So there is a dovetailing of positions on the two issues. An EQUALITY among nations is sought both in voting rights at the U.N. as well as equal rights to own, and presumably use (?) nuclear weapons.

The reality of Kim Jong Il and his nuclear weapons explosion today may serve to uhmm, nucleate a more sensible attitude to both questions. But I think there is something far more subtle, and complex, to the question of "the right to own nuclear weapons" than the usual East vs. West or Right vs. Left political debate.

In today's fearsome, post-A.Q. Khan era, with rogue state actors and terrorist organizations capable of and threatening to kill human beings in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, one could get to missing the nerve wracking but finely balanced era of the Cold War.

The BBC has coverage of worldwide condemnation.

Here is the seismic signature of Kilju-1 captured in Japan, along with satellite imagery of the likely nuclear test site, and diagrammatic description of the setup probably used by the North Koreans.


Juan said...


It's not about UN, not about geopolitics, not about ideologies nor about a new world order. The seasons for change have passed. We have made our choices that has determined the course of the human race.

Amadeo said...

But the complexities of the present conditions elevate the discussions beyond just the Cold War’s MAD balancing act.

Reading that Wiki that you linked above a while back made me think of how much more extensive the discussions should be, to include all those who “have gone nuclear” whether to produce bombs or to generate power for peaceful means.

Now we know that an integral part of the problem is coping with an enemy that will harbor no qualms detonating with conventional weapons any nuclear power plant it can violate to maim or kill populations living within its periphery with exposure to radioactivity

And with the burning issue of oil and its supplies and prices at the global forefront, suddenly the issue of “going nuclear” has gained more adherence and momentum.

Rizalist said...

No doubt about it, nuclear energy and arms can easily go hand in hand. But I think that is why some kind of regime like the NPT is critical to keeping things "stable" whatever that means in a nuclear world. Because you are right, going nuclear is probably the only long term solution to dwindling oil. Unless we find that the earth has a lot more oil we can discover, the world will go nuclear.

But there is a big enough difference between weapons production and energy generation that if a sane enough NPT can be enforced, all countries wanting to go nuclear can do so under a strict regime that not only monitors but encourages peaceful development.

We understand enough about the science, in my opinion to establish an effective global regime of separating peaceful from warlike development, and keeping them separate without closing off avenues like nuclear energy.

But we shall also have to deconstruct and redirect the energies and thinking of the "one nation, one bomb" crowd, though I doubt we shall see much evidence of such "liberalism" during the next few weeks.

Rizalist said...

Inexorability is the essence of tragedy.



Re: "In today's fearsome, post-A.Q. Khan era, with rogue state actors and terrorist organizations capable of and threatening to kill human beings in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, one could get to missing the nerve wracking but finely balanced era of the Cold War."

That was also, somehow my point in my post in Mlq3's blog.

"Right off the bat, I believe North Korea is afraid of it closest border neigbour: the combined military power of US-South Korea and fears that if things are to go to a head, South Korea would attack and backed by the US. In order to head it off, what is NOKOR’s option? Build the nuke which becomes an automatic deterrence against a potential attack. With that in mind, NOKOR might be telling herself that those countries that might be thinking of overrunning her would think twice before doing anything because of her nuclear capablities. Her enemies will be hard put to launch an attack on her soil knowing that she can retaliate and what good would that do?

"In my opinion, the real danger we face today is not a direct threat from North Korea but more from terrorists, fanatics, fundamentalist groups outside the nation state who are prepared to run an assymettric warfare (just like what’s happening in Baghdad, Kabul, Palestine, elsewhere etc.) in order to get hold of THE BOMB (A or N) and use it against western civilization. And the real danger is that they may obtain this holocaustic weapon from people or officials coming from nuclear weapons possessing nations who have NO scruples about selling them to the most dangerous fanatic.

"To my mind, it is imperative for the world to engage nuclear possessing nations now in a constructive dialogue particularly those that are fundamentally not Christian, before we totally alienate the moderates in their midst - we should resolve the Iraq, Palestinian issues, generate economic sources that will provide food and roofs to the dispossessed (like the Muslims in Mindanao) before they breed more fanatics, and invest in needed social, educational infrastructures in countries like Afghanistan… (in parrallel to its military undertakings in Afghanistan, NATO through SACEUR has already embarked on an economic mission in Afghanistan by inviting Western industrialists to Kabul in the hope of attracting investors…)

"America must drop its “do or die” rhetoric. Europe and America must help re-construct IRAQ together, and the quicker the better…, America WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RE-CONSTRUCT IRAQ ON ITS OWN, so much bad blood has been shed on this quite unnecessary war.

"All Western leaders must start engaging brain and stop thinking with their muscles."

To me it is essential today more than ever, before each and tiny nation starts thinking of going for nuclear energy (in the hope that it could later on build a bomb for deterrence purposes) that we should open real channels of constructive dialogue with Palestine and other fundamentally Islamic nations. America's Bush (who will be hard put to do it) should basically adopt a 180° turn in attitude - if he does that, it will be easier to contain the rogue elements today who are prepared to enter into a protracted assymetric warfare in the hope of becoming the next Hitler.

Rizalist said...


I'm confused. I thought America was pushing the "international community" to take care of North Korea and not going it alone on this one. Six party talks and all that. Damned if she do and damned if she don't? Isn't it North Korea that has been insisting on a one-on-one with Uncle Same?

Somehow, I think of Kim Jong Il as the chicken come home to roost not in the tender mercies of the US-Korean-Japan alliance, but clearly in the lap of CHINA.

It's really China that through the years has CODDLED the weird do's in Pyongyang.

It'll be interesting how we all take the action coming up in the United Nations.



I'm talking of the attitude problem here - Bush's almost "do or die" rhetoric in general.

You will agree that such attitude tends to antagonize.

And if you remember, Bush shunned the NOKOR proposal to meet with the US (besides, Nokor is really so fearful of USA because of the amount of military build up in Korea with US weaponry)... Britain has been able to "penetrate" North Korea in the sense that BBC was even allowed to film every day living there.

Re: "It's really China that through the years has CODDLED the weird do's in Pyongyang." That is so true!


And I do believe that with the economic developments in China, the Chinese will not want someone in Pyongyang shaking China's new "bourgeois" status.

China will be the key to resolving conflicts in the region.

Rizalist said...

This could thornier than it seems. Indeed, the more I think of it, the desire of North Korea to deal directly with the US is really a sign that she doesn't much trust China at all. And crazy as they may be, they have to be convinced of Japan's complete dedication to the peaceful art of conquest by zaibatsu. Not so with China, in whom they likely see themselves, only richer, bigger and now firmly on the capitalist road. We shall see if China can play on the Capitalist Team, instead of playing both sides against each other.

john marzan said...

i'd like to see japan and taiwan go nuclear na rin.



I believe that will happen sooner than we think.

Rizalist said...

Cmon guys quit kiddin' around with scary ideas!