North Korea’s Nuclear Power: Real or Illusory

11 10 2006


Recent news on North Korea’s detonation of its first nuclear weapon, declaring itself a nuclear power and joining the elite nuclear club, captured people’s attention both on its real capability and also on the strategy of the US. Initial suspection that the world policeman may retaliate by using military forces. But it is a relief to hear that the US denied it would use force to solve North Korea’s nulcear threat, otherwise they would repeat the same mistake as it did by imposing democracy in Iraq. Another concern is whether the nuclear development in North Korea will trigger the arms build up in Japan and South Korea. Again, Japan, experiencing nuclear holocaust itself in the world war II, recently said that it won’t go nuclear – whether this is the Japanese true intention remains to be seen.

One question came to my mind when i heard about North Korea’s nuclear test: Why now? Why North Korea’s leader gave up negotiating – the six parties talk? Is it something to do with the change in the attitude and stance of its long term ally – China? Or its fear of US military attack? Or for domestic purpose in shoring up his own authority at home? Who knows…it could be a combination of all these…

But before getting worried about nuclear terror in North Asia, how much do we know about North Korea’s nuclear capability? There is no confirmation so far how many nuclear warheads they possess. It is difficult to estimate without full inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Yet it seems apparent that North Korea could possibly possess some nuclear devices, but my next question will be: could it deliver their nuclear warheads on missiles to its targets? Recent suspection has it that they would have to drop via plane.

All these remind me of my time as an International Relations students in the UK. Nuclear Non-Proliferation has a different interpretation between the nuclear haves and nuclear have nots. All the five nuclear powers, branded as the nuclear haves, including the US, the UK, Russia, France and China signed the NPT Pact in 1968 and decided that the others must not develop nuclear weapons. For countries like India and Pakistan which had ambition to go nuclear argued that this is a discrimination. India tested its first nuclear devide in 1974 and Pakistan followed suit years later. Giving this picture, it is understandable why members of the nuclear club are so concerned about the development in North Korea and the possibility of nuclear race in North Asia. …But we should also learn more about the motivation of North Korea before we can judge the situation fully. Since it is now a nuclear power, the issue to be discussed is how to control their arms sales to other nuclear ambition states like Iran ….


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