Friday, June 12, 2009

Nuclear politics

Nuclear politics

On CNN the other night a political talk show indicated in its “Truth-O-Meter” that viewers in the US believe the North Korean official statement that 99 percent of nuclear testing has been done by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, namely the US, Russia (formerly Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France and China.

A historical fact, actually.

But as a panelist pointed out, there is implied hypocrisy in UN sanctions against North Korea (officially Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) for holding its second nuclear test, preceded by missile tests.

Consequently there has been some saber-rattling, on both sides to be sure, with Japan and South Korea expressing concern. Both countries are “protected” by the nuclear deterrent of the US. Also con¬cerned, China and Russia tend to go easy on sanctions against DPRK, once their ally during the Cold War.

A forwarded article which I read in my e-mail (and unfortunately lost retrieving it) asks why doesn’t the world take DPRK’s word for it: that the tests are for self-defense.

Indeed, what are weapons of mass destruction for but to defend the country from real or perceived enemies. Self-defense may include pre-emptive strikes—like Israel taking out what it believed to be a nuclear facility in Syria, and threatening to do the same thing on Iran. The US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was billed by Bush as preventive measure against al-Qaeda from wreaking havoc again after 9/11. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was done, professedly, to save American lives in a land invasion of Japan and end the war quickly.

The first nuclear test was undertaken by US scientists, many of whom did not realize the awesome uses of the product. The Second World War was a race in developing “ultimate” weapons. Nazi Germany had its own scientists at work on the atomic bomb and rocket missiles.

After the US the Soviet Union followed with its own nuclear tests in 1949 motivated by a desire to keep the “balance of power” in a heating Cold War. It was more like a “balance of terror”—for earlier hawks of the “Free World” wanted to take out the Soviet Union and its “godless ideology” with a nuclear holocaust. In the Korean War MacArthur thought of “nuking” Chinese targets. The prospect of mutual annihilation has reined in countries from using the weapons.

Great Britain wanted its own “independent deterrent” and tested its first device in 1952 and a hydrogen bomb in 1957, accelerating the nuclear arms race. France too wanted to attain “great power status” and detonated its device in 1962 in the Bikini Atoll thus ushering a name for the two-piece swimsuit. This was followed by hydrogen bomb testing in 1968 in the Pacific.

China detonated its device in 1964, and a hydrogen counterpart in 1967 as deterrent to both the US (backing Taiwan) and the “revisionist” Soviet Union. Not to be outdone India tested in 1974 its device as “general deterrent” and to project itself as a regional power. Pakistan, in a dispute with India over Kashmir, had its tests in 1990. Unless leaders lose their minds it’s not likely that countries would want to annihilate each other in a nuclear exchange. Errors or miscalculations are another matter.

The fact is that all these countries have more than enough nuclear devices to wipe out Earth from the universe. Some sense must have been put in the heads of the original Nuclear Club of five. Hence, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But has this stopped more countries from developing their own deterrents?
These countries include Israel (but it would not confirm nor deny, in a policy of “strategic ambiguity”), Iran, Syria, and now North Korea. South Africa volunteered to dismantle its own nuclear arsenal back in the 90s.

Given the intimidation of the US (particularly from the neoconservatives from Reagan to the Bush regime) on North Korea, it is not surprising that DPRK would resist bullying.

Having its own “deterrent” DPRK has simply followed the examples of the countries who now have their badges of assumed invincibility.

It’s a crazy world, with capability to destroy itself. But as peace advocates say, pursue in earnest the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, with all members of the expanded Club, big or small, sitting down and solving the problem. It is indeed hypocritical to impose sanctions on one nation, when others keep their nuclear weapons.

For a global leader who has stood for change, President Obama may well develop a new direction in US policy on North Korea, nuclear non-proliferation, and world disarmament.

By Elmer A. Ordoñez

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