North Korea, Nonproliteration & the UN

October 14th, 2006 - by admin

Shihab Rattansi / Insight / CNN – 2006-10-14 09:42:44

North Korea Tests Nuclear Weapon


SHIHAB RATTANSI: CNN HOST (voice-over): North Korea calls it a great leap forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be great contribution in maintaining and guaranteeing the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.

RATTANSI: : But the international community is calling it a threat to peace….

Joining me now, Arjun Makhijani, the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. So, what happened to nuclear nonproliferation, then?

ARJUN MAKHIJANI: Well, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which went into effect in 1970, had its feet in about 1995 to 2000. There was a big bargain there that is now fraying and the treaty is very frayed.

In the late Nineties, the nuclear weapons states said, yes, we promise to get rid of our weapons, and we’ll take these 13 steps to actually get there. That was in 2000. And then they started backing away from them, led by the United States and I think followed then by Russia. And now all of them are really modernizing their arsenals, including China.

France has announced a doctrine of first use, very similar to the United States. United States promised a comprehensive test ban treaty, but the Senate didn’t ratify it, and then backed away from the antiballistic missile treaty.

So we have a situation where the permanent members of the Security Council made a commitment to the world, that their bargain to not acquire nuclear weapons would have a counterpart in the weapons states giving up the ones they have.

RATTANSI: Would it make any difference, though, given that any nuclear nation — or any nation, rather, that does want nuclear weapons, just doesn’t bother signing it? India, Pakistan, North Korea withdrew, Israel doesn’t even declare. What difference does it make if the powers that do have nuclear weapons don’t bother actually following the NPT’s strictures?

MAKHIJANI: Well, I think nuclear threats have been one of the leading engines of proliferation. There is a lot of evidence, for instance, that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not only about ending the war but about sending a message to the Soviets. Well, they got it, and they did their own tests. The Chinese, of course, were threatened by the United States explicitly during the 1950s and they got their own nuclear weapons.

The Indians felt that the Chinese on their border had nuclear weapons and also were very unhappy that the Americans were not for a stringent disarmament regime, and they got their nuclear weapons.

Their nuclear weapons program actually followed a US aircraft carrier incursion into the Bay of Bengal during the 1971 war with Pakistan in which India was threatened by the United States with nuclear weapons. That tipped the balance in India between the antinuclear and pronuclear forces, and India conducted its tests.

So I think that there is a problem here. North Korea is on a list of US target states. So these are not independent events. They are dependent events.

RATTANSI: So, therefore, we can actually expect some sort of reaction, presumably, from today’s claimed test. Who is next to get the weapons?

MAKHIJANI: I think the Japanese have talked more and more, viewing North Korea with some concern. And, also, in a unipolar, one-super-power world, they probably have been wondering whether the United States would actually come to its defense if it were not a global crisis.

In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, who is the leader of their Labor Party, said, you know, “We could use our civilian nuclear program to make thousands of nuclear weapons if China got too uppity.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close.

And of course, they do have a civilian nuclear program with lots of plutonium, as you’ve just announced, and they could, in my estimate, they could go from zero to being a full-fledged nuclear weapon state in about six months.

RATTANSI: So, what do we do? Do we just have to get used to now this sort of multipolar nuclear world after feeling pretty scared with a bipolar nuclear world during the Cold War? Is there any way out of it?

MAKHIJANI: I think the powers that created the Nonproliferation Treaty have to be determined to put it back into shape, and I think it’s not going to be put back into shape in a “do as I say and not as I do” world.

I think we’ve got to go back to some extent to the status quo ante of 2000, specific commitments to reducing nuclear weapons, specific commitments to de-alerting them and not targeting non-nuclear states. This has been a very big problem in that non-nuclear states feel at the receiving end of nuclear weapons threats and then they feel that maybe they ought to have some protection.

Now, Japan and South Korea may not be the only ones thinking, you know, since the US government has been confronting Iran over its uranium enrichment program and saying maybe countries ought not to be allowed to have commercial programs with weapons implications, Egypt has said they want nuclear reactors, Turkey has said they want nuclear reactors, Argentina is starting up its own enrichment program. Brazil has opened an enrichment plant last year, and not signed the additional protocols. It’s not obliged to have full-scope inspections, but it could, and it has refused.

RATTANSI: Mr. Makhijani, we’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for giving us the world view of what may be to come.

MAKHIJANI: Thank you.

RATTANSI: So, does global diplomacy stand a chance? Ahead on INSIGHT, North Korea is the latest hot spot earning international attention, but can that attention be turned into action?

RATTANSI: If North Korea has the bomb, what can the world do about it? Stalled Six Party Talks, the threat of stronger sanctions, warnings from friends and foes alike; none prevented Pyongyang from going ahead with its test. Now there is new urgency in taking action, despite diplomatic missteps that led to the current climate.

The United Nations Security Council formally nominated its choice for the new UN secretary-general today. Ban Ki-Moon is South Korea’s foreign minister and, depending on your outlook, a man excellently positioned to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula, or the embodiment of a complete failure of years of negotiation with Pyongyang.

North Korea isn’t the only country that seems indifferent to global diplomacy. Iran, Sudan, Russia, Israel, the United States and more, all have made it clear that if they want to do something, there is little the world can do diplomatically to stop them. So, is Ban Ki-Moon the man to reassert the United Nations’ authority in global governments? And what is the Security Council considering in response to North Korea’s defiance?

Our senior UN correspondent Richard Roth joins us.

So, is Ban Ki-Moon the man to get this job done, then?

RICHARD ROTH: This could get interesting. I mean, 10 years ago when Kofi Anna of Ghana was named secretary-general, I don’t recall Ghana detonating a nuclear device. But on this day, Ban Ki- Moon was affirmed as, in effect, the next secretary-general of the United Nations, pending General Assembly approval. And North Korea is definitely sending a message to him and to the entire United Nations institution.

Ban Ki-Moon has said in a newspaper interview in Korea that he wants to go there and immerse himself in trying to settle this dispute. Listen as this is what he told me about his role in North Korea when I talked to him September 27, here at the United Nations.

BAN KI-MOON: I believe that in the capacity of secretary-general, I would be able to have better authority and mandate than the South Korean foreign minister to deal with many complex political issues, including North Korea nuclear issues.

Coming from Korea, I would, of course, be much interested to deal with this matter, to facilitate the smooth process of Six Party Talks, and try to talk with leaders of both Koreas to facilitate inter-Korean relationship as well as resolution of North Korean nuclear issues.


ROTH: Ban Ki-Moon is well-familiar with the nuclear portfolio. He represented South Korea at the Six Party Talks for a while as South Korea’s foreign minister and has worked closely on that story. You get an idea from that interview, though, that this is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken diplomat who, according to Security Council members, is an effective diplomat behind closed doors.

But, Shihab, we’re in a little bit of a different world regarding communication, the mass media sending messages publicly. The jury is way out still on how effective he will be or how forceful. One analyst said, “Don’t mistake Asian mild manners for lack of steel.” We’ll see.

RATTANSI: Yes, but he’s hardly Dag Hammarskjold. I mean, there has been a sense that the United Nations pushed hard for him because he wasn’t going to be a threat. And it’s not just North Korea. It’s all those other countries, including the United States itself, who are flouting international law and the authority of the United Nations.

Is it thought that there is any way out of that at the moment?

ROTH: It’s always interesting when China and the United States agree on a candidate, it seems, so quickly. Everybody loves him, and many speculate because he may not speak out, raise his voice, buck the system. Though Dag Hammarskjold and others were regarded as candidates who were not going to challenge the five permanent powers, and he turned into something totally opposite.

But they don’t want Kofi Annan, the big five. They want someone who, as John Bolton, the ambassador from Washington said, “We want a chief administrative officer. Look in the U.N. charter,” he says. “That’s the chief job classification.”

But North Korea is certainly going to be a little bit of a different thing for a new secretary-general who hails from South Korea and maybe the US will be interested in having him play a role. John Bolton last week said he’ll bring a pair of new eyes to a different set of issues.

But the nuclear issue, whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s Iran, these things, yes, there were nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki right before the United Nations was established, but North Korea not a member of the NPT anymore, no one knows how the United Nations can really effectively respond. The United States is pushing for sanctions, including perhaps freezing any type of shipment, transfer of weapon material for missile, nuclear program, maybe stopping the importing of goods.

But countries have been threatened, Shihab, with sanctions before. Sometimes they work and governments comply very quickly under pressure, and sometimes, you know, with Iraq, before the war, it goes on for years. Iran doesn’t appear to be that worried about any imposing threat at this point from the Security Council.

RATTANSI: And, of course, sanctions can take a terrible civilian toll without much toll on the governments in place.

Thanks, Richard. Richard Roth, our senior UN correspondent.

That’s INSIGHT. I’m Shihab Rattansi.