NK as nu­clear state

Pre­con­di­tions are ver­i­fi­ca­tion, pro­to­col ob­ser­va­tion

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

North Korea Fri­day night test-fired a long-range rocket that ex­perts say could bring most of the United States main­land within strik­ing dis­tance. This has trig­gered con­dem­na­tion from South Korea, the U.S. and Ja­pan. China, the rogue state’s only bene­fac­tor, crit­i­cized Py­ongyang. But Bei­jing crit­i­cized in stronger terms Seoul’s de­ci­sion to de­ploy tem­po­rar­ily a U.S. anti-mis­sile in­ter­cep­tor, which China has op­posed ve­he­mently.

With near cer­tainly, it can be pre­dicted that the mat­ter will be passed to the United Na­tions but a split will pre­vent any uni­fied ac­tion be­cause of op­po­si­tion from China and Rus­sia. Mean­while, ten­sion will likely go up an­other notch, pre­sent­ing the U.S. with a stronger case for mil­i­tary ac­tion.

The one way to pre­clude this vi­cious cy­cle is to call a spade a spade.

The North has ex­ploded nu­clear de­vices five times. It has tested nu­mer­ous mis­siles. On Fri­day and on July 4, it proved it can de­liver a pro­jec­tile up to 10,000 kilo­me­ters. In terms of flight dis­tance, it has reached the level of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM). Judg­ing that it takes 15 to 20 years to at­tain re­lated tech­nolo­gies, there is lit­tle doubt that the North is close to be­com­ing a nu­clear weapon state, if it has not al­ready done so.

So far, the coun­tries in­volved have been us­ing sanc­tions to stop the North from be­ing able to launch nu­clear-tipped long-range mis­siles. Sanc­tions upon sanc­tions have been im­posed on Py­ongyang with lit­tle ef­fect.

The al­ter­na­tive is to give the North what it wants — sta­tus as a nu­clear state. But that recog­ni­tion should be given in a way that the North is brought back into the in­ter­na­tional nu­clear con­trol regime so it will act re­spon­si­bly with its nu­clear arse­nal.

For the North to join the “nu­clear club,” Py­ongyang should have its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties ver­i­fied by the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA). The North would have to sub­mit mul­ti­ple war­heads for in­spec­tion.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the North would be asked to re­join the Nu­clear Nonpro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT) and abide by the per­ti­nent rules.

Rec­og­niz­ing the North as a nu­clear state would re­quire a change in in­ter­na­tional mind­set.

It may be worth the trou­ble. Above all, it would defuse the ris­ing ten­sion over Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests. Then, China and Rus­sia, which have op­posed pe­nal­iz­ing the North, would be given an in­cen­tive to work to­gether with Seoul, Wash­ing­ton and Tokyo.

It could set a prece­dent for other coun­tries in pur­suit of nu­clear sta­tus. Cur­rently, the U.S., Rus­sia, China, Bri­tain and France are de­clared nu­clear states in the post-World War II sys­tem. How­ever, Bri­tain and France as well as Rus­sia have lost much of their pre­vi­ous power, with their nu­clear ar­se­nals do­ing lit­tle to en­hance their in­ter­na­tional sta­tus.

South Africa has given up its nu­clear weapons de­vel­op­ment, while Is­rael main­tains its nei­ther-con­firm-nor-deny pol­icy. Two foes, In­dia and Pak­istan, are un­de­clared nu­clear states.

True, pos­sess­ing nu­clear weapons is a great sta­tus sym­bol, but none of these coun­tries has ac­tu­ally used them in war since World War II.

They are weapons of last re­sort, mean­ing that us­ing or threat­en­ing to use one can in­vite self-an­ni­hi­la­tion. So it is time to let the North have what it wants and see whether it can han­dle the heat that comes with it.

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