Nuclear Nonproliferation – Case of North Korea and Iran :: A Critical Appraisal ::

Recently, Japan celebrates 60th anniversary of World War II in the memories of those who died and also paid its homage to those who killed especially by the Atomic Bomb of the US. It is predicted that whole humanity can be again easy prey of that kind of massacre if the alarming issue of “nuclear nonproliferation” is not handled immediately and properly. The Six Parties Negotiation and the EU have failed to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Iran from resumption of its peaceful nuclear program. The stakes (geo-political and geo-strategic) were high among the major power brokers (USA, North Korea, EU, Iran, UN) on the issue of nuclear nonproliferation.

The government of the US especially under both the regimes of George W. Bush tried its levels best to check the nuclear production activities of the three states ” Axis of Evil” (Iraq, North Korea Iran). The hawks sitting in the establishment of Mr. Bush projected these countries as “Threat to the security of United States of America” and “Potential Enemy to International Peace”. According to a report of the Pentagon the attack on Iraq was and expected start of war against Iran is supposed to be “A Decisive Drive against Nuclear Nonproliferation”

Recent statement/confess of ex-prime minister of Netherlands about the evolution of Pakistan’s nuclear program, US arms race in Asia, new strategic partnership with India, Israel and categorical oversight by the CIA and Pentagon, unearthed the untold story, principle or so-called firm commitment of the US towards nuclear nonproliferation. The US has failed to find any WMD in Iraq and has foundered in an unanticipated insurgency and incipient civil war. North Korea and Iran has not accepted the “dictation” from the US and the EU on the issue of their nuclear programs. And now high officials of the US and the EU starting consider “Rigorous Diplomacy” rather than “Direct Military Actions” against Pyongyang and Tehran.

The six-party talks (U.S., Japan, South Korea, Russia, China and North Korea) on North Korea’s nuclear program have ended with out any result. China’s trade with North Korea surged last year despite escalating tension over the impoverished communist state’s nuclear ambitions. Bilateral trade, excluding China’s humanitarian food and oil aid to North Korea, rose 35 per cent year-on-year to $1.39 billion in 2004, the Korea Trade investment Promotion Agency said in a report. The volume accounted for 42 per cent of the North’s total trade of $ 3.3 billion with other countries last year. China’s investment in North Korea rose to $50 million in 2004, accounting for 85 per cent of Pyongyang’s total foreign investment of 59 million dollars. The increasing economic ties between the two countries show that socio-economic and geo-strategic interests are looming bigger than the so-called nuclear bomb of North Korea by the West.

The European Union’s diplomatic engagement (France, Germany and Great Britain) with Iran have abstained the US to take any military action against Iran because socio-economic (Energy Resources) and geo-strategic stakes are bigger than the issue of nuclear proliferation. Iran scored a small diplomatic victory when the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] adopted a relatively mild resolution calling on Tehran to revert to the suspension of all of its nuclear activities, but stopping short of referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council for possible economic sanctions.

North Korea’s Nuclear Aspirations

North Korea’s nuclear aspirations have been challenging since it first joined the Nonproliferation Treat [NPT] in 1985. By the time the country accepted a safeguards agreement in 1992, it was already suspected of having extracted enough plutonium from its research reactor at Yongbyong to produce one or two nuclear weapons. Escalating confrontation over the inability of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] to verify North Korea’s non-nuclear status was resolved only by direct US intervention, culminating in the 1994 US-North Korea Agreed Framework, which froze North Koreas plutonium-based nuclear power program. The Agreed Framework held, more or less, until October 2002, when the administration of President George W Bush confronted North Korea with charges that it was undertaking a second, uranium-based nuclear program. Escalating iterated reactions led eventually to North Korea ending cooperation with IAEA safeguards, commencing reprocessing of plutonium stored at the Yongbyong site, and withdrawing from the NPT. By early 2005, just months before the 2005 NPT review conference, North Korea stated explicitly for the first time that it possessed nuclear weapons.

Right now, there are no direct restraints on North Korea’s plutonium-based program. Moreover, by withdrawing from the Agreed Framework and the NPT without being meaningfully sanctioned North Korea has successfully moved the line in the sand considerably in its favor. Now Pyongyang wants to keep its nuclear program and build more, or to bargain hard for generous economic aid and, more importantly, credible security guarantees from the US. From its past experience the US is obdurate rely on the statement or commitment of North Korea about its nuclear program.

Nuclear Program (North Korea) and Conflicting Geo-Political and Geo-Strategic Ground Realties

  • The US wants nuclear nonproliferation. It also wants to protect the territorial sovereignty of South Korea from which it can check the geo-political and geo-strategic designs of China and Russia.
  • Seoul leans toward Washington, but has pursued a policy stressing conciliation with Pyongyang, rendering its support for a hard line problematic.
  • China in favour of de-nuclearization, but desires preservation of North Korea’s regime in order to curb Washington’s influence in the Korean peninsula and to prevent a flood of refugees across its border in case of an implosion.
  • Moscow is also agreed with the views of China.
  • Government of Pakistan also wants to resolve the alarming conflict with mutual understanding and negotiations and not to the use of brutal power.

A new round of six-party talks, on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program arranged and hosted by Beijing. It began on July 26 and was greeted with cautious optimism within the participatory countries. Due to “Joint Stance” of China, North Korea and the last not the least Russia, the US changed its olden stance of “Bilateral Discussions” with Pyongyang, and strong commitment for “Regime Change” in North Korea.

The same saga continues. The negotiators failed to agree on a joint statement of principles that would set the parameters for future rounds. The Pyongyang’s new demand of having its own “Civilian Nuclear Program”, including a “Light-Water Reactor” is supposed to be one of the reasons of its failure. The US refused to concede to Pyongyang and the talks were suspended until the end of August 2005 with Beijing, which provides essential energy supplies to North Korea and is its protector, urging restraint. Although the future of the talks is uncertain, it is clear that Beijing is not heeding Washington’s call to exert greater pressure on Pyongyang, leaving the latter free to complicate negotiations and throw obstacles in the way of an agreement.

Regional Repercussions

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions already fuel palpable regional dangers and uncertainties. A de facto nuclear North Korea increases pressures and prospects for other East Asian states to acquire nuclear weapons as well.

  • The impending threat of proliferation is bad news for the NPT.
  • North Korea’s actions trigger a nuclear proliferation domino effect in East Asia.
  • Japan would perceive North Korea’s development of an overt nuclear weapons capability. North Korea’s ambitions would spur Japan to produce nuclear weapons
  • In South Korea and Taiwan, nuclear programs are less advanced than in Japan. However, both Seoul and Taipei have demonstrated nuclear ambitions in the past, and both might be more directly motivated than Japan to respond to North Korean achievements.
  • North Korea’s reinvigorated nuclear program provides Pyongyang with the capability to fuel proliferation fires worldwide by exporting fissile materials, nuclear weapons development technologies and expertise, or even completed operational weapons.
  • Due to alarming situation in the region Japan and Singapore did not sign on Proliferation Security Initiative [PSI] recently introduced by the US.

A Nuclear Iran

Iran is facing one of the most serious challenges since 1979. The international pressure on the issue of nuclear proliferation is increasing day by day. Heroically, Iran defies Western “will” and resumes the initial stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, regardless of strong condemnation by Europe, as well as Russia, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA].

The ongoing nuclear spat between Iran and the European Union and Iran and the USA has been underway for the last couple of years. Threats and counter-threats continue to be traded which has ended on August 10, with the “Breaking of International Atomic Energy Agency’s (I.A.E.A.) seals on its uranium processing equipment and resumed enrichment” by Iran. It is reality that Iran does not possess any nuclear weapons, but has a nuclear energy program that it insists is for civilian purposes. It appears that the US and Germany are working together for Security Council action against Iran.

Unlike Pyongyang, which has withdrawn from the nonproliferation treaty, Tehran remains within the agreement, which permits civilian nuclear development, but prohibits weapons production. Iran has faced opposition from the US over its intention to begin enriching uranium, because doing so would move it closer to the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Washington’s hard line is based on the fact that Tehran hid much of its nuclear energy program from international inspections for 18 years.

Nuclear Program (Iran) and Conflicting Geo-Political and Geo-Strategic Ground Realties

  • The US wants nuclear nonproliferation and complete “The End of Iranian Nuclear program”.
  • Potential threat to Israel, which can rewrite the whole map of Middle East geo-political and geo-strategic mechanics.
  • China is also in favour of de-nuclearization, but desires preservation of Iran’s regime in order to curb Washington’s influence in the Gulf and Middle East region. Bilateral trade and levels of investments between China and Iran is on the rise.
  • Moscow is also agreed with the views of China.
  • EU also wants nuclear nonproliferation but does not support any direct military action against Iran. Iran is the main source of getting easy and cheap energy for the EU. FDI is on the rise and bilateral trade volumes have reached at peak between the most of the countries of the EU and Iran. The E.U.’s divided interests and consequent indecisiveness have encouraged Tehran to proceed with enrichment.
  • It is feared that Iranian nuclear capabilities may destabilize the “Power Structure” in the whole Asian continent.

Regional Repercussions

  • Iran’s nuclear aspirations already fuel flagrant regional dangers and uncertainties. A potential nuclear Iran increases pressures and prospects for other Gulf States, and South East Asian states to acquire nuclear weapons as well.
  • Pakistan and India is on the edge of nuclear disaster reported by the think tank of the US 2005. According to the Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS] Pakistan now has between 55 and 90 nuclear weapons compared with 55 and 110 in India. Israel and North Korea, listed among other current de facto weapons states, have between 110 and 190 weapons and between two and nine weapons respectively and constant denial of Iran nuclear proliferation may increase the tally to dangerous levels.
  • The expected US attack on Iran may produce negative consequences. These are: an increase in terrorism; a Shia rising in Iraq; Hezbollah and Iranian attacks on Israel; attacks on oil facilities along the Gulf and a recession caused by rising oil prices.
  • Tehran will continue to try to split “Brussels from Washington” and a move in the Security Council to impose sanctions on Tehran would face possible vetoes by “Moscow and Beijing”. The divided interests of Washington’s allies make it most likely that the nonproliferation issues will continue to worsen without any critical end, giving North Korea and Iran the freedom to which they have become familiarized.


It seems that world has not learned any think from the horrors of “Hiroshima” and ashes of “Nagasaki”. Ancient concept of “Power vs. Absolute Power” and “Small Fish vs Big Fish” is the hallmark of our planet since its creation. Respect for the sovereignty of a state (poor& weaker) is secondary thing in the orbit of international politics and power play. The increasing insurgencies in Iraq, and Afghanistan, divided geo-political and geo-strategic interests of allies, and strong political will of China and Moscow for North Korea and Iran are supposed to be main hurdles for the US to immediately force both the countries to “Stay Away” from Nuclear Proliferation process.