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US, China Rift, and the New Threat from North Korea

Amnah Amjad

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The launch of Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea on 4 July 2017 has sparked new tensions between United States, China and North Korea. The intercontinental ballistic missile has the capacity to reach 578 miles with the potential of reaching an altitude of 1700 miles. This would mean that the missile has the capability to get to Alaska, USA.

As a response to the North Korea’s missile launch, United States and South Korea held a ballistic missile drill on 5 July 2017 in the Sea of Japan to counter any attempt. However, the news of the drill broke within hours of the joint press statement by China and Russia in which they condemned the launch of ICBM by North Korea and in exchange demanded United States not to conduct military exercises with South Korea. The press statement indicates that both China and Russia want to address the issue on the table instead of using force.

North Korea’s latest missile test has created the rift between China and United States and many call it as an end of the ‘honeymoon period’ between the two countries. Trump, who called Chinese President, Xi Jinping, a ‘good person’ during Xi’s visit to the United States in April 2017, had taken a harsh stance against him this week and called for him to ‘do more’ for denuclearization of North Korea or face repercussions. China is the biggest trade partner of North Korea and United States blames it for not imposing United Nations sanctions on North Korea that included banning of coal imports from North Korea. The food and fuel supplies to North Korea and coal imports from the country by China are considered as lifeline of the former’s nuclear project. The latest ICBM test by North Korea proves that the sanctions have remained unsuccessful in the denuclearization of North Korea, hence probing United States to put pressure on China. United States have threatened China with the proposal of new sanctions that would curtail the Chinese bank linked to North Korea. This has been criticized by China that does not want to be affected by the US sanctions. Moreover, United States has also authorized sales of arms to Taiwan in order to put pressure on Xi.

Although China claims to aim for denuclearization of the region, it fears destabilized North Korea more than a nuclear North Korea. China has been supporting Kim Jong-un’s regime with food and fuel supplies to avoid instability in the country. Moreover, the trade between the two countries have risen this year, i.e. there is a 15 % increase in the trade between China and North Korea in the first five months of year 2017 as compared to those in 2016. This indicates that China has taken limited measures to impose the UN Security Council sanctions aimed to deter North Korean nuclear program. To aim for denuclearization of the region, China had suggested to resort to the Six Party talks (between North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and United States) and had aimed for the resumption of talks since its discontinuation in 2009.

There are a couple of reasons that China cannot cut off North Korea completely. Firstly, China’s priority is to have a stable Korean neighborhood; collapse of North Korea would create room for a United Korea as South Korea will take over the complete Korean region with the help of its ally, United States. This would make the lasting presence of the United States in the vicinity of China that will challenge the regional power structure. Moreover, United States is planning to test Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in July 2017. China has criticized the act and asks for peaceful settlement, as the use of force will create problems for China. Secondly, collapse of the North Korean regime would force refugees into China that will create problems for the country. China shares 1420 km long border with North Korea. The two provinces of China that share the border with North Korea, Jilin and Liaoning, have lower GDP compared to other coastal regions of China. The influx of refugees would create more problems for China that is already facing territorial issues with Tibet and Xinjiang.

The rift between China and United States appear to lie in the approach both countries take towards the denuclearization of North Korea. United States approach is aggressive; it wants to use force against North Korea and is even threatening China with sanctions and the sale of arms to Taiwan. Whereas, China regards the purpose of force unproductive and wants to solve the problem with negotiations. The use of force and sanctions against North Korea and China respectively, would aggravate the situation. Firstly, if United States attacks North Korea then North Korea will respond aggressively and the nuclear war will only create casualties and loss of lives. Secondly, if United States tries to put sanctions on China, then it may be backfired as China’s status of the second biggest economy in the world and emerging superpower has got it support from different countries of the world. Hence, imposition of sanctions by the super power on emerging super power will only create chaos in the world and may be repetition of another Cold War.

One then imagines that what could be the best possible approach in such situation? United States, China and North Korea need to come on one page and should revive Six Party Talks. The talks were discontinued by North Korea in the wake of resolution passed by UN Security Council condemning North Korea for the launch of satellite in April 2009. The revival of talks will foster dialogue process and will help in communicating each side’s picture clearly. This will also clear the picture of China’s approach towards North Korea as it had been unpredictable in the past; China agreed to adopt sanctions against North Korea in 2016, but 2017 has shown an increase in trade relations between the two countries. Moreover, instead of threat and sanctions, United States and China could offer economic incentives to North Korea. North Korea’s geographical location amidst strong economies such as China, Russia, Japan and United States would help its economy revive if it starts trade with these countries.

Amnah Amjad has done BSc (Honours) in Political Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan. She has keen interest in international relations, counter-terrorism strategies and peace studies. She can be reached at amnah.amjad[at]gmail.com

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security

Sonia Naz

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Wyn Bowen and Matthew Cottee discuss in their research entitled “Nuclear Security Briefing Book” that nuclear terrorism involves the acquisition and detonation of an intact nuclear weapon from a state arsenal. The world has not experienced any act of nuclear terrorism but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has observed many incidents of lost, theft and unauthorized control of nuclear material. The increased use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has intensified the threat that terrorist can target these places for acquiring nuclear materials. They cannot build a nuclear weapon because production of a nuclear weapon would require a technological infrastructure. Thus, it is the most difficult task that is nearly impossible because the required infrastructure and technological skills are very high which even a strong terrorist group could not bear easily, but they can build a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square miles while nuclear bomb could cause destruction only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill any more people than an ordinary bomb but it would create psychological terror. There is no viable security system for the prevention of nuclear terrorism, but the only possible solution is that there should be a stringent nuclear security system which can halt terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.

The UN Security Council and the IAEA introduced multilateral nuclear security initiatives. Pakistan actively contributed in all international nuclear security efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. For example, United States President Barak Obama introduced the process of Nuclear Security Summit (NSS)in 2009 to mitigate the threat of nuclear terrorism. The objective of NSS was to secure the material throughout the world in four years.

Pakistan welcomed it and not only made commitments in NSS but also fulfilled it. Pakistan also established a Centre of Excellence (COEs) on nuclear security and hosted workshops on nuclear security. In addition to all this, Pakistan is a signatory of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 and affirms its strong support to the resolution. It has submitted regular reports to 1540 Committee which explain various measures taken by Pakistan on radiological security and control of sensitive materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) transfer. Pakistan is the first country which submitted a report to the UN establishing the fact that it is fulfilling its responsibilities. Pakistan ratified Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) in 2016. It is also the member of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). It can be rightly inferred that Pakistan is not only contributing in all the international nuclear security instruments but has also taken multiple effective measures at the national level.

Pakistan created National Command Authority (NCA) to manage and safeguard nuclear assets and related infrastructures. The Strategic Plan Division (SPD) is playing a very important role in managing Pakistan’s nuclear assets by collaborating with all strategic organizations. Establishment of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)in 2001 is another development in this regard. The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS) was established under PNRA in 2014. Pakistan has also adopted the Export Control Act to strengthen its nuclear export control system. It deals with the rules and regulations for nuclear export and licensing. The SPD has also formulated a standard functioning procedure to regulate the conduct of strategic organizations. Christopher Clary discusses in his research “Thinking about Pakistan’s Nuclear Security in Peacetime” that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are equipped with Permissive Action Links (PALs) for its stringent security. According to Pakistan’s former nuclear scientist Samar Mubarakmand, every Pakistani nuclear arsenal is now fitted with a code-lock device which needs a proper code to enable the arsenal to explode.

Nonetheless the nuclear terrorism is a global concern and reality because terrorist organizations can target civilian nuclear facility in order to steal nuclear material. The best way to eradicate the root of nuclear terrorism is to have a stringent nuclear security system.

Western media and outsiders often propagate that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals can go into the wrong hands i.e. terrorists, but they do not highlight the efforts of Pakistan in nuclear security at the national and international level. The fact is that Pakistan has contributed more in international nuclear security efforts than India and it has stringent nuclear security system in place.

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India’s Probable Move toward Space Weaponization

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The term Space Weaponization tends to raise alarm as it implies deployment of weapons in the outer space or on heavenly bodies like Sun and Moon or sending weapon from earth to the outer space to destroy satellite capabilities of other states. Thus, space weaponization refers to the actions taken by a state to use outer space as an actual battlefield.

Space militarization on the other hand is a rather less offensive term which stands for utilization of space for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance missions through satellites to support forces on ground in the battle field. Space militarization is already in practice by many states. In South Asia, India is utilizing its upper hand in space technology for space militarization. However, recent concern in this regard is India’s attempts to weaponize space, which offers a bleak situation for regional peace and stability. Moreover, if India went further with this ambitiousness when Pakistan is also sending its own satellites in space, security situation will only deteriorate due to existing security dilemma between both regional counterparts.

Threats of space weaponization arise from the Indian side owing to its rapid developments in Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMDs) and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Both of these technologies, BMDs and ICBMs, hand in hand, could be used to destroy space based assets. In theory, after slight changes in algorithms, BMDs are capable of detecting, tracking and homing in on a satellite and ICBM could be used to target the satellites for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Many international scholars agree on the point that BMD systems have not yet acquired sophistication to give hundred percent results in destroying all the incoming ballistic missile, but they sure have the capability to work as anti-satellite systems. The reason behind the BMD being an effective anti-sat system is that it is easier to locate, track and target the satellites because they are not convoyed with decoys unlike missiles which create confusions for the locating and tracking systems.

India possesses both of the above-mentioned technologies and its Defense Research and Development Organization has shown the intention to build anti-satellite weaponry. In 2012, India’s then head of DRDO categorically said that India needs an arsenal in its system that could track the movement of enemy’s satellite before destroying it, thus what India is aiming at is the credible deterrence capability.

One thing that comes in lime light after analyzing the statement is that India is in fact aiming for weaponizing the space. With the recent launch of its indigenous satellites through its own launch vehicle not only for domestic use but also for commercial use, India is becoming confident enough in its capabilities of space program. This confidence is also making India more ambitious in space program. It is true that treaties regarding outer space only stop states from putting weapons of mass destruction in outer space. But, destruction of satellites will create debris in outer space that could cause destruction for other satellites in the outer space.

On top of it all the reality cannot be ignored that both Pakistan and India cannot turn every other arena into battlefield. Rivalry between both states has already turned glaciers and ocean into war zones, resultantly affecting the natural habitat of the region. By going for ballistic missile defences and intercontinental ballistic missiles India has not only developed missile technology but also has made significant contribution in anti-sat weaponry, which is alarming, as due to security dilemma, Pakistan will now be ever more compelled to develop capabilities for the security of its satellites. So far both states are confined till space militarization to enhance the capabilities of their forces, but if that force multiplier in space goes under threat, Pakistan will resort to capability to counter Indian aggression in space as well, which will be the classic action-reaction paradigm. Thus, it is pertinent that India as front runner in space technology develop policy of restrain to control the new arms race in the region which has potential to change the skies and space as we know them.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy: Impact on Strategic Stability in South Asia

Sonia Naz

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Most significant incident happened when India tested its nuclear device on18 May, 1974.After India’s nuclear test, Pakistan obtained the nuclear technology, expertise and pursued a nuclear program to counter India which has more conventional force than Pakistan. Pakistan obtained nuclear program because of India, it has not done anything independently but followed India. Pakistan just wanted to secure its borders and deter Indian aggression. It was not and is not interested in any arms race in the region. It is not signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). Pakistan has not signed NPT and CTBT because India has not signed it. Since acquiring the nuclear weapons, it has rejected to declare No First Use (NFU) in case of war to counter India’s conventional supremacy.

The basic purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter any aggression against its territorial integrity. Riffat Hussain while discussing Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine argues that it cannot disobey the policy of NFU due to Indian superiority in conventional force and it makes India enable to fight conventional war with full impunity. Pakistan’s nuclear posture is based on minimum credible nuclear deterrence which means that its nuclear weapons have no other role except to counter the aggression from its adversary.  It is evident that Pakistan’s nuclear program is Indiacentric.. Owing to the Indian superiority in conventional forces Pakistan nuclear weapons balance the conventional force power percentage between the two states. In November 1999, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar stated that ‘more is unnecessary while little is enough’.

The National Command Authority (NCA), comprising the Employment Control Committee, Development Control Committee and Strategic Plans Division, is the center point of all decision-making regarding the nuclear issue.According to the security experts first use option involves many serious challenges because it needs robust military intelligence and very effective early warning system. However, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is  concerned about nuclear security of weapons for which it has laid out stringent nuclear security system. Pakistan made a rational decision by conducting five nuclear tests in 1998 to restore the strategic stability in South Asia, otherwise it was not able to counter the threat of India’s superior conventional force.

The NCA of Pakistan (nuclear program policy making body) announced on September 9, 2015 the nation’s resolve to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability in line with the dictates of ‘credible minimum deterrence’ to deter all forms of aggression, adhering to the policy of avoiding an arms race.”It was the response of Indian offensive Cold Start Doctrine which is about the movement of Indian military forces closer to Pakistan’s border with all vehicles. Pakistan wants to maintain strategic stability in the region and its seeks conflict resolution and peace, but India’s hawkish policies towards Pakistan force it to take more steps to secure its border. Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is very vigorously implementing rational countermeasures to respond to India’s aggression by transforming its nuclear doctrine. It has developed tactical nuclear weapons (short range nuclear missiles) that can be used in the battle field.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in 2013 that Pakistan would continue to obey the policy of minimum credible nuclear deterrence to avoid the arms race in the region. However, it would not remain unaware of the changing security situation in the region and would maintain the capability of full spectrum nuclear deterrence to counter any aggression in the region. Dr. Zafar Jaspal argues in his research that Full credible deterrence does not imply it is a quantitative change in Pakistan’s minimum credible nuclear deterrence, but it is a qualitative response to emerging challenges posed in the region. This proves that Islamabad is not interested in the arms race in the region, but India’s constant military buildup forces Pakistan to convert its nuclear doctrine from minimum to full credible nuclear deterrence.

India’s offensive policies alarm the strategic stability of the region and international community considers that Pakistan’s transformation in nuclear policies would be risky for international security. They have recommended a few suggestions to Pakistan’s nuclear policy making body, but the NCA rejected those mainly because Pakistan is confronting dangerous threats from India and its offensive policies such as the cold start doctrine. Hence no suggestion conflicting with this purpose is acceptable to Pakistan. This is to be made clear at the all national, regional and international platforms that Pakistan is striving hard to maintain the strategic stability while India is only contributing toward instigating the regional arms race.

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