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Interrogating North Korea’s Nuclear Program

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Nuclear weapons can create havoc of mass destruction and environmental disaster at the same time it endangers the existence of the universe. ”Such hazardous consequences have accelerated governments to negotiate arms control agreements such as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968” (excerpted from Britannica) .

Five states are primarily recognized as nuclear state – United States of America (USA), Russia (former Soviet Union), China, Britain and France. In addition, Indian, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) also named as North Korea and purportedly Israel have gained nuclear arsenals. Currently, DPRK’s nuclear missile test on the nose of USA has shaken Pacific Rim as well as world politics. North Korean regime is likely to follow ‘neorealism’ trend which literally based on security maximization and power maximization. This paper investigates causes of North Korea’s nuclear program through levels of analysis, DPRK’s stand towards nuclear proliferation,its impacts and strict solutions to overcome the crises.

Individual Characteristics of Kim Jong Un

Ideology, perception and conduct of ruling figure are assumed as prerequisites for country’s national and foreign policies. Kim Jong Un is known as an aggressive figure while feeling himself insecure. He has displayed a  different method of ruling than his father done. His succession as supreme leader on December 2011,  has allowed Western influences, such as clothing styles and Disney characters, to be displayed in the public sphere, and he is informal in his frequent public appearances. In a stark change from his father’s era, Kim Jong Un’s wife was introduced to the North Korean public. Kim executed ”17 high ranking officials  in 2012, 10 in 2013, 41 in 2014, and  at  least  15  in 2015” (Han Bum Cho: KINU 2015). North Korea’s ruling leader has promised to test ICBM that could hit the United States with a nuclear weapon. He intends to use such threats to compel the Trump Administration to accept Pyongyang’s nuclear status, conclude a peace treaty, and achieve North Korea’s goal of ”reunifying the peninsula under the North’s rule”. An investigation of Lorenzo Mariani is that ”North Korean engineers managed to miniaturize the bomb by using ‘hydrogen’ components (probably hydrogen fuel) to boost the explosion. The nuclear test is also  believed to have had important implications for the Kim Jong-un regime’s strategy” (Assessing North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Programmes: Implications for Seoul and Washington, Lorenzo Mariani : 2016).

Domestic Interests of DPRK

North Korean officials had acknowledged that they had a program to enrich nuclear weapons on October 2005. Kang Sok Ju, then Vice Foreign Minister of DPRK, stated that the ”DPRK would resolve this issue if the United States: (a) concluded a nonaggression treaty with the DPRK; (b) lifted the embargo on North Korea and stopped interfering with Japan–DPRK normalization; (c) normalized relations with the DPRK; and (d) compensated North Korea for the delay in the construction of a light-water reactor (LWR).” (Narushige Michishita, page 163)

Pertaining to the set of demands USA remained silent. On July 5, 2006 North Korea fires seven missiles in defiance of warnings, leading UN Security Council to vote against it on July 15. North Korea is supposed to accomplish her strategy through enhancing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in her arsenal, reunification of Korean peninsula, increase her security as well as dominance in East Asia region. The ”Byungjin” policy has been taken by Kim Jong Un based on the coincidental economic reforms and military capabilities and its strategic success to new strategic policy guidelines.

Global Perspectives

The strategic notion of North Korea is that ”only nuclear weapons can deter the USA”. Since President  Obama took  office, North  Korea  has  demanded that  it  be  recognized as  a nuclear weapons  state  and  that  a peace  treaty with the United States must be a prerequisite  to denuclearization. Pyongyang reminded the new American president that its ”Byungjin” policy of simultaneous nuclear weapons development and economic development would continue, and also reiterated its preparedness to test-launch an ICBM, again justifying its plans as necessary for its self-defense. The new goal, as Pyongyang sees it, is to discuss the terms under which the USA will accept North Korea as a nuclear state and agree to end ”hostility”. Pyongyang’s view, to end “hostility” the United States have to terminate the alliance with South Korea, withdraw its forces from the peninsula, and end its nuclear deterrence commitment to South Korea. North Korea has made her mind clear that only under these stipulations relations between Pyongyang and Washington can be stable. Compelling the USA to do so, North Korea wishes to achieve its ultimate goal “the reunification of the Korean Peninsula on her terms”. After years of observing  North Korea’s negotiating behavior, several analysts believe that ”such demands are simply tactical  moves by Pyongyang and that  North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and recognition. In a strategic environment such as Northeast Asia’s, in which the United States’ nuclear umbrella covers Tokyo and Seoul, North Korea lives with a very high security dilemma while survival is her very first priority” (Van Jackson : 2016).

Present Stand of North Korea towards Nuclear Arsenal

After calculating North Korea’s nuclear test Amanda Macious has stated, “North Korea’s advancement is jeopardizing the security of Asia-Pacific region. A total of 21 missiles were launched on 14 different occasions in 2016″ (Amanda Macious : 2016) According to research of Evans J.R Revere, ”Bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and six-party dialogues have all come to naught. UN Security Council resolutions, incremental up-ticks in economic and diplomatic sanctions, and even redlines have not worked.  Neither has the provision of economic, agricultural, and energy assistance including supplying the North with light-water nuclear reactors. Cultural exchanges and assurances of a better life for the North Korean people have left Pyongyang unimpressed. Pyongyang has slammed the door on denuclearization and made the pursuit of nuclear weapons a formal part both of its constitution and its national development plan”

(Evans J.R Revere: 2017). Park, ruling leader of South Korea, tried several times to resolve the tension between South Korea and DPRK. On the contrary DPRK’s position is like an immovable object. Above mentioned researches indicate that there are no chances to ameliorate present stand of DPRK pertaining to nuclear weapon issue.

Impacts of Nuclear Missile Test

Vehement attitude of North Korea concerning the nuclear program left diverse affects on her territory, in Pacific Rim and global affairs as well. Depict of immigrants who manage to flee from North Korea portrayed the miseries of citizens. Human rights are being violated in North Korean territory from years. Because of preponderant military and nuclear weapons test budget, government takes less care on public sectors where the principal source of national income is agriculture. Lifestyle of rural is miserable than Pyongyang – people enduring starvation, impure water, malnutrition, poverty and so on. Social and political rights are highly abusive. People can not choose their own styled government while mass gathering and stand against government push them into dark prison bar and brutal torture cell. Media is totally restricted to access counting a few state controlled media. Two aspects of human security ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’ is invisible in North Korea. Due to irrational steps by North Korean regime United Nations Security Council has invoked sanctions on North Korea. For that reason, public of North Korea are being suffered. Nuclear program of North Korea has already destabilized the Pacific Rim. Recent test on late August 2017, over Japan territory has made the situation more matronal. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe said, “North Korea’s reckless action of launching a missile that passed over Japan is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat” (New York Times). The test that has been taken place in breach of UN sanctions and further increased tensions in Pacific Rim propelling USA, Japan & South Korea joint military drill.

Threat to International Peace and International security

Ongoing nuclear weapons test of DPRK has threatened the peace and security conditions of international community. Basically Pacific Rim is being tensed. Owing to sanctions upon North Korea liberal economic order is going to be hampered. These sanctions on North Korea has made her extreme nationalist, self reliance, security and power maximizer as well as furious in foreign policy. North Korea’s intimidation to heat Guam, notable American military base in Pacific region has stimulated the situation eventually. Tracing the incidents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it can be assumed that if a nuclear weapon heat any target then it will deteriorate entire system of the targeted territory. Lives, environment, infrastructures, land, water, farms all will be ruined. On account of North Korea’s aggressive policy US allies also may under target of its nuclear realm. Besides, if the nuclear tension causes to begin a conventional warfare, its consequences will further destructive for international peace and security left a number of people killed, scarcity to essentials of life, economic deterioration and fall of social and political structure.

Pessimistic View to Stop DPRK’s nuclearization

As it is mentioned previously that North Korea’s stand towards nuclear missile test is very strict. At any point of view, North Korea is unlikely to give up nuclear missile test. Only immediate and overwhelming measures to cut off the regime’s economic lifeblood, starve it of foreign exchange, prosecute its human rights abuses, threaten it militarily, isolate it diplomatically, and sow dissent internally can force Pyongyang to choose between nuclear weapons and survival (Evans J.R Revere: 2017).

Although former US President Obama called for a nuclear free world approaching ‘global zero’ movement, there is no visibility to get the movement succeed. Because no state wishes to take the risk of relinquishment unless others do. And recent attitude of North Korea has made the situation more provocative. Before denuclearization of international community ought to think up a nuclear free world.

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East Asia

Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China

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image source: chinamission.be

There are multiple passages from Afghanistan to China, like Wakhan Corridor that is 92 km long, stretching to Xinjiang in China. It was formed in 1893 as a result of an agreement between the British Empire and Afghanistan. Another is Chalachigu valley that shares the border with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and Afghanistan to the west. It is referred to as the Chinese part of the Wakhan Corridor. However, the Chinese side of the valley is closed to the public and only local shepherds are allowed. Then there is Wakhjir Pass on the eastern side of the Wakhan corridor but is not accessible to the general public. The terrain is rough on the Afghan side. There are no roads along the Wakhjir Pass, most of the terrain is a dirt track. Like other passages, it can only be accessed via either animals or SUVs, and also due to extreme weather it is open for only seven months throughout the year. North Wakhjir Pass, also called Tegermansu Pass, is mountainous on the border of China and Afghanistan. It stretches from Tegermansu valley on the east and Chalachigu Valley in Xinjiang. All of these passages are extremely uncertain and rough which makes them too risky to be used for trade purposes. For example, the Chalagigu valley and Wakhjir Pass are an engineering nightmare to develop, let alone make them viable.

Similarly, the Pamir mountain range is also unstable and prone to landslides. Both of these routes also experience extreme weather conditions. Alternatives: Since most of the passages are risky for travel, alternatively, trade activities can be routed via Pakistan. For example, there is an access road at the North Wakhjir that connects to Karakoram Highway.

By expanding the road network from Taxkorgan in Xinjiang to Gilgit, using the Karakoram Highway is a probable option. Land routes in Pakistan are already being developed for better connectivity between Islamabad and Beijing as part of CPEC. These routes stretch from Gwadar up to the North.

The Motorway M-1, which runs from Islamabad to Peshawar can be used to link Afghanistan via Landi Kotal. Although the Karakoram highway also suffers from extreme weather and landslides, it is easier for engineers to handle as compared to those in Afghanistan.

China is the first door neighbor of Afghanistan having a common border. If anything happens in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on China. China has a declared policy of peaceful developments and has abandoned all disputes and adversaries for the time being and focused only on economic developments. For economic developments, social stability and security is a pre-requisite. So China emphasizes peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is China’s requirement that its border with Afghanistan should be secured, and restrict movements of any unwanted individuals or groups. China is compelled by any government in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of its borders in the region.

Taliban has ensured china that, its territory will not use against China and will never support any insurgency in China. Based on this confidence, China is cooperating with the Taliban in all possible manners. On the other hand, China is a responsible nation and obliged to extend humanitarian assistance to starving Afghans. While, the US is coercing and exerting pressures on the Taliban Government to collapse, by freezing their assets, and cutting all economic assistance, and lobbying with its Western allies, for exerting economic pressures on the Taliban, irrespective of human catastrophe in Afghanistan. China is generously assisting in saving human lives in Afghanistan. Whereas, the US is preferring politics over human lives in Afghanistan.

The US has destroyed Afghanistan during the last two decades, infrastructure was damaged completely, Agriculture was destroyed, Industry was destroyed, and the economy was a total disaster. While, China is assisting Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure, revive agriculture, industrialization is on its way. Chinese mega initiative, Belt and Road (BRI) is hope for Afghanistan.

A peaceful Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace and stability in China, especially in the bordering areas. The importance of Afghan peace is well conceived by China and practically, China is supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighboring countries, and regional countries, are agreed upon by consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a must and prerequisite for whole regions’ development and prosperity.

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Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question

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image credit: kremlin.ru

The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.

Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.

However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.

Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.

During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.

Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.

Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.

If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?

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Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.

One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.

In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.

To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.

The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.

Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.

Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.

From our partner RIAC

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