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Fallout from North Korea bomb heralds new era of global anxiety
Cat : WMD
Date : 2006-10-15 23:27:10                      Reader : 392

Congress approval for small bombs in Iraq war if necessary. US threatens Iran and NKorea. The world will never be safe till all WMD is dismantled from the globe. UN should make efforts for peaceful negotiations to attain " World free from WMD".

Google News 15/10/2006

Fallout from North Korea bomb heralds new era of global anxiety
IAN MATHER

KIM Jong-il appears to have done it. His announcement that he exploded a nuclear weapon last week puts North Korea in place as the ninth member of the nuclear club, and the world has changed for ever.

Some of the globe's most widely detested regimes are carefully monitoring the reaction to North Korea's bomb test - even as some question whether it was nuclear or merely a conventional bomb designed to look atomic. As a result there is now a real danger that nuclear weapons will be developed by hostile, anti-Western leaders.

Thomas Friedman, the leading American foreign affairs commentator, said last week that with the North Korean test, the "post-Cold War era" has been succeeded by the "post-post-Cold War era".

The post-Cold War era saw the collapse of communism, the spread of free-market democracies, the peaceful rise of China and India and the end of the division of Europe.

But the post-post-Cold War world will be much more problematical, said Friedman. "The era will be defined by three new features - if things continue as they are. First is a nuclear Asia, triggered by North Korea's flaunting of its nuclear weapons. How long will Japan, Taiwan and South Korea remain non-nuclear with Kim Jong-il brandishing his bomb?

"Second is a nuclear Middle East. Iran is almost certain to follow North Korea's lead, and once the Shi'ite Persians in Iran have the bomb, how long will it be before the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, even Syria, have one too?

"Third is a disintegrating Iraq in the heart of the Arab world, with its destabilising impact on oil prices and terrorism."

Leaving aside the danger of a nuclear arms race in Asia, the realisation North Korea has nuclear weapons is sending shockwaves far afield. In the Middle East the unthinkable consequence is that Iran, Syria and other Arab countries embark on a chilling arms race in the world's most unstable region.

In the wake of the North Korean test, Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that his country would not retreat from its right to develop nuclear technology.

Thomas Sanderson, deputy director of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: "Combining Iranian President Ahmadinejad's threat to 'wipe Israel off the map' with Israel's well-known policy of pre-emptively striking core national security threats, there is trouble not far over the horizon."

If Iran triggers more proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the new members of the nuclear club could include Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria - "all cauldrons of ideological extremism tamped down only by harsh repression, and all of them within missile range of Tel Aviv," said Sanderson.

While these countries, along with Turkey, have lived grudgingly with an Israeli bomb linked to the US, all are Sunni-dominated, and so far less likely to put up with a Shia bomb wielded by a centuries-old regional rival.

While officially Saudi Arabian policy is for a Middle East free of all nuclear weapons, including Israel's, its foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, said recently that his country believes in the rights of all countries to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a position that is similar to the official position of Iran.

So what future is there now for the Non-Proliferation Treaty? This stipulates that only five countries have the legal right to possess a nuclear weapon: China, the US, Britain, France and Russia. But India refuses to sign, Israel does not confirm it has nuclear weapons, though it does, and Pakistan is the main retailer of weapons-to-go technology.

Mohammed el-Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority, said last week that the North Korean test "threatens the non-proliferation system and creates serious security challenges not just for Asia, but for the entire international community".

If the Non-Proliferation Treaty were to collapse completely there would be nothing to stop an arms race breaking out even as far away at Latin America. Brazil and Argentina, both potential members of the nuclear club, have abandoned nuclear programmes in the past. But Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, supports Iran's uranium enrichment programme and could be driven into Tehran's arms through his clashes with the US.

A much more immediate threat is the danger of a nuclear arms race among North Korea's Asian neighbours. With China, India, Pakistan and North Korea now members of the nuclear club, the new prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, a strong nationalist, could well decide that Japan should develop its own nuclear arsenal.

Japan is Korea's former colonial ruler and top US ally in the region, making it North Korea's first target.

Repeated test-firings of missiles in the direction of Japan by North Korea have inflamed public opinion and triggered a fresh debate in Japan over revising its post-war pacifist constitution, which bans all but defensive weapons.

"The older generation was brainwashed by the post-war pacifist education system, but Abe is a realist who sees the dangers in north-east Asia and understands the delusion of pacifism," says Hideaki Kase, a conservative media commentator.

And if Japan starts to develop its own atomic bombs, South Korea and Taiwan will not be far behind. South Korea gave up its drive for atomic weapons in the 1970s under strong US pressure. But after the North Korean test, 65% of respondents in a newspaper poll said the South should develop its own nuclear weapons.

Last week South Korea announced that it would beef up its defences against nuclear attack, and during talks in Washington this week, defence minister Yoon Kwang-ung will seek greater assurances of protection from the US. "They will discuss the nuclear umbrella issue deeply," a senior defence official said.

Taiwan had nuclear ambitions in the past, but dropped them under US pressure. Last week, the China Post, published in the capital, Taipei, said: "It is time for Taiwan to consider resuming its plan to go nuclear. Taiwan faces a potential enemy, who is already a nuclear power. China deploys 800 cruise missiles targeting Taiwan. We have to have it to make China hesitate to invade Taiwan for whatever trumped-up reason."

Is there a way to prevent such rhetoric fuelling a new arms race? At the United Nations, only the US and Japan argued that the UN should include the threat of force in a resolution condemning North Korea.

That leaves individual countries. The US itself is "sanctioned out" because it has already imposed all the sanctions it can on both North Korea and Iran.

The Japanese Cabinet has approved tough sanctions against North Korea, but Japan is not powerful enough on its own.

That leaves China and Russia. Both are deeply disturbed by the news from North Korea, and both are unhappy about the prospect of an Iranian bomb.

The collapse of Kim's regime, vile though it is, would not suit China, which fears a mass influx of refugees.

In the event of regime change there are also fears as to what would happen not just to North Korea's nuclear stock, which is small, but to its vast arsenal of WMDs. North Korea is no stranger to the arms trade, and it is known, for example, that Iran's Shahab-3 missile is based on a North Korean rocket.

Yet China is North Korea's main benefactor and trading partner. If Beijing told North Korea that unless it dismantled its nuclear programme and put its facilities under UN inspection, it would cut off its energy and food, Kim would relent.

Moreover, if both China and Russia told Iran that they would join in the toughest possible UN economic sanctions on Tehran if it persisted in its nuclear programme, the ayatollahs would also back down.

As a result of North Korea's test, some countries are moving closer to the moment of truth.


 
 
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