The Second North Korean Nuclear Crisis- Part I
As a state on President Bush's "axis of evil," North Korea is notorious for proliferating weapons of mass destruction and "indirectly supporting terrorism."[i] Even though the world's liberal democracies provided political and economic to freeze North Korea's nuclear reprocessing, the Kim Jong-Il regime deceived the world by enriching uranium. How should the international community respond? Pyongyang withdrew from the NPT, restarted its frozen reactors, and even demands a bilateral US-DPRK non-aggression pact that, from both a logical and legal perspective, would nullify the US-ROK alliance.
I. Old Intentions, New Attempts
For several years, the world blindly trusted that the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework, with its guaranteed nuclear freeze, was in good standing[r1] . In early October 2002, however, it was revealed that North Korea had again been covertly developing nuclear weapons, this time by enriching uranium. DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kang Suk-Ju confirmed this new development when James Kelly, the US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visited Pyongyang as a special envoy. North Korea had struck a deal with Pakistan for the nuclear equipment it had previously lacked: Pyongyang would help Pakistan deter India by providing technologies and parts for Gaurri missiles, while Islamabad reciprocated by supplying sophisticated technology to create nuclear fuel from naturally occurring uranium.
Pyongyang had already conducted numerous uranium enrichment experiments, and the required facilities are widely scattered. The National Academy in Pyongyang is regarded as an essential installation; another system at Kusung in the northwest contains equipment for high-temperature experiments and underground tunnels. Youngju-Dong in Yankang-Do and Hagap in Chakang-Do are also part of the establishment.[ii] The Tokyo Shinbun, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times all agreed that North Korea's second nuclear program began at least as far back as 1997, that more than a thousand gas centrifuges have been imported to enrich uranium and that Russian suppliers have been providing crucial components for several years.[iii]
North Korea long insisted that the original purpose for nuclear capabilities and facilities was to produce electricity, but, if so, there would have been no reason to lie about how much plutonium they extracted from spent fuel. The greatest benefit comes in reporting the truth to the IAEA under NPT regulations, in return gaining extensive technological assistance. Moreover, the North Korean power grid is nowhere near able to handle that much electricity, nor has continued investment been able to upgrade it. The purpose of the reactors has always been to generate power, yes, but not of the electric variety.
It is clear Pyongyang definitely wants, or has, nuclear weapons. The more important question is why. Political or military? Defensive or offensive? Some specialists argue that the nuclear program is merely a bargaining chip for regime maintenance and economic gain so that Pyongyang can avoid state collapse within the environment of American primacy. Such arguments contain some truth but disregard that these weapons can indeed be used for militarily offensive purposes. Would Al Qaeda never actually use nuclear weapons, but only threaten? North Korea is not so different, an irresponsible regime that cannot be trusted. Remember, the US, France and Britain valued Cold War nuclear second-strike capability against a possible Soviet attack. Pyongyang's possession of nuclear weapons is multi-purposed: political, military, defensive, offensive, international, domestic. Domestically, nuclear weapons will promote the legitimacy of the Kim Jong-il regime. Internationally, the weapons can defend against the US, but also against Russia and China, neither of whom are particularly reliable these days, as far as North Korea is concerned.
Pyongyang pursued uranium enrichment when prospects for diplomatic normalization with the United States were rising markedly and while receiving enormous political and economic benefits from the Kim Dae-Jung Administration. This reveals a blind preoccupation with nuclear weaponry. Also, that the endeavor began around or before 1998 belies that it was not a measure against the hard-line Bush administration elected in 2000.
II. Dangerous Repercussions