[TODAY]Missile exports fuel Asian strife

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[TODAY]Missile exports fuel Asian strife

Feuding countries India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons of awesome power. They also have missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to each other's major cities, military bases and industrial complexes. Should the two engage in a full-scale war, it would be a calamity involving 1 billion people in India clashing with 141 million Pakistanis.

Waves of fear sweep over us as we watch the military tension and hysterics surrounding Kashmir rise like the rainy fog of the Bukhan River and slowly envelope the Indian subcontinent. It is, ironically, our hope that the nuclear weapons of the two countries create a balance of terror that could stop a war from happening.

In comparison of simple statistics, Pakistan is no match for India in warfare. In 1999, India's GDP of $447.3 billion was more than seven times that of Pakistan, at $60 billion. India has a regular army of 1.3 million while Pakistan has less than half that number of regular soldiers, about 600,000.

But the possession of weapons of mass destruction like missiles and nuclear arms makes such traditional measures of national power and conventional military power meaningless. This is the same logic by which North Korea thinks that possessing nuclear weapons would give it some deterrence against what it feels is a U.S. threat.

The rising tension in Kashmir has turned the attention of international observers toward the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta, Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory. While Kahuta has become a focus of concern for international society in general, South Koreans and Americans have specific reasons to pay particular attention to the site. The prototype of the Ghaury missile developed at the Kahuta laboratory was the Rodong missile of North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who now champions President George W. Bush's hard-line policies toward Pyeongyang, sent a report on North Korean missile exports to the U.S. Congress in 1998 when he was the chairman of the Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States.

In his report, Mr. Rumsfeld said that the Ghaury1 that Pakistan had test-launched that spring was a variation of the North Korean Rodong missile with a range of 900 miles.

According to sources including Joseph S. Bermudez, a leading expert on the North Korean missile program, Pakistan imported not only important parts of the missile, but also the missile-related technology and canisters for attaching nuclear warheads to the missiles from a North Korean missile export company. These sources noted the presence of North Korean technicians at the site at the time of the Ghaury missile tests.

Pakistan's import of missiles from North Korea caused a major international stir when it was discovered that China played a behind-the-scenes role.

China ran into strong opposition from the United States when it planned to export its M-11 missiles to Pakistan. Beijing chose to evade that pressure by providing financing for North Korea's exports of Rodong missiles to Pakistan, the New York Times reported. Pakistan is working on two new variants of that missile.

Even if India and Pakistan step back from the brink this time, the continued threat of war in the region will keep Pakistan's nuclear weapons and missiles at the center of international attention.

This will make North Korea even more notorious as the missile technology proliferator that made the Ghaury missile development possible.

On the surface, the reason for the conflict between India and Pakistan is a dispute over who owns what parts of Kashmir. There seems to be no easy solution to this conflict. But the fundamental reasons for the clashes between India and Pakistan are complex internal problems in both countries.

Both India and Pakistan, especially the latter, have yet to secularize their politics; both lack an all-encompassing civil society that can absorb fundamental Islam and tribalism.

General Pervez Musharraf, who took over power in Pakistan through a military coup, hopes to do what Mustafa Kemal Ataturk did for Turkey. General Musharraf is a soldier, yet he is one of the most liberal leaders that Pakistan has ever had. But he told Pakistanis that he would not avoid war "at the cost of sacrificing the honor and dignity" of Pakistan. That reflects the limits of his leadership.

We would like the situation in Kashmir resolved peacefully, before it becomes a goad for the United States to pressure Pyeongyang at a time when North Korea has no more cards to play for its survival.


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The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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