[TODAY]Nuclear horror stalking us again

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[TODAY]Nuclear horror stalking us again

The worst possible disaster that 70 million citizens of the two Koreas could face is nuclear war on the peninsula. If North Korea attacks the South, there are two countries that could use nuclear weapons in an inter-Korean war. One is the North and the other is the United States. There is yet no decisive evidence that the North is equipped with nuclear weapons. But nuclear weapons under Washington's control are a concern.

During the bitter Cold War confrontation between Moscow and Washington, U.S. presidents declared that the United States would not be the first to use nuclear weapons unless it were under attack with weapons of mass destruction. Washington has long proclaimed that it never desired to win a war by using nuclear weapons; the United States, instead, intended to prevent war by reminding opponents that it had terrible nuclear weapons in its possession.

This long-standing policy is being shaken. The Bush administration now sees nuclear weapons as operational arms. Washington recently declared that it will revise its defense and military strategies in that way. In the post-Sept. 11 era, the Bush administration has monopolized the global competition for dominance.

The Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review, submitted to the Congress in January, is extremely disturbing. The report suggested that the United States should consider preemptive attacks with nuclear weapons against countries that were producing weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration wants to develop small but highly effective nuclear warheads in order to attack underground facilities in such states. The report listed seven countries, including North Korea, Russia and China, as possible nuclear targets.

If the Bush administration applied such a retrogressive nuclear strategy on the Korean Peninsula, we could face the worst possible scenario. If the North attacks the South with biological and chemical weapons, Washington may well decide to retaliate against the North with nuclear weapons. That is not the end of the story. Once the U.S. government has decisive evidence that the North is producing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, Washington will have the choice of attacking the underground facilities in the North with its small, sophisticated nuclear weapons.

After a U.S. nuclear attack, the North Korean regime would be completely destroyed. But vast numbers of Korean survivors of a nuclear war would suffer from radioactive contamination. Our descendants would inherit genes contaminated by radioactive fallout, and wide parts of our land would be uninhabitable.

According to the nuclear strategy recommended by the Nuclear Posture Review, Washington would also consider using nuclear weapons if China were to attack Taiwan. The aftermath of a nuclear strike in the Straits of Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland would directly affect the two Koreas, Japan, China and Siberia. Radioactive contamination would spread quickly to envelop the region.

Iran and Iraq could well be the focus of Washington's nuclear war policy. We cannot feel safe about that prospect either, hoping that the disaster would happen in countries far from the peninsula. Russia will never look on with folded arms; a nuclear arms race would be inevitable.

In 1992, during the Roh Tae-woo administration, the two Koreas issued the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Then-U.S. President George Bush withdrew all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from the South. Today, his son is trying to reverse that move. The Kim Dae-jung administration is in a weak situation to oppose that move because its engagement policy toward the North has been criticized fiercely by the Bush administration.

Seoul must speak up. The National Assembly should protest, but the government is mute; politicians are trapped by scandals, elections and party in-fighting. No one is paying attention to the looming shadow of nuclear war here.

The Bush administration has its own reasons for labeling North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil." North Korea and Iraq have treated Washington delicately and signaled their interest in dialogue.

The Bush administration, however, wants to rule the axis of evil with its nuclear axis, a policy that is counterproductive.

Shrugging our shoulders and saying there is nothing we can do about U.S. nuclear strategy is neglect of duty and defeatism. We must defy any nuclear strategy that would bring destruction to the peninsula. Being aware of the worst possible scenario is a precondition to defending our national security.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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