[VIEWPOINT]Just let Pyeongyang arm itself?

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[VIEWPOINT]Just let Pyeongyang arm itself?

Global military powers like the United States have nuclear weapons ready to fire at any time - but hopefully with sober appreciation of the dangers and the morality of using them. So why can't countries like North Korea or South Korea even start the most basic development of the same weapons? Many persons, I assume, find a nuclear nonproliferation system that allows some countries to maintain such weapons while prohibiting others from even taking modest steps in that direction an unfair deal.

The answer to the question, however, is simple. The big powers have them already and others don't. The world is left with two choices. One is to let all countries develop nuclear weapons equally and freely. The other is to try and stop at least those who don't have the weapons yet from getting them. No doubt the first choice is the fairer of the two, but is it the wiser? Such a situation would lead to more nuclear weapons in the world, and more weapons would lead to a higher possibility that one of them would be triggered off one day. This is not a pleasant thought for people to live with. The second choice could be called unfair, but it has the advantage of freezing the probability of a nuclear war at the present level.

The ideal thing would be to have all countries with nuclear weapons get rid of them as well, and make this a nuclear weapon-free world ?but that is an "ideal" scenario. There is no way to convince countries that have such weapons to get rid of them. International relations are power relations, and as long as states retain their sovereignty, the world will remain an anarchic one. Conflict and tension between two individuals can ultimately be arbitrated by a government, but international society has no governing body to arbitrate conflict and tension between two states.

We can all dream of a world that will be free of all nuclear weapons. But while we dream on, we should also keep our eyes open to the reality of what international relationships are like. Failure to see and deal with reality as it is would mean further confusion. We have to aim for second best if we know that the best choice is impossible. If it is impossible to convince global powers to give up their nuclear weapons cold turkey, then we have to settle for keeping the odds of a nuclear war down by preventing nuclear weapons from spreading to other countries.

This is why, unfair as it may sound, North Korea must abandon its dream of developing nuclear weapons. Yes, it's unfair that North Korea, or South Korea for that matter, has to forgo the nuclear option, but think of it as an unavoidable consequence of living in a less-than-ideal international society.

Think in terms of reality and rationality. This is a less-than-perfect world that will never let North Korea keep nuclear weapons because less-than-perfect is better than the less-than-nothing that would be left after a nuclear war.

North Korea is already paying a heavy price for its nuclear ambitions. The United States has been calling for cross-recognition of South Korea and North Korea by the so-called "four powers" of the United States, Russia, China and Japan ever since the 1970s. But even after South Korea established diplomatic ties with Russia and China in the early 1990s, the United States continued to refuse diplomatic recognition to North Korea. A good part of the reason is in North Korea's refusal to give up its nuclear weapon program. Even today, one of the biggest obstacles blocking the way to better North Korea-U.S. relations is the lack of proof that North Korea is not developing weapons of mass destruction.

But North Korea needs the help from its neighbors in international society to salvage its economy and its very existence as a state. In order to get this much-needed help, North Korea must voluntarily demonstrate that it has given up efforts to develop and manufacture all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

North Korea stands at a crucial turning point. Will it continue or not continue its missile development; will it allow or not allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, conditions for continuing the construction of two nuclear power reactors it has been offered. Looking at North Korea's reactions to this point, the North Korean political system is having a hard time deciding on the best response. But one thing is certain: This is a crucial and urgent choice for North Korea to make. North Korea has already become a country unable to sustain itself without food aid and the kindness of strangers. Pyeongyang may no longer have any choices to make; the only option left for the North is to open its mind to international society - and to reality. Dear leaders up there, please make the right choice before it's too late.


The writer is the president of the Institute of Social Sciences.

by Kim Kyung-won

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