[FORUM]Time for dual-use technologyThe progress of technology inevitably brings changes to the international environment. Sometimes it leads to changes in hegemony and power dynamics. The invention of the steam engine led to the industrial revolution and the development of nuclear physics led to nuclear weapons which played important roles in deciding the status of each country and the direction of international society.
After nuclear weapons were invented, there was a race to build smaller warheads and advanced delivery systems. At first, the nuclear weapons had to be flown by a large airplane over long distances to deliver them to an enemy country. But with the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile, the United States and the former Soviet Union had the ability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile that could arrive at its destination in 30 minutes.
The technologies that made weapons of mass destruction possible are strictly regulated. But with the progress of industry, it became ambiguous whether these technologies were being used for military or industrial purposes. These “dual-use” technologies increased sharply in the late 1980s.
These technologies are tightly regulated in advanced countries, too. Korea was on its way to industrialization when it signed a secret bilateral treaty with the United States restricting its use of these dual-purpose technologies. The more Korea develops its industry, the more technologies entered the range of dual-use purposes. It is the same with nuclear energy, which will be an important industry in the 21st century. When Korea announced that it would give up all right of access to nuclear enrichment, reprocessing facilities and technologies in its non-nuclearization declaration in 1992, many scientists protested because they knew these technologies would be needed for industrial purposes as well.
Among the four major countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula, only Japan does not have nuclear arms. But Japan has tens of kilograms of enriched uranium and plutonium, enough for building tens of nuclear warheads. With the generous support and permission of the United States, Japan is operating a nuclear reprocessing facility. North Korea is also suspected to be developing a nuclear program.
In this situation, the only reason Korea, with its 19 nuclear plants, is not trying to develop a nuclear program of its own, remaining as a faithful guard of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, is because it trusts in the nuclear umbrella and security promises of the United States. Korea’s attempt to secretly start a nuclear program under President Park Chung Hee began when there were serious doubts about the United States’ promise to uphold Korea’s security, and it was felt here that the alliance was not changing fast enough for the times.
Recently, some Korean scientists produced a small amount of enriched uranium. The United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the scientists of surrounding countries all agree that the incident was not a conspiracy on the part of Korea to develop nuclear weapons, but the significance is that Korean scientists are ready to challenge new frontiers in nuclear research even in face of restrictions.
The United States recently dealt a blow to the pride of the Korean people when U.S. President George W. Bush did not mention Korea or Mr. Roh as an ally in the war against terrorism in a speech. The omission was reportedly a mistake, but the wound will not be healed easily. The discrimination that the United States shows, in its treatment of Japan and Korea referring to the duties as an ally, is the same as in the nuclear issue. If the United States is looking for a new alliance model, this is the opportunity. The United States should end the dual-use restrictions. We ask the new U.S. ambassador, Christopher Hill, to consider this matter.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Seok-hwan