[FOUNTAIN]A dubious call for arms reductionDuring the 20th century, about 250 wars broke out, small and large, in which more than 200 million people were killed. That death toll is higher than that in all wars in the preceding 2,000 years. And human beings, of course, continue to be aggressive and hostile toward one another. According to one source, the nations of the world spend more than $1 million on their militaries every minute.
In the name of preventing the horrors of war, the concept arose of guarding a nation’s security without accumulating more weapons ―in other words, arms reduction.
The first modern articulation of this idea was from Immanuel Kant, whose “Perpetual Peace” in 1795 advocated a smaller regular army. The idea spread around the world, showing up at the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 and the Versailles Treaty of 1919. But World War I was not enough to convince the world of the need for arms reduction, and the result was World War II.
Sincere arms-reduction efforts began after World War II over the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons. Late in the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union reached such arms-control pacts as the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty I and the Intermediate-Range and Short-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The international community, represented by the United Nations, welcomed the results. The Conference on Disarmament under the United Nations, established in 1960 in Geneva, is the only multilateral disarmament forum.
The issue has suddenly emerged on the Korean Peninsula, which was long considered an exception to the arms reduction trend. Pyongyang has suggested changing the subject of the six-way talks to general disarmament. But the North has been uncooperative about the peninsula’s key arms issue, its own nuclear programs.
In 2003, the North became the first country to secede from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It became a member of the Conference on Disarmament in 1996, but has yet to sign the crucial Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In 1994, the North withdrew from the International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental nuclear technology watchdog.
If North Korea truly wants arms reduction, its first step should be to return to the NPT and foreswear nuclear arms tests. Without offering a gesture to prove its sincerity, Pyongyang has no business talking about disarmament. Its behavior raises suspicion and skepticism even among those who are most sympathetic to it.
by Ahn Sung-kyoo
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.