A new plan for a nuclear North
Let’s turn the clock back 12 years on North Korea’s nuclear crisis.
In January 2004, North Korea showed American nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker (pictured) its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyon. There, he saw a glass box with 200 grams of plutonium, an ingredient for nuclear weapons.
Kim Kye-gwan, the vice foreign minister of North Korea, asked Hecker whether the visit assured him that Pyongyang had adopted nuclear deterrence. He was not assured, he responded, explaining that nuclear deterrence takes into consideration plutonium production capabilities, design and production capabilities as well as the ability to load nuclear weapons on a carrier.
He stressed that though nuclear deterrence had worked between the United States and the Soviet Union, it was meaningless for Pyongyang and Washington.
North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 harkens back to the old days, and whether or not it really involved a hydrogen bomb, Pyongyang’s nuclear capability is at the stage in which it is able to make nuclear weapons light and small. The regime’s stockpile of ballistic missiles have grown in number and range, and multiple plutonium and uranium production facilities are in operation.
It’s also unlikely that Pyongyang will remain quiet until May, when it is scheduled to hold its seventh Workers Party convention, and that poses a challenge for Seoul.
After North Korea’s latest nuclear test, Hecker - who has visited nuclear sites in North Korea seven times over the past decade - called for Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear facilities and suspend testing. He has also addressed the security concerns, energy shortages and economic fears surrounding the issue.
Sanctions are inevitable. But sanctions alone will not resolve the nuclear crisis. North Korea’s nuclear program is a North Korean issue. That is an aggregation of system security, domestic politics, the imbalance of conventional military strength and diplomatic means.
In order to prevent a fifth nuclear test and missile launch, a comprehensive approach with a long-term perspective should be tried.
The answer is already in the six-party joint declaration of Sept. 19, which outlines North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear program, a system of peace on the peninsula and the normalization of relations between North Korea and the United States. The key is cooperation among the five parties involved: South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.
The nuclear nonproliferation system cracked when the concerned parties took a geopolitical approach on the nuclear issue. North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is a strategic burden to all five nations and the core reason for joint action. It is now Korea’s responsibility now to come up with a step-by-step plan.
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30
by OH YOUNG-HWAN