In June 2009, the regime in North Korea declared that it would transform its plutonium stockpiles into nuclear weapons in response to the latest round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council to punish Pyongyang for going ahead with its nuclear testing programmes (MacAskill para. 1). Although analysts perceive the nuclear issue as an artificial crisis developed by North Korea for the objective of blackmailing the West, all indicators point to the fact that Pyongyang’s nuclear threat is real.
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The regime is believed to be in possession of sufficient plutonium for at least six deadly nuclear bombs. Also, the regime is believed to be in possession of an estimated 8,000 spent fuel rods that could facilitate the harvesting of 6-8kgs of plutonium if they are reprocessed (MacAskill para. 10).
According to nuclear analysts, this quantity is enough to manufacture one nuclear bomb. This paper purposes to discuss the threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear material, the basis of a rational settlement between the US and the regime, and the role of Japan and China in the whole process.
A possible Nuclearization of North Korea will have a negative consequence on the whole of Asia. The prospects of nuclear armed North Korea will definitely pose a major hazard to South Korea, in addition to offering the regime a chance to enhance its policy of communizing the south (Evans para. 31).
Allowing North Korea to arm itself with nuclear weapons may indeed occasion a nuclear domino outcome in the whole of Northeast Asia as other countries within the region may also want to arm themselves with nuclear weapons to counter or neutralize Pyongyang’s nuclear capacity. Such an arrangement will inarguably threaten world peace, in addition to putting the entire Asian region in the whirlpool of a nuclear arms race.
This would definitely lead to a nuclear proliferation cascade in the region due to the fact that countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will be offered the incentives to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Given the nature and temperament of leaders in the regime, a nuclear armed North Korea will definitely occasion aggressive activities, further destabilizing the Northeast region in particular and the whole world in general (Barry 41).
Finally, if the regime in North Korea disintegrates or is toppled when in possession of nuclear arsenal, the world peace will be undeniably threatened by the loose nuclear weapons which may find their way into renowned terrorist networks such as the Taliban and alQaeda.
Many Analysts believe that a suitable settlement between the US and North Korea on the nuclear issue cannot be achieved by taking hard-line stances or branding the regime in North Korea ‘an axis of evil’ as former US president George Bush once said during his State of The Union address (Evans para. 42).
Also, a peaceful solution to the issue cannot be realized by criminalizing North Korea’s nuclear activities, and thereby seeking for blanket punishment. One of the most viable options in the quest of finding a long-lasting solution to the nuclear issue is the use of dialogue and diplomacy. Bilateral consultations between the US and the defiant North Korea as well as multilateral consultations between the US and North Korea’s neighbours in Northeast Asia will definitely bring results (Sang-Jin 12).
Some critics may want to point out that such talks have been tried before and failed. Comprehensive research reveals that these bilateral and multilateral talks fail since stakeholders, especially the US, goes into the talks with a predetermined course of action (Barry 41). This should be discouraged since the talks must be flexible and appealing to both sides.
To secure the world peace, the nuclear issue pitying the US and North Korea should be solved through a give-and-take framework (Barry 41). Incentives and disincentives should be used rather than threats of military intervention to ensure the North Korean regime stops its nuclear ambitions.
The role of China and Japan in the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue is both critical and urgent. China, for instance, has more communication conduits with the North Korean regime than any other country as it supplies it with food and fuel (Evans para. 50).
As such, China can be influential in convincing the regime to surrender its nuclear ambitions in exchange of incentives such as financial and technological aid. Beijing’s proactive diplomacy can be constructively used to resolve the impending destructive crisis (NTI para. 4). This is because China has played the role of an arbiter to the crisis, and is averagely respected by the generals in Pyongyang.
During times when the nuclear issue seems to get out of control, China has always found a way of appealing to both the US and Pyongyang to exercise restraint and flexibility, not mentioning the fact that it has been at the forefront in arranging tripartite meetings between the US, North Korea and Beijing to discuss the issue.
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Japan’s role in the whole process cannot be underestimated. Although Japan has a direct interest in the whole issue due to its captured people during the cold war (Parry para. 3), it has continued to normalize its relationship in ways that would contribute to the wellbeing, peace and stability of the region. Japan has indeed hosted several bilateral and multilateral meetings while pursuing active diplomacy instead of blatant threats to ensure that an amicable solution is found.
Barry, M.P. North Korea Requires Long-Term Strategic Relationship with the US. International Journal on World Peace, 24:37-41.
Evans, L. Two Panels Debate U.S. – North Korea Nuclear Options. UCLA Asia Institute. 2003. Web.
MacAskill, E. North Korea Declares all-Out Push for Nuclear Weapons. The Guardian. 2009. Web.
NTI. China and the North Korean Nuclear Issue. 2003. Web.
Parry, R.L. North Korea’s Nuclear Deal Leaves Japan Feeling Nervous. Times Online. 2005. Web.
Sang-Jin, S. Chinese role in solving the DPRK’s Nuclear Programme: A Korean Perspective. 2004. Web.