Northern Goshawk’s Nuclear Hunt

ABOUT NORTH KOREA

With a total area of 120,410 square kilometers land area, 130 square kilometers water area, approximately 80 percent mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys, wide coastal plains on west coast, discontinuous coastal plains on east coast; North Korea has only 22.4 percent of arable land. The country used to be a socialized, centrally planned, and primarily industrialized command economy isolated from rest of world before 1991. North Korea is mainly a Communist state in which the party, state, and military structures are all consolidated under one-man dynastic leadership of Kim Jong II. He is also the head of National Defense Commission, which is the nation’s “highest administrative authority.” Once heavily dependent on traditional close allies, Soviet Union and China; diplomatic relations expanded significantly since early 1990s. North Korea now has diplomatic relations with 150 nations; maintains full embassies in 27 nations including India. Nuclear weapons proliferation and missile sales major issues shaping relations with neighbors and United States. Since 2002, economic improvement measures have been taken to create incentives, increase salaries, and improve flow of products to cash-paying consumers.

EMERGENCE OF NUCLEAR POWER

It is a matter of great concern that how a country that has the worst kind of communist dictatorship, which starves and tortures its citizens, where there is no proper education system, no technological or engineering base – became a nuclear power? North Korea’s nuclear ambition started in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) agreed to set up their first plutonium-based nuclear reactor at Yongbyon-Kun for peaceful use of nuclear technology. Later, North Korea set up more reactors, signed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to get access to the latest technology and allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to inspect its nuclear facilities, but never gave up its desire to explore more on its own.

In 1993, IAEA’s inspection team had concluded that North Korea is not completely open about its ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme and had reprocessed nuclear material at least thrice – in 1989, 1990 and 1991. Apart from China, Pakistan was the only major country in the world who not only maintained diplomatic relations with North Korea but received weaponry from them. But the cooperation between them in nuclear and missile field started in the late 1980s. This wicked plan of proliferation for monetary gains was originally the idea of Pakistani Army Chief General Mirza Aslam Beg. General Beg briefed Benazir Bhutto about the Kashmir situation and suggested fuelling the insurgency by setting up more training camps by providing weaponry and logistic support, to which she reluctantly agreed keeping in mind the stronghold of army in the country. To run this scheme, Pakistan needed money from sources independent of International Monetary Fund (IMF) funding, US aid, etc. and so came up the idea to sell off the nuclear technology and assistance to likely customers. 

Pakistan’s Uranium Enrichment technology was being exchanged for North Korean missile technology and cash. Dr A QKhan and PAF C-130s started making frequent trips to North Korea. It was on 4 February 2004 when Khan appeared on the television and confessed to having supplied nuclear technology and components to North Korea, Iran and Libya.  Interestingly, China, the mentor and major supporter of both these countries, came out as the main beneficiary of this game. In early 1990s, China had refused to provide M-11 missiles to Pakistan as it was normalising its relations with the US and hoping to sign trade agreements to transfer manufacturing from the US to China. But China never stopped North Korea or Pakistan to fulfill each other’s requirements. The primary sponsor and protector of the North Korean military, China has always favoured a policy of conciliation on the surface, combined with vigorous prosecution of necessary action below public eye level. China had earlier provided bomb design to Pakistan, and now both its main allies are threatening India.

NEGOTIATIONS WITH NORTH KOREA

Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program began in the early 1990s under the Clinton Administration. As U.S. policy toward Pyongyang evolved through the 2000s, the negotiations moved from a bilateral format to the multilateral Six-Party Talks (made up of China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the United States), major clauses of which were :

1. An immediate North Korean commitment to dismantle nuclear weapons facilities;

2. No direct negotiations until North Korea dismantle all nuclear weapons facilities;

3. Isolation of North Korea through economic sanctions; and,

4. Encouraging regime change in North Korea.

Unfortunately, this strategy of emphasizing isolation over meaningful engagement with Pyongyang only made it easier for the regime to keep its people isolated and cut off from the outside world. Although the talks reached some key agreements that laid out deals for aid and recognition to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, major problems with implementation persisted. The talks have been suspended throughout the Obama Administration. As diplomacy remains stalled, North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs in the absence of any agreement it considers binding. Security analysts are concerned about this growing capability, as well as the potential for proliferation to others.

Available from www.house.gov/international_relations/nkag/report.htm.

Figure – Potential North Korean Long-Range Missile Capabilities.

The international community, especially the United States had shown a lenient attitude towards the fraudulent nuclear cooperation between Pakistan, China and North Korea. Pyongyang’s nuclear efforts were boosted by Pakistan and the father of its nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who supplied enrichment technology to North Korea. He was famous for stealing nuclear technology from the Netherlands, and building a global network of vendors and manufacturers to run a nuclear black market from Pakistan. US intelligence agencies, which monitored Khan’s network, did little to stop this, possibly to not endanger US-Pakistan relations. For short-term gains, the consequence is such that a nuclear North Korea will change the security dynamics of the world.

IMPLICATIONS ON INDIA

North Korean supremo Kim Jong Un has always admired the way a much smaller Pakistan is keeping India on edge. India has accused Pyongyang of violating its international commitments and jeopardising peace, stability and security in the Korean peninsula. Keeping in mind that its own claim to be accommodated as a Nuclear Weapon State suffers, it is not in India’s interest to see emergence of more nuclear weapon states. India needs to sync its policies with the US stance on the North Korea problem to ensure that the collateral damage similar to the Indo-US nuclear deal is averted in future. As India and North Korea have a long history of trade links and cordial diplomatic ties, India’s implementation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang could slow the progress of North Korea’s ballistic missile program and weaken its economy. In addition, India’s policy shift on North Korea will help strengthen India’s relationships with South Korea and the United States, increasing New Delhi’s diplomatic profile and access to foreign investment. Now that India has gained the status of ‘a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology’, we have to be careful regarding whom to extend nuclear support in order to maintain status quo.

WAY AHEAD

The North Korea-China-Pakistan “triangle” has some interesting characteristics which concerns India. First, all the three countries are “divided countries” — India-Pakistan, China-Taiwan and North Korea-South Korea. All these three countries have not yet showed acceptance to the partition. Where China still covets Taiwan, North Korea wants the reunification of the Korean peninsula to establish communist rule. Similarly, Pakistan keeps hoping to accede Kashmir. The second common feature is that while the regimes in India, Taiwan and South Korea happen to be democratic and have always extended their co-operation to their counterparts, their other halves seem less enthusiastic about it. Also all three – North Korea, China and Pakistan are deeply domineering countries controlled by their militaries. The third common feature is that all these countries happen to possess nuclear weapons, deadly missiles, and other weapons of mass destructions (WMD) and have claimed flatly to use them. This phenomena of giving more importance to military power than welfare of the country has existed inspite of the poor economies of Pakistan and North Korea. Instead the trend in these two countries has been to extort money from the world to coerce them to not use their deadly weapons and spread terrorism or to sell these weapons illegally to other countries. Meanwhile, China has always stood as a firm support by providing security to these two countries.

Lastly, there has always been a close network among all the three countries in their respective developments of the WMD. With support from China, Pakistan and North Korea have been helping one another in their respective armaments since early 1970s to the point that it is common knowledge that Pakistan and North Korea exchanged military technology secretly and illegally. China helped North Korea to develop its missile capacity and it assisted Pakistan in building its nuclear prowess including weapons-grade uranium, uranium enrichment process and ultracentrifuge uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta. Subsequently, Pakistan and North Korea exchanged their respective expertise, which was basically acquired from China in which A Q Khan played an instrumental role. Kim-Jong-un, like his late father Kim Jong-il gets economic assistance by promising to not develop nuclear weapons and missiles, and then breaks them with more nuclear and missile tests. Thus, it cannot be ignored that the nexus of Pakistan-China-North Korea not only endangers the security of India, South Korea, Japan and other Southeast Asian nations but also the whole world.

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