The Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced on October 3 that the DPRK planned to conduct a nuclear test. The Foreign Ministry stated that the planned nuclear test was in response to the grave situation created by the US, where “the supreme national security interests of the DPRK are at stake with the Korean nation standing at the crossroads of life and death”.
The nuclear test, once conducted, will have far-reaching implications for the Koreas and the rest of the world. It carries five messages.
The first message is that Kim Jong-il is the greatest of the peerless national heroes Korea has ever produced. Kim is unique in that he is the first to equip Korea with sufficient military capability to take the war all the way to the continental US. Under his leadership the DPRK has become a nuclear-weapons state with intercontinental means of delivery. Kim is certainly in the process of achieving the long-elusive goal of neutralizing the American intervention in Korean affairs and bringing together North and South Korea under the umbrella of a confederated state.
Unlike all the previous wars Korea fought, a next war will be better called the American War or the DPRK-US War because the main theater will be the continental US, with major cities transformed into towering infernos. The DPRK is now the fourth-most powerful nuclear weapons state just after the US, Russia, and China.
The DPRK has all types of nuclear bombs and warheads, atomic, hydrogen and neutron, and the means of delivery, short-range, medium-range and long-range, putting the whole of the continental US within effective range. The Korean People’s Army also is capable of knocking hostile satellites out of action.
All the past Korean heroes let the Land of Morning Calm be reduced to smoking ruins as the wars were fought on its soil, even though they repelled the invaders. One of the two major aspirations of the Korean people has been the buildup of military capability enough to turn enemy land into the war theater. Kim has splendidly achieved this aspiration.
The other has been the neutralization and phasing out of the American presence in Korea before the two Koreas come together as a reunified state. When President George W Bush agreed on the 2009 transfer of wartime operational control over South Korean forces to the South Korean president, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signaled the withdrawal of US troops with combat troops relocated from the front line to bases behind Seoul.
The title “the greatest iron-willed, brilliant commander” is reserved for Kim Jong-il, who has led tiny North Korea to acquire the most coveted membership of the elite nuclear club, braving all the nuclear war threats, sanctions and isolation efforts on the part of the US. It is little short of a miracle that the leader has outmaneuvered and outpowered the Bush administration against heavy odds.
Kim is adding to the glory of Koguryo and Dankun Korea, vindicating the military-first policy inspired by tamul (the Koguryo term for standing up to a major power, valuing the pride of being descendants of Dankun Korea, developing newer weapons, restoring lost land and settling old scores with foreign invaders).
Revealing are headlines of New York Times articles. One op-ed on February 9, 2005, by Nicholas Kristof is headlined “Bush Bites His Tongue”. The article says: “There are two words the Bush administration doesn’t want you to think about: North Korea. That’s because the most dangerous failure of US policy these days is in North Korea. President Bush has been startlingly passive as North Korea has begun churning out nuclear weapons like hot cakes.”
One article dated February 13, 2005, by B R Myers is “Stranger Than Fiction”. He writes: “To North Korea, diplomacy is another form of war. Under the leadership of Kim Jong-il, the Foreign Ministry has bullied the United Nations into submission and outwitted the United States into providing food aid – all the while developing a formidable nuclear arsenal. This is, of course, the hardline view of North Korea that prevails in some quarters in Washington. Yet it is also the official North Korean view of North Korea.”
The February 20, 2005. article by David Sanger is headlined “America Loses Bite,” with a senior Bush administration official quoted as saying, “It’s counterproductive to draw a red line for North Korea because they will only view it as a challenge.” The article notes: “In North Korea’s case, red lines may be what Kim Jong-il sees in his rear-view mirror.”
In his September 9, 2006, address to the 4th Global Strategic Review of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mitchell Reiss offered a remarkable observation:
“Perhaps the least-noted and most astonishing aspect of the entire diplomatic process involving North Korea during the past few years has been the almost complete inability of four of the world’s strongest military and economic powers, including three nuclear weapons states and three members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China and Russia and Japan – to shape the strategic environment in Northeast Asia.
“They have proven thoroughly incapable of preventing an impoverished, dysfunctional country of only 23 million people from consistently endangering the peace and stability of the world’s most economically dynamic region. This has been nothing less than a collective failure.”
The December 29, 2002, Washington Post article by Michael Dobbs says: “US officials note that North Korea’s action has been condemned by most of its neighbors and potential big-power patrons, such as China and Russia, Japan and South Korea. Such logic is unconvincing to many experts on North Korea. They contend that Kim is trying to set up a situation in which he wins, whatever happens.”
The second point is that a nuclear test will be a legitimate exercise of North Korea’s sovereign right in supreme national-security interests of the country. The sole reason for the development of nuclear weapons is more than 50 years of direct exposure to naked nuclear threats and sanctions from the US. The Kim administration seeks to commit nuclear weapons to actual use against the US in case of war, never to use them as a tool of negotiations.
It is sheer illusion to think that sanctions and isolation will stop North Korea from the planned nuclear test. US hostility, threats and sanctions are the very engines that have propelled the development of nuclear weapons. Absent US hostility, nuclear blackmailing, sanctions, threats of isolation and regime change, the Kim administration would never have thought at all of acquiring nuclear deterrence.
What makes North Korea unique among those states Bush lumped together as the “axis of evil” is that only it has been subjected to US nuclear threats and sanctions and singled out as a prime target of nuclear preemption. The US refuses to end the state of war with North Korea while keeping combat-ready nuclear-attack forces ready in bases in Japan and South Korea. North Korea is not host to any foreign military bases. The US is engaged in ceaseless nuclear-attack exercises in and around Japan and South Korea.
The US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan and Israel conducted numerous nuclear detonation experiments in legitimate exercise of their sovereignty. There is no international convention or treaty that prohibits North Korea from conducting underground nuclear tests. No country is allowed to infringe on the sovereignty of North Korea in material breach of Chapter 2 of the UN charter, unless they are prepared to risk triggering nuclear war with North Korea.
The third message is that the nuclear-armed North Korea will be a major boon to China and Russia. Nuclear-armed, the two countries are friendless in case of war with the US. The US has nuclear-armed allies, such as the UK and France. The Americans have a network of military bases around the two countries, while they have none. The presence of a mighty nuclear weapons state in Korea should be most welcome to Russia and China.
The People’s Republic of China has every reason to welcome a nuclear-armed North Korea, whatever it may say in public. The nuclear deterrence of North Korea is a major factor in reducing US military pressure on China on the question of the independence of Taiwan.
The fourth point is that the North Korea government of Kim does not care at all whether Japan goes nuclear, or that South Korea and Australia follow suit. In the first place, those countries are practically nuclear-armed because they are under the nuclear umbrella of the US and house American nuclear bases and because Tokyo’s military spending is 10 times that of Pyongyang’s and Seoul’s defense budget is five times that of Pyongyang’s. It is too obvious that they are capable of acquiring nuclear weapons at short notice.
The factor that has prevented them from developing their own nuclear weapons is political pressure from the US, not because North Korea was only conventionally armed. The US has insisted that they should be under the nuclear umbrella and buy expensive high-tech weapons from them.
Their becoming nuclear powers will signal that the US is no longer a reliable cop. At long last de-Americanization of the US allies and neutralization of the US in the rest of the world will be set into motion. This is one of the reasons why the Kim administration has every reason to secretly welcome the nuclear arming of junior US allies.
The main enemy to North Korea is the US, the sole surviving superpower in the world. Acquisition of hundreds of nuclear weapons by Japan and South Korea will not have any serious impact on the total balance of nuclear power. Japan and South Korea have too much to lose in a nuclear war with North Korea, while North Korea has little.
It is important to note that the nuclear weapons and long-range means of delivery are not aimed at South Korea and will be common property shared with South Korea under a confederated government.
The fifth and last point is a long, overdue farewell to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, with the Bush administration standing in the dock as prime defendant accused of sabotaging nuclear non-proliferation. Had the Americans been steadfast in upholding the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty by reducing their nuclear weapons and respecting the sovereignty and independence of the non-nuclear states, North Korea would not have felt any need to defend itself with nuclear weapons.
A nuclear test by North Korea will go a long way toward emboldening anti-American states around the world to acquire nuclear weapons. There is a long line of candidate states.
It is important to note that the North Korean Foreign Ministry pledges to faithfully implement its international commitment in the field of nuclear non-proliferation as a responsible nuclear-weapons state and to prohibit nuclear transfer.