Nuclear Proliferation and North Korea: What You Should Know

Aaron Tweden | Staff Writer

Right now, North Korea is one of the hottest flash points in the news. North Korea is half a world away from the United States, but with all the threats and namecalling between the U.S. President and Kim Jong Un, North Korea doesn’t seem so far away anymore.

Although it has been largely isolated since the 1950s, North Korea has recently brought the attention of the global community to their door with their nuclear program, which they have operated in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for over a decade.

Nuclear proliferation is a simple concept, but it’s also a political minefield. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), is a global treaty created to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technologies. They promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and  further the goal of nuclear disarmament. The goal of the treaty is to prevent anyone who does not already have nuclear bombs from obtaining them and to facilitate the destruction of the current nuclear bombs stock pile.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. These are the five original signers of the treaty. There are nine countries with nuclear warheads: India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China.

The two sources of political tension in the treaty stem from the four countries not currently signed with the treaty and the five counties grandfathered into the Treaty. The five countries that were grandfathered into the system have nuclear weapons and have made no substantive move to get rid of them but they sit on top of their pedestal saying you can’t have those because they are too dangerous.

At the same time, the world community is supposed to trust them with it because they are the “big” boys and can handle it. It’s easy to see why it might seem a bit hypocritical to prevent other nations from getting something your nation has by saying it’s too deadly and dangerous. The four nations that are not abiding by the NPT cause world tensions to rise because of their blatant breaking with the rest of the world on nuclear policy.

North Korea is currently the worst offender of the four nations.

North Korea was originally a signer of the NPT but pulled out in April 10, 2003. Since then, they have become a proven proliferator. Professor Moran, a history teacher at Century College that has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, says North Korea’s primary reason to obtain nuclear weapons are defense related.

They have painted this national narrative that the U.S. is a big bully trying to crush their way of life. North Korea sees nuclear weapons as the only way to keep the big bad U.S. away. In an online article called “North Korea” in the “Opposing Viewpoints in Context” provided by Gale, a Cengage Company, the article says North Korea has collaborated with Iran to help its ballistic missile program and “shared its technological advances with Syria.” Professor Moran says North Korea’s has a proven penchant to sell its missile and nuclear technology to other countries. It is a clear and persistent threat to the NPT and the global community cannot rest on its hands when it comes to North Korea.

Not only does North Korea damage the NPT by attempting to sell nuclear technology, it also may cause other surrounding countries to develop nuclear weapons out of fear and national defense. The two closest non-nuclear countries are Japan and South Korea, both close allies of the US.

There are several reasons countries try and become nuclear powers but defense and prestige are the two most common. South Korea has made no attempt to build a nuclear warhead. Estimates place them within six months if they choose that path. Even faster if the U.S. helps.

They are protected under the U.S.A.’s nuclear umbrella but their current president has even gone as far as to prevent American nuclear bombs from residing on their land. South Korea is unlikely to try and build a nuclear bomb. Professor Moran says that’s an attempt to keep tension levels from escalating too high. If both sides have guns pointed at each other that’s no way to negotiate.

Japan is the other nearby country and is the only country in the world to have nuclear weapons used against them. Moran says Japan fears the sting of nuclear weapons like no other country can.

They are unlikely to build one out of national pride as they have caused so much harm. Japan has an article in their constitution that outlawed war to settle interactions disputes, except in national defense. They have no standing army but they do have something that resembles the nation guard. Moran says this has put Japan in a very interesting position.

The army of a nation is very expensive and Japan has been under U.S. protection since the end of WWII so they have spent very little on national defense giving their economy a unique power. Japan has also shown no signs of nuclear weapons development but has put in an order to buy some cruise missiles. While some might be “thinking” about military options against North Korea, the very idea of it is fool hearty.

Any action will likely cost hundreds of thousands of lives and the city of Seoul, South Korea. That means the military option is a last resort which means diplomacy is the only desired route.

North Korea still poses a threat to nuclear proliferation whether it be by selling technology or by scaring surrounding nations in to building them. North Korea is a nuclear state that is a fact no amount of bluster and reassurance can fix. They also will possess the ability to target anyone in the world with nuclear warheads in the near future. There is no military option that exists today that will not level Seoul and the surrounding country side. North Korea has the bomb and only has two more obstacles to overcome to mount the bomb and create an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike anywhere in the world.