The resumption of North Korea’s largest fissile material production reactor, after operations were ceased in December 2018, has sparked speculation about its real and symbolic significance.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog described the resumption of operations at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor as “deeply troubling.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has underlined that the restart of activity in Yongbyon constitutes a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
About International Atomic Energy Agency:
- The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology.
- IAEA widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Development” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
- It is an independent international organization that reports annually to the United Nation General Assembly.
- When necessary, the IAEA also reports to the UN Security Council in regards to instances of members non-compliance with safeguards and security obligations.
- Its functions are works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
- It Seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
What is this latest test about?
We need to understand is that the North Koreans have tested a long-range cruise missile which is of strategic relevance for a particular region.
This is not the first cruise missile test by the country. However, it is “North Korea’s first long-range (1,000 km+) cruise missile and first claimed nuclear-capable cruise missile.
According to a Popular Science report from 2013, cruise missiles “are fast-moving, guided bombs that soar at a very low trajectory, parallel to the ground.
They are distinct from regular (non-cruise) missiles primarily because they go really far and all such missiles have an internal guidance system.
Again, generating plutonium from the Yongbyon nuclear reactor: Development of Atomic Bombs:
Yongbyon nuclear reactor is the same reactor that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in a bilateral summit in 2019 with then U.S. President Donald Trump, offered to fully dismantle in exchange for securing complete relief from international economic sanctions, but to little avail.
The ageing five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon complex has been central to the North Korean reprocessing of spent fuel rods to generate plutonium, besides the production of highly enriched uranium for the development of atomic bombs.
But observers also point to the diversification of the country’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes to covert locations over time.
Hence, they are cautious not to exaggerate the importance of the recent reopening.
Power of Deterrence should not be misplaced:
- The major thrust of any nuclear strategic communications plan should be aimed at downplaying the nuclear factor in the political and strategic equation with China and Pakistan.
- China too has an NFU policy and the Sino-Indian nuclear dynamic is not yet a cause for concern.
- On the contrary, in Pakistan and North Korea case there is a continuous attempt to increase the salience of nuclear threats so as to contain India’s reaction to terrorism and concurrently invite international attention.
- The statement seems to be specifically aimed at these countries and is problematic at several levels.
- A first-use approach against Pakistan, North Korea or even China lacks credibility, as it would involve nuclear weapon application for substantial destruction of the adversary’s nuclear and economic capabilities.
- Even if we succeed, the long term after effects of the nuclear fallout and climate change could pose existential threats not only to India and its neighbours, but depending on the magnitude of nuclear explosions, it could result in an existential threat to humanity itself. Scientific studies indicate this possibility.
- It could be argued that an Indian second strike on which NFU is anchored could also bring about a similar existential consequence.
- True, except that second strike and NFU have relatively greater credibility, because they are premised on retaliation.
- The notion that first use strengthens the power of deterrence is misplaced; it amounts to suicide for the fear of death.
Need to choose Pragmatic path:
- The present USA administration has adopted a pragmatic path of declaring its readiness to resume negotiations with North Korea without the grandiose distractions of the Trump era that amounted to exerting little diplomatic leverage.
- Meanwhile, Mr. Kim has spurned all such overtures until he can win concrete relief from sanctions, especially those relating to raw materials exports.
- Apart from the punitive impact of such measures on an impoverished people, the protracted stand-off over North Korea reinforces the hollowness of the doctrine of deterrence and begs the question whether proliferation can ever be prevented just because nuclear weapons states want to perpetuate their dominance.
- Analysts argued that the Kim regime is shifting blame for its struggles to restart the economy after a long, self-imposed pandemic lockdown.
- North Korea is also trying to pressure South Korean presidential candidates to express differences with U.S. policy on sanctions and denuclearization.
What does this mean from an international perspective?
This test has to be seen in the current context when the Americans have withdrawn their troops from Afghanistan and they are trying to reassess regional security issues.
So, the North Koreans want to emphasise they are a critical component of the US’s regional security concern.
This activity highlights North Korea’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that it poses to its neighbours and the international community.
World has witnessed one of the worst destructions and inhuman activity during second World War, when USA attacked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a Nuclear attack.
It is the responsibility of all the Nations to keep a check on nuclear arsenal of other nations. Also United Nation has to play a leading role in this.
Universal ratification of NPT and CTBT is the need of an hour.
The UN treaty on complete abolition of atomic arms, whose deliberations were boycotted by all nuclear weapons states, is the morally superior alternative.