Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sharper visions & the North Korean bomb

The global response to the North Korean nuclear test yesterday has been interesting. The fact of the test is of little practical consequence assuming no environmental damage. After all, it was widely-believed, prior to the test, that North Korea did have nuclear weapons.

But the test has had significant impacts in sharpening focus. China will now more clearly fear a nuclear arms race in the region centred on Japan. South Korea will more definitely understand that it cannot win over its fanatical neighbour with love and so on.

The issues that I gained increased focus on were:

(i) That a technologically-backward nation like North Korea can acquire nuclear weapons. Thus any country with the will to possess nuclear weapons can.
(ii) That North Korea's hatred of the US could lead to it supplying nuclear weapons to terrorist groups. This is a plausible, not a pessimistic, scenario. North Korea could blackmail the free world by threatening to supply terrorists with nukes.
(iii) The world should not stand by and allow Iran to mimic North Korea. Iran's leader has spoken of wiping Israel off the face of the earth should not possess nuclear weapons and will certainly be emboldened by the North Korean move.
(iv) That, as game theory suggests, for example in the 'game of chicken', an irrational opponent, like North Korea, can be a dangerous opponent. There is good reason to fear irrationality.

I suppose it is largely now minor and an issue of irrelevant sunk costs but that Dr A.Q. Khan, who supplied North Korea with nuclear weapons, is now peacefully living in Pakistan more than irritates me. Khan also sold nuclear technology to Libya and Iran. What a noble contribution to humanity from the 'father of the Pakistani nuclear industry'.

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