Korean Quarterly, Vol. 10, No.2
By Moon J. Pak*
“A Proposal for Nuclear Partnership—Joint ownership of weapons could open an umbrella of security and peace in Northeast Asia”
After two years of on-again, off-again talks, the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks proved successful. On the last day of the Talks, September 19, 2005, a "Joint Statement of Principles" was issued. The document listed following four agreed principles;
A faithful implementation of this Agreement by both sides could have led to a satisfactory resolution of the current nuclear crisis in North Korea. However, largely due to intransigent US actions intended to provoke the North Korea, no progress has been made. This missed opportunity will be known to history as one of the major foreign policy failures of the Bush administration.
On October 9, 2006, in the midst of rampant speculations on both sides of Pacific, North Korea successfully conducted its first underground “Nuclear Weapon Testing” in its remote northeast mountain region, thus becoming the world’s ninth nuclear power. It may be of significance to note that the weapon they detonated was plutonium-based one rather than a uranium bomb, negating the US accusation that North Korea had been engaged in clandestine uranium enrichment activity in violation of the Agreed Framework Accord of 1994
The DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: North Korea) nuclear weapon system represents its only and most effective deterrence against external powers threatening its existence. Clearly, for this deterrence to be credible and effective, North Korea’s nuclear weapon system needs to be proven for its presence, and tested for its effectiveness. For the same reason, all but one of the eight nuclear nations (the one was Israel) have tested their weapons system, thus proving their effectiveness.
Therefore the testing of nuclear weapons by a country is as much a political event as a technical experiment. It should also be noted that North Korea has an added burden of somehow proving its technical expertise in miniaturizing the weapon, given the known limited ability of its delivery system.
From the post-cold war era, the world is now entering into a post-proliferation era: A nuclear weapons system is no longer a high-tech domain monopolized by the superpowers. Hopefully, it will remain as deterrence only and no countries will ever use it as a real weapons system.
The only salvation for the world composed of complex multi nuclear countries, is a system of geopolitically meaningful regional nuclear security alliances that will meet the deterrence need of individual countries, while still guaranteeing nuclear safety of the region placing its control under multi-national alliance.
Prior to the October DPRK “Nuclear Weapon Testing”, three of the six countries in the Six-Party talks, had nuclear weapons; US, China and Russia. In Japan, in spite of the Article Nine of the so-called “Peace Constitution” (which prohibits Japan from having a standing military force), rising nationalistic politicians make no secrets of their interest in becoming a nuclear power. There have been statements by Japanese politicians that their engineers could make plutonium weapons within a few months with readily available nuclear material from their many nuclear power plants. This would leave the Korean peninsula, the most vulnerable of the five countries (historically the weakest, smallest, and one of the most invaded countries in the Northeast Asia), without a nuclear deterrence.
WAGING PEACE WITH A WEAPON--A PROPOSAL FOR JOINT COOPERATION
The two Koreas have a joint agreement to build on in working toward peace, called “Joint Declaration between South and North Koreas”, which was signed June 15, 2000 by then-President Kim, Dae-jung of South Korea, and President Kim, Jong-il of North Korea. The “Joint Declaration” asserts that the two Koreas have an eventual goal of reunification, and sets out some broad guide-lines in how to do it. To date however, there is no peace treaty which formally ends the war between the two, and no sure diplomatic routes to get there.
One way to get there could be through a concession by the North based on its new-found nuclear nation status. Based on the spirit of the Joint Declaration, and as a bold step toward peaceful reunification, North should publicly propose its willingness to place the existing nuclear weapons system, as well as the production facility under the joint ownership and joint management of the two Korean governments.
This magnanimous proposal will have a double-edged effect; it would relieve the nuclear threat felt by some conservative South Koreans and at the same time alleviate concerns the US and its Western allies have about the possible transfer of the weapons system to the Islamic terrorists.
Such a nuclear alliance between the two Koreas will pave the way to a smooth implementation of the formal peace treaty between the two countries. It would be a key step towards the gradual and orderly disarmament (and reduction in defense expenditures) that is essential in the economic development of both countries, especially in the North.
A NEW SECURITY ALLIANCE
Additionally a proposal could be made for an international alliance that would include, the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia as full members, and the US and Taiwan as observers if they so desire. The centerpiece of this Alliance, which might be called “Northeast Asia Regional Nuclear Security Alliance” will be an abrogation of the use of the nuclear weapons against other Alliance member countries as well as the provision of a common nuclear umbrella over the member countries against other nuclear powers of the world.
The concept will alleviate Japanese and possibly Taiwanese nuclear insecurities and at the same time nullify the US nuclear threat against member countries, especially North Korea.
The proposed joint ownership of nuclear weapons system by the two Koreas and bilateral peace treaty between them that may follow would, in time, lead to an emergence of a reunified, permanently neutralized, country of 72 million people with a strong joint defensive force, thriving economy and a credible nuclear deterrence of its own, as well as the nuclear umbrella offered by the Alliance.