Jan. 27, 2003
When the Bush Administration threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons last year, it did more than ignite the present standoff in North Asia, it opened a Pandora’s Box of proliferation.
The genesis of the present crisis goes back to the Administration’s 2001 Nuclear Policy Review (NPR), which proposed using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations, including Libya, Syria and North Korea. While the North Koreans have caught flak for withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, it was, in fact, the U.S. that violated the Treaty by making the threat in the first place.
Under the 1968 Agreement, signed by 188 nations, nuclear powers agreed never to threaten non-nuclear nations unless those countries were in alliance with another nuclear power. That pledge was the heart of the Agreement: signers agreed not to develop nukes so long as they were never threatened with such weapons by the major powers.
In spite of the insular and rigid nature of the North Korean regime—and anyone who describes its enemies as “beasts in human skin steeped in misanthropy to the marrow of their bones” is a tad odd—it is George Bush, not Kim Jong Il, who thumbed his nose at the international community. Washington, not Pyongyang, has dismantled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreements, and is preparing to violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by testing its new “bunker busting” nuke.
How did this happen?
It happened because the spineless Democrats remained silent while the Bush Administration briskly demolished one treaty after another. And it happened because the United Nations Security Council is so cowed by the U.S. that it failed to challenge the Nuclear Policy Review as a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Where will this lead? How about a nuclear arms race in Asia?
North Korea is not the only proliferation problem on the Korean peninsula. In March 1994, the head of the South Korean National Security Planning Agency, Suh Su-Joong, revealed that former President Roh Tae Woo had approved a covert nuclear weapons program. South Korea has also successfully tested a mobile missile launcher and has more than 24 tons of plutonium on hand.
There are at least two other countries in Asia that can produce nuclear weapons within months if they so choose— Japan and Taiwan.
According to the CIA, Taiwan, Israel and the then apartheid regime in South Africa tested a nuclear weapon over the South Atlantic on Sept. 22, 1979. We can assume the Taiwanese didn’t throw away the blueprints from that test and can recreate it any time it wishes.
And in May of last year, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, said that Japan was considering abandoning its long-term opposition to nuclear weapons. In the face of Korean and Chinese alarm, the government backed away from the statement, but experts agree it would be easy for Japan to build nuclear weapons.
How about nuclear weapons in South America?
Early this month, Brazil’s Minister of Science, Roberto Amaral, said that Brazil could not afford to renounce any form of scientific knowledge, “whether the geome, DNA or nuclear fission.”
Brazil’s 1988 constitution forbids nuclear weapons, and the left-wing government of President Luiz Inacio da Silva quickly distanced itself from Amaral’s remarks. However, Brazilians are well aware of the inequality that the Non-Proliferation Treaty enforces on the world. Back in September, Da Silva himself said that “If someone asks me to disarm and keep a slingshot while he comes at me with a cannon, what good does that do?”
Both Brazil and Argentina have nuclear programs dating back to the 1950s and, during the period of their respective military dictatorships, pursued nuclear weapons research. Both countries have also signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but Brazil has cause to be jumpy, given the Bush Administration’s attitude toward left-wing regimes in Latin America.
Republican heavyweight Rep. Henry Hyde, chair of the House International Relations Committee, calls Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela a Latin “axis of evil” and says Da Silva is a “pro-Castro radical.” Constantine Menges, President Reagan’s Security Director for Latin American Affairs and former National Security Council member, says this “new axis” is linked to Iraq and Iran.
Talk like that ought to make everyone nervous these days, particularly with right-wing extremists like John Bolton, Otto Reich and Elliot Abrams heading up the Administration’s Latin America policy.
If Brazil decides to take this “axis” stuff seriously, it may indeed decide to go nuclear. If Brazil builds a bomb, so will Argentina.
“Sow the wind, reap the storm” goes the old dictum. The Bush Administration has been sowing nuclear threats since early last year, and we are reaping the results of that policy.