Thursday, February 10, 2005

All for One and One for All 2

North Korea has announced that it has nuclear weapons.

Seoul, South Korea Feb 10, 2005 — North Korea on Thursday announced for the first time that it has nuclear weapons and rejected moves to restart disarmament talks any time soon, saying it needs the armaments as protection against an increasingly hostile United States. ...

Previously, North Korea reportedly told U.S. negotiators in private talks that it had nuclear weapons and might test one of them. Its U.N. envoy told The Associated Press last year that the country had "weaponized" plutonium from its pool of 8,000 nuclear spent fuel rods.

This had long been suspected. Pyongyang's declaration may be doubted without a test that proves actual possession. But why announce nuclear status now? North Korea benefited from an earlier ambiguity for several reasons. The foremost was keeping Japan non-nuclear. The second was to extort payments from those who preferred to think that bribes would prevent them from attaining what they already had. Lastly, there remained the hope that North Korea could sell its secret weaponry for profit or use it deniably. All these advantages are now foregone.

In exchange North Korea may believe that a nuclear status will confer great power status and immunity from outside interference. A Pyongyang worried about its stability would be tempted to use a nuclear status to say 'leave me alone'. But North Koreas declaration, whether true or false will now force Japan, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and perhaps Singapore to either obtain ironclad guarantees of inclusion under the American nuclear umbrella or develop nukes themselves. It would be intolerable for those countries to face a North Korean threat without a comeback. The could trigger a chain reaction of proliferation. For example, Australian nukes would make Indonesia think of having them.

The acquisition of nuclear weapons by a rogue or lawless state with weak control systems will create, to a lesser degree, one the instabilities consequent to a nonstate organization like Al Qaeda getting them. As All for One and One for All pointed out, a world in which the possession of nuclear weapons became commonplace and deniable use possible would create an environment where smaller nations and eventually nonstate actors would pursue secret WMD programs not out of superpower fear, but out of mutual dread. In 1962, Israel feared that Nasser of Egypt was preparing a radiological attack on Israel. In a meeting with President Kennedy, Golda Meir stated those concerns:

Israel knows that Egypt has, with German help, been building ground-to-ground missiles since 1960. Now Israel has learned, as it didn't know one or two months ago, that the Egyptians are making preparations for radiological warfare. The warheads are to be filled with materials that would contaminate the land for years and years. It seems that if the refugees can't come back, the Egyptians think that at least the land should not be available to Israelis. Now Israel has information that Egypt has established a secret budget of $220-250,000,000 for work of about four years or so on this. 

Whether true or not, such fears may have fueled the secret Israeli nuclear weapons program. Its history, with minor changes of date and names, sounds disturbingly familiar.

For reactor design and construction, Israel sought the assistance of France. ... France was a natural partner for Israel and both governments saw an independent nuclear option as a means by which they could maintain a degree of autonomy in the bipolar environment of the cold war. ...  This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.

At the height construction, some 1,500 Israelis some French workers were employed building Dimona. To maintain secrecy, French customs officials were told that the largest of the reactor components, such as the reactor tank, were part of a desalinization plant bound for Latin America. ... President de Gaulle was concerned that the inevitable scandal following any revelations about French assistance with the project, especially the chemical reprocessing plant, would have negative repercussions for France's international position, already on shaky ground because of its war in Algeria.

At a subsequent meeting with Ben-Gurion, de Gaulle offered to sell Israel fighter aircraft in exchange for stopping work on the reprocessing plant, and came away from the meeting convinced that the matter was closed. It was not. ...  In reality, not much changed - French contractors finished work on the reactor and reprocessing plant, uranium fuel was delivered and the reactor went critical in 1964.

The United States first became aware of Dimona's existence after U-2 overflights in 1958 captured the facility's construction, but it was not identified as a nuclear site until two years later. The complex was variously explained as a textile plant, an agricultural station, and a metallurgical research facility, until David Ben-Gurion stated in December 1960 that Dimona complex was a nuclear research center built for "peaceful purposes."

The Jewish-Islamic arms race had begun. There is precious little historical basis to believe that every ethnic hatred in the world will not someday engage in its equivalent.