Accessing the threat perception: Pyongyang and “fanatic recklessness”

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The nuclear tests conducted by North Korea on Friday received worldwide condemnation. The incident sparked the debate of how “reckless” North Korea has become and for how long will this “recklessness” continue. Soon after the launch, the United Nations Security Council called this issue to be “problematic” while condemning North Korea’s “hunger” for nuclear weapons. Indeed, the test conducted by North Korea was a huge problem, which not only concerned Seoul, but the global communities as a whole.

More importantly, this was not the first time North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, since 2006, over 4 nuclear tests have been conducted within the region of Pyongyang, which too created an artificial earthquake, with waves hitting Seoul, South Korea.According to the experts, Pyongyang does not “technically has the nuclear bomb; but not the means to deliver it via missile – yet.”

Moreover, during the nuclear test in January 2016, North Korea openly declaredthat the bomb was “more powerful hydrogen bomb” but nuclear experts and scientists have been raising out their doubts since then.It is without a doubt that; North Korea is rapidly advancing in the race to create a long range missile technology–probably hunting for a much powerful weapon.

Previous nuclear tests conducted in the year 2006, 2009 and 2013 were basically atomic, which did increase Pyongyang expectations to look for more powerful weapons, but this statement, which was mostly ruled out by defence and nuclear experts were proved to be correct after the successful detonation of the Hydrogen bomb.The Hydrogen Bomb, mostly referred to as the H-bomb is a devastating weapon of destruction. Experts fear that this bomb is over 3,800 times more powerful than the atomic bombs which the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during the 2nd World War, incinerating millions and leaving 200,000 people exposed to radiation.

There have been efforts too, to de-nuclearize North Korea. Over six countries including the United States, Russia, China, South Koreaand North Korea were actively involved in the rounds of negotiations after being ordered by the United Nations Security Council to denuclearize North Korea. Importantly, China, the only ally in the international arena, seemed to side with the rest of the west as it actively advocated to impose sanctions on the North Korea’s nuclear ambitions along with their satellite launch.However, the US had past actively participated in round table discussions with North Korea, in an effort to de-nuclearize it after Kim-Jong Il’s death. Despite numerous efforts from the US and the United Nations Security Council, North Korea refuses to comply and continues to escalate in their nuclear programs. The sanctions have become stricter, but it proves to be a failure, as the country continues to suffer from acute food shortages, unemployment and poverty. “The sanctions will not make a big effect to the country,” said Mark Richardson, a prominent economist, from the World Bank. “The North Korean economy does not depend upon international markets”, he added.Moreover, Dick Johnson, a former State Department advisor, compares sanctions to a harsh weapon, especially for the people, which continues to suffer, leaving the nuclear program unaffected.

Steps taken by the International System

Despite implementing numerous UN sanctions along with growing international pressure, North Korea continues to act recklessly inspite of the international tension it createdduring the Hydrogen-bomb testing in the early 2016 along with a communication satellite launch, which was then suspected to be a banned missile technology.

The establishment of the Six Party talks was to end North Korea’s advancement of nuclear technology through peaceful negotiations. The members of the Six party talks comprised of three permanent members of the Security Council, Russia, China, along with the United States and three neighbouring countries including South Korea and Japan. Since its establishment, the Six Party Talks have received many hurdles including a few foreseen hurdles.

Today, thirteen years later, it is not even close to denuclearize North Koreaand have largely failed in dismantling its nuclear program and technology.Before the existence of Six Party Talks, the United States and North Korea agreed to the 1994 Framework where the United States would provide energy to Pyongyang on a condition that, the country would not use it in harnessing nuclear materials. This agreement fallout in the year 2002, where United States found compelling evidences of North Korea using the energy to harness uranium for nuclear use. This resulted in the US stopping all the aid programs which then the North Korea retaliated by withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) for nuclear weapons.

With the first round of negotiations in 2003, North Korea was willing to dismantle their nuclear programs in return for aiduntil their declaration to possess nuclear weapons in 2005, and then subsequently withdrew from the Six Party Talks. This was a major blow to the Six Party Talks which then resulted in North Korea’s complete boycott in the Six Party Talks discussions. By 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear bombwhich was in direct violation to the previously signed agreements along with the NPT. Determined to take an immediate action against North Korea’s display of power, the Security Council adopted the Resolution 1718 and condemned North Korea’s actions and demanded an immediate cease on all which posed grave threat to the international safety and security. North Korea, relentlessly proceeded in their nuclear tests, while conducting another successful nuclear explosion in 2009, which was then followed by a ballistic missile tests in 2012 along with a third successful nuclear detonation in 2013. The recent detonation in 2016, delivers yet another message of North Korea’s ambition to achieve nuclear weapons.

Even in the past, the global agitated world imposed sanctions, particularly the UN, which failed to curb the activities of North Korea. With their fourth successful nuclear explosion in 2016and the successful launch of satellite, North Kore continues to violate dozens of resolutions particularly theresolution 1718 along with NPT.

On the path of Nuclear Weapons Advancement

With the recent nuclear test conducted by North Korea, it has reopened the old wounds of “nuclear outlaw” refocusing the global attention on its recklessness and hunger to achieve nuclear weapons. North Korea’s recent successful tests of H-bomb, which uses fusion instead of fission used by nuclear weapons. This brought not only the international communities to condemn this act, but also forced China to voice with the concerned west. With an unstoppable hunger to achieve nuclear ambitions, the United Nations Security Council began proposing much stricter and harsher sanctions. As of today, North Korea has violated all Security Council resolutions especially the NPT. Despite the global condemnation, North Korea, continues to research on other nations nuclear capabilities, making the situation more volatile than ever.

Conclusion

North Korea continues to remain unaffected by UN sanctions and international pressure and the continuous efforts of the global communities to put an end to North Korea’s ambitions are proving ineffective than ever. The Security Council’s objective of establishing the Six Party Talks have seen more failure than success. Moreover, nations in the Six Party Talks, including Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States, failed to put a halt on North Korea’s nuclear ambition especially through peaceful dialogues.  With the latest nuclear bomb explosion, tensions have reached to the peak, particularly when Beijing’s continuous request to end the nuclear testing. Failure to support the UN has put global nations especially the US in a tight spot. This latest development, is none other than a threat to international peace and securityand the Security Council’s continuous efforts to tighten sanctions around North Korea seems more hypothetical than realistic.

Image courtesy: http://i3.mirror.co.uk/

Anant Mishra

Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to the United Nations. He has served extensively in United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council along with the Economic and Social Council. He is also a visiting faculty for numerous universities and delivers lectures on political economics and foreign policies.