|RUSSIA DOES NOT NEED A NUCLEAR NORTH
MOSCOW. (Daniil Kobyakov for RIA Novosti)
Logic and common sense tell us that what North Korea has detonated was not
a nuclear bomb but an explosive device. Experts say detonating a nuclear
bomb calls for higher technologies, which North Korea is unlikely to have.
It probably used conventional explosives to imitate a nuclear blast.
According to Pyongyang, the explosion amounted to 500 kilotons of TNT
(though Russian experts assess it at 5-15 kilotons), which may mean that
it was an aborted explosion of a very big nuclear device.
In my view, it will take North Korea several years to create the bomb. It
may opt for a plutonium project, which would take longer, or a uranium
program, but this calls for having a certain amount of highly enriched
Unfortunately, we do not know which technology North Korea has, but in the
past it was an active player on the global black market of nuclear
technologies, and could have acquired modern uranium enrichment
technologies from Pakistan. Therefore, it could have advanced in uranium
enrichment further than some experts think.
Russia, the Untied States, Japan, China and South Korea have national
nuclear test verification technologies. There is also a global monitoring
network, which developed during the Cold War and after the signing of the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty. Seismic stations can also be used
to analyze radionuclide emissions.
All these elements have been employed to analyze the situation after the
purported nuclear explosion in North Korea, but it will take several weeks
to arrive at reliable conclusions.
What next? This is a deadlock situation: the international community must
do something to prevent a repetition of these events, but has used almost
all conceivable measures against North Korea. The country has been
isolated from the rest of the world, and applying continuous pressure to
the point of armed interference would be counterproductive.
In my view, the international community must do something, but remember
that Pyongyang may have nuclear weapons. It should clearly outline the
border North Korea must not cross, and somehow indicate that Pyongyang
only stands to lose by persisting with its nuclear program.
On the other hand, we should approach the problem systemically, with due
regard for the precepts of non-proliferation. Most importantly, the
alleged North Korean nuclear test should not produce the domino effect in
the region and the world, so that other countries do not use the Korean
test to justify their own nuclear programs, and do not try to acquire or
create nuclear weapons to protect themselves against North Korea.
Russia also wants the U.S. and Japan to show restraint to prevent using
this precedent to spur the arms race, fan regional tensions, deploy
ballistic missile defense systems, or create new nuclear weapons. The
international community and the six countries involved in the talks with
North Korea should coordinate their positions. North Korea has always
cleverly played on contradictions, and any unwise step now may provoke an
unpredictable response, giving Pyongyang room for maneuver, a pretext for
blackmail, and a chance for political bargaining.
The U.S. is the key player with whom North Korea tried to talk directly,
although Americans themselves are largely responsible for provoking
Pyongyang into such rash actions. The U.S. included North Korea in the
“axis of evil”, took a number of steps provoking confrontation, and
further “offended” it by invading Iraq.
In this situation, Washington should make a tactical concession, possibly
by issuing a security guarantee, or taking other measures to alleviate
tensions on the peninsula, but only in response to North Korea’s
reciprocal steps concerning its nuclear program.
The North Korean nuclear test has also delivered a political blow to
China, which is Pyongyang’s closest ally for political and economic
reasons. This is why China’s position has been so harsh.
Russia is a neutral participant in the six-country talks. The blast, which
took place in close proximity to Russia’s territory, is problematic for
security reasons. Potentially, Russia may have one more nuclear neighbor.
The worst part is that the North Korean nuclear test can destabilize the
situation in the region and undermine the non-proliferation regime.
However, Russia must protect its national interests, and, therefore, it
should advocate a balanced and restrained attitude to the Korean blunder.
North Korea is a problem in itself, and Russia does not need an
escalation, an inadequate U.S. and Japanese response, or a nuclear North
Daniil Kobyakov is Information Projects Director, Global Partnership
Project Coordinator, at the PIR Center for Policy Studies in Russia. -0-