The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Tag: nuclear weapons

Brits like to nuke Australians, Americans

With North Korea’s anticipated third nuclear test just around the corner, get your game face on with this wonderful time lapse video by artist Isao Hashimoto of global nuclear detonations between 1945 and 1998:

N. Korea mildly upset by UNSC condemnation of rocket test, declares will never give up nukes and may conduct nuclear test

Angry that the UN Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning North Korea for its recent rocket test and tightening sanctions on Pyongyang, North Korea is now throwing its poo around its cage.

In a Foreign Ministry statement carried by KCNA, North Korea said the six-party talks and Sept 19 Joint Statement are kaput thanks to hostile American policy ™ and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has come to and end. It also said even if there are future discussions to guarantee the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, there would be no discussions about denuclearization.

They apparently said this less than two hours after the UNSC adopted its resolution of condemnation.

The statement also said that Pyongyang has made a final conclusion that under clear conditions in which hostile American policy ™ has changed not even a little, it is impossible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula prior to the realization of global denuclearization. Or something like that.

Best of all, they signaled a third nuclear test might be coming, saying that they would respond to American pressure by taking arbitrary physical measures to massively strengthen their self-defensive military strength, including their nuclear deterrent.

There’s more, but I have no desire to translate/summarize it.

I’m not a CIA linguist, but I’d say the language of the statement, while bombastic, leaves a bit of wiggle room, depending on your interpretation. Or in other words, it’s an official North Korean statement on the nuclear issue. I also think a third nuclear test is a good bet.

For what it’s worth, I never thought they would abandon their nukes. At the same time, I don’t see them ever really abandoning the con that—if the price is right—they’d be willing to abandon their nuclear program. Now they want us to pay them—preferably in money and goods, but perhaps just be lifting sanctions—to get them to talk denuclearization again. Which would be a fool’s bargain, granted, but if you’re emotionally wedded to the belief that there’s a grand bargain to be struck with North Korea, this latest statement isn’t necessarily cause for you to jump from your nearest bridge.

Yes, yes, yes!

Sadly, I missed the column when it came out, but Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Dae-jung—considered one of Korea’s top conservative ideologues—wants Seoul to go nuclear:

Any map of Northeast Asia shows that three countries surrounding South Korea — North Korea, China and Russia — have nuclear weapons, and now there are signs that even Japan is inching toward arming itself with the bomb. A look at the countries involved in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program shows that five of them, except South Korea, are either nuclear armed or potentially armed. The nuclear map of Northeast Asia is changing now that Japan has revised laws in late June that suggest it wants to develop nuclear weapons too. South Korea alone in the region has no prospect of acquiring them.

Why does Seoul continue to adhere to what looks like an increasingly outdated peace and denuclearization policy? The goal of denuclearization in Northeast Asia has become unattainable. North Korea is not going to abandon its nuclear weapons even at the cost of its own collapse, since the regime saw clearly what happened to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi when he gave them up.

So sayeth The Shepherd, So sayeth The Flock!

How can we possibly consider ourselves an independent and sovereign state if we cannot acquire our own weapons within reasonable limits due to fears of foreign opposition? The nuclear map of Northeast Asia is being re-drawn, yet there is no place on that map for South Korea.

Read the rest on your own.

Japan adds ‘national security’ to nuclear law, prompts fears of militarization

Well, this is interesting (and MBC thought so, too):

Supporters of an amendment quietly slipped into Japan’s nuclear power law saying it should contribute to “national security” are denying it could provide cover for military use of nuclear technology.

The provision, which says nuclear safety should be guaranteed not only to defend lives, people’s health and the environment but also to “contribute to Japan’s national security,” became part of the Atomic Energy Basic Law on June 20.

Critics say the change to the 1955 basic law, known as the “constitution” of nuclear energy use in Japan, was made without proper debate on the sidelines of political maneuvering in the Diet.

Proponents of the bill are saying it’s all about nuclear safeguards—one LDP lawmaker said the amendment was added because “responsibilities to prevent diversion of nuclear materials for military and terrorist purposes will be transferred to the new nuclear regulatory commission.” Opponents, on the other hand, wonder about the cryptic wording.

As far as I am concerned, Japan should go nuclear—as should South Korea and Taiwan. Hey, if we’ve got to live with a nuclear North Korea, there’s no reason China can’t live with a nuclear Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It’ll help keep everyone honest.

UPDATE: In a story on this, the Munhwa Ilbo reminds us that Japan possesses about 30 tons of plutonium, enough to make 10,000—15,000 nuclear warheads. What I DIDN’T know about was that in 1969, Japan apparently went to their old friends, the Germans, looking for support in developing a nuclear arsenal:

After examining diplomatic papers from West Germany, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a report released this week that its diplomats had met counterparts from West Germany in the resort town of Hakone, west of Tokyo, on February 4 to 5 in 1969 and hinted at possessing nuclear arms, besides seeking support from the European country, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese ministry also questioned Egon Bahr, who was then head of the German Foreign Ministry’s policy planning office and attended the meeting in 1969. Bahr said he had heard Japanese officials making a statement during the meeting suggesting Japan may move to possess nuclear weapons.

Citing the documents from West Germany, the report said a Foreign Ministry official, who headed the Japanese delegation, told West Germany it is possible for Japan to create nuclear weapons in the event a threat occurs on the Korean Peninsula and that Japan and West Germany should cooperate to be free from the United States.

I’ve heard Hakone is a lovely town, its hot springs making the perfect venue to discuss creating your very own Force de Frappe.

UPDATE: The Chosun Ilbo penned an editorial on this, noting that the people currently polling first and second for Japan’s next prime minister, Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and old Marmot’s Hole favorite Tokyo governor Shintaro “the Ish” Ishihara both want Japan to develop its own nuclear arsenal. The editorial ends rather interestingly, too:

China has been boosting its defense spending rapidly by 20% a year since 2005, and with the 2010 dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands coming to the fore, voices in Japan calling for preparation for a clash with China are growing. Into this situation, North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test and has put into its new constitution that it possesses nuclear arms, giving a push to those in Japan calling for the acquisition of nuclear arms.

Last September, the Japanese Cabinet decided to reveal that the amount of fissionable plutonium Japan controls within and outside the country is enough to build about 4,800 nuclear warheads of 22,000 tons of TNT, the size of the bomb that fell on Nagasaki in 1945. Japan has the infrastructure to quickly become a nuclear-armed great power if it just makes up its mind to.

When the security environment in Northeast Asia can quickly change in any direction at any time, are those who wish to become the next president of the Republic of Korea even considering this country’s strategic choices?

That’s the spirit, Chosun! Hey, Park Geun-hye’s dad tried to get the bomb. Like father, like daughter?

US Concerns about South Korean Nuclear Program

Over at The Diplomat, Richard Weitz looks at US worries about the Korean nuclear program… the South Korean nuclear program. Here’s a taste:

Although few South Koreans currently harbour nuclear weapons ambitions—thanks in part to the enduring US military presence in Asia as well as the emergence of a democratic government and a vigorously free South Korean press that would make pursuing a clandestine nuclear programme difficult—these benign conditions could change during the next two decades when the new reactors and reprocessing technologies would become available.

More immediately though, South Korea’s use of reprocessing and enrichment would make it harder to deny North Korea the right to engage in comparable activities. In their 1992 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, both Korean governments forswore uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. Although Pyongyang went on to violate this non-proliferation commitment (and many others besides), the United States and South Korea still aim to use the Six-Party Talks and other mechanisms to roll back the North’s nuclear programmes and restore the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear-weapons-free status.

You all know my position on the matter — nuclear proliferation in and of itself doesn’t scare me. I’ve never lost a night of sleep worrying about the British, French or Israeli nuclear arsenals. It proliferation to countries I don’t like that worries me, and they’ll develop nukes regardless of whether South Korea gets the bomb or not. Wietz rightly points out, “Of all the regions in the world, Asia is a particular proliferation concern since China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United States all have major nuclear weapons programmes, while Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea already have the industrial capacity and scientific-technical expertise to launch such programmes.” OK, but I look at that, and I see three countries I wish didn’t have nukes (China, Pakistan and North Korea… and you can throw Russia in there) but do and three prosperous democracies to which the US must now extend nuclear defense guarantees. I’m not sure what we get out of that, other than maybe the privilege of having to decide one day whether to nuke China to defend Taiwan.

On a related note, South Korea recently developed a cruise missile with a range of 1,500 km, putting North Korean nuclear and military sites in range. Wonderful, says the Marmot, but I won’t be impressed until the 300km range limit on South Korean ballistic missiles, imposed by bilateral agreement with the United States, is lifted.

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