US Should Not Run the Risk of Proliferation
Is there anyone who wants to admit that North Korea is a nuclear power? Certainly, no one, except North Korean leaders, would dare to do so. The United States, South Korea and other countries have maintained their firm position against granting nuclear status to the world's last Stalinist country. But this stance may no longer be tenable if the international community fails to bring an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development program.
Particularly, skepticism is growing about the North's denuclearization process as a U.S. defense report erroneously categorized North Korea as a nuclear power. The annual report was published by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) under the wing of the Department of Defense on Nov. 25. ``The rim of the great Asian continent is already home to five nuclear powers: China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Russia,'' said the report, titled ``Joint Operating Environment 2008: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force.''
We hope the U.S. will cling to its refusal to acknowledge the North as a nuclear weapons state. As the report ignited controversy, the U.S. government has reportedly promised to delete North Korea from the listing. How could the authors of the report mistakenly juxtapose the impoverished communist country with internationally recognized nuclear powers?
The U.S. side made clear that there is no change in the U.S. stance to realize the complete dismantling of the North's nuclear programs. However, we are somewhat worried that the controversial document may send the wrong signal to the ongoing international efforts to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.
The six-nation talks on the North's denuclearization are at a critical stage as Pyongyang has refused to allow inspectors to take samples from a nuclear complex to verify its past activities. Nuclear envoys from the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas started a new round of negotiations in Beijing, Monday. But they are likely to make little progress in finding methods to validate the North's accounting of its nuclear programs.
North Korea has emerged as a nuclear pariah since it conducted an underground nuclear test in October 2006 in a bid to declare that it had succeeded in developing atomic bombs. The U.S. should not take the risky step of including the North in the nuclear club, even though the isolated country has enough plutonium to produce several nuclear warheads.
In the event of U.S. recognition of the North as a nuclear power, there might inevitably be a tremendous change in America's policy on non-proliferation, defense and diplomacy, especially with North Korea. The U.S. might face the risk of nuclear dominos as Iran is allegedly pressing ahead with its own nuclear program. The nuclear issue will soon be in the hands of the next U.S. President Barack Obama. It remains to be seen what steps he will take to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.