Valuable step for nuclear-free world
With the adoption of the Seoul Communique, the two-day 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit was successfully wrapped up on March 27. This summit was the largest one in the global security field, with the participation of 53 heads or deputy-heads of states and four international organizations ― the U.N., the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the EU and Interpol.
Participants all over the world discussed a lot of nuclear-related issues for the purposes of cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, protection of nuclear materials and related facilities, and the prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.
Even though the Seoul Communique is not a legally-binding treaty but a legally-nonbinding political statement, its importance and meaning for international peace and security cannot be denied. Since the nuclear armament of the United States at the end of World War II, there has been a lot of serious controversy over nuclear weapons and nuclear security. The meaning of the Seoul Summit may be evaluated in this context.
Traditionally, the general understanding on “conventional weapons” may be summarized as “the more, the worse.” Thus, disarmament is regarded as a solution to international peace and security. For example, former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suggested disarmament as the fourth recommendation for world peace in his famous speech “14 Points for Peace” (Jan. 8, 1918).
In contrast, there have been serious academic debates over the issue of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) especially nuclear weapons. Some argue that “the more, the worse,” but others contend that “the more, the better.” One of the prominent scholars in the latter position is Kenneth N. Waltz, professor of political science at UC Berkeley.
In an article “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better” (1981), he argued that “nuclear weapons, responsibly used, make wars hard to start.” Such paradoxical understanding on nuclear weapons may be phrased as “Nuclear Deterrence” or a “Balance of Terror.”
However, the current international regime on nuclear weapons is primarily based on the former position. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was adopted on July 1, 1968, and effectuated March 5, 1970, for the purposes of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disarmament of them and peaceful use of nuclear energy. According to Article II of the NPT, non-nuclear weapons states (NNWSs) are obliged not to receive the transfer of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to manufacture nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
This may be simply called the principle of non-proliferation. The possessions of nuclear weapons as of Jan. 1, 1967, were recognized as legal under the NPT. Thus, the U.S., the former USSR (currently Russia), the U.K., France and China have been called as legitimately nuclear weapons states (NWSs). However, the five NWSs are also subject to the binding commitment of eventual elimination of nuclear weapons from their national arsenals.
Nevertheless, the five have not yet kept their legally-binding commitment or obligation of eventual elimination of nuclear weapons even after the end of the Cold War. Reportedly, today the U.S. has approximately 4,500 nuclear warheads and Russia has roughly 3,800. The U.K., France and China have around 200-400 nuclear weapons, respectively.
Thus, many people have blamed this kind of global situation and especially the nuclear policy of the five NWSs. For example, Robert S. McNamara, former U.S. secretary of defense under President John F. Kennedy, issued an anger-emitting and thought-provoking article, “Apocalypse Soon,” in the famous journal Foreign Policy (May/June 2005). He blamed then-U.S. President George W. Bush’s nuclear weapons policy as “immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous” and strongly argued for “elimination or near elimination of all nuclear weapons.”
In this context, just three months after the assumption of his presidency, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the historic speech, “A World without Nuclear Weapons,” in Prague, the Czech Republic on April 5, 2009. Also the Obama administration showed its strong will against nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism in the Nuclear Posture Review Report (April 2009). Afterwards, the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit was held on April 12 and 13, 2011, participated in by 47 heads of states and three international organizations ― the U.N., the IAEA and the EU.
Then, this year the Seoul Summit was concluded with the adoption of the Seoul Communique. Is it possible to make a brand-new world without nuclear weapons? In the short term, the answer is clearly “no.” However, in the long term, the answer may be changed from “no” to “yes” if we share and remember the vision of “A World Without Nuclear Weapons” repeatedly and persistently. Then, many generations later, the Seoul Summit must be recorded in human history as a little but valuable step for a new world.
Dr. Lee Sang-hyuck is the author of “Term-centered Analysis on Global Issues” (2011) and CEO of KP Education Group (www.KPenglish.com), whose mission is “Education for a Better World.” Reach him at email@example.com.