The North Korean issue of nuclear weapons trails back to Korean War during 1950 to 1953 when United States threatened North Korea several times to use nuclear weapons. After the war US forces remained in South Korea. In January 1958, US began deploying several types of nuclear weapons. Initially, US deployed four different kinds of nuclear weapons in South Korea: the Honest John surface-to-surface missile, the massive 280-millimeter gun, the 8-inch artillery shell, and atomic demolition munitions (ADMs). From 1960-1964, five more weapon systems were deployed by the US: Lacrosse and Sergeant ballistic missiles, Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles, Davy Crockett nuclear bazookas, and 155-millimeter artillery shells.
The existence of US military might at the doorsteps motivated the former North Korean President Kim Sung to launch a nuclear weapons program for his country. Eventually, North Korea decided to peruse the 2nd biggest power of the world at that time – Soviet Union.
In the mid 1960s, Soviet Union helped North Korea to develop a large-scale atomic energy research complex near its small town of Yongbyon. In 1965, Soviet Union provided a Soviet IRT-2M research reactor for this centre. Many North Korean students were trained in Soviet Union to work in this research centre. From 1965 to 1973, with the help of Soviet Union, North Korea focused on the nuclear fuel cycle system including refining, conversion and fabrication.
In the 1980s, focusing on practical uses of nuclear energy and the completion of a nuclear weapon development system, North Korea began to operate facilities for uranium fabrication and conversion. It began construction of a 200 MWe nuclear reactor and nuclear reprocessing facilities in Taechon and Yongbyon and conducted high-explosive detonation tests.
China also provided various kinds of support to North Korea during 1960s to 1980s. A milestone was reached in North Korea’s nuclear program with the construction of a 5-megawatt electric (MWe) reactor that began operating in 1986.
In 1985, under international pressure, Pyongyang acceded to the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) but refused to sign a safeguards agreement with the IAEA – an obligation it had as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In July 1990, The Washington Post published a report where it showed satellite photographs of a structure in Yongbyon, which could possibly be used to separate plutonium from nuclear fuel. Then due to high pressure, on January 30, 1992, North Korea signed a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA and allowed IAEA inspections to begin in June 1992.
However, this promising development was halted by North Korea’s refusal in January 1993 to allow special inspections of two unreported facilities suspected of holding nuclear waste. It refused IAEA inspections and operated nuclear reprocessing facilities, making the world suspicious of its nuclear intentions. On March 12, 1993, it announced the withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
In mid-2002, U.S. intelligence discovered that North Korea had been receiving materials from Pakistan for a highly enriched uranium production facility. In February 2004, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear technology Dr. Qadir Khan confessed on National Television that Pakistan transferred nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the governments of Pakistan and North Korea did not endorse Dr. Khan’s claim.
On January 29, 2002 during the State of the Union Address, the United States’ President George W. Bush referred Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "Axis of Evil". On the other hand, on August 7, 2002, a high-profile ceremony was held in Kumho, North Korea where 100 American and Japanese delegates met with Korean officials to lay the foundation of two nuclear power plants. The plants were given to North Korea by a US-led consortium as a part of a US $4.6 billion package signed in 1994 by Clinton Administration to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program and not invade South Korea. The Clinton’s administration bribe package could not resist North Korea. In late 2002, North Korea withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and ejected UN weapons inspectors from North Korea. In November 2002, CIA revealed that North Korea had one, perhaps two, nuclear weapons.
Although North Korea never conducted nuclear test but in February 2005, North Korea declared itself a de facto nuclear power and claimed that it had manufactured nuclear weapons to defend itself from the United States. At the same time it also withdrew itself, indefinitely, from international disarmament talks. Today, it is believed that North Korea is the world’s ninth nuclear power. North Korea has a strong army of 1.1 million personnel with newly fielded batteries of long-range artillery, rockets, tactical & scuds missiles which can deliver nuclear, conventional, chemical and biological weapons onto Seoul all positions of the US 2nd Infantry Division, and US airbases stationed in South Korean territory.
In August 1998 North Korea conducted a successful ballistic missile test. In February and March 2003, it conducted again a successful cruise missile tests. Now, testing again at least six long range missiles from its east coast early last Wednesday (July 5, 2006) North Korea said, "If anyone tries to discuss the rights and wrongs about (future tests) and apply pressure, we will be forced to take physical actions of a different nature". The missiles included a long-range Taepodong-2, which some experts had said could hit Alaska. According to a South Korean daily newspaper, North Korea might be looking to launch three or four more intermediate-range missiles.
In response to North Korean recent missile tests, US President George W. Bush, who perhaps only believes on hostile response and who already has enough adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years, has asked the top six countries to take united action against North Korea.
Along with United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia were quick to condemn the tests. President Bush has also urged Russia and China to support on UN Security Council resolution demanding nations to freeze North Korea’s missile funds.
Our planet is already facing substantial threat of global climate change. There should not be any dispute on the matter that developing nuclear weapons is the most precarious act against this planet. Mankind may not survive if there would be any atomic disaster. The international community must not only stop the development of all kind of nuclear armaments but the nations who have already developed and stocked these most atrocious weapons must dismantle them. However, traditionally, acquiring nuclear power has always become a secret process of the atomic States including the United States. The apparent justifications and claims of having nuclear technology were the reasons of acquiring energy sources for peaceful purpose but almost every country used the technology in developing atomic warheads.
On December 8, 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations referred US atomic development as "Atom for Peace".
Whereas the United States was the first and only country that secretly developed the atomic bomb and dropped it on the city of Hiroshima (Japan) on August 6, 1945 and on the city of Nagasaki (Japan) on August 9, 1945, aiming to give a lesson to Japan once and forever and the world experienced an unbelievable extermination of entire creatures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
According to a report as of January 2005 there were approximately 5,300 operational nuclear warheads in the US. The stockpile included 4,530 strategic warheads and 780 non-strategic warheads and almost 5,000 additional warheads were retained as a ‘responsive reserve force’ – enough to destroy the entire globe within minutes.
Looking into the trails of nuclear power states one should not have any doubts left that their prime objective has been to accomplish armed superiority against their rivalries and to protect themselves from foreign threats. These atomic states have stimulated the need of atomic weapons among the states owning conventional warhead and defense system. Despite their limited resources, these states followed the footsteps of atomic states proclaiming peaceful purposes of their secret development of weapons. Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea are the examples among us. Iran is the next in line and there might be several other nations following the same tactics. Developing the atomic bomb has been a pride for these countries and considered as a measure of security against possible foreign threats. For example; Pakistan decided to go for nuclear technology after a humiliating defeat by India in the 1971 battlefield. Within weeks of the surrender at Dhaka, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto called a secret meeting (Jan. 24, 1972, at Multan) of nuclear and military officials and said he wanted the Atomic Bomb. A 125-megawatt heavy-water reactor became operational near Karachi the same year. It was built with Canadian assistance. According to some sources United States was not in the dark as well about these developments. Just a year later, so clear was the evidence that Pakistan was buying nuclear technology and materials from European countries.
The international community has also experienced that when Israel, India and Pakistan secretly managed to achieve atomic capabilities and announced themselves as an atomic power the US and other superpowers, officially or unofficially, commended them as a member of their nuclear club.
India has not yet signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, yet in March 2006, when President George W. Bush visited India he made a nuclear technology fuel deal which the US describes as a ‘landmark’ agreement with India on civil nuclear technology. The reasons are obvious that US does not consider India as a threat instead the US needs India to have its existence in the region to counter China.
The way nuclear power states cultivate the benefits and dictate their terms, politically and militarily, to the smaller states, basically, motivate the other states – whether it may be North Korea, Iran or any other state – that they should also secure themselves by obtaining nuclear technology and developing nuclear warheads. It’s a game of power and it will continue as long as non-atomic states consider atomic states as a threat. These non-atomic states will continue to follow the footstep of superpowers using legitimate or illegitimate means to get control on atomic technology.
Nevertheless, a peaceful and threat-free world can only be possible if the atomic powers possessing these weapons of mass destruction fairly and openly dismantle them and create example for those who are secretly endeavoring to jump into the nuclear arms race.