The "preemptive war" and "regime change" policies of the Bush administration have caused many ill-effects all over the world. Now it is evident in East Asia. North Korea conducted a nuclear explosive test and joined the ranks of nuclear weapon states.
The dangerous nuclear game of North Korea is the result of Bush's bullying tactics towards this country and his "Axis of Evil" rhetoric. Apparently, the prevalent perception that Saddam Hussein was attacked because he did not possess nuclear weapons worked in the minds of the North Korean rulers.
It's deplorable that the North Korean government embarked on irrational nuclear gamble. True, going nuclear isn't the only choice before them, and also not the right choice. The expensive nuclear program will aggravate North Korea's social and economic problems. They might have chosen the option of dialogue and restraint. But it is undeniable that the US administration, through its intimidatory attitude, reduced the choices before North Korea. It was the total failure of the foreign policy of the Bushites.
Even before the present UN resolution, imposing sanctions on North Korea after its nuclear blasts, the US took actions on North Korea that included severing it from the international financial system. It triggered the fear among the rulers that they would be ousted forcibly from power. An agreement to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program was reached in 1994 between North Korea and the US. It never took hold since the US, as per the agreement, didn't help North Korea in developing peaceful nuclear energy and to build light-water reactors. The US actions became the justification for the North Koreans to leave from Non-Proliferation Treaty and later to refuse to attend six-nation disarmament talks. Actually, the six-party talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the US, yielded some progress.
The UN Security Council adopted resolution 1718, calling on governments to clamp down on North Korea's trade in missiles and weapons of mass destruction and banned imports of some weapons and goods. This has further inflamed the situation. East Asian neighbors differ in their approaches towards this issue. China wishes to avoid an armed clash with North Korea. South Korea, despite its alliance with the US, holds a policy of engagement with North Korea.
But Japan's hard-line view is a cause for concern. With solid backing of the US, it would do a major policy reverse, go nuclear, and acquire its own nuclear weapons. With these developments, peace is becoming a scarce commodity in the region.
More than North Korea, the nuclear threat comes from the nuclear "have" countries, particularly from the US, since it was the only country which had used the nuclear weapons targeting the civilians. And North Korea tested nuclear device once, but the US have so far conducted 1,127 nuclear and thermonuclear tests. In Asia the serious threat comes from Israel which is estimated to have amassed nearly 200 nuclear warheads posing greater threat to peace and security in Asia.
The US interference in the affairs of the countries in Asia is not a new one. And the US threat of nuclear force on Korea dates back to 1950. As noted by the Washington Post's Walter Pincus, the US army deployed nuclear-tipped missiles in the place between the Koreas in 1957. President Carter removed them in the late 1970s.
Even now, nearly 37,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea. In July, South Korean farmers went on hunger strike against the US military base and they are struggling against the American military base extension, fearing that they were thrown out of their lands.
What is the way ahead to solve the present nuclear crisis?
The columnists of American mainstream media suggest measures that would complicate the situation and bring the entire South Asia on the brink of war and destruction. They offer the US administration the ideas ranging from dismantling of North Korea's nuclear production facilities to the overthrow and untimely death of Kim Jong Il by "sponsoring internal dissent." And these suggestions are, of course, on par with the line of thinking in the White House.
Many commentators demand China "to cut off energy supplies, food deliveries to Pyongyang and end all trade with Pyongyang." Needless to say, such measures had caused the death of about half a million children in Iraq.
Engaging in dialogue is the only way to solve the present crisis and six-party forum is viable for talks. Along with this immediate step, the progressives have again to raise their voices for the nuclear weapon-free world, abolishing all kinds of discrimination between nuclear haves and have-nots.
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.
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