As had been threatened, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il reportedly conducted an underground nuclear test yesterday, a move which promotes a global nuclear arms race and nullifies non-proliferation agreements.
Take it personally.
How ironic that North Korea carried out its nuclear test as an armada of US warships heads to Iran, ostensibly in retaliation for Iran's alleged nuclear-development plan, which US intelligence agencies estimate would take over a decade to implement, if it exists at all. Different countries suffer different consequences for proliferation.
If nothing else, North Korea's flamboyant tyrant, Kim Jong-Il, appears once again to have outfoxed the world community, and his nuclear test will play well domestically, with his people facing another hungry, harsh winter. Kim can also rely on the usual US response to his transgressions: harsh words, talk of UN sanctions, and then complete disinterest as fighting in the Middle East takes precedence.
Kim Jong-Il knows full well that Bush's record on North Korea has been characterized by bravado and indifference. The administration's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, for example, aggressively warned North Korea and certain other countries about potential US "nuclear strike capabilities" in the vaguely-worded "event of surprising military developments." (Pyongyang's response to the Nuclear Posture Review was predictable: "Now that the nuclear lunatics are in office in the White House, we are compelled to examine all agreements with the U.S.")
But for all the bluster, US punitive measures against North Korea have been less than consistent. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly threatened Pyongyang over developing its nuclear capabilities, yet failed to mention his own contribution: Rumsfeld was on the board of ABB, a company that sold hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and services to North Korean nuclear plants. In another intriguing coincidence, despite his administration's slamming "axis of evil" nukes, in 2003 Bush requested $3.5 million for a consortium building nuclear reactors in North Korea.
While the Bush administration lashes out against North Korea's nuclear test and inevitably tries to spin it as justification for increased war-on-terror funding, Pyongyang's reaction will be interesting. Kim Myong-chol, the so-called "unofficial" spokesman of Kim Jong-il, recently had an ominous article in the Asia Times entitled "Kim's message: War is coming to US soil." The propaganda-laden piece (which referred to Kim Jong-il as "the greatest iron-willed, brilliant commander") nonetheless provided clues into how Pyongyang will justify its nuclear test:
* "Absent US hostility, nuclear blackmailing, sanctions, threats of isolation and regime change, the Kim administration would never have thought at all of acquiring nuclear deterrence."
* "The sole reason for the development of nuclear weapons is more than 50 years of direct exposure to naked nuclear threats and sanctions from the US."
* "US hostility, threats and sanctions are the very engines that have propelled the development of nuclear weapons."
Kim Myong-chol's article also noted that the North Korean nuclear test signified, "a long, overdue farewell to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, with the Bush administration standing in the dock as prime defendant accused of sabotaging nuclear non-proliferation. Had the Americans been steadfast in upholding the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty by reducing their nuclear weapons and respecting the sovereignty and independence of the non-nuclear states, North Korea would not have felt any need to defend itself with nuclear weapons."
Loosely translated: the US devil made me do it.
But the global implications of Pyongyang's nuclear test are extremely dangerous. Kim Myong-chol's article warned that North Korea has "all types of nuclear bombs and warheads, atomic, hydrogen and neutron, and the means of delivery, short-range, medium-range and long-range, putting the whole of the continental US within effective range," and added, "a next war will be better called the American War or the DPRK-US War because the main theater will be the continental US, with major cities transformed into towering infernos."
Bombast aside, North Korea's nuclear test both encourages other countries to proliferate and gives Pyongyang an effective blackmail card: give us cash or we'll sell our nuclear weapons to your worst enemies.
So take North Korea's nuclear test personally. It isn't just a danger "over there" but yet another indication of how the Bush administration's misguided foreign policy is endangering you right at home.
1. For online anti-nuke activism, head over to GREENPEACE International's "Abolish nuclear weapons" campaign. There you'll find up-to-date information plus various ideas for anti-nuke activism. Visit Nuclear Files , which offers a comprehensive history of nuclear weapons, extensive resources for educators and a free eNewsletter on global security issues. For regular updates on nuclear issues, sign up for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Sunflower e-newsletter and join its "Turn the Tide Campaign" action-alert network.
2. CTBT? ABM? NPT? If you're not sure what to make of contemporary arms control agreements, help is available on the net. The Federation of American Scientists has an easy-to-use compilation of resources, under the Strategic Security heading on its site. All kinds of related activities are also available; you can see the projected impact a nuclear detonation would have on certain cities, search a database of US and global arms sales, and take action on promoting arms control agreements.
Another place to explore disarmament issues is the Arms Control Association, which offers fact sheets, interviews, and easily accessible information organized by country and subject area.
Heather Wokusch is a freelance writer and author of the two-volume series The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now. This article is partially excerpted from Volume I. For more Action Ideas or to learn more about The Progressives' Handbook series, visit www.progressiveshandbook.com. Heather can also be reached via www.heatherwokusch.com.
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