Having succeeded in developing nuclear weapons during the last days of World War II, The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus carrying the world into the nuclear age. Despite U.S. hopes for a monopoly on these weapons, the Soviet Union carried out a successful nuclear test in 1949, the U.K. in 1952, France in 1960, and China in 1964. All these countries have since manufactured and stockpiled a great number of nuclear weapons. The increase in nuclear weapon states (NWS) magnifies the danger that weapons will be used in error, that the technology will leak to other parties, and even of plunging the entire world into nuclear war.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in March 1970, has had some effect in stemming endless nuclear proliferation, having been signed by 188 nations (as of August 2003). However, India and Pakistan did not sign the treaty and subsequently carried out nuclear tests that led to their deployment of nuclear weapons. Middle Eastern nations feel prodded to acquire nuclear weapons by the nuclear capability that Israel is widely believed to possess. In January 2003, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the NPT. It has since stated that it possesses nuclear weapons and is moving rapidly to develop its nuclear arsenal. All these developments undermine the NPT.
|| The Nuclear Situation in Asia
Hiroshima Peace Institute Hiroshima City University
The Nuclear Situation in Asia
Hiroshima Peace Institute
Hiroshima City University
The U.S. and Russian movements toward nuclear disarmament in the wake of the Cold War greatly reduced the nuclear threat in Europe. At the same time, it may have increased the nuclear danger in Asia. With Asian nuclear weapon states now including China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, worries about nuclear proliferation in Asia are rising sharply. China is the only officially recognized NWS in Asia. The extent of China's nuclear capability is unknown because the Chinese government has not made the figures public, but it is believed that it has 20 ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles), 150 mid-range ballistic missiles, and roughly 300 short-range missiles. Moreover, recent tests of the new East Wind 31 missile indicate that China is modernizing its military forces.
North Korea secretly developed its nuclear capability while a signatory to the NPT. Satellite photos in 1991 revealed that North Korea was extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and heightened international fears of that country's nuclear development. Tension between the U.S. And North Korea gradually mounted. IAEA inspections were carried out over several years but ended in conflict in 1994, inflaming tensions and propelling U.S.-North Korea relations into crisis. A visit by former President Carter to North Korea succeeded in pulling the two countries back from overt confrontation. The two countries commenced negotiations that resulted in the conclusion in Geneva of the Framework Agreement. The agreement called for North Korea to freeze its nuclear development and phase out its graphite reactors, in return for which it would receive two light-water reactors. Until they were completed North Korea would receive heavy oil as an energy source.
However, the recent revelation that North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons with enriched uranium, not plutonium, coupled with North Korea's announcement that it was resuming development of nuclear weapons, hardened the U.S. position again. The Framework Agreement is in effect defunct. North Korea presently has enough fissionable material for several nuclear missiles. It has the Rodong mid-range missile as a delivery vehicle and is moving to develop the long-range Taepo Dong missile. In response to this crisis, China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan joined North Korean and the U.S. for Six Party Talks at the end of August 2003. The situation remains extremely precarious.
The missile defense system under development by the U.S. could affect the nuclear capability of the U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. announced that it was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in December 2001 and the treaty was nullified in June 2002.
Moreover, the U.S. and Japan have begun joint research on missile defense, a movement that increases the sense of alarm in both nations and is likely to negatively impact nuclear disarmament in the region.
In South Asia, India and Pakistan are NWS that have not signed the NPT. India has 90 to 200 nuclear warheads, and estimates place Pakistan's between 30 and 150. (The range of numbers reflects discrepancies in the research.) India points to the inherent unfairness of the NPT, and Pakistan refuses to join the NPT because India has not done so. They have resorted to armed conflict three times over the question of possession of Kashmir, which continues as an open sore. Both countries claim to be merely arming themselves with the minimum arsenal needed to forestall an attack with weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, amid escalating regional conflict, the potential is growing for use of these weapons. The situation is alarming from the perspectives of both the international disarmament regime and regional stability.