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North Korea Momentarily Escapes Sanctions After Fourth Nuclear Test

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2016 (IPS) - When the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea — immediately following its first nuclear test back in 2006 — Pyongyang described the punitive measure as “an act of war.”

A visibly angry North Korean ambassador, Pak Gil Yon, walked out of the chamber dismissing the resolution as a “gangster-like” act by the 15 members in the Council.

The outspoken John Bolton, then US ambassador to the United Nations, described North Korea’s defiance as “the contemporary equivalent of (Soviet leader) Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe” on his desk at the General Assembly hall to demand his right of reply during the height of the Cold War in October 1960.

But there was no such political drama in the chamber – at least not yet – following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test early January.

So far, North Korea has conducted four tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016 – and every one of them in defiance of the international community.

“This was a destabilizing act that violates Security Council resolutions and imperils collective security,” declared UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said North Korea is the only country in the world that has tested a nuclear weapon in the 21st century – not once, but four times.

“It is also the only country in the world that routinely threatens other UN member states with nuclear attacks”.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters: “We will be working with others on a resolution on further sanctions.”

Still, despite threats of new sanctions and punitive measures against North Korea, the UN Security Council (UNSC) remains deadlocked – primarily due to China’s opposition to sanctions— nearly two weeks after the test.

The only action of the Security Council was to unanimously condemn the test as “a clear violation of (past) resolutions.. and of the non-proliferation regime.”

At the United Nations, sanctions are known to bite – but resolutions? No.

Some of the past sanctions on North Korea include mostly commercial and weapons shipments and blacklisting of specific companies and individuals.

The US and the Western world, which are notorious for their double standards, are willing to go after Iran with a vengeance – even though the Iranians said they were developing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons—but ignore and accept Israel as a virtual nuclear power in the Middle East.

There has always been less virulent opposition to North Korea (also known as the Democratic Republic of North Korea or DPRK) because its nuclear weapons are not a threat to Israel.

North Korea has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Alice Slater. an Advisor with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and who serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War, told IPS “it’s hypocritical to continue to sanction North Korea, when we’ve sabotaged so many of the peace negotiations with them over the years.

“We keep insisting on our right for our nuclear deterrent, and improving it and offering its protection in our alliance to countries like Japan, Australia, and South Korea as well as to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) states.”

“I think North Korea is using its “deterrent” to get our attention for resuming negotiations for a resolution to the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with only an armistice and 30,000 US troops still stationed there, as well as to end the crippling sanctions that has impoverished their nation,” she said.

“I don’t think the UN resolutions make sense. What about the UN resolution to prevent an arms race in space, put forth by Russia and China which the US blocks, and the need to reinstate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) so that the US and Russia can really negotiate for nuclear disarmament that will bring everyone else along, including North Korea?,” Slater asked.

John Hallam, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner with People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project, told IPS: “I guess if I were UNSG or any one of the delegates at the UNSC, I’d be somewhat cynical over the likely effectiveness of any resolution.

“What will be the mechanisms of enforcement, other than those used so far without success?”, he asked.

“However I simply can’t imagine the UNSC not trying in some way to sanction the DPRK, nor would I suggest that they refrain from sanctioning it. “

“What I would hope however is that the UNSC look at those of its own membership who have massive programmes aimed at refurbishing their own nuclear deterrent forces – forces that have tens of thousands of times the kick of those of the DPRK and whose existence does indeed imperil humans as a species, as the Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna conferences made quite clear.”

He said much depends on how toughly worded are UNSC resolutions, and on what its enforcement mechanisms are.”

“However my instinctive gut feeling is that nothing but nothing will deter the DPRK from further tests. “

“I think the probability of yet more tests and of missile tests also is very high, and neither action by the UNSC nor actions taken by the individual members of it will make the slightest difference”, said Hallam.

In an oped piece in Counterpunch, Slater wrote: “This latest terrifying and dreadful underground nuclear test by North Korea should be a warning to the United States and the other nuclear weapons states, that the longer we continue to modernize and cling to our nuclear arsenals and promote a nuclear deterrence policy which promise catastrophic threats of nuclear retaliation if attacked, the more additional countries will be seeking to get their own “deterrent”, just as North Korea has done creating ever greater threats of accidental or deliberate nuclear disaster.”

She pointed out that “It is telling that at the same time we made the deal with Iran to rein in their “peaceful” nuclear power program and secure their enriched uranium in Russia, we promised “peaceful” nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Turkey so they too will have their bomb in the basement.”

“It cannot have escaped the notice of North Korea that after Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programme was ended after the first Gulf War, and Muammar Ghadafi voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons programme, one wound up dead in a hole in the ground and the other in a sewer pipe.”

The only way to control the further spread of nuclear weapons and future catastrophic nuclear disaster, is for the US and the other nuclear nations — Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan — to give up their nuclear weapons and negotiate a treaty for the total abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international monitoring and control.

“Unfortunately, this won’t happen until the two nuclear behemoths at the table, the US and Russia, who now have 15,000 of the 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet agree to do this,” declared Slater.

Hallam said: “I am quite sure the DPRK views a real nuclear capability as its survival ticket, and to some extent they are correct.”

Of course the irony is that nuclear weapons will do absolutely nothing to protect them against their own people if they decide to revolt. But as of now there are no signs of that, he said.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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