Topics: Nuclear weapon, North Korea, Kim Jong-il Pages: 5 (1266 words) Published: March 26, 2014

North Korean nuclear crisis | The Japan Times


North Korean nuclear crisis

There are almost 18,000 nuclear warheads distributed among nine nuclear-armed states in the world today. Over 90 percent of these are in Russian and U.S. arsenals. But concerns about the growth in nuclear weapons stockpiles are focused on China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

North Korea is estimated to have four to 10 nuclear warheads — the smallest arsenal of all — and remains the subject of intense diplomatic efforts aimed at reversing its nuclear status. Its nuclear and missile programs are a source of instability and tension in a region vital to global security and economic prosperity.

Having withdrawn from the NPT in 2003, Pyongyang has repeatedly made commitments to abandon the weapons path in return for security assurances and economic assistance, shelved its nuclear ambitions temporarily, and then broken its promises serially. Its 2006 and 2009, nuclear tests drew international condemnations and U.N.-mandated sanctions, prompting it to walk out of the six-party talks. Security Council Resolution 1874 (June 12, 2009) prohibited further tests or launches using ballistic missile technology, and toughened the sanctions. After initial failure in April 2012, a long-range rocket was successfully launched on Dec. 12. Japanese experts were impressed by the precision of the rocket technology and by the fact that the test was planned for and executed during adverse winter conditions.

Many condemned the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test forbidden by U.N. resolutions. This was followed by a third nuclear test Feb. 12. Nuclear weapons can be made from highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium. HEU technology can be more easily disguised and concealed and is the route that Iran may be taking to build up its bomb-making capability. Plutonium bombs are easier to miniaturize for mounting warheads on missiles. North Korea’s first two tests were plutonium-fueled; we do not know whether uranium or plutonium was used in this year’s test. In a swiftly escalating cycle of harsh international reactions to the test and toughening rhetoric of war from Pyongyang, North Korea invalidated the 1953 armistice agreement, cut hot lines to Seoul and Washington, threatened to raze Seoul and strike U.S. targets, and closed the jointly operated industrial zone in Kaesong to nearly 500 South Korean workers.



North Korean nuclear crisis | The Japan Times

The regime enacted a new law enshrining its nuclear weapons status — which deepens the stake in keeping the bomb, creates a bureaucratic constituency for it and raises the political costs of changing policy. Pyongyang also announced that it would restart and readjust its uranium enrichment plant and plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon that had been mothballed in October 2007 under the six-party talks that then faltered and stalled. The stated justification was both power generation and bolstering the quality and quantity of its nuclear armed force. About 8,000 fuel rods are required to run the reactor; reprocessing spent fuel rods after the reactor has been operating for a year could yield 6 to 7 kg of plutonium. One nuclear bomb requires about 5 kg of plutonium.

North Korea has a long history of serial threats and provocations, including the sinking of the corvette Cheonan that killed 46 crew and the shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011, was skilled at calibrating tensions and cooling it in return for oil, aid or respect. But the son who succeeded him, Kim Jong Un, is a young and inexperienced leader. He might be trying to reprise his father’s and grandfather’s tactics of ratcheting up tensions, winning additional concessions, distracting attention from domestic problems, and then winding...
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