IISS Launches North Korea Nuke Study
By WENDELL MINNICK
SINGAPORE - North Korea's third nuclear test will likely be a highly enriched uranium (HEU) bomb, and neither China nor the United States can stop or reverse Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
These are the conclusions of a new study by Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, at a book launch at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 3 in Singapore.
"No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security" looks at how North Korea has staked its future on the development of nuclear weapons and why the hermit nation will never surrender them.
Organized by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), the book launch is part of the 10th Asia Security Summit, dubbed The Shangri-La Dialogue, being held June 3-5 in Singapore. The book is part of IISS Adelphi book series that looks at international defense and security issues.
North Korea conducted two underground plutonium bomb tests in 2006 and 2009, and has been developing advanced long-range ballistic missile capabilities that could someday threaten the continental U.S.
Pollack looks at why North Korea disregards United Nations censure and openly circumvents sanctions by selling weapons and technology to other pariah nations to fund its nuclear program.
North Korea is more of a traditional Korean dynasty and not a communist state, Pollack said. The Kim family has successfully ignored efforts by China and the U.S. to influence it to abandon its nuclear program and adopt capitalist reforms. Instead, the Kim family has created an "impregnable fortress" that protects the family dynasty.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and China's push towards improved relations with South Korea during the 1980s and 1990s, North Korea became concerned that its traditional protectors would abandon it. The only course of action was to create a mechanism that guaranteed its survivability. Nuclear weapons have clearly served that purpose well, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once referred to North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons as a "small child seeking attention." Pollack does not believe this is the correct analogy. "This is a system of old men who have made the pursuit of these capabilities their life time work." He pointed out that North Korea made a conscious decision to begin a nuclear program in the 1970s, as ties between Beijing and Washington began improving.
Despite the fact that North Korea occasionally "drops hints" the nuclear program is a "bargaining chip" that can be exchanged for rice and oil, the reality is that Pyongyang has no intention of surrendering the capability.
The best course of action, Pollack said, is to continue sanctions and other pressure that slows further development, especially efforts by the North to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for fitting on a ballistic missile.