Just when the world was beginning to think it had seen enough of the antics of the “Dear Leader” of North Korea, he has sprung up another surprise. Pyongyang’s unveiling of a new, sophisticated nuclear plant before a visiting US academic and nuclear expert might have come as a bolt out of the blue for Washington and rest of the world but is not entirely surprising. The eventful history of the North Korean regime is full of such nasty surprises.
The question is, what is the context and larger objective of the latest move? For there’s always a method in those fleeting spells of madness in Pyongyang. The new nuclear facility, built at a frenetic pace over the past few months, is supposed to be devoted to civilian nuclear energy. However, as nuclear experts such as Siegfried S. Hecker, the Stanford professor who was picked up for the rare honor, would point out, the civilian nuclear program could be easily transformed to make nuclear weapons in no time. With more than 2,000 centrifuges already installed and running, Pyongyang could be dangerously close to the bomb!
But why now? The calculated revelation could be a negotiating tactic or a simple message of defiance to the US and other world powers, signaling the North could revive or accelerate its weapons program. Whatever the explanation, the new development at a time when the country is going through a perilous transition is sure to add to the woes of an already besieged Obama and the US allies in the region.
At another level though, the cynical shenanigans of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il are not all that absurd considering the strategic noose that the US and its allies have thrown around North Korea and constantly tightening it.
As if provoking Pyongyang, the US and South Korea have been forever engaged in war games around the Korean peninsula. Is it any wonder then the “Dear Leader” raises the nuclear specter from time to time? Besides, given what happened to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, can you blame Kim if he’s arming himself to the teeth?
The international community cannot effectively confront North Korea or Iran on their nuclear ambitions unless it drops its double standards in this whole nuclear debate. The US and the West lecture others on the virtues of disarmament even as they sit on their own mountains of nukes and other assorted WMD. It’s the US that pampers Israel and never so much as mentions its neat pile of nuclear weapons that threaten Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors.
Again it’s the Americans who have inked a nuclear deal with India even as they push for Iran sanctions. So it’s a tad difficult for the world to take Uncle Sam seriously when he gets all worked up over nuclear aspirations of Pyongyang and Tehran. We are all for a nuke-free Middle East and nuke-free world. But this noble goal will elude the world as long as it fails to adopt a uniform policy and standard on disarmament.
Long after the end of the Cold War, the US and NATO continue to build their arsenal and expand military presence. Even the obsolete missile shield that was meant to be a defense against a Soviet attack remains in place in Europe. Only now, the US claims, it’s a shield against a possible Iran strike! So Kim Jong-il is not the only one without a stitch on in this Turkish public bath.