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GNOSIS 1/2006
The nuclear horizon of the regime of Kim Jong-iI

Giuseppe CURSIO

The adoption of a “declaration of principles”, on the 19th September, 2005. at the end of the 4th round of the multi-lateral negotiations of Peking (26th July - 8th August; 13th -19th September), in which the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas took part, is undoubtedly, an important step towards a diplomatic solution to the second North Korean nuclear crisis which exploded in the Asiatic North-East in October, 2002, following the revelation by the P’yongyang Regime that it had been secretly producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) for years. Such uranium could be used as fuel in nuclear reactors and for the manufacture of atomic weapons. However, the uncertainty remains as to the real wishes of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il: whether or not, he wants to abandon his nuclear programme completely, irreversibly and verifiably. This programme, used as a deterrent (or as psychological dissuasion) against the country’s long-hated enemy, the United States, and their allies, has guaranteed, so far, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of North Korea, while the nuclear crisis has permitted the Communist State to come out of the international isolationism of the “cold war” in which the “chuch’e” ideology had relegated it, and enabled it to submit the economic problems of the country, which had first appeared in an alarming manner in the early 90’s, to international attention. In this way benefiting from humanitarian aid, energy and economic help that was necessary for the country’s survival: while waiting for the reform of the socialist economic system, on the Chinese example, to produce the hoped-for effects.

An historical outline

The Korean Peninsula is a geographical area of Northeast Asia where two different an opposite political and social systems co-exist: one communist and the other, democratic of a pro-American kind. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea ( South Korea) are, in fact, separated by a strip of land, a demilitarized zone (DMZ), 248 kilometres long and about 4 km wide, which cuts the Peninsular in two, at the height of the 38° parallel. The origin of the territorial division goes back to the end of the 2nd World War. On the 8th August, 1945, with the imminent surrender of Japan, which had annexed Korea in 1910 (1) , the Russian Army occupied the northern part of the Peninsula, while in the subsequent month of September, the United States established their military command, south of the 38° parallel.
The idea of submitting Korea to a fiduciary territorial administration (2) , ad interim, long advocated by the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt because it would have guaranteed both the financial-economic interests of the Great Powers and the independent aspirations of the subjugated countries, was definitively abandoned in 1947, because it was considered scarcely adaptable to the revolutionary reality of the Country and was also opposed by the Korean people.
The work of the American-Soviet Commission, instituted with the agreements of Moscow (3) , which had the task of forming a provisory government, soon came to an impasse when, due to the emergence of ideological contradictions of the cold war, it had to proceed with the formation of the list of the parties and organizations to be consulted for the purpose. On the 14th November, the General Assembly of the United Nations instituted the Provisory Commission of the United Nations for Korea (UNTCOK) (4) , which was to guarantee the regularity of the political elections of the Country. In December, 1948, with the Resolution Number 195 (III) entitled “The Problem of Korean Independence”, the General Assembly approved the final report of UNTCOK and proclaimed the Republic of Korea the legitimate representative of that part of the Country to where the Commission had been able to accede to exercise its mandate.
On the 25th August, the political elections were also held in the North. On the 9th September, 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed. Kim Il-song, elected President, declared, in the same way as Syngman Rhee, to be the sole representative of the Korean people. At the end of 1948, the Soviets withdrew their troops from Korea. The Americans did likewise in June 1949.


This unnatural division, for the reason that it separated one people by an artificial line dictated by strategic considerations, was at the base of the conflict between the two republics, which broke out on the 25th June, 1950, and concluded with the signing of the Panmunjom Armistice on the 25th July, which restored the status quo ante bellum. However, from that time, the United States and North Korea have never stipulated a peace treaty. The conflict was the most intense moment of the cold war: a confrontation between the USSR and the United States was feared.
Unlike the United States and China, the Soviets were not directly involved in the conflict. Nevertheless, they sent their aeroplanes and pilots to the Peninsula, in support of the North Korean forces (5) .

Kim Il-song in power, 1948-1994

Kim Il-song exploited the military emergency of the war (of Korea) to consolidate his power. He eliminated his most vehement adversaries, among whom were many of his officers, accused of not being ‘up to the job’ entrusted to them, i.e. to unify the country within the 15th August, 1953; anniversary date of the foundation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. One of the most illustrious victims was General Mu Chong Kim Tu-pong, Commander of the II Division of the North Korean Army PRA), who, in fact, had taken part with Mao Tzedong, in the “Long March”, (1934-35), towards the table-lands of the Shaanxi, north of the great bend of the Yellow River, after the communist forces had been defeated by the Nationalist Army of Chang Kai-shek. He was accused of having left the capital, P’yongyang, in enemy hands and was expelled from the Communist Workers’ Party (KWP) and was sent into exile, where he died in dubious circumstances. The repressive politics which were conducted with arrests, deportations, death by the firing squad, to the cost of the opponents to the newly-constituted regime, continued until the middle of the 1960’s: two thirds of the key positions in the Government and the Party remained vacant. Not only were members of the top executive victims of the farcical trials, but also members of lesser importance from the Party and the Army.
Kim Il-song made use of the “chuch’e” ideology (which means autonomy, self-sufficiency etc.,), a “creative” re-elaboration of the Soviet Marxism of Lenin and Stalin which theorizes an ideal model of government based on self-sufficiency of the national economy (charip), self-defence in military affairs (chawi), and independence in foreign politics (chaju), to consolidate the military regime and render the hereditary transmission of power, legitimate (6) . Reconstituted the ranks of the KWP, founded in 1947, the P’yongyang regime adopted several plans of economic development which favoured heavy industry on the Soviet model. In addition, it started the preparation for the creation of a modern and efficient army (7) .
Contrary to what the Kim Il-song regime sustained, in reality, from a military and economic standpoint, North Korea depended on Moscow. At the end of the 40’s and during the course of the 50’s, P’yongyang obtained more military help from the Soviet Union than from the China of Mao Tzedong (8) . During the “cold war”, the Kim Il-song regime was particularly able in securing economic and military help from both the powers (9) . In foreign politics, the P’yongyang regime assumed an equidistant position from Moscow and Peking, thus avoiding overly-strong ties with the two powers, which, in some way, could compromise the independence of the Country. This induced Kim Il-song to conclude two separate military treaties of a defensive nature, one with the Soviet Union and one with China, in July, 1961 (10) .
The co-operation with the two powers was also extended to the nuclear sector. In March 1956, the North Korean leader, Kim Il-song, sent a group of scientists to Moscow on the occasion of an international meeting, which had as its objective the defining of time periods and methods for the building of an institute for nuclear research at Dubna (11) .
In 1959, North Korea signs an agreement with the Soviet Union for co-operation in the nuclear sector and the formation of a staff of scientists. In 1964, China, which had shared its technological knowledge in the field of natural uranium extraction, nevertheless, refuses to co-operate with North Korea in actuating a second parallel nuclear programme (12) .
In the meantime, the Soviet Union supplies North Korea with an atomic research reactor, of the IRT-2M type, collaborates with its assemblage on the nuclear site at Yonbyon (around 80 km north of P’yongyang), as the USSR subsequently declared (13) , and until 1973, supplies 10% of the nuclear fuel (14) . In 1974, North Korea increases its electrical power from 2 to 8 Mw, which means a proportional increase, up to 80%, of the quantity of nuclear fuel.
In July, 1977, North Korea stipulates with the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA), the agreement relative to the “Measures on Safeguards”, (the so-called Type 66), on the basis of which, both the research reactor IRT-2M and a critical plant of electric power 0.1 Mw (both of Soviet manufacture) are submitted to international monitoring. By this time, North Korea had acquired the scientific and technological ‘know-how’ necessary to construct an atomic reactor by themselves, without outside help. In the Spring of 1982, the American satellites showed that at Yongbyon, work was underway for the construction of an electrical power 5 Mw reactor, moderated to graphite and fuelled with uranium, then activated in 1987.
Another two nuclear reactors, moderated to graphite, of 50 Mw e and 200 Mw e, of which the second at Taech’on, has been under construction since 1989, in violation of the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms(NPT) (15) , signed on the 12th of December, 1985, under pressure from Moscow. But only in 1992 did North Korea sign with the IAEA, the agreement concerning the measures on nuclear safeguards, in conformity with the obligations assumed with the ratification of the NPT although the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation establishes in Article 3, fourth comma, that this must come about within 18 months from the ratification of the NPT. The agreement came into force on the 10th April, 1992 (16) .

The reform of the socialist
economic system

North Korea’s economy in the 50’s and 60’s grew at a greater rhythm with respect to that of South Korea, thanks to long-term plans of development and animated by the prospect of the unification of the Peninsula. However, starting from the 1970’s, the centrally directed economy began to show signs of decline. All the major economic indexes were falling. The North Korean economy became always more dependent on loans and financing from the Soviet Union and China.

photo ansa

An economy which for years had put major emphasis on heavy industry to the great disadvantage of agriculture, which had to supply the resources for industrialization and maintain itself, while no resource could be taken from industry to effect agricultural investments, brought the country to the edge of an abyss.
The situation became even more serious with the reduction, in 1991, of economic and financial help from the Soviet Union. By the beginning of the 90’s, the North Korean economy was, by then, caught in a desperate crisis. In addition, the phenomena of natural calamities, such as droughts, flooding, landslides due to de-foresting over vast areas by the senseless hand of man which had drastically reduced the cultivable surfaces, as well as, the lack of pesticides, fertilizers and fuel for the agricultural machinery, contributed, in no small measure, to exacerbate the economy of the Country.
And, for the first time, in 1993, the Kim Il-song regime publicly admitted the gravity of the situation. In the 1995-99 period, the cereal production did not rise above 4 million tons per annum, with respect to the national need of 5 million tons per annum. The public system of food distribution (PDS) was, almost, totally abandoned in the 90’s. It is estimated that in these years, nearly 2 million people died of starvation. According to a UNICEF report in 1998, 62% of North Korean children were affected with chronic mal-nutrition, while 16% had nothing to eat, at all (17) .
To alleviate the difficult situations in the Country and restore a new impetus to the national economy, North Korea is trying, following China’s example, to gradually reform the centrally directly economic system through the introduction of principles of the free market, like the liberalization of prices and salaries. It is an attempt to reconcile the necessity of importing western technology with the need to safeguard the eastern culture, as happened during the Meiji Restoration (1868).
An “informal” economy exists, consequently, alongside the national one directed by the State. The national legislation has been modified to favour the foreign investments, the leasing of North Korean property, to guarantee certain privileges and special tariffs and, above all, to offer a full-proof guarantee against the nationalization of foreign goods and properties.
The first law on “joint-ventures” was approved in 1984, while in 1991, the first area of free international commerce (FTZ), was created in the north-east part of the Peninsula, where the ports of Rajin and Sonbong are situated; chosen because they are a connection point between the north-east of China and the Sea of Japan.
Furthermore from 2002, the city of Sinuiju, situated near the border with Iaodong, has become a “special administrative region”, where a market economy is being experimented; while in the “special districts” of Kaesong and Kumgangsan, which are north-east of the territorial division line with South Korea, private initiative in the marketing sector and in the intellectual property is developing, similar to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Italy, which had been the first of the G7 countries to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea (January, 2002) maintains economic and cultural relations with P’yongyang. In fact, in July of 2001, the two countries signed agreements in the footwear and clothing sector, and the cultural and scientific training of North Korean students, in Italy.
Notwithstanding these economic changes, the North Korean control on the society through the Party and the Army, is still very strict. And, in spite of the fact that there are many (18) who hold that the North Korean regime is nearing its end, for the moment, there are no signs of its imminent collapse. Kim Jong-Il remains in power and keeps the entire political-social system of North Korea solidly anchored to the “chuch’e” ideology.

The nuclear deterrent and
the “cold war”

Although in the Korean War of 1950-53, in the Indochinese war of 1962 and during the course of the Cuban missile crisis, there was serious fear over the possibility of the use of atomic weapons, in reality, not one State belonging to either of the two blocks, ever used them. Given their elevated destructive potential and the danger of reciprocal annihilation, they proved to be a determining factor for the stability of the international political system.
In total contrast with the ideology and rhetoric of the “cold war”, the United States and the Soviet Union acted on the assumption that a peaceful co-existence between the two blocks, East and West, was possible. It is demonstrated in the fact that when it came down to the realities of the matter, both the superpowers acted with reason and moderation, also when the war seemed at the ‘front door’ or they were almost committed to it. Also, the threat to use nuclear arms served, in reality, for other objectives.
For example, the United States used the threat to accelerate peace negotiations in Korea in 1953 and in Vietnam in 1954, while the USSR used it against Great Britain and France to force them to withdraw from the Suez, in 1956. Nevertheless, the two superpowers avoided rash or hostile gestures, which could be erroneously understood, by the other side, as a declaration of war. Neither the United Stated, nor the Soviet Union, in fact, wanted to be directly involved in a military confrontation, nuclear, into the bargain. Thus, for example, during the Korean War of 1950-53, in which the Americans were directly involved, Washington knew, perfectly well, that around 150 Chinese aeroplanes were, in fact, soviet planes, flown by soviet pilots, but the information was kept secret, because one guesses, correctly, that the last thing the Americans wanted was a war with the Soviet Union.
The existence of two blocks, within which was guaranteed the security of the States which comprised the two blocks, had impeded international nuclear proliferation. For example, both Japan and Germany, from the moment they were under the American nuclear umbrella, renounced possession to a nuclear arsenal.
The fact of being part of one of the blocks, conditioned the defensive policy of South Korea and Taiwan, and they suspended the construction of their nuclear arsenals, after the United States, at the conclusion of the war in Vietnam, decided not to dismantle their military bases in East Asiatic. North Korea, instead, adhered, under Soviet political pressure, as already mentioned, to the Treaty of Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in December, 1985.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the ideological conflict between East and West, has rendered extremely difficult, the control of the nuclear activity of countries which once belonged to the Soviet block.
One of these is North Korea, where the communist regime has, for many years, nurtured the ambition to become a nuclear State (19) . This gives the North-East Asiatic States much cause for concern for their security and which, besides being a destabilizing political factor in the region, it risks undermining the process of peace and national unification of the Peninsula, which has been undertaken by the two Koreas with the signing of the “South-North Joint Communiqué”, on the 4th July, 1972, and the subsequent “Agreed Framework on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchange and Co-operation”, initialled on the 13th December, 1991.

The origin of the North Korean
nuclear crisis

Today, the Korean Peninsula is at the centre of an international crisis which exploded on the 10th January, 2003, following the denouncement by North Korea of the Treaty of Non-proliferation. Already, in March, 1993, the P’yongyang regime had refused to comply with the international obligations concerning nuclear security, contracted with the ratification of the treaty.
Under the circumstances, it was decided that the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter should try to mediate in the situation. In fact, immediately following the announcement by North Korea of their withdrawal from the International Agency for Atomic Energy on the 13th of June, 1994, ex-President Carter arrived in the North Korean capital and was able to convince Kim Il-song to accept the American proposal to suspend the programme of nuclear development in exchange for economic aid and concessions in diplomatic relations. On the 21st October, 1994, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement, at Geneva, The Agreed Framework - on the basis of which P’Yong yang undertakes to “freeze” nuclear activity. And, at the same time, to co-operate with Seoul in order to facilitate the resumption of the work of the Commission concerning nuclear non-proliferation, instituted with the “Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (20th January, 1992) suspended in March, 1994. An international consortium, or rather, the Organization for Energy Development on the Korean Peninsula (KEDO) was to finance the costs, (four million dollars), of the construction of two ‘light-water’ reactors, each of 1,000 Mw e. The major financiers of the project are South Korea, Japan and the United States. The European Union has financed the KEDO project since 1997.
The EU annual financial contribution, relative to the 2002- 2006 period, is 20 million euro (5 million euro more, with respect to the preceding five-year period, 1997-2001). For their part, the Americans accepted to supply North Korea, until the end of the construction work on the first ‘light-water’ reactor (LWR), with 500,000 tons per year of crude oil, by means of sea transport. The research reactor of 5 Mw e of Yongbyon and the two plants of 50 and 200 Mw e, under construction at Yongbyong and Taech’on, are to be dismantled after the two new nuclear reactors of 1,000 Mw e, are activated.

The new programme of nuclear

After the revelation made by high officials of the Kim Il-Song regime, during a meeting with the American Assistant Secretary of State, James. A. Kelly, on an official visit in October, 2002, that they had conducted in secret, for years, a nuclear development programme for the enrichment of natural uranium (HEU) in the area of a very general programme for nuclear arms, the North Korean nuclear crisis entered a new phase.
While the International Agency for Atomic Energy invited North Korea to comply with the international obligations deriving from the ratification of the Treaty of Nuclear Non-Proliferation, the Executive Council of the KEDO, which comprises the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the European Union, ordered the suspension of the construction of the first nuclear reactor, 1,000 Mw e. already considerably delayed with respect to the foreseen delivery date, (2003).
All the reply was that on the 10th of January, 2003, North Korea officially withdrew from the NPT, in protest against United States’ interference, deliberately provoking the intervention of the IAEA. In the official communication (20) , circulated by the North Korean “KCNA News Agency”, P’Yongyang, besides accusing the United States of adopting a “hostile” and “vicious” policy towards North Korea, also asserted that their nuclear development programme was devoted to peaceful ends.
The North Korean nuclear development programmes are, therefore, two: the first concerns the reprocessing of 8,000 rods of depleted fuel, from which plutonium (Pu-239) is obtained, which can be utilized for the construction of atomic weapons; the second, instead, concerns the enrichment of natural uranium (U-238) (21) , through gaseous centrifugation. The 5 Mw e nuclear reactor, moderated to graphite, situated at Yongbyon, 80 km, northwest of P’Yongyang, activated in 1986, remained in function until 1994, when nuclear activity was “frozen”, following the agreements of Geneva.
The 8,000 rods of depleted fuel were kept in a safe place, before being transferred to a third State. In January of 2003, North Korea restarted the functioning of the 5 Mw e reactor of Yongbyon. And, subsequently, on the 13th of July, 2003, P’Yongyang declared that the reprocessing programme of the 8,000 rods of depleted fuel, was completed (22) .
Although the American satellites noted certain suspect movement on the Yongbyon site in April, 2003, the American State Department was not able to confirm whether or not there was any activity of reprocessing on a large scale (23) .
If what P’Yongyang declares is true, then North Korea must be in possession of about 25-30 kilograms of Pu-239, a quantity sufficient to make 5 or 6 nuclear bombs (24) .
Instead, a Japanese economy newspaper, Il Nippon Keizai Shinbun, reported in April, 2004, that the Kim Jong-il regime, were in possession of an atomic bomb 6 kilos heavier than the one dropped on Hiroshima by the Americans at the end of the Second World War (25) .
It is public opinion that the North Korean regime possesses one or two atomic bombs. Moreover, it is said that North Korea could have accumulated fissile material already before 1994.
According to the DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) between 1986 and 1994, North Korea extracted and reprocessed a quantity of plutonium sufficient to build at least two nuclear warheads (26) .
Finally, P’Yongyang has recently declared to be possession of nuclear weapons, to have suspended nuclear activity on the 5 Mw e reactor of Yongbyon ( the reactor was re-activated in January, 2003, as already mentioned) to extract plutonium from the depleted fuel rods and to be on the point of effecting an underground nuclear test in the vicinity of Kilchu (27) .

The confrontation between the United States
and North Korea

Since July, 1953, the United States and North Korea have been “technically in a state of war” (28) . The Armistice of Panmunjom (27th July, 1953), which concluded the Korean War, has never been substituted by a peace treaty of the two sides.
The United States, which are bound to South Korea by a treaty of mutual defence (29) , on the basis of which, the two contracting parts, in the case of an attack by a third State, must give reciprocal armed aid, refuses to stipulate with the P’yongyang government, a non-aggression treaty which guarantees the sovereignty and territorial integrity of North Korea. Furthermore, the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
The American intervention against the “Taleban” regime in Afghanistan and the war against Iraq have made the North Korean Kim Jong- il regime very fearful and suspicious of an American military unilateral intervention on the Korean Peninsula.
On the 29th January, 2002, the United States President, Gorge W. Bush, speaking to the Union of the American States about international terrorism and the danger it constitutes to international peace and security, stated that North Korea “is a regime which arms itself with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while it is starving the population”.
The Kim Jong-il regime has been included by Bush in the list of the States belonging to the so-called “axis of evil” which supports international terrorism, to which also Iran belongs. The possibility of an American armed intervention against North Korea, a “pre-emptive strike” (destined to eliminate or reduce the danger of military reprisals) has become, consequently, more real.
And, also if the American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has declared, on more than one occasion, that Northern Korea is considered a sovereign State, the military option has never been completed abandoned by the United States.
A military conflict between North Korea and the United States would involve the other States which are in the Northeast Asiatic, in primis, China, which is tied to North Korea by the Mutual Defence Treaty, signed in 1961. The employment of atomic weapons would have a devastating effect, not only on the population and environment of the Korean Peninsula, but also, on all the Northeast Asiatic.
The military escalation would have, finally, very strong implications on the international economy. If the North Korean nuclear question, instead, was brought in front of the United Nations Security Council for the authorization of force or the application of economic sanctions against North Korea for constituting a threat to peace, China would exercise its right of veto.
The Peking Government, traditionally allied with North Korea, in fact, opposes the American policy of isolation and economic cohesion towards P’yongyang, as this would cause a collapse of the regime, bearing a series of negative consequences for the Country, at both a political and economic level – first and foremost, the disappearance of the buffer zone which divides, in Eastern Asia, the Chinese geo-political interests from those of the Americans.

photo ansa

Washington has applied a series of economic sanctions against North Korea, among which is the suspension of the supply of 500,000 tons per year of crude oil, provided for in the Agreed Framework of Geneva (1994), in an effort to de-stabilize the regime, but with scarce results.
China, as well as, providing the Kim Jong-il regime with continual energy and economic aid and assistance in the transition phase towards a more liberal economy, plays an important role of mediator between the two contenders. The negotiations, which China offered to host in its capital, also constitute an occasion to develop its prestige and credibility at an international level. If, however, the efforts of Chinese diplomacy to peacefully resolve the nuclear crisis of the Korean Peninsula, should not be successful, and its mediation proves to be fruitless, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, for the so-called “domino effect” would equip themselves with nuclear weapons (30) , thereby de-stabilizing the Northeast Asiatic and intensifying the risk of a second Korean war.

Nuclear deterrent and the
Kim Jong-il regime

Hans J. Morgenthau, father of “realism”, theoretician in the field of international relations, identifies national interests with the survival of the Nation. His concept of national interests is contained in the meaning of “integrity of the territory of the nation, of its political institutions and of its culture” (31) .
To safeguard its political and territorial integrity, North Korea strengthens itself with the nuclear deterrent, given the fact that the atomic bomb, for its colossal destructive potential, is particularly feared by any adversary (32) . To this is added that nuclear weapons confer a new dimension on a state, since it increases its power. Therefore, the possession of nuclear arms represents a formidable advantage with respect to an enemy which has only conventional weapons, (see, for example, the United States against Japan, during the Second World War).
But if both States possess nuclear weapons, this acts as a deterrent. In other words, in a hypothetical nuclear war, the State which is about to undergo aggression, must make clear to its enemy that in the case of the first strike, it will reply by inflicting such grave damage on population and territory, that the enemy will be made to desist from bellicose intentions. Unlike the physical military defence, the nuclear deterrent is psychological; its inhibits aggression by inculcating the fear of a nuclear conflict (33) . If the threat of a war arises between two States, the psychological deterrent is practically non-existent for the State who faces an enemy whose territory is defended by conventional arms alone. In the case of North Korea, nuclear weapons serve the regime of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, to discourage a unilateral military intervention of the United States, as against Iraq, and, likewise, in the case of war, as a potential defence against the enemy, to safeguard North Korean territory. In a situation in which the regime of Kim Jong-il had nothing more to lose, the risk of the employment of atomic weapons would be that much greater.
A series of military exercises and strategic decisions of the United States during the course of 2003, seems to justify the fear of the North Korean regime that Washington was evaluating the hypothesis of striking the nuclear plants at Yongbyon, with a preventive military attack, following the example of the Israeli raid, in 1981, against the Osirak nuclear reactor, situated in Iraq.
After having transferred, in June, 2003, six F-117 fighters to South Korea and twenty-four B522 and B51 bomber fighters to the military base of Guam, a Pacific Island, at the end of August, the United States, together with ten other States, announced a series of air, land and sea military exercises, among which was the well-known “Proliferation Security Initiative” (PSI), with the objective of blocking the export of nuclear arms and missiles from North Korea, which constitutes its principle source of international financial economic resources.
To this is added the United States’ decision to move its 37,000 men, stationed in South Korea, to a more southerly position with respect to the territorial division line, to secure protection for the soldiers in the event of a military reprisal, after a probable ‘first strike’ against North Korea (34) .
The justification furnished by the American Deputy Minister of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, that the new position of the American forces was to assure a more effective defence of South Korean territory, did not convince anyone.
And, even if the United States, as Condoleezza Rice affirms, has no intention of waging war against North Korea, the relocation of their military contingent, more to the south of the territorial division line between the two Koreas, has created the conditions for a future preventive military attack against the Kim Jong-il regime.

Possession of a nuclear arsenal
and its relative advantages

A “Nuclear State”, besides being able to count on military superiority, which is guaranteed by the atomic bomb, from a political viewpoint, it enjoys great prestige and authority on an international scale. It is held that a State has prestige and credibility on an international scale when its reputation, in terms of power, is such that recourse to arms becomes unnecessary. To acquire said reputation, it is necessary to arouse great fear in another State, “by virtue of the power it possesses, or the power it wants others to believe it possesses” (35) .
North Korea followed, on the Pakistani and Indian example, a policy of international prestige and authority, with the objective of trying to enter and become part of the consensus of the great nuclear powers.
Furthermore, in terms of military expenditure, building atomic weapons costs far less than maintaining an army equal to that of North Korea (more than 1,100,00 men) and to equip it with transport and weapons of the highest technology. On the other hand, a geological resource of North Korea is a richness of uranium deposits; the regime had to import from Pakistan only the nuclear technology for the centrifugation and the esa-fluorine of uranium (UF-6). The reduction of military expenses and the channelling of economic and human resources towards the economic development of the Country, would determine a general improvement in the standard of living in the communist State (36) .
But the North Korean nuclear crisis also serves the Kim Jong-il regime to attract international attention to the economic problems of the Country and to exercise political pressure on the International Community to obtain the economic and energy aid which it needs to alleviate the living conditions of the population, and, at the same time, to ensure the capital and financing so necessary for its development.
The Ukraine and Kazakistan, for example, renounced their possession to the nuclear arms inherited in the subsequent dissolution of Russia, in 1991, in exchange for loans and other important concessions and economic benefits from the U.S.A. and the Western powers. Since the Northeast Asiatic States fear that an escalation of the crisis could involve them in catastrophic and unimaginable consequences for their population and territory, they have, therefore, preferred to adopt a conciliatory policy towards the North Korean regime.


The positive outcome of the IV round of the multilateral negotiations in Peking, which has been amply publicized by the international press, would lead to the assumption that a solution to the North Korean crisis is near. It is written in the final document that North Korea renounces its programme of nuclear development, that it will dismantle the plants, that it will destroy the nuclear arms in its possession and that it will comply to the international obligations provided in the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms, in exchange for a treaty of assurance, economic aid, and the concession of diplomatic relations to the United States.
Considering that a diplomatic solution to the Northeast Asiatic nuclear crisis requires time, the doubt remains whether North Korea is using the spectre of a nuclear arsenal, which hangs over the future peace and security of the Northeast Asiatic, principally, as a means of obtaining economic and political benefits from the United States and their allies, or if they intend to become, in all respects, a nuclear State, like Pakistan or India, to acquire prestige and authority at an international level. Furthermore, at the moment, the nuclear deterrent constitutes the surest bulwark against the American policy of containment’.
Most probably, North Korea will continue to cultivate its ambition to become a “nuclear State” and the participation in the Peking negotiations serves only to conceal its real objective and, in the meantime, to secure the economic and financial aid, which will render the path towards a liberal economy, less arduous.

(1) After having defeated China, in 1895 and Russia, in 1904, Japan transformed the Peninsula into a protectorate in 1905, and then to proceed to the formal annexation in 1910.
(2) The question of the independence of Korea was discussed, for the first time, in the Conference held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, from 22nd to the 26th November, 1943. In the official declaration published the 1st December, the literal words can be read: “The three Great Powers, in the knowledge of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined to restore to Korea, their liberty and independence”.
(3) On the 22nd December, 1945, the representatives of the United States, England and the USSR declared that Korea would be submitted to a regime of international fiduciary administration for a period not superior to 5 years, during which time, it would have re-obtained its independence.
(4) The Commission was composed of delegates from Austria, Canada, China (nationalist) El Salvador, France, India, The Philippines and Syria.
(5) Ref: John Holliday, “Hair Operations in Korea: The Soviet Side of the Story”, in A Revolutionary War: Korea and Transformation of the Post-war World, edited by William J. Williams, Chicago, 1993, pgs. 149-170.
(6) Ref: Chin-wee Chung, Seoksoo Lee, “Kim Jong Il Regime and the Structure of Crisis: Its Source, Management and Manifestation”, in Understanding Regime Dynamics in North Korea, Seoul, Yonsei University Press, 1998, pg. 150.
(7) More than one million soldiers, around a 20th part of the population, constituted the active part of the army, while another seven million made up the reserve. The KPA (The People’s Army of Korea) is in 5th place in the world with regard to number of men. North Korea also possesses 4,000 tanks, 2,500 means of armoured transport, about 1,000 ships and 1,700 planes.
(8) Ref: Michael Yahuda, “The International Politics of the Asia-Pacific”, Routledgecurzon, London-New York, 2004, pg. 143.
(9) Ref: Dae-Ho Byun, “North Korea’s Foreign Policy: The Juche Ideology and the Challenge of Gorbachev’s New Thinking”, The Research Centre for Peace and Unification of Korea, Computer Press, Seoul, 1991, pg. 15.
(10) The Article 1 of the “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance” concluded with the Soviet Union on 6th July, 1961 established “that in the case of an armed attack from a 3rd State or of a coalition of States towards one of the two contracting parties, the other part would have to immediately furnish its military assistance or any other type of help which was in its possibilities”. Held obsolete, the treaty was substituted, in April, 2001, with a new agreement between the two Countries, having as an object the cooperation of industry for defence and military equipment. The treaty that the Kim Il-song regime stipulated with China, several days later (the 11th of July) sanctions the same principle in Article 2.
(11) The United Institute for Nuclear Research (UNIR) was inaugurated in 1965.
(12) Ref: Don Oberdorfer, “The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History”, Revised and Updated Edition, Basic Books, New York, 2001, pg. 252.
(13) Ref: So Yong-Ha, Haguk (Seoul), July 1989. pgs. 119-122.
(14) Ref: Cheon Seongwhun, “North Korea’s Nuclear Issue: Problems and Prospects”, in North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, edited by Kim Kyoung-Soo, Hollym International Corp., Elizabeth, 2004. pg. 32.
(15) The Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms came into force on the 5th March, 1970, prohibits the signing nuclear States to dispose of arms, to receive or manufacture such arms or to procure technology and material usable for the construction of nuclear arms. Equally, the treaty prohibits to the signing nuclear States to cede to non-nuclear States, nuclear arms and technology or material useful to the construction of said arms. Furthermore, the transfer of material or nuclear technology, to be utilized for peaceful purposes, must, according to the Treaty, come about under the strict control of the IAEA (the International Agency for Atomic Energy).
(16) “The Agreement of January 30th, 1992, between the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”. Was approved by the Executive Council of the IAEA, on the 12 September, 1991 and signed in Vienna on the 30th January, 1992.
(17) UNICEF, “Child Nutrition Survey Shows Improvements in DPRK”, 20th February, 2003.
(18) Ref: for example, Andrei Ward, “S&P Warns Seoul That North Korea’s Collapse is Only a Matter of Time”, Asia Financial Times, 4th November, 2003.
(19) The definition of a “Nuclear State” is a State which has constructed a nuclear weapon, has tested it and possesses the means to transport it and conduct it to the target for strategic ends.
(20) “Text of North Korea’s statement on NPT withdrawal”, KCNA news agency, P’Yongyang, 10th January, 2003.
(21) Uranium in its natural state does not have sufficient concentration of fissile isotopes (U-235) (only the 0.7%) to make it usable as fuel in nuclear reactors or for the construction of atomic weapons. Consequently, it is necessary to enrich it by gaseous centrifugation, during which hexafluorine of uranium is also used. (UF-6).
(22) David E. Ranger, “North Korea Says It Has Made Fuel For Atom Bombs”, New York Times, 15th July, 2003.
(23) Ref: David E. Ranger, “US Suspects North Korea Moved Ahead on Weapons”, New York Times, 8th May, 2003
(24) Ref: Sharon A, Squassono, “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: How Soon an Arsenal?”, CRS, Report for Congress, 2nd February, 2004.
(25) Ref: “Õbakuhatu no kibo gennbaku ni hitteki” (The dimensions of the bomb are the same as the atomic one), Nippon Keizai Shinbun, 25th April, 2004.
(26) Ref: Lee Kyo-Kwan, “DIA: North Korea has Two Nuclear Weapons”, Chosun Ilbo, 20th December, 2004.
(27) Ref: David E. Ranger, William J. Broad. “U.S. Cites Signs of Korean Preparations for Nuclear Test”, New York Times, 6th May, 2005.
(28) Ref: Victor D. Cha, David K.C. Kang, “Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies”, Columbia University Press, New York, 2003. pg. 138.
(29)The American President, Dwight David Eisenhower ratified the “U.S-R.O.K. Mutual Defence Treaty”, the 29th January, 1954, some months before the beginning of the Geneva Conference, but after which was introduced the second clause in which the United States would intervene in defence of South Korea, only if this last was attacked, to dissuade the South Korean President, Syngman Rhee, from the idea of unifying the Peninsula by force.
(30) Ref: Graham Allison, “A Cascade of Nuclear Proliferation”, Herald International Tribune, 17th December, 2004.
(31) Ref: Hans. J. Morgenthau, “Another Great Debate: The National Interest of the United States”, American Political Science Review, LXVI, December, 1952. pg- 961.
(32) Ref: Steve Chapman, “Unhappy Choices”, Washington Times, 22nd October, 2002
(33) Ref: David W. Zeigler, “War, Peace, and International Politics”, 5^ ed., Scott, Foresman, Glenview-London, 1990, pg.277.
(34) Ref: Christopher Cooper, “U.S. Plan Puts Korea on Edge”, Wall Street Journal, 21st October, 2003
(35) Ref: Hans. J. Morgenthau, “Politics Among Nations”, Knof, New York, 1978.
(36) Ref: Barbara Demick, “North Korea: Nuclear Weapons Cut Costs”, Los Angeles Times, 10th June, 2003.