The Forgotten Bargain Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament
December 4, 2006 | Report
In the debate over how to stop nuclear proliferation, both sides make increasingly untenable assumptions. The advocates of "regime change" in North Korea and Iran underestimate the staying power of the political systems in Pyongyang and Tehran. Proponents of negotiated settlements exaggerate what can be achieved by offering economic incentives and security guarantees in return for denuclearization. Both ignore the overarching issue that would have to be seriously addressed in order to prevent further proliferation: Why should other countries forswear the nuclear option if the existing nuclear powers are upgrading their nuclear weapons, talk openly of using them in future wars, and no longer give even lip service to the goal of phasing out nuclear armament that was enshrined in Article Six of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
The urgent need for a new non-proliferation policy is underscored not only by the ongoing development of the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, as such, but also by the resulting danger of regional nuclear arms races in Northeast Asia and the Middle East-Persian Gulf region. Popular support for nuclear weapons is growing in Japan, bringing to the surface sublimated pro-nuclear sentiment in South Korea. The stalemate with Iran is strengthening pro-nuclear hawks in Saudi Arabia, which has nascent nuclear links with Pakistan. Although Israel, at the behest of the United States, has never conducted a nuclear test or formally acknowledged the existence of its Dimona reactor, the widespread assumption that it has some 200 "bombs in the basement" is an ever-present source of anxiety to its neighbors.