The end of the NPT

October 11, 2006

The North Korean nuclear test: the end of the NPT

Rajeev Srinivasan on that hoax called non-proliferation

The North Korean test of a nuclear device – and I use that phrase advisedly, given that it is rather clear it is a test of a Chinese device proliferated to the Hermit Kingdom – has demonstrated at least two things. First, that despite all their bluster and gnashing of teeth, the Americans are essentially powerless to make their writ run in many places. Second, that the Chinese are prepared to gamble that there will no fallout from their mischief.

Despite loud threats, and their long-held contention that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are the ‘axis of evil’ and therefore the principal targets of American might, the Americans are shown up as being toothless tigers. This obviously has broad foreign policy implications, as Pax Americana is taking quite a beating, and all those niggling doubts are coming back about whether the American Century ended one bright June day in Saigon in 1975.

It is abundantly clear that America cannot manage to take on multiple foes at once. It is floundering in Iraq, which has turned into a tar-baby. I thought that they would have declared victory long ago in Afghanistan, packed up and left, but their valuable ally General Musharraf has just concluded a public surrender to the Taliban that ensures that NATO troops will have to stay and die in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

America is simply not capable of taking on Iran at this time – one more military front cannot be opened as the nation is getting increasingly war-weary, and there is some danger that Iraq will turn into another Vietnam, with an ignominious headlong retreat, especially if the Democrats wrest the presidency in 2008. All this is no longer unthinkable.

Thus there is absolutely no way that the Americans can teach the North Koreans a military lesson. In fact Americans realized this some time ago, which is why they tried to bribe Kim Jong-Il into relinquishing his nuclear weapons capability by giving him civilian nuclear power and other goodies.

But the net result is that little North Korea, by all accounts a desperately poor nation, is thumbing its nose at the US as well as the entire edifice of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That moth-eaten document is now clearly not worth the paper it’s written on, as North Korea, a signatory, has flagrantly violated it.

Why on earth should anybody now believe the remarkable fiction that the P-5s, the nuclear ‘haves’, will protect them against any new nuclear powers, or indeed, that the P-5 intends to de-nuclearize? After all, the P-5 have shown no signs of doing so in decades. In fact, Americans have been building new-generation bunker-busting nuclear warheads, far from reducing its arsenal. They just want others – most notably India – to practice nuclear abstinence, while the US – which is, notably, the only power to have ever used nuclear weapons in anger – merrily continues with new weapon development. And China, the other big nuclear hypocrite, proliferates merrily.

The NPT is dead, after having been on life-support for some years. But Europeans are still looking to revive it. The latest snake-oil bandied about by Atlanticists is the infamous “additional protocol” whereby intrusive inspections by Western powers will be made mandatory to detect efforts at weaponization by would-be nuclear powers.

The “additional protocol”, incidentally, is something that the Indian government, in its wisdom, is acceding to, in its breathless eagerness to get the Americans to sign the dubious and infamous [ http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/apr/06rajeev.htm] nuclear deal with India. Once again, the UPA is confusing ‘means’ with ‘end’: the end is to get access to energy, but they think that the means, the treaty, is the end. And they will get the treaty signed at the cost of any concession that hurts India’s national interest.

The second notable feature of this alleged North Korean test is that there is no doubt whatsoever that this is a message from the Chinese. The Chinese have been proliferating quite happily to all its tactical allies, including Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Iraq, and now Bangladesh. You heard it here first, but the next entrant into the nuclear club will be India’s poverty-stricken neighbor Bangladesh, using Chinese-supplied bombs.

After all, this is what Pakistan has done with its screwdriver-job Chinese-supplied bombs, which were no doubt shipped along the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Yet another reason why India’s betrayal of Tibet has come back to haunt the nation: we should never have stood idly by and let the Chinese conquer Tibet, which accounts for fully one-third of Chinese-controlled territory now.

The timing of the North Korean test is quite instructive as to the point China wanted to convey. It is a fair bet that this is a signal for at least five nations, and for the world at large. The message to the world in general is that China has proliferated nukes, is proliferating, and will continue to proliferate as it pleases. Any questions? An in-your-face sort of emphatic assertion of intent.

As far as the more specific message goes, the most obvious target is Japan. Shinzo Abe, who just took charge, is relatively young and is considered a hawk. The North Korean test is meant as a warning, considering that the previous Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, showed utter contempt for China by ignoring their complaints about his visits to the Yasukuni shrine, among other things. Abe, alas, has caved in by declaring that getting nuclear arms is “not at all an option for our country”.

On the contrary, Abe should tear up Japan’s pacifist constitution, which was imposed upon them by the conquering Americans. Japan has a stockpile of plutonium. In collaboration with India, Japan could easily build a weapon in six months. This is the path Japan should take, as self-denial will only encourage Chinese obduracy.

South Korea is obviously another target for China to terrorize and expect to wrest commercial concessions from.

The US is another ‘beneficiary’ of the Chinese threat. With important elections coming up less than a month away, the Republicans are in a back-to-the-wall situation. The Chinese/Korean test was timed to cause maximum confusion: it is one of those ‘October Surprises’ we are told that politicians have up their sleeve. It is not entirely clear whether this helps the Republicans (threats of war usually do) or the Democrats (who have another stick to beat the Bush Administration with) but it certainly muddies the waters.

India is an indirect recipient of the fallout from the test. In an Urvashi-shapam instance, the knee-jerk reaction of the non-proliferation ayatollahs especially among the Democrats in the US Congress would be to scupper the Bush deal with India, that is, to punish the innocent. India has been extraordinarily circumspect about proliferation, which it shouldn’t have been and shouldn’t be. India should cheerfully provide all the nuclear know-how it has to its enemy’s enemies: Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, for a start. Maybe even Mongolia, Thailand, Cambodia, etc, to create a cordon sanitaire around China.

However, in an example of the law of unintended consequences, the failure of the Indo-US deal would actually be quite beneficial for India: it would avoid a huge strategic blunder by the skin of its teeth. This could be chalked up to the “small mercies” department.

Finally, there is Russia. As explained by a Russian analyst recently, the Chinese would like to push their people into Russian Siberia, which China claims anyway based on the usual dubious historical reasons. An aggressive North Korea could be just the ticket for terrorizing the Russian inhabitants of Siberia and ‘encouraging’ them to leave. Thus ethnically cleansed, the territory would be easy pickings for Chinese immigrants.

Thus China has created a great deal of mischief with the putative North Korean nuclear test. And why I am so certain that it is a Chinese weapon loaned to the Koreans? Because that is China’s modus operandi – plausible deniability. They have done exactly the same with Pakistan, slipping them a few nukes that they exploded after India’s Pokhran tests. It is also a good bet that all the goodies in Uncle A Q Khan’s nuclear bag of tricks came from China as well.

There is more: the old Sherlock Holmes paradigm of the ‘curious incident dog in the night-time’. There was a crime, but the dog didn’t bark. And that, said Holmes, was the curious incident. The dog should have barked, and the fact that it didn’t is significant: that meant it knew the culprit.

Similarly, the fact that Comrades Yechuri and Karat of the CPI-M, who are extremely vocal when it comes to condemning India’s legitimate military moves including the Pokhran blastes, were strangely silent. What happened to their non-proliferation concerns? A reasonable conjecture would be that they have been instructed by their friends in China to keep very, very quiet. Curious incident, indeed.

Here is what the Pioneer reported on October 11th (“Left faces acid tests, keeps mum on North Korea” by Santanu Banerjee):

Speaking to this reporter, CPI(M) leader and party’s Central Committee member Nilotpal Basu said: “We have decided not give any official reaction on the issue.” Earlier, speaking to The Pioneer, CPI’s national secretary D Raja said: “When we did not support India’s nuclear experiments in Pokhran, you don’t expect us to support North Korea’s tests because they are a communist state, but we have not made any official reaction on the issue.”

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, wouldn’t you say?

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4 Responses to “The end of the NPT”

  1. Ghost Writer Says:

    Rajeev,
    Excellent analysis as always. I agree fully that the Chinese have reduced the Non-proliferation regime to tatters.

    I guess the only thing you can say in their favour is that these guys are ultra-smart; specially so much smarter than the Soviets! Why not?- the Yanks outspent CCCP militarily and the Soviets crumbled; What happens 15 years later? The Yanks run up enormous trade deficits with the Chinese and the Hans proliferate nukes like the birth rate in your favourite community! The Yanks pay for their own destruction. Sweet irony also in that the Soviets were the ones who helped the Hans with their nukes the first time around. In the Cow Belt BIMARU north we have a saying – the monkeys fought and the cat stole the bread!

    Much as I smile at America’s problem – I also feel a great pang of sadness. The demise of Pax Americana means the strengthening of the Dragon. The American Revolution – in all fairness was not the worst thing in the world.

  2. visunaik Says:

    Some of the conclusions drawn are quite interesting and disturbing at the same time.
    I believe in the theory that says “information leads to chaos”.And proliferation of neuclear technology is just another example.
    May be knowledge will lead to order but in this hectic world nobody is really bothered about knowledge. Often information itself is interpreted as knowledge.
    And in this case the knowledge that “the world will be totally destroyed in any neuclear war” is simply forgotten by all the parties involved. So, the NPT, CTBT, systematic decrease in neuclear arsenal are all hoax.
    What should be done and whether everybody has the will to do it is a different question altogether and you may write a blog regarding that as well, but your suggestion that India should also be a proliferator is
    not acceptable.

  3. kcmandava Says:

    Wonderful article! Shows how important it is to recognize the change in world order, and the increasingly different problems we encounter as nations as well as citizens.

  4. rajeev2007 Says:

    Ah, Ghostwriter, we have that parable in the South too: it is from the Panchatantra. Yes, we see that foolish nations do silly things and the clever ones, those with strategic intent, keep moving forward with malice aforethought. I agree with you that the Americans are a lot better than the Chinese — it’s hard to find anybody more dangerous than the Chinese. I think of them as Nazis, only they have a continent-sized country unlike the Germans being confined to a small state with hostile neighbors. Just like Germans between the two world wars, Chinese harbor myths about a golden past and nurse grudges based on great humiliation in the 18th-19th centuries. A superiority complex plus a chip in the shoulder: a very dangerous combination. We saw what the Germans did with it; the only hope is that China implodes. Otherwise it is going to be a very very dangerous country indeed.


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