Global Peace and Security Will be Far-fetched in the Near Future: Non-nuclearisation Politics as a Pointer


Vie Internationale With Bola A. Akinterinwa, Telephone : 0807-688-2846 and e-mail:

  The achievement of global peace and security is the main objective for establishing the United Nations in 1945.  When global peace and security is attained, it is also to be maintained and further sustained.  This objective necessarily serves as one of the dynamics of inter-governmental and security cooperation arrangements.

To a great extent, it can be rightly argued that the post-World-War II era has witnessed global peace and security in the sense that there has been no new World War. However, in the same vein, it can also be rightly posited that global peace and security has been far-fetched in the past seven decades because it is only the nature of crisis and conflict that has changed.  In other words, inter-state misunderstanding has simply been replaced with national misunderstanding.

There is no World War but there are civil wars. With the emergence of the post-Cold War era in 1990, global peace and security has increasingly been threatened by renewed interest in nationalism and protectionism. One major rationale for this is dishonesty-driven international politics, made complex by quests for new centres of power and acquisition of nuclear capacity status.

Without doubt, the Cold War rivalry between the US-led Western World and the former Soviet Union-led Eastern Europe explains in part the development of atomic bombs following World War II. One .particular point of interest here is that Japan did not know that the US had already perfected and acquired atomic bombs before deciding to attack United States Pearl Harbour in an attempt to prevent the US in possibly entering into the Second World War on the side of the Allied Powers.

The lessons from the devastating effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted the hardened positions of some other major powers during the negotiations and signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1963. China and France refused to sign the Treaty because they did not want to be legally prevented from developing their own nuclear capacity.  It was after they had succeeded in perfecting their atomic capacity, and have also really acquired a nuclear status that they accepted to accede to the Treaty. Other countries like Pakistan, Israel, etc. have also developed nuclear capability but without due regard to the 1963 NPT framework.

What is noteworthy is the international politics of non-nuclearisation. Countries that have acquired a nuclear status do not want others to have access to it.  They argued that the handling of nuclear arms, nuclear power, nuclear processes, etc. requires a very sophisticated mind, seriousness of purpose and, therefore, should not be allowed to be handled carelessly.  It is not only argued that only the détenteurs or successful nuclear powers that can manage the problems of nuclearisation. Third World countries are believed not to have the required where-withal to qualify for the acquisition of a nuclear status.  And perhaps more interestingly, it is argued that there is the need to prevent terrorists from having access to nuclear power. Inability to contain terrorism is considered a reason for incapacity to manage the problems of nuclearisation.

As a result, the standard policy position has always been that access to nuclear power, if it is to be considered for approval, can only be for peaceful use.  The bitter truth, however, is that the process of making a nuclear bomb for war and that of nuclear power for purposes of peace is the same. The possession of a nuclear status is one thing, what to use the capacity and capability for remains another. It is in this context that the politics of non-nuclearisation is not only very interesting, but that it also has become a major dynamic of an impending global disorder.

In this regard, Vie Internationale is contending that global peace and security will be far-fetched in the foreseeable future, especially in light of the US-North Korea mésentente over the latter’s nuclear tests and the failure of the trilateral cooperation involving South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Since the trilateral cooperation is prompted by fears arising from the nuclear tests of North Korea, it will be useful to first have an overview of North Korean nuclear tests, especially in terms of causal factors, dynamics and outcome, before the analysis of the pointers to the world of belligerency.

North Korean Nuclear Tests

 North Korea began its nuclear tests in 2006 and has carried out not less than six tests since then. All the tests, in terms of type, are underground, while the device type is fission. The main site for the test is Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. The first test was carried out on October 9, 2006 in a tunnel dug in Punggye-ri in the North East. It was described as ‘a weapon for peace’ with an energy discharge of about one kiloton, which is less than a tenth of the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Japan during World War II. It was believed that the device used plutonium that was sourced from the North’s nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

 The second test was carried out on May 25, 2009. The energy yield of the bomb was 2.8 kilotons, and therefore was quite bigger than the first, which was only one kiloton. The third test, enriched with uranium, was carried out on February 2nd, 2013. Like the previous ones, the capacity of North Korea to deliver what it always claimed to have done was again raised. As pointed out by the BBC News on April 22nd, 2016, ‘the North’s plutonium stocks are finite, but if it could enrich uranium, it could build up a nuclear stockpile. Plutonium enrichment also has to happen in large, easy-to-spot facilities, whereas uranium enrichment can more easily be carried out in secrecy.’

 On January 6, 2016 the North Korean government announced the success of its first hydrogen bomb (H-Bomb) test. The H-Bomb is also referred to as thermonuclear warhead. It is more powerful than an atomic bomb, and therefore, has a more devastating effect. In light of this, many experts who considered the energy output argued that there was no way North Korea could have denoted a H-Bomb, but North Korea insisted that it had carried out a H-Bomb test which was successful.

 Again, On March 9, 2016 announcement of another success story was made. It was the making of a nuclear warhead, which was described as ‘small enough to fit on a warhead. On September 9, 2016 another H-Bomb was detonated. This second H-Bomb test led to the confirmation that North Korea’s warheads could be mounted to a missile and that the power of the warhead could also be verified. Additionally, on February 17, 2017, four ballistic missiles were launched from Tongchang-ri region towards the Sea of Japan. On April 16, ballistic missiles were also launched from a site near Port of Sinpo while unidentified ballistic missiles were again launched on April 28, 2017 over the Punchang airfield.

 The feats of North Korea are commendable but they are not consistent with International law, particularly with the obligations of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How do we explain North Korea’s policy intransigency vis-a-vis the UN Security Council’s Resolution 825 and even United State’s entreaties?

  Several reasons can be adduced to explain the North Korean nuclear tests: effect of division of a former united Korea, the nationalist personality of the Korean leader, international politics-induced injustice and unfairness, and most importantly, the fear of United States. The fear of the United States is also traceable not only to a divided Korea but also particularly to the support of the United States for South Korea. As such, we submit here that US policy towards North Korea largely accounts for North Korea’s foreign policy hostility towards any effort undertaken to prevent it from carrying out nuclear tests, and therefore developing nuclear capability.

  For instance, on March 27, 2013 North Korea cut off the key military hotline with South Korea, which was the last official direct link between the two countries. Three days after, on the 30th, the government of North Korea made it clear that the country was entering into a ‘state of war with South Korea. In fact, on April 2nd, 2013 the government  took the decision to restart its main Yongbyon nuclear complex. The background to this cannot be far-fetched.

 In 1994, North Korea and the United States did an agreement called ‘Agreed Framework’ by which the Government of North Korea consented to forsake the country’s nuclear ambitions in return for the construction of two safer light water nuclear power reactors, oil shipments from the United States to North Korea, and mutual non-aggression. The extent to which the Agreed Framework is taken seriously is a matter of perception. Indeed, it meant nothing, at least, from the way the two countries accused one another.

  When the US Assistant Secretary of State, James Kelly, visited North Korea on October 3-5, 1994, he noted that he had evidence of a secret uranium-enriching programme that had been executed contrary to the obligations provided in the Agreed Framework of 1994. On the 20th of October, 1994, North Korea responded, arguing that the United States also had not kept to the spirit and obligation of the same Agreed Framework. North Korea underscored the point that the construction of the light water reactors, which was due for completion in 2003, was many years behind schedule, and therefore, far from completion.

  Apparently considering that the United States was trying to intimidate North Korea, the Government threatened on December 12, 2002 to reactivate its nuclear facilities for energy generation because the decision of the United States to stop oil shipment had left it with no other choice. In the eyes of North Korea, it was the United States that should be held responsible for disregard for the Agreed Framework and the whole saga.

 And true enough, on December 12-13, 2002, North Korea requested the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to remove the seals and surveillance equipment, which are considered to be the eyes and ears of the agency, from its Yongbyon power plant. On December 22, 2002, North Korea not only began to remove the monitoring devices from the Yongbyon plant, but also announced the expulsion of two IAEA nuclear inspectors from the country.

  In reaction, the IAEA passed a resolution on January 1, 2003 by which it demanded that North Korea should readmit the UN inspectors, as well as abandon its secret nuclear weapons programme ‘within weeks or face possible action of the UN Security Council. Probably as a result of the willingness of the United States on January 7, 2003 ‘to talk to North Korea about how it meets its obligations to the international community,’ but also its non-readiness to ‘provide quid pro quos to North Korea to live up to its existing obligations,’ North Korea announced on January 10, 2003 its withdrawal from the NPT.

 In the eyes of North Korea, the United States willingness, etc, was an ‘undisguised declaration of aggression to topple the DPRK System.’ North Korea described the US President Bush as a ‘shameless charlatan.’ For President Bush, on the contrary, he said on January 28, 2003 that the North Korean government was ‘an oppressive regime whose people live in fear and starvation.’ And expectedly, on February 5, 2003, the DPRK told the world about the reactivation of its nuclear facilities and well-functioning of its operations. This prompted the IAEA to refer the matter to the UN Security Council on 12th February, 2003.

 The foregoing is the background to the current North Korean nuclear tests to which many countries have been hostile. In light of the same foregoing, how do we deal with North Korea? Is the development of nuclear capability by North Korea preventable? If it is, at what costs? Every time North Korea carried out a nuclear test, whether or not it is successful, lessons are learnt from the exercise. With the various tests carried out so far, there can be no disputing the fact that North Korea has learnt many lessons to the extent that North Korea has also become a new source of threats for the neighbouring countries. This fear largely explains the raison d’être for the trilateral cooperation among South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

Trilateral Cooperation and Future of Peace

 Following North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island earlier on November 23, the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Seiji Maehara, South Korea’s counterpart, Mr. Sung-hwan Kim, and the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton not only met in Washington on December 6, 2010 but also agreed on a ‘Trilateral Statement’ which was to serve as basis of  future trilateral cooperation among the three of them.

 The trilateral cooperation, at the level of the first meeting which took place in 2010, was successful for various reasons. As noted by Yuichi Hosoya, ‘first, the financial crisis of 2008 necessitated deeper economic cooperation between the governments of Japan and South Korea. Moreover, Seoul faced escalated military confrontation as a result of the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan in March 2010 and the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeon Island. These factors reminded South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of the necessity of closer security cooperation with both the United States and Japan’ (vide Yuichi Hosoya, “A Japanese Perspective: the Korean Public and Limits of Trilateral Cooperation,” Global Asia, vol.12, no. 1, Spring 2017, p. 42 et s.).

  Beyond the initial factors that brought the trilateral partners together, there is the challenge of the non-cooperative attitude of the people of South Korea who are not favourably disposed to cooperation with Japan with which the ruling party of South Korea had signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) on January 10, 2011. Japan sees cooperation with South Korea as necessary for its defence strategy.

 As further explained by Hosoya, ‘when Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister of Japan for the second time in December 2012, new difficulties in Japan-South Korea relations emerged. Abe was well known in South Korea for his right wing ideology, and Korean media began to criticize his revisionist historical statements.’

 Chung-in Moon and Won-young Hur have also raised the issues of territorial dispute with Japan and Comfort Women. South Korea wants the ‘pain of the 55 surviving comfort women to be healed’ but Japan is not only not interested in it, and allegedly trying to deny history, but also showing ‘no willingness to compromise on the comfort women issue’ (ibid, p.47 et s). And perhaps most disturbingly, Daniel Bob, in his own contribution, “A US Perspective: Japan and South Korea Grapple with Trumps Foreign-policy Uncertainty,” says ‘no relationships are more crucial to stability in north east Asia than those of the US with Japan and the US.’ However, he further noted ‘nothing has created as much uncertainty lately in Northeast Asia than the presidency of Donald Trump.’

 From the foregoing therefore, the trilateral cooperation has not, and cannot be a good mechanism to deal with the North Korean nuclear threats. As we noted earlier, the fear of the United States largely prompted the North Koreans to develop nuclear arms in anticipation of legitimate self-defence. Coupled with this problem is also the uncertainty of the foreign policy direction of Donald Trump. At this juncture, the question may be asked: is the future of maintenance of international peace and security bright in the foreseeable future? With the increasing interest of millions of people in the world seeking to return to their national cocoon, that is, promotion of nationalism to the detriment of multilateral authority, can peace be enduring? Without jot of doubt, if some countries will continue to have the luxury of access to nuclear privileges and immunity and other sovereign nations will be denied the same rights and privileges, global peace and security cannot but be far-fetched and be the first victim. This is why there is need for a greater caution in handling the North Korean saga. This is also why Nigeria needs to develop a nuclear power capability both for peace and war for purposes of eventual deterrence. It will be a source of national and international respect for Nigeria and the black people of the world. All the countries of the world that have acquired nuclear capability have had it on the basis of strategic focus and not on a beggarly basis.

 Most importantly, Government must stop signing agreements that has the potential of impeding national independence or aiding subservience or prevent decisions on which line of national development to follow. In this particular regard, the constitutional provision that the respect for international law shall be a foreign policy objective should be removed from the constitution or redrafted. If North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, the non-safety is not simply a challenge for the immediate neighbours and the countries of Europe and America. And true, no African should consider himself or herself safe. Nigeria cannot be safe under the umbrella of any country. The development of a self-reliant and deterrent force is what can first ensure national security. Whoever wants peace, Von Clauswitz has noted, should also be prepared for war.