Showing posts with label korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label korea. Show all posts

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Views from Japan: Abe Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

Views from Japan: Abe Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

1  Abe Visit to Controversial Japanese Shrine Draws Rare U.S. Criticism. By George Nishiyama
Visit to Yasukuni Raises Concern Premier Shifting Focus From Economy to Nationalistic Goals
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2013 3:04 p.m. ET


Mr. Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, triggering strong criticism from Beijing and Seoul, but also a rare disapproval by Washington, which has pushed the Asian neighbors to mend ties that are strained by territorial disputes and differences over wartime history.

Many Asian nations that suffered from Japan's wartime actions view Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism because it honors not just Japan's war dead but also some convicted World War II war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, who was prime minister for most of the war.

"The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," said the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on its website, in an unusual direct criticism of Japan's leader by its main ally.

Mr. Abe has repeatedly said he regretted not visiting the shrine during his first tenure as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and said his critics misunderstood his intentions. "I offered my respects to those who lost their precious lives for our country, and prayed that their souls may rest in peace," he told reporters after the visit. "I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people."

Although a well-known conservative who has stated that changing the pacifist constitution drafted by the occupying U.S. forces was his "life's work," Mr. Abe had adopted an economy-first policy after taking office in December 2012, putting his nationalist agenda on the back burner.

His so-called Abenomics policy featuring government spending and monetary stimulus has spurred consumption, resulting in the Japanese economy recording the strongest expansion among industrialized nations in the first half of this year, although the country's growth rate slowed in the third quarter.

The improved economy has helped make Mr. Abe one of the most popular Japanese leaders in recent years, with his support ratings hovering around 60% for most of the past year.

All of that has come as a relief to Washington, which faces a rising military power in China and is wary of the regional tensions developing into physical confrontations. The U.S. has also tired of a revolving door of short-lived Japanese prime ministers.

During an October visit to Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel paid respects at the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, a tomb for Japan's unknown war dead, in a move widely seen as a message to Mr. Abe that there are alternatives to Yasukuni.

While Mr. Abe had refrained from going to Yasukuni until Thursday, on the anniversary of his taking office, some of his cabinet ministers had visited, each time inviting protests from China and South Korea. Mr. Abe's visit, the first by a prime minister in seven years, drew angry responses from the neighbors.

China's foreign minister summoned Japan's ambassador to protest and criticized Thursday's visit as the latest attempt by Mr. Abe to gloss over Japan's militaristic past. "Under these conditions, not only does the Japanese leader not show restraint, but instead makes things worse by manufacturing another incident over history," spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement. "Japan must bear all the consequences arising from this."

Seoul also decried the move. "Our government cannot but deplore and express anger about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine despite concerns from neighboring countries and the international community," said Yoo Jin-Ryong, a South Korean spokesman.

Analysts in the region agreed the move would further deteriorate relations. The development is severe, said Wang Shaopu, director of Japan Institution at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. "It will worsen China-Japan's already bad-enough relations."

Others said Mr. Abe had gone ahead with the visit because he felt he had nothing to lose given that ties were already frayed. While he has visited all of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he has yet to visit China or South Korea nor has he held formal bilateral meetings with their leaders.

"Mr. Abe probably thought that a visit to Yasukuni at this point wouldn't have too much of an impact on prospects of future summits with Beijing and Seoul considering how chances already seemed slim," said Masafumi Kaneko, a senior research fellow at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at PHP Institute.

Mr. Abe's aides said what they cared about most was the U.S. reaction. "The biggest, or should I say, the only concern is what the U.S. would say," said a senior government official who was aware of the prime minister's plans in advance. He expressed confidence that the ties between the allies wouldn't be affected, noting that President Barack Obama was relying on the prime minister to help seal a deal over a trans-Pacific free-trade forum and to move forward plans to relocate U.S. troops in the region.

The government official said Mr. Abe intended to stick to making economic recovery the top priority, stressing how investors would start to see deregulatory measures—the last of the three pillars of his economic policy—in action in the new year. "We intend to keep the ball rolling for Abenomics," the official said.

But Mr. Abe may have miscalculated the U.S. response, analysts said. "The U.S. reaction was unexpected. Mr. Abe is moving to bolster the Japan-U.S. alliance, and the focus is whether they can move beyond just a military alliance, and share values," said Koji Murata, a political-science professor and the president of Doshisha University. "The U.S. may be frustrated at Mr. Abe, who is obsessed with history issues."

Diplomatic feuds have shown they can affect business interests in the region. After the previous Japanese government nationalized disputed islands in the East China Sea in September 2012, Chinese consumers boycotted Japanese products, dealing a serious blow to Japanese firms, including car makers.

But the Tokyo stock market took Mr. Abe's visit to the shrine in stride on Thursday, finishing higher. Investors said other factors, including a weaker yen, were more important than diplomatic issues.


—Alexander Martin, Kosaku Narioka and James T. Areddy contributed to this article.

2  A Japanese citizen weighs in:

this is a pretty simple issue... it's a thing about "mind" or "philosophy" for Japanese and "political" for China or Korea. it'd not been a problem until middle of 80s indeed. they are just always looking for something to claim or criticize Japan to let us compromise us one-sidedly. they are just trying to do this in the name of human-right. Japan has to be 100% evil, and they have to be 100% victims forever. so they will never forgive us no matter how we apologized.
if PM Abe didn't do it, they would find something another.

it's not known very much in other countries, but Japan's already apologized many times, paid much and supported in many ways even the countries didn't let their citizens know about that. 
major Japanese started to think it looks waste of time and effort to make a good relationship with them any longer.

more than 70% of Japanese agree with PM Abe's Yasukuni visit this time in a survey of a TV channel (this is so-called "liberal" channel). we all know he just wants to thank people who worked and died for this country, and wishes peace. 
personally, i go to the shrine when i'm in Tokyo (my grand father died in WW2).

have a good new year!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Views from Japan: Nuclear Weapons

Views from Japan: Nuclear Weapons

Questions sent to a Japanese citizen:

konnichiwa, dear [xxx]-san

I was reading the book "Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon" by Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes (Editors), and there is a chapter on Thinking About the Unthinkable - Tokyo's Nuclear Option

We'd like to publish a post and would like:

1  to have arguments in favor and against (specially in favor, since we never see them published) such nuclear option, made by Japanese politicians;
2  to have your opinion on this.


Thank you very much, sir.

[signature removed]

Answer (edited):

how are you going? it's been incredibly hot these days... I almost start melting.

sorry, I haven't read the book. so i'm not very sure my opinions match to your point. anyway, I give you what I see and think. is it about nuclear weapons? (or total nuclear power?) i refer nuke weapons for this moment. please let me know if you need more about nuclear in japan. seems 3 big opinions among politicians (and citizens too) :

#1. it's better to have nu-bombs. because we are facing dangers of Chinese and North Korean nukes. it's the only way to be against nukes.

#2. let's talk and think about nuclear weapons to possess seriously now. it's actually been the biggest taboo in japan even only to talk about the option because of our experiences of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and recently Fukushima which are big trauma for us. I can call it "nuclear allergy". but we are indeed surrounded and threatened by nu-weapons of China and Korea now. it's the time to think about it... and even just the debates will be able to restrain China and Korea (they know our technology is good enough to make nu-weapons immediately if we try).

#3. nobody should even talk or think about it. all nuclear in the world just should be thrown away and banned. because we've learnt from the past

#2 seems the most major opinion, #1 is a sort of extreme... #3 is mainly supported by liberal people. extreme on the other side.

2. my opinion: I used to think like #3, but slightly have changed to #2. I'm sure #3 is right, but too much ideal. no matter how japan says this to the world, no countries will abandon them (at least near future).

japanese people's been used to live in peace by American forces, however people's started to realize no peace for free. i think we are on the way to "normal" country.

please don't understand me, I believe almost all of people don't want to have nu-weapons in real, people's just getting more serious to think about what our country is and what is the best for us.

I wish I got points you need. mail me if you have something not sure.

best regards(^_^)/

[signature removed]

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why China Frets Over America's Retreat. By Daniel Blumenthal

Why China Frets Over America's Retreat. By Daniel Blumenthal
The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2013, on page A17
Usually Chinese leaders decry Washington's foreign-policy aggression. That won't be an issue at this week's summit.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President Obama in California at week's end, Mr. Xi will confront a new strategic reality: America in retreat. Chinese leaders normally complain that Washington is too aggressive. But what should really worry Beijing is the opposite—a bipartisan U.S. consensus for a foreign policy of retrenchment. As much as China aspires to global leadership, Beijing has neither the wherewithal nor the desire to take on the responsibilities that come with that role.

Since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, Sino-American summitry has followed a pattern to which both countries have grown accustomed. Beijing complains of U.S. heavy-handedness. Washington complains that it shoulders all the burdens of global leadership and asks China to play a more responsible and prominent role in world affairs.

Neither country is serious while doing this minuet. At best Washington is conflicted about a greater leadership role for an authoritarian China. For its part, China has become accustomed to the benefits of a post-World War II American-led (and paid-for) global compact that includes freer markets, more peaceful international relations and more liberal governments.

The temptation to repeat this dance will be great this week. Presidents Xi and Obama will be meeting during a period of deep mutual suspicion. The downward spiral of distrust began in 2009 over escalating tensions about territory between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors, and it reached a new low when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a "pivot" toward Asia in 2011.

The pivot strategy has two pillars. The first is a positive desire to deeply embed the U.S. in all of Asia's increasingly vibrant political and economic life. The second is a reaction to growing Chinese dominance in the region, and the resulting clamor—from America's regional allies and in the U.S.—for Washington to counterbalance predatory Chinese military power.

China chose to hear only the second part of the pivot strategy, reacting to it as Cold War-style containment with Asian characteristics. Relations between the two powers have been frosty since then.

Yet if Mr. Xi examines U.S. foreign policy more closely, he will see that Beijing is worried about the wrong things. The problem is not too much American power. It is too little.

Consider recent events in Washington: Mr. Obama announced the end of the war on terror without evidence that the conflict had ended and denied leaks suggesting the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria. He ignored a new International Atomic Energy Agency report suggesting that Iran is making huge progress in developing nuclear weapons, and refused efforts to restore draconian cuts to the U.S. military budget.

In response—a few outliers notwithstanding—Congress, including Republicans, remained silent. This marked a significant shift. Once the tribune of American global leadership, much of the right now marches in foreign-policy lock step with a left that has little interest in the exercise of U.S. power. This left-right neo-isolationist alliance is a recipe for global chaos—an outcome more harmful to China than the big-footed America that China is used to complaining about.

Why? Because despite China's politically correct paeans to international institutions and multilateralism, Chinese leaders well know that international politics needs a prime actor willing to provide global public goods such as secure maritime trade, peace between great powers, nonproliferation, counterterrorism and leadership on international trade and investment.

If the U.S. abdicates its role, China is the only other nation in line for the post of prime power. Is China ready to assume primacy in the international community? The answer is no.

Granted, China is active on the world stage. Recently President Xi announced proposals for Arab-Israeli peace and a Syrian cease-fire. Once again, Beijing prodded North Korea to open up and reform its economy. But peace proposals, state visits and commercial diplomacy cannot maintain world order.

Taking the global leadership reins from the U.S. would require incurring real costs, taking big risks, using political capital and, if necessary, expending blood and treasure. If China wanted to lead the world, it would build a navy capable of protecting—rather than disrupting—sea lanes. It would contribute to the fight against terror and help to keep cyberspace an open commons for commercial transactions and the sharing of ideas. It is doing none of these things.

Think of it this way: Does China wish to anger anyone in the Middle East by taking sides in Syria or pressuring Iran? Manage the collapse of North Korea? Steward a new era of free trade? Push back al Qaeda?

Chinese leaders appear not to give much consideration to taking on these tasks, nor has Washington thought through what a world with no leader would look like. Does a global system of anti-democratic regional hegemons, spheres of influence, and exclusive trading blocs really appeal?

For all of these reasons, this could be a truly pivotal summit. As counterintuitive as it may seem, for the first time since the Soviet collapse China has an interest in America acting more, not less, assertively in foreign affairs.

Mr. Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 214
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center
May 22, 2013

Krista E. Wiegand is Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia Southern University and a recent POSCO Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center. She explains in this bulletin that "The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low."

The first official state function of newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye was a ceremony on March 1 commemorating Independence Movement Day—celebrating Korean resistance in 1919 to Japanese occupation—where she appealed: “It is incumbent on Japan to have a correct understanding of history and take on an attitude of responsibility in order to partner with us in playing a leading role in East Asia in the 21st century.” Her speech outlined a hard line stance regarding ROK-Japan relations. It also did not help that at the end of March, the Korean Foreign Ministry summoned a high ranking Japanese official in Seoul to strongly protest the inclusion of the islets as being called Takeshima in newly released Japanese school books. Japanese cabinet members then went to Yasakuni Shrine in April which further exasperated matters, resulting in South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se cancelling a proposed visit to Japan.

If Park wants to maintain high approval ratings and not lose credibility regarding her tough position towards Japan, she will have to take into account domestic public opinion on any future security plans with Japan, even under US pressure. Yet, taking this tough approach causes unconstructive tensions in the ROK-Japan-US security relationship, and at a time of recent unprecedented heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, Korea’s role as an increasingly important actor in regional security indicates that Japan and South Korea will have to cooperate more in the future.  They are both democracies, have shared values and interests, and each looks to the United States as the preferred security partner. Park will have to balance Korea’s security interests with domestic opposition to closer ties with Japan, an extremely difficult challenge under current circumstances.

Even if Korean officials are not as supportive of the GSOMIA as their counterparts in Japan and the United States, moving forward on security relations with Japan is critical. Yet, domestic opposition to issues related to Japan has effectively prevented such cooperation. The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/ Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low. The United States has encouraged better bilateral relations between its two closest allies in East Asia, yet at the same time, the US government has been hesitant to take sides in a dispute that the United States itself inadvertently created as a result of its ambiguity in its role as mediator of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. President Park and future Korean presidents will have a tough time successfully pursuing any plans of security engagement with Japan as long as the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute and related issues flare up. The United States is in a unique position to influence both Korea and Japan and it should continue to pressure both states to work toward reconciliation.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

South Korea: Give Nukes a Chance. By Denny Roy

South Korea: Give Nukes a Chance. By Denny Roy
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 204
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center
March 27, 2013


It is only a matter of time before North Korea fields an actual nuclear-tipped missile that works. With the persistent security threat from North Korea seemingly worsening, recent public opinion surveys show that a majority of South Koreans favor getting their own nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that South Korea is capable of making its own nuclear weapons, probably within a year. Indeed, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has explored this possibility occasionally since the 1970s, each time backing off under outside pressure.

There are some good reasons why, in principle, the world is better off with a smaller, rather than larger, number of nuclear weapon states. Nevertheless, there are two additional principles that apply here. First, nuclear weapons are a powerful deterrent; they are the main reason why the Cold War remained cold. Second, there may be a specific circumstance in which the introduction of a new nuclear weapons capability has a constructive influence on international security—call it the exception to the general nonproliferation rule.

Given the ROK’s present circumstances, Washington and Seoul should seriously consider the following policy change. Seoul gives the required 90 days notice required for it to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows for deratification in the case of “extraordinary events” that threaten national security. The ROK announces its intention to begin working toward a nuclear weapons capability, with the following conditions: (1) the South Korean program will match North Korea’s progress step-by-step towards deploying a reliable nuclear-armed missile; and (2) Seoul will commit to halting and shelving its program if North Korea does the same. For its part, Washington announces that US nonproliferation policy is compelled to tolerate an exception when a law-abiding state is threatened by a rogue state—in this case North Korea—that has both acquired nuclear weapons and threatened to use them aggressively. Pyongyang has repeatedly spoken of using its nuclear weapons to devastate both the ROK and the United States.

This policy change is necessary because US, ROK and (half-hearted) Chinese efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize are not working. [...]

An ROK nuclear weapons capability would impose a meaningful penalty on the DPRK for its nuclear weapons program. Aside from the sanctions ordered by the United Nations Security Council, which have proved no more than a nuisance and are amply compensated for by the growing economic relationship with China, Pyongyang has suffered no significant negative consequences for acquiring nuclear weapons. A South Korean nuclear capability would change that. The North Koreans would understand that their act brought about an outcome they very much do not want [...].

ROK nukes, furthermore, will help deter North Korean provocations. A capacity to attack a neighbor with nuclear weapons provides North Korea with cover for limited conventional attacks. Pyongyang has established a pattern of using quick, sharp jabs against South Korea. The goal is to rattle Seoul into accommodating North Korean economic and political demands. Seoul insists that future North Korean attacks will result in military retaliation by South Korean forces. Since South Korea has not hit back after previous incidents, it is uncertain whether this pledge will deter Pyongyang from trying this tactic again. A DPRK nuclear weapons capability worsens this already dangerous situation. North Korean planners might conclude that Seoul would not dare retaliate against a DPRK strike out of fear that the next step would be a nuclear attack on the ROK. A South Korean nuclear capability, however, would redress this imbalance. If ROK conventional military capabilities are superior to the DPRK and equal or superior at the nuclear level, deterrence against a North Korean attack is stronger.

South Korean nukes would close the credibility gap in the US-ROK alliance. The “umbrella” of America’s nuclear arsenal covers South Korea and theoretically negates the DPRK nuclear threat. However, South Koreans have always questioned the reliability of this commitment which potentially puts a US city at risk in order to protect a South Korean city. The doubts are growing more acute now that a North Korean capability is apparently close to realization. An ROK nuclear arsenal would remove this strain on the alliance and give the South Koreans a sense of greater control over their own destiny.

Pyongyang would not be the only target audience for Seoul’s announcement of intent to deploy nuclear weapons. Like the North Koreans, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is deeply opposed to an ROK nuclear capability. The announcement would also signal to Beijing that the cost of failing to discipline their client state is rising dramatically. The Chinese are already debating whether the status quo of a rogue DPRK has become so adverse to Chinese interests that China must pressure Pyongyang more heavily even at the risk of causing regime collapse. South Korea’s imminent—and reversible—acquisition of nuclear weapons would strengthen the argument that the PRC must get tougher with the DPRK.

To be sure, this policy change would create its own problems. An ROK nuclear capability would pressure Japan to follow suit. A US-friendly, stable, law-abiding, liberal democratic country getting nukes is not necessarily a bad thing. But if so, the solution is for Washington and Seoul to emphasize that South Korea’s nuclear capability would be temporary and contingent, so Tokyo can remain non-nuclear.  Thankfully, there are precedents for middle-sized states giving up their nuclear weapons.

South Korea’s security situation is deteriorating and for the ROK’s leadership, national security is job number one. It is now time to get past the visceral opposition to proliferation and recognize that in this case, a conditional change of South Korea’s status to nuclear-weapon state can help manage the dangers created by a heightened North Korean threat.

Friday, March 29, 2013

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst
East-West Center, Policy Studies, No. 66, March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-309-26204-5 (print); 978-0-86638-205-2 (electronic)
Pages: xvi, 66


Across Asia there is a keen interest in the potential advantages of America's market-led system of voluntary standards and its contribution to US innovation leadership in complex technologies.

For its proponents, the US tradition of bottom-up, decentralized, informal, market-led standardization is a "best practice" model for innovation policy. Observers in Asia are, however, concerned about possible drawbacks of a standards system largely driven by the private sector.

This study reviews the historical roots of the American system, examines its defining characteristics, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. A tradition of decentralized local self-government has given voice to diverse stakeholders in innovation. However, a lack of effective coordination of multiple stakeholder strategies constrains effective and open standardization processes.

Asian countries seeking to improve their standards systems should study the strengths and weaknesses of the American system. Attempts to replicate the US standards system will face clear limitations--persistent differences in Asia's economic institutions, levels of development, and growth models are bound to limit convergence to a US-style market-led voluntary standards system.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Seoul Reviews U.S. Military Ties

Seoul Reviews U.S. Military Ties. By JAY SOLOMON
WSJ, May 31, 2010

In the wake of North Korea's alleged sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's government is reviewing its long-term defense policy in ways that could significantly impact the Washington-Seoul military alliance, according to officials engaged in the reform process here and in the U.S.

Over the past week, U.S. and South Korean leaders have outlined plans to conduct new war games and strategy sessions to better equip the South for combating the type of submarine attack Pyongyang is accused by international investigators to have staged this March, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

But longer-term, Mr. Lee's conservative government also could seek to alter the alliance's command structure and Seoul's weapons arsenal in ways that would challenge the Pentagon's current strategic planning for Northeast Asia, according to these officials.

South Korean defense strategists already are publicly pressing Mr. Lee to delay the planned 2012 transfer of operational control of the combined U.S.-South Korean fighting force to Seoul from Washington, arguing South Korea isn't prepared yet to oversee American forces. The agreement between Washington and Seoul has a clause that allows South Korea's president to formally request a suspension of the transfer. The U.S. currently deploys 29,000 troops in South Korea, and the South Korean military deploys 600,000.

Some South Korean officials involved in the president's military-reform drive also are calling for Seoul to develop more offensive strategic weapons as a means to deter the nuclear-armed North from future aggression. Currently, South Korea isn't allowed by its defense agreement with the U.S. to deploy precision-guided missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers.

"We need to have our own ways to threaten North Korea," said Kim Tae-woo, a South Korean defense expert who sits on one of two committees President Lee has established to assess Seoul's military preparedness. "We need to have this dialogue with our allies."

Mr. Lee took office in 2008 calling for an overhaul of South Korea's military apparatus, which his party had charged was weakened during 10 years of liberal rule in Seoul. But South Korea's new government initially agreed with its predecessor's plans to shrink the size of Seoul's military ranks while reining in defense spending.

Many in South Korea have viewed North Korea's million-man military as largely targeted at the U.S. South Korea's late President Roh Moo-hyun successfully pushed for the U.S. to lower it military profile in his country and to transfer control of the joint-military command to South Korea's defense department.

The North's alleged attack March 26 on the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, however, has shaken up Seoul's strategic thinking, according to South Korean and U.S. officials. A major concern here now is that Pyongyang's development of nuclear technologies has provided leader Kim Jong Il with a deterrent against the more-advanced militaries of the U.S. and South Korea. This, in turn, could allow Pyongyang to stage more-aggressive conventional attacks on the South, with the belief that Seoul won't retaliate for fear of an escalation.

This fear seems to have been borne out in recent days as Mr. Lee's government has shown a reluctance to take some new steps to challenge Pyongyang over the Cheonan incident. Seoul, for example, stepped back from an initial pledge to use loudspeakers to blast pro-South Korean propaganda across the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas after the North threatened to attack the broadcasting infrastructure.

South Korea's leaders also have publicly sought to play down the idea that the North's two recent nuclear tests have given it a military advantage or that it has succeeded in developing atomic weapons. "Regarding North Korea's nuclear capabilities, we have not been able to verify those capabilities," South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said last week at a joint-news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Still, many leading defense thinkers in Seoul said Pyongyang's growing nuclear technologies are "game changers" that now require South Korea to significantly upgrade its own capabilities. In addition to developing longer-range missiles, many are calling for the purchases of advanced new strike-fighters and antiballistic-missile batteries. They also are calling for the Pentagon to remain in charge of the joint-military command in South Korea beyond 2012, given the lethal effectiveness displayed by North Korea's mini-submarine fleet during the Choenan attack.

"There has been an asymmetrical shift that has weakened our deterrence structure," said Kim Byungki of Seoul's Korea University. "We are supposed to have air, ground and sea dominance."

South Korea's effort to renegotiate in the coming months its decades-old nuclear-cooperation agreement with the U.S. could now prove particularly tricky, according to current and former U.S. officials.

South Korea, under the 1974 pact, faces strict guidelines on its ability to store and reprocess the spent nuclear fuel produced by the country's 20 power reactors, because of fears it could be diverted for military purposes. The U.S. is seeking to limit any major alterations in the treaty, which expires in 2014, so as not to undermine Washington's efforts to contain the nuclear advances of countries like North Korea and Iran.

South Korean officials have said they are seeking to amend the agreement to in a bid to allow Seoul to better manage the storage of its nuclear waster. They are specifically citing South Korea's need to reprocess the spent fuel into a form that can be more easily disposed. But some analysts said Mr. Lee's government also could resist the constrictive terms being sought by the U.S. by citing the North's flouting of a 1992 agreement calling for the removal of all atomic weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

"This incident with the Cheonan could be the spark for turning around a number of things" between the U.S. and South Korea, said Victor Cha, who served as a senior White House official working on Asia during President George W. Bush's second term.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beijing is poised to project ever greater power in the Pacific. The U.S. doesn't appear up to the challenge

Farewell to America's China Station. By MARK HELPRIN
Beijing is poised to project ever greater power in the Pacific. The U.S. doesn't appear up to the challenge.
WSJ, May 17, 2010

The United States and China are on a collision course in the Western Pacific. Far sooner than once anticipated, China will achieve effective military parity in Asia, general conventional parity, and nuclear parity. Then the short road to superiority will be impossible for it to ignore, as it is already on its way thanks to a brilliant policy borrowed from Japan and Israel.

That is, briefly, since Deng Xiaoping, China has understood that, without catastrophic social dislocation, it can leverage its spectacular economic growth into X increases in per-capita GDP but many-times-X increases in military spending. To wit, between 1988 and 2007, a tenfold increase in per-capita GDP ($256 to $2,539) but a 21-fold purchasing power parity increase in military expenditures to $122 billion from $5.78 billion. The major constraint has been that an ever increasing rate of technical advance can only be absorbed so fast even by a rapidly modernizing military.

Meanwhile, in good times and in bad, under Republicans and under Democrats, with defense spending insufficient across the board the United States has slowed, frozen, or reversed the development of the kind of war-fighting assets that China rallies forward (nuclear weapons, fighter planes, surface combatants, submarines, space surveillance) and those (antisubmarine warfare capacity, carrier battle groups, and fleet missile defense) that China does not yet need to counter us but that we need to counter it.

We have provided as many rationales for neglect as our neglect has created dangers that we rationalize. Never again will we fight two major adversaries simultaneously, although in recent memory this is precisely what our fathers did. Conventional war is a thing of the past, despite the growth and modernization of large conventional forces throughout the world. Appeasement and compromise will turn enemies into friends, if groveling and self-abasement do not first drive friends into the enemy camp. A truly strong country is one in which people are happy and have a lot of things, though at one time, as Edward Gibbon describes it in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," "So rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry," that the prosperous and relaxed citizens of Antioch were surprised while at the theater, and slaughtered as their city burned around them. And the costs of more reliable defense and deterrence are impossible to bear in this economy, even if in far worse times America made itself into the greatest arsenal the world has ever known, while, not coincidentally, breaking the back of the Great Depression.

China is on the cusp of being able to use conventional satellites, swarms of miniature satellites, and networked surface, undersea, and aerial cuing for real-time terminal guidance with which to direct its 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles to the five or six aircraft carriers the United States (after ceding control of the Panama Canal and reducing its carrier fleet by one-third since 1987) could dispatch to meet an invasion of Taiwan. In combination with antiship weapons launched from surface vessels, submarines, and aircraft, the missile barrage is designed to keep carrier battle groups beyond effective range. Had we built more carriers, provided them with sufficient missile defense, not neglected antisubmarine warfare, and dared consider suppression of enemy satellites and protections for our own, this would not be so.

Had we not stopped production of the F-22 at a third of the original requirement, its 2,000-mile range and definitive superiority may have allowed us to dominate the air over Taiwan nonetheless. Nor can we "lillypad" fighters to Taiwan if its airfields are destroyed by Chinese missiles, against which we have no adequate defense.

With the Western Pacific cleared of American naval and air forces sufficient to defend or deter an invasion, Taiwan—without war but because of the threat of war—will capitulate and accept China's dominion, just as Hong Kong did when the evolving correlation of forces meant that Britain had no practical say in the matter. If this occurs, as likely it will, America's alliances in the Pacific will collapse. Japan, Korea, and countries in Southeast Asia and even Australasia (when China's power projection forces mature) will strike a bargain so as to avoid pro forma vassalage, and their chief contribution to the new arrangement will be to rid themselves of American bases.

Now far along in building a blue-water navy, once it dominates its extended home waters China will move to the center of the Pacific and then east, with its primary diplomatic focus acquisition of bases in South and Central America. As at one time we had the China Station, eventually China will have the Americas Station, for this is how nations behave in the international system, independently of their declarations and beliefs as often as not. What awaits us if we do not awake is potentially devastating, and those who think the subtle, indirect pressures of domination inconsequential might inquire of the Chinese their opinion of the experience.

In the military, economic, and social trajectories of the two principals, the shape of the future comes clear. In 2007, a Chinese admiral suggested to Adm. Timothy J. Keating, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, that China and the United States divide the Pacific into two spheres of influence. Though the American admiral firmly declined the invitation, as things go now his successors will not have the means to honor his resolution, and by then the offer may seem generous.

None of this was ever a historical inevitability. Rather, it is the fault of the American people and the governments they have freely chosen. Perhaps five or 10 years remain in which to accomplish a restoration, but only with a miracle of leadership, clarity, and will.

Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt), "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt) and, most recently, "Digital Barbarism" (HarperCollins).

Friday, May 14, 2010

U.S. Alliances in East Asia: Internal Challenges and External Threats

U.S. Alliances in East Asia: Internal Challenges and External Threats. By William Breer, Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Brookings Institution, May 2010

May 20 marks the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S.-Japan alliance by Japan’s House of Representatives. While the alliance is a bilateral arrangement, it has had a significant impact on Asia as a whole and is regarded by other nations as a key part of the regional security structure. The following is a brief survey of the treaty's role in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. It also demonstrates that the tensions currently confronting the U.S.-Japan alliance are not unique, but in fact have been faced by various bilateral alliances in the region; some have been resolved successfully and some have not.

Most experts believe that the series of alliances the United States created after World War II was one of the most astute and far-sighted acts of diplomacy in history. The alliance with Japan laid the foundation for reconciliation between two enemy nations and the groundwork for the reconstruction of a nation whose industrial power, infrastructure, and morale lay in shambles but which rose to become the world’s second largest economy. The alliance played a key role in the Cold War by allowing the United States to cover the USSR's eastern flank and demonstrating to China and North Korea that we would defend our interests and those of our allies in East Asia.

The arrangements with Japan provided a base from which the U.S. was able to defend its Republic of Korea ally from aggression by the North. Although the Korean War ended in an armistice—not a victory for the ROK, U.S., and their allies—without the use of facilities in Japan the peninsula could have been lost. Another plus was that American protection relieved Japan of having to acquire an offensive military capability, possibly including nuclear weapons. This reassured Japan’s neighbors that it would not again become a threat to their independence.

The result has been five decades of peace in Northeast Asia without a serious arms competition and remarkably few serious threats to the peace. This, along with the stimulus of Korean War procurement, enabled Japan to devote its resources to economic development which resulted in a previously unimaginable economic expansion and improvement in living standards. The ROK, Taiwan, and later China, piggy-backing on Japan's success and partaking of Japan's foreign aid and investment policies, replicated Japan's experience and delivered even faster rates of economic growth and prosperity to their people. None of this would have been possible without the American alliance system and the stability it provided throughout the region. The American presence in East Asia has been reassuring to allies, and our naval and air deployments beyond the region have played a major role in protecting the key energy trade routes through the Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean.

American alliances around East Asia

While the results have been good and generations of alliance managers on both sides can take considerable satisfaction in their accomplishments, the presence of foreign military bases in sovereign countries is not necessarily a natural phenomenon. Many Americans feel that we are motivated by altruism in undertaking to defend other peoples and that our actions are benign. But this view is not necessarily shared by citizens of host countries, many of whom view the American presence as an extension of the occupation in the case of Japan, an intrusion on sovereignty, or as a nuisance. These feelings are reinforced by a complex legal regime governing our bases and serious incidents (rape, hit-and-run accidents, etc.) involving American personnel. At the same time, the base arrangements provide significant employment opportunities for local populations there are some who welcome their presence. The policies of the new Hatoyama government reflect these contradictory views.

Governments have responded to these issues in different ways. In Japan we have developed mechanisms for dealing with problems and have accumulated a great deal of experience in working together. As a result Japanese citizens have tolerated a foreign military presence remarkably well. This may be a historic first. The leaderships of both nations realize the important role that the alliance plays in maintaining stability in East Asia and have striven to protect it.

In the Philippines, where we had maintained major naval and air facilities for many decades, a combination of domestic political pressure, the destruction of one base by a volcanic eruption rendering it unusable, and a strategic reassessment in Washington resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. forces, but the continuation of the defense treaty. In recent years, small numbers of U.S. military advisors have assisted the Philippine armed forces in countering Muslim insurgents in the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

This was followed a few years later by the New Zealand government's refusal to allow port calls by U.S. Navy vessels, as clearly envisioned in the ANZUS treaty, without a prior finding by the prime minister of New Zealand that the ships in question were not carrying nuclear weapons. This was contrary to our long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons aboard our ships and put at risk our arrangements with Japan. The result was a suspension of our defense relationship with New Zealand and strained relations with this ally for a number of years. When the U.S. Navy revised its "neither confirm nor deny" policy our defense relationship gradually improved. However, as Secretary of State George Shultz stated at the time of the break in 1986, "We remain friends, but we are no longer allies."

We do not have a security treaty with Taiwan and do not maintain forces on the island. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, however, we are obligated to provide certain defensive weapons and equipment and it is understood that we would come to Taiwan's defense in a clear-cut emergency. While this is not an explicit or legal commitment, U.S. policy toward Taiwan has assured the people of Taiwan and other countries in the region that the United States takes the security of Taiwan seriously and that only a peaceful, non-coercive resolution of the political issues across the Taiwan Strait would be satisfactory.

Under our mutual defense treaty with the Republic of Korea we deploy sizable ground and air forces to the peninsula to backup ROK defenses in the event of aggression by North Korea. We have made clear to the North that the American commitment to the defense of South Korea is rock solid, and the peace has been maintained. While the U.S. posture has effectively deterred North Korea from a frontal attack, it has not prevented North Korea from mounting provocations, ranging from the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968, through the tree-cutting incident in 1976, to the recent apparent sinking of an ROK warship. The biggest challenge posed by North Korea is its determination to acquire deployable nuclear weapons which would threaten U.S. interests throughout East Asia, potentially pose an existential threat to Japan, and create a proliferation problem of vast proportions. Our treaty relationships with Japan and Korea, and our many decades of experience working together, have greatly facilitated our cooperation on this issue.

From time to time, base issues (one of our major bases is in the center of Seoul) and occasional incidents caused by American personnel have aroused latent nationalism among the people, which has in the past resulted in large scale demonstrations, strains in our relations with the host government, and pressure to relocate our facilities. That we are making necessary adjustments to our deployments without significantly reducing our support for the ROK or the effectiveness of our deterrent is a credit to the common sense and foresight of Korean and American officials, many of whom have devoted entire careers to the management of the defense of the ROK.

Australia and Southeast Asia have been direct beneficiaries of America's alliance structure. While Australia is a member of ANZUS it has never become a platform for large scale American deployments. It has a keen interest in the stability and economic well-being of Northeast Asia because of its enormous and profitable economic ties with the region. It is also a beneficiary of American attention to the sea lanes to its West and North on which it depends for the bulk of its international commerce. Australia has been a valued ally in a large number of military operations in which the U.S. has engaged over the last fifty years, despite periodic internal opposition to American policy.

What about the future?

Despite periodic outbursts of opposition to nuclear ship home-porting or other aspects of the U.S. deployment in Japan, support among the Japanese people for the security relationship has remained at a remarkably high level. As a result the U.S. has had a relatively free hand in the use of our facilities and in the deployment of forces there. Generations of Japanese leaders have cooperated with U.S. security needs. These include a contribution of $13 billion in support of the first Gulf War, the dispatch of ground forces in support of our operations against Saddam Hussein, and generous foreign assistance to many places in which we have a strategic interest, including Afghanistan. Japan has also for the past 25 years made major contributions - $4-5 billion per year - to the support of U.S. forces in Japan. Who would have imagined 60 years ago that there would be significant U.S. military facilities in Japan in 2010?

There are some clouds on the horizon. The planned relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has posed major political issues for both Japan and the United States. Okinawa is host for the majority of U.S. forces in Japan and has endured the lion's share of the impact of foreign bases. Under considerable local pressure, Tokyo and Washington in 2006 reached an agreement to move the noisy Futenma facility from a densely populated area in central Okinawa to a sparsely populated region in the north. But the new Japanese administration, which took office in September 2009, ran on a platform calling for the removal of the facility from Okinawa. The U.S. side has adamantly insisted that the agreement be implemented as is and the two sides have reached an impasse which could result in the resignation of the prime minister. This is not a satisfactory situation, especially when it is not clear that the Marine Corps deployment in Okinawa is a vital piece of our deterrent posture on which it is worth Japan spending more than $10 billion to relocate.

The decision to attack Iraq in 2003 and the sloppy execution of the war called into question American judgment and leadership. Uncertain progress in Afghanistan has compounded this. Neither of these has significantly weakened Japanese support for the alliance, but these creeping doubts, coupled with an increasingly inward-looking Japanese public, have helped create an era in which American strategic assessments and solutions will be viewed with greater skepticism. Another serious incident involving U.S. military personnel would put further strain on the relationship. This is not to say that we cannot cooperate on a wide range of issues, but such cooperation will require higher level USG attention and a willingness on both sides to listen more attentively to the other's point of view. On the Japanese side, it will require the development of greater expertise among its political leaders and greater awareness among the general public of the changing environment. The increasing economic, military, and political importance of China demands that our two nations work together to assure a successful outcome in Asia.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The North Korea Endgame - However difficult, unification must be the ultimate objective

The North Korea Endgame. By Nicholas Eberstadt
However difficult, unification must be the ultimate objective.WSJ, Apr 30, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Mr. Nice Guy - While nukes proliferate, the Federal President fiddles

More Mr. Nice Guy. By John Bolton

In his lengthy State of the Union address, President Obama was brief on national security issues, which he squeezed in toward the end. International terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even America’s relief efforts in Haiti all flashed past in bullet-point mentions. On Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama emphasized neither victory nor determination, but merely the early withdrawal of U.S. forces from both. His once vaunted Middle East peace process didn’t make the cut.

Nonetheless, during this windshield tour of the world, the president found time to opine more explicitly than ever before that reducing America’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems will temper the global threat of proliferation. Obama boasted that “the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades” and that he is trying to secure “all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.”

Then came Obama’s critical linkage: “These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Obama described the increasing “isolation” of both North Korea and Iran, the two most conspicuous—but far from the only—nuclear proliferators. He also mentioned the increased sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its second nuclear test in 2009 and the “growing consequences” he says Iran will face because of his policies.

In fact, reducing our nuclear -arsenal will not somehow persuade Iran and North Korea to alter their behavior or encourage others to apply more pressure on them to do so. Obama’s remarks reflect a complete misreading of strategic realities.

We have no need for further arms control treaties with Russia, especially ones that reduce our nuclear and delivery capabilities to Moscow’s economically forced low levels. We have international obligations, moreover, that Russia does not, requiring our nuclear umbrella to afford protection to friends and allies worldwide. Obama’s policy artificially inflates Russian influence and, depending on the final agreement, will likely reduce our nuclear and strategic delivery capabilities dangerously and unnecessarily. (Securing “loose” nuclear materials internationally has long been a bipartisan goal, properly so. Obama said nothing new on that score.) Meanwhile, Obama is considering treaty restrictions on our missile defense capabilities more damaging than his own previous unilateral reductions.

What warrants close attention is the jarring naïveté of arguing that reducing our capabilities will inhibit nuclear proliferators. That would certainly surprise Tehran and Pyongyang. Obama’s insistence that the evil-doers are “violating international agreements” is also startling, as if this were of equal importance with the proliferation itself.

The premise underlying these assertions may well be found in Obama’s smug earlier comment that we should “put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.  .  .  .  Let’s leave behind the fear and division.” By reducing to the level of wayward boys the debates over whether his policies are making us more or less secure, Obama reveals a deep disdain for the decades of strategic thinking that kept America safe during the Cold War and afterwards. Even more pertinent, Obama’s indifference and scorn for real threats are chilling auguries of what the next three years may hold.

Obama has now explicitly rejected the idea that U.S. weakness is provocative, arguing instead that weakness will convince Tehran and Pyongyang to do the opposite of what they have been resolutely doing for decades—vigorously pursuing their nuclear and missile programs. Obama’s first year amply demonstrates that his approach will do nothing even to retard, let alone stop, Iran and North Korea.

Neither Bush nor Obama administration efforts toward international sanctions have had any measurable impact. The first Security Council sanctions on North Korea after its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests in 2006 did not stop Pyongyang from conducting further missile launches and a second nuclear detonation in 2009. Nor have the measures imposed after that second test, about which Obama boasted, impaired the North’s nuclear program or even brought Pyongyang back to the risible Six-Party Talks. Three sets of Security Council restrictions against Iran have only glancingly affected Tehran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration’s threats of “crippling sanctions” have disappeared along with last year’s series of “deadlines” that Iran purportedly faced. In response, Tehran’s authoritarianism and belligerence have only increased.

With his counterproliferation strategies, such as they were, in disarray, Obama now pins his hopes on moral suasion, which has never influenced Iran, North Korea, or any other determined proliferator. Perhaps it would have been better had the president’s speech not mentioned national security at all.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is the author of Surrender Is Not an Option.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Japan concerned at weakening of U.S. nuclear umbrella

Japan concerned at weakening of U.S. nuclear umbrella
Japan Today, Monday 14th September, 07:01 AM JST

TOKYO — Japan has expressed its reluctance to accept a proposal that urges the United States to limit the role of nuclear weapons to deterring only nuclear attacks and that seeks a no first-strike commitment in a draft report compiled by an international panel on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, panel sources said Sunday.

Japan’s representative to the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament expressed reservations about the proposal due to concerns over a weakening of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the sources said.

The commission, established at the initiative of Australia and Japan, aims to reinvigorate international efforts on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. It is co-chaired by former Japanese and Australian foreign ministers—Yoriko Kawaguchi and Gareth Evans.

The draft document envisages U.S. President Barack Obama working out a new nuclear doctrine before the review conference of parties to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty which is scheduled to be held next May.

It says that the ‘‘sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter use of nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies.’’

Japan has agreed to the principle of reducing the role of nuclear weapons but has expressed reservations not just about the specific proposal but also the suggested timetable and sequence or weapons reduction, the sources said.

Japan is arguing for Washington to maintain its broad nuclear deterrence apparently due to concerns about possible biological and chemical attacks from North Korea, they added.
An adviser to the Japanese commission member said, ‘‘From a Japanese defense perspective, there are two concerns under current security circumstances in East Asia for the time being,’’ according to the sources.

‘‘First, limiting the role of nuclear deterrence in preventing nuclear attack may give the wrong signal to North Korea or other ‘rogue states’ which may have a different strategic (escalation) calculation. To deter such threats, the credibility of nuclear deterrence would remain important.
‘‘Second, a no-first-use declaration by the United States without a reduction in threat would undermine the security of Japan, or at least it would raise the sense of uncertainty and anxiety over security.

‘‘In light of the reality that China has been rapidly catching up in air and sea power addition to the rapid modernization of its nuclear capability, no-first-use should be come after or along with the commitment of a tangible nuclear threat reduction in the region,’’ the report quoted the adviser as saying.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Target: Hawaii - Missile defenses for Oahu, but cuts for the rest of us

Target: Hawaii. WSJ Editorial
Missile defenses for Oahu, but cuts for the rest of us.
The Wall Street Journal, Jun 29, 2009, p A12

The Pentagon recently announced that it is repositioning ground-to-air radar and missile defenses near Hawaii in case North Korea decides to launch another long-range missile, this time toward the Aloha State. So at least 1.3 million Hawaiians will benefit from defenses that many officials in the current Administration didn't even want to build.

But what about the rest of us? It's an odd time to be cutting missile defense, as the Obama Administration is doing in its 2010 budget -- by $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, depending on how you calculate it. Programs to defend the U.S. homeland are being pared, while those that protect our soldiers or allies are being expanded after the Pentagon decided that the near-term threat is from short-range missiles. But as North Korea and Iran show, rogue regimes aren't far from having missiles that could reach the U.S.

In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:

Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"

Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly. . . . The demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[ellite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a solid rocket motor test which is . . . disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated . . . that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."

This 2006 image provided by the U.S. Navy shows the heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin entering Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Sea Based X-Band Radar (SBX) aboard. Among the losers in the Administration's budget are the additional interceptors planned for the ground-based program in Alaska. The number will be limited to 30 interceptor missiles located at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Also on the chopping block is the Airborne Laser, which is designed to shoot down incoming missiles in the boost phase, before they can release decoys and at a point in the missile trajectory when it would fall back down on enemy territory. This highly promising technology will be starved.

The Administration may also kill the plan for a missile defense system in Europe. The proposed system, which would place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, is intended to protect Europe against Iranian missiles. As is often forgotten, it would also protect the U.S., by providing an additional layer of defense for the Eastern seaboard, which is a long way from the Alaskan defenses.

The Administration is reconsidering the European site due to opposition from Moscow, which says -- though it knows it's false -- that the European system is intended to defeat Russian missiles. In advance of Barack Obama's visit to Russia next week, there's talk of "cooperation" on missile defense, possibly by adding radars in southern Russia and Azerbaijan. From a geographical perspective, neither location would add much as an Iranian missile headed for Western Europe or the U.S. would be on the periphery of the radars' vision, at best.

Meanwhile, Moscow says that unless the Administration backtracks on missile defense, it won't agree to mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals under the START Treaty, which expires this year. Mr. Obama is eager to negotiate arms cuts. But it would be a mistake to tie decisions on missile defense to anything except what is best for the security of the U.S. and its allies.

In Congress, bipartisan efforts are afoot to restore some of the funding for missile defense. But even if more money is forthcoming, the bigger problem is the new U.S. mindset. The Obama Administration is staffed with Cold War-era arms controllers who still believe missile defense is destabilizing -- except, apparently, now that they need it for Hawaii. They also reject the essential next phase, which is to make better use of space-based systems.

Missile defense is no techno-fantasy. The U.S. has made major strides since President Bush exercised the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2001. If North Korea launches a missile toward Hawaii, the best demonstration of that ability -- and of U.S. resolve -- would be to shoot it down.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

North Korea Says It Will Start Enriching Uranium - Also Will Weaponize All the Plutonium It Can Find

North Korea Says It Will Start Enriching Uranium. By Blaine Harden
Weapons Move Is 'Retaliation' for Sanctions
Washingt, Sunday, June 14, 2009

TOKYO, June 13 -- North Korea adamantly denied for seven years that it had a program for making nuclear weapons from enriched uranium.

But on Saturday, a few hours after the U.N. Security Council slapped it with tough new sanctions for detonating a second nuclear device, the government of Kim Jong Il changed its tune, vowing that it would start enriching uranium to make more nuclear weapons.

Declaring that it would meet sanctions with "retaliation," North Korea also pledged to "weaponize" all the plutonium it could extract from used fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear plant, which was partially disabled last year as part of the North's agreement to win food, fuel and diplomatic concessions in return for a promise to end its nuclear program.

That agreement collapsed in April, when North Korea -- fuming about Security Council condemnation of its March launch of a long-range missile -- kicked U.N. weapons inspectors out of the country and began work to restart its plutonium factory. It tested a second bomb on May 25, and South Korean officials have said more missile launches and a third nuclear test are possible in the near future.

"It makes no difference to North Korea whether its nuclear status is recognized or not," the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang said in a statement carried by the state news agency. "It has become an absolutely impossible option for North Korea to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons."

The 15-member Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday that imposes broad financial, trade and military sanctions on North Korea, while also calling on states, for the first time, to seize banned weapons and technology from the North that are found aboard ships on the high seas.

North Korea seemed Saturday to have interpreted the seizure resolution as a "blockade." But at the insistence of China and Russia, the North's traditional allies, the resolution does not authorize the use of military action to enforce any seizure that a North Korean vessel might resist, nor does it restrict shipments of food or other nonmilitary goods.

"An attempted blockade of any kind by the United States and its followers will be regarded as an act of war and met with a decisive military response," North Korea said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said North Korea's "continuing provocative actions are deeply regrettable."

The bellicose language in North Korea's statement -- which describes the Security Council action as "another ugly product of American-led international pressure" -- is similar in tone to previous North Korean responses to U.N. sanctions.

But the North's announcement that it would process enriched uranium to make more weapons was an extraordinary public admission of active involvement in a program whose existence has been denied by Pyongyang since 2002, when it was first mentioned in a U.S. intelligence report.

That year, the Bush administration accused North Korea of secretly continuing with nuclear weapons development in violation of a 1994 agreement. It then canceled construction of two light-water reactors in the North that were to have been used to produce electricity for the impoverished country.

But in 2007, the Bush administration began to back off its assertions that North Korea had an active program to enrich uranium. The chief U.S. intelligence officer for North Korea, Joseph R. DeTrani, told Congress at the time that although there was "high confidence" that North Korea had acquired materials that could be used in a "production-scale" uranium program, there was only "mid-confidence" that such a program existed.

Uranium enrichment, which offers a different route for making nuclear weapons than plutonium, uses centrifuges to spin hot uranium gas into weapons-grade fuel.

Insisting that it had no uranium-enrichment program, the North Korean government took an American diplomat to a missile factory in 2007, where there were aluminum tubes that some experts had said could be used in uranium enrichment. North Korea allowed the diplomat to take home some samples.

Traces of enriched uranium were unexpectedly discovered on those samples. Other traces were found on the pages of reactor records that North Korea turned over to the United States in 2008, as part of now-aborted negotiations on denuclearizing the North.

In recent years, U.S. officials have suggested that although North Korea has tried to enrich uranium, it has not been very successful.

North Korea on Saturday said it has indeed made progress.

"Enough success has been made in developing uranium-enrichment technology to provide nuclear fuel to allow the experimental procedure," the government said. "The process of uranium enrichment will be commenced."

This may have been bluster, at least in the short term.

It will take many years for the North to develop the uranium route to a bomb, according to Siegfried S. Hecker, a periodic visitor to the Yongbyon complex who was director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and is co-director of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

Writing last month in Foreign Policy magazine, Hecker said North Korea lacks uranium centrifuge materials, technology and know-how. He warned, however, that Iran has mastered this technology and could help the North move forward with uranium enrichment. North Korea and Iran have shared long-range missile technology that could enable both countries to deliver a nuclear warhead.

North Korea also said Saturday that the spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon reactor are being reprocessed, with all the resulting plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons. The government said that it has reprocessed more than a third of them.

Hecker said in a recent interview that there is enough plutonium in the spent rods for "one or two more" nuclear tests. He also said it would take the North about six months to restart its Yongbyon plant, and that it could then produce enough plutonium to make about one nuclear bomb a year for the next decade.

Early this year, North Korean officials said that technicians have used all the plutonium previously manufactured at Yongbyon to make nuclear weapons.

In South Korea on Saturday, several analysts said the North's fist-shaking response to Security Council sanctions suggests that hard-liners in the country's military are exercising increasing power in running the government.

Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke last summer and has appeared frail in public appearances. He is believed to have chosen his youngest son, Jong Un, as his successor. It is unknown, however, how far the succession process has progressed in the secretive communist state.

"Given Kim's ailing health . . . the North Korean leader is likely to have yielded to the demands and pressure of military people who have little awareness of the outside world," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Special correspondent Stella Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

North Korea Deserves the Diplomacy of Silence

North Korea Deserves the Diplomacy of Silence. By Edward N Luttwak
What Churchill called 'jaw-jaw' has produced nothing, except more provocations.
WSJ, Jun 0, 2009

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The North Korean Syndrome- Talk,Test, Talk Again,Test Again

The North Korean Syndrome- Talk,Test, Talk Again,Test Again. By B.Raman
C3S Paper No.278 dated May 30, 2009

Years before 2006, North Korea had a tested medium-range missile capability and was developing a long-range capability which could hit targets in the US. If its objective was only to have the capability to target South Korea and Japan, it did not need a long-range capability. It wanted the long-range capability to intimidate and threaten the US. But its economy was in such a bad shape that it did not have the money to spend on its missile programme.

2. And that money came from Pakistan and Iran. They funded research and development of the North Korean missile programme as a quid pro quo for North Korea’s sharing its expertise and technology with them and selling to them some of the missiles. The Pakistan-North Korea missile development co-operation started clandestinely in 1993 when Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister, but it came to public notice in 1998 when Pakistan tested its so-called Ghauri missile, which was nothing but a re-baptised version of a North Korean missile. Benazir Bhutto, who was then in the opposition, publicly claimed credit for giving Pakistan a deterrent capability against India by persuading North Korea during a clandestine visit from Beijing in 1993 to co-operate with Pakistan in missile development. Around the same time, reports also started coming in of Iran’s missile procurement relationship with North Korea.

3.When Pervez Musharraf was the President of Pakistan, it had carried out a number of firings of medium and long-range missiles capable of hitting the major cities of India. These were not test firings. These were firings meant to demonstrate Pakistan’s possession of such missiles and to psychologically intimidate India. I had pointed out on many occasions that Pakistan’s action in carrying out so many demonstration firings spoke of the large stock of missiles which it has got from North Korea. Even Osama bin Laden, in one of his messages, taunted Musharraf for ordering a demonstration firing of a missile whenever he was facing difficulty at home.

4. Around the same time, Iran started emulating Pakistan by carrying out demonstration firings of missiles in order to psychologically intimidate Israel. Apart from oral warnings and threats to board North Korean ships suspected of carrying prohibited equipment to other countries, the US did nothing.Even if one can understand its inability to act against North Korea due to a fear of an irresponsible state like North Korea provoking a war in the Korean region, one failed to understand its inability to act against Pakistan and to encourage Israel to similarly act against Iran.

5.In 2003, the international community learnt with shock and surprise that Pakistan’s weapons of mass destruction capability relationship with North Korea was not confined to missiles, but also covered military nuclear capability.A.Q.Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, was found to have supplied nuclear-related eqipment and technology not only to Iran and Libya, two Muslim countries, but also to North Korea. It was a nuclear-missile barter relationship. This relationship had continued at least till the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999 when, according to Khan’s own admission to some journalists, Musharraf sent him to North Korea to procure urgently some surface-to-air missiles.

6. When all these factors came to notice one after the other since Pakistan’s firing of the Ghauri missile in April,1998, the US had three options:
  • Act against North Korea through a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear and missile production facilities . It did not do so due to a fear of the unpredictable behaviour of North Korea which could have led to a war in the Korean region.
  • Act against Pakistan in order to penalise it for its relations with North Korea and to force it to terminate its relationship. This might not have forced North Korea to stop its programme, but it might have slowed down its programme due to financial difficulties. It would have also given some indication of the US resolve to act. The US did nothing. After 9/11, co-operation ftrom Pakistan against Al Qaeda assumed greater importance for US policy-makers than options of action to stop North Korea from acquiring a military nuclear capability.
  • Similarly, act against Iran or encourage Israel to act. From time to time, statements were made that all options were open—-meaning even a military strike against the nuclear establishments in Iran. In the case of powers such as North Korea and Iran, empty warnings without a demonstration of the resolve to act create only contempt.
7. All eggs were put in the basket of the six-power talks, which were marked by a faith in the ability and readiness of China to make North Korea behave. North Korea skilfully adopted a strategem of “Talk, test, talk again, test again”. It will seemingly co-operate with the talks, agree to some denuclearisation measures, then break the agreement under some pretext, test, then agree to talk again, then break the talks again under some other pretext and then test again. This has been going on for some years now.

8. The result:North Korea is a demonstrated nuclear power with a delivery capability at least against South Korea and Japan, if not yet against the US. It has carried out two tests, with the second one earlier in May,2009, reportedly being more powerful and more sophisticated than the first one in 2006. It has reportedly re-started the re-processing of spent fuel rods which would add to its stockpile of fissile material.

9. Pre-emption is no longer an option. Can North Korea be pressured or cajoled through China to come back to the negotiating table and to renew its commitment to the denuclearisation path? Even if one succeeds, it is very likely that after some talks, it will break the agreement reached under some other pretext. It broke the last agreement under the pretext that the UN imposed sanctions against it for allegedly testing a communication satellite. The next time, it will find some other pretext.

10. All US administrations have fought shy of a confrontation with North Korea. The Barack Obama administration even more so than its predecessors. The North Korean leadership has concluded that not only the US, but even Japan and South Korea do not have the stomach for a policy of confrontation. It, therefore, feels it does not have to fear either pre-emption or confrontation.

11. There is one option still left—- threaten China with the danger of the international community closing its eyes to Japan acquiring a military nuclear capability if China does not force North Korea to de-nuclearise. Will it work? It may or may not, but in the absence of any other options, it is well worth giving a try.

12. Even while struggling and juggling with various options available against North Korea, it is important for the Obama Administration to remember that Teheran is closely watching how Obama handles North Korea. Any sign of further weakness and accommodation with North Korea could encourage Iran in its nuclear obstinacy. This is definitely not the time for the Obama Administration to convey a wrong message to Iran that ties between the US and Israel are weakening. The US will end up by undermining a steadfast ally for the sake of better relations with an unpredictable country. The US may have valid reasons for improving its relations with Iran, but this should not be at the expense of its relations with Israel.

(The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Remember Ozawa: "If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads"

The Axis of Evil, Again. By BRET STEPHENS
WSJ, Jun 02, 2009

Not 24 hours after North Korea's nuclear test last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a statement insisting "we don't have any cooperation [with North Korea] in this field." The lady doth protest too much.

When it comes to nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, history offers two hard lessons. First, nearly every nuclear power has been a secret sharer of nuclear technology. Second, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction -- a Newtonian law of proliferation that is only broken with the intercession of an overwhelming outside force.

On the first point, it's worth recalling that every nuclear-weapons state got that way with the help of foreign friends. The American bomb was conceived by European scientists and built in a consortium with Britain and Canada. The Soviets got their bomb thanks largely to atomic spies, particularly Germany's Klaus Fuchs. The Chinese nuclear program got its start with Soviet help.

Britain gave France the secret of the hydrogen bomb, hoping French President Charles de Gaulle would return the favor by admitting the U.K. into the European Economic Community. (He Gallicly refused.) France shared key nuclear technology with Israel and then with Iraq. South Africa got its bombs (since dismantled) with Israeli help. India made illegal use of plutonium from a U.S.-Canadian reactor to build its first bomb. The Chinese lent the design of one of their early atomic bombs to Pakistan, which then gave it to Libya, North Korea and probably Iran.

Now it's Pyongyang's turn to be the link in the nuclear daisy chain. Its ties to Syria were exposed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007. As for Iran, its military and R&D links to the North go back more than 20 years, when Iran purchased 100 Scud-B missiles for use in the Iran-Iraq war.

Since then, Iranians have reportedly been present at a succession of North Korean missile tests. North Korea also seems to have off-shored its missile testing to Iran after it declared a "moratorium" on its own tests in the late 1990s.

In a 2008 paper published by the Korea Economic Institute, Dr. Christina Lin of Jane's Information Group noted that "Increased visits to Iran by DPRK [North Korea] nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a DPRK-Iran agreement for the DPRK to either initiate or accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the DPRK No-dong missiles that the DPRK and Iran were jointly developing. Thus, despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran in 2003 had halted weaponization of its nuclear program, this was the time that Iran outsourced to the DPRK for proxy development of nuclear warheads."

Another noteworthy detail: According to a 2003 report in the L.A. Times, "So many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran that a resort on the Caspian coast is set aside for their exclusive use."

Now the North seems to be gearing up for yet another test of its long-range Taepodong missile, and it's a safe bet Iranians will again be on the receiving end of the flight data. Nothing prevents them from sharing nuclear-weapons material or data, either, and the thought occurs that the North's second bomb test last week might also have been Iran's first. If so, the only thing between Iran and a bomb is a long-range cargo plane.

Which brings us to our second nuclear lesson. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has lately been in Asia taking a tough rhetorical line on the North's nuclear activities. But it's hard to deliver the message credibly after Mr. Gates rejected suggestions that the U.S. shoot down the Taepodong just prior to its April test, or when the U.S. flubbed the diplomacy at the U.N. So other countries will have to draw their own conclusions.

One such country is Japan. In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, then the leader of the country's Liberal Party, told Chinese leaders that "If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads. Japan has enough plutonium in use at its nuclear plants for three to four thousand. . . . If that should happen, we wouldn't lose to China in terms of military strength."

This wasn't idle chatter. As Christopher Hughes notes in his new book, "Japan's Remilitarization," "The nuclear option is gaining greater credence in Japan because of growing concerns over the basic strategic conditions that have allowed for nuclear restraint in the past. . . . Japanese analysts have questioned whether the U.S. would really risk Los Angeles for Tokyo in a nuclear confrontation with North Korea."

There are still good reasons why Japan would not want to go nuclear: Above all, it doesn't want to simultaneously antagonize China and the U.S. But the U.S. has even better reasons not to want to tempt Japan in that direction. Transparently feckless and time-consuming U.S. diplomacy with North Korea is one such temptation. Refusing to modernize our degraded stockpile of nuclear weapons while seeking radical cuts in the overall arsenal through a deal with Russia is another.

This, however, is the course the Obama administration has set for itself. Allies and enemies alike will draw their own conclusions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Perspectives from India: North Korea thumbs its nuclear nose at Washington

Is Obama Another Jimmy Carter? By Bahukutumbi Raman
North Korea thumbs its nuclear nose at Washington.
Forbes, May 25, 2009, 11:35 AM EDT

During the U.S. Presidential primaries last year, I had expressed my misgivings that Barack Obama might turn out to be another Jimmy Carter, whose confused thinking and soft image paved the way for the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The subsequent Iranian defiance of the U.S. and Carter's inability to deal effectively with the crisis in which Iranian students raided the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and held a number of U.S. diplomats hostage led to disillusionment with him in sections of the U.S. and to his failure to get re-elected in 1980. The strong line taken by him against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet troops towards the end of 1979 did not help him in wiping out the image of a soft and confused president.

The defiant action of North Korea in testing a long-range missile with military applications last month, and its latest act of defiance in reportedly carrying out an underground nuclear test on May 25, can be attributed--at least partly, if not fully--to its conviction that it will have nothing to fear from the Obama administration for its acts of defiance. It is true that even when George Bush was the president, North Korea had carried out its first underground nuclear test in October 2006. The supposedly strong policy of the Bush administration did not deter it from carrying out its first test.

After Obama assumed office in January, whatever hesitation that existed in North Korea's policy-making circles regarding the likely response of U.S. administration has disappeared, and its leadership now feels it can defy the U.S. and the international community with impunity.

A series of actions taken by the Obama administration have created an impression in Iran, the "Af-Pak" region, China and North Korea that Obama does not have the political will to retaliate decisively to acts that are detrimental to U.S. interests, and to international peace and security.

Among such actions, one could cite: the soft policy toward Iran: the reluctance to articulate strongly U.S. determination to support the security interests of Israel; the ambivalent attitude toward Pakistan despite its continued support to anti-India terrorist groups and its ineffective action against the sanctuaries of Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistani territory; its silence on the question of the violation of the human rights of the Burmese people and the continued illegal detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by the military regime in Myanmar; and its silence on the Tibetan issue.

Its over-keenness to court Beijing's support in dealing with the economic crisis, and its anxiety to ensure the continued flow of Chinese money into U.S. Treasury bonds, have also added to the soft image of the U.S.

President Obama cannot blame the problem-states of the world--Iran, Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea--if they have come to the conclusion that they can take liberties with the present administration in Washington without having to fear any adverse consequences. North Korea's defiance is only the beginning. One has every reason to apprehend that Iran might be the next to follow.

Israel and India have been the most affected by the perceived soft policies of the Obama administration. Israel is legitimately concerned over the likely impact of this soft policy on the behavior of Iran. South Korea and Japan, which would have been concerned over the implications of the soft policy of the Obama administration, had no national option because they lack independent means of acting against North Korea.

Israel will not stand and watch helplessly if it concludes that Iran might follow the example of North Korea. Israel will not hesitate to act unilaterally against Iran if it apprehends that it is on the verge of acquiring a military nuclear capability. It will prefer to act with the understanding of the U.S., but if there is no change in the soft policy of the Obama administration, it will not hesitate to act even without prior consultation with the U.S.

India, too, has been noting with concern the total confusion, which seems to prevail in the corridors of the Obama administration over its Af-Pak policy. Some of the recent comments of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about alleged past incoherence in U.S. policy toward Pakistan--and about the part-responsibility of the U.S. for the state of affairs in the Af-Pak region--have given comfort to the military-intelligence establishment and the political leaders in Pakistan.

Obama's new over-generosity to the Pakistani armed forces and his reluctance to hold them accountable for their sins of commission and omission in the war against terrorism have convinced the Pakistani leaders that they have no adverse consequences to fear from the Obama administration. India would be the first to feel the adverse consequences of this newly found confidence in Islamabad vis-a-vis its relations with the U.S.

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the U.S. as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office. The North Korean defiance is the first result of this perceived soft image. There will be more surprises for the U.S. and the international community to follow if Obama and his aides do not embark on corrective actions before it is too late.

Bahukutumbi Raman is a retired officer of the Indian intelligence service and director of the Institute For Topical Studies, in Chennai, India. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Japan should have ability to strike enemy bases in defense: LDP panel

Japan should have ability to strike enemy bases in defense: LDP panel
Japan Today, Monday 25th May, 06:44 AM JST

TOKYO — A subcommittee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s defense panel plans to propose that Japan be allowed under a new basic defense program to have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-only policy, according to a draft proposal made available Sunday. It also says Japan should be allowed to develop an early warning satellite system to detect the launch of a missile or other objects that may be aimed at the country.

The recommendations are being sought apparently in view of North Korea’s missile launch in April. The government plans to compile a basic defense program for fiscal 2010 to 2014 by the end of this year, and the subcommittee wants to make those recommendations for the deliberations of the outline.

‘‘Japan should have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-oriented policy, in order not to sit and wait for death,’’ the LDP subcommittee said in the draft proposal.

The government takes a stance that Japan can strike an enemy military base even under the nation’s pacifist Constitution, if hostile attacks are certain.

But Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and some lawmakers have taken a cautious attitude toward examining Japan’s possessing such capability.

Japan, meanwhile, is depending on a U.S. early warning satellite against possible missile attacks. But since the April 4 missile launch by North Korea, there have been calls for developing Japan’s own system among members of the LDP.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Libertarian on nuclear disarmament

Proliferated Nonsense, by Ted Galen Carpenter
The National Interest (Online), May 20, 2009

It's been a really bad springtime for arms-control activists who want to see a nuclear-free world. First, when the UN Security Council criticized North Korea's test of a long-range ballistic missile in early April, Pyongyang used that response—toothless though it was—as a pretext to withdraw from the six-party talks on its nuclear program. Later that month, Iran announced a breakthrough in its uranium-enrichment efforts, boasting that it was now running seven thousand centrifuges. And just this week, credible media reports indicate that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

Yet while the trend is unmistakably in the direction of more, not fewer, nuclear powers, the arms-control community is devoting ever more time and resources to the goal of "global zero"—the abolition of nuclear weapons. That obsession is a fascinating and maddening detachment from reality.

It is not even clear that abolishing nuclear weapons would produce an unambiguously beneficial result. Perhaps it is only a coincidence, but the six and a half decades since the dawn of the atomic age constitute the first extended period since the emergence of the modern state system in the seventeenth century that no major wars have occurred between great powers. Many historians conclude that the principal reason the cold war did not turn hot was because both Moscow and Washington feared that a conventional conflict could easily spiral out of control into a nuclear conflagration. It is at least a worrisome possibility that the elimination of nuclear weapons could inadvertently make the world safe for new great-power wars. And given the destructive capacity of twenty-first-century conventional weapons, such wars would be even more horrific than the two bloodbaths in the twentieth.

But even if global zero did not produce such a perverse outcome, the goal is simply unattainable. It is improbable enough that the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China would be willing to relinquish their arsenals. It is a much bigger stretch to believe that such countries as Israel, India and Pakistan would do so. And it is bordering on fantasy to expect such wannabe nuclear powers as North Korea and Iran to abandon their aspirations.

All of those countries embarked on nuclear programs because of acute regional and extra-regional security concerns. Israel worries about the huge demographic edge enjoyed by its Islamic neighbors, and the prospect that the Jewish state's edge in conventional military capabilities will gradually erode. Pakistan worries about the growing economic and military power of its larger neighbor, India. New Delhi, for its part, not only distrusts Pakistan, but frets about China's geostrategic ambitions. All of those countries regard their nuclear arsenals as their ace in the hole, guaranteeing not only their regional status, but in some cases their very existence. They are highly unlikely to relinquish such a tangible insurance policy in exchange for paper security promises from the United Nations or any other source.

The incentives are at least as strong for Iran and North Korea to join the ranks of nuclear-weapons powers. As a Shiite country, Iran is surrounded by hostile Sunni neighbors—as well as its arch-nemesis, Israel. Tehran also has reason to fear the United States. Iranian leaders see how Washington has treated nonnuclear adversaries since the end of the cold war. If the U.S. mugging of Serbia didn't convey the message sufficiently, Iran had a ringside seat to the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime. It was not a manifestation of paranoia for the Iranian leadership to conclude that the only way to prevent Iran becoming the next item on Washington's regime-change agenda was to develop a nuclear deterrent. North Korea appears to have reached a similar conclusion.

Of course, other factors—including national pride and prestige—have played relevant roles in the decision of various countries to become, or seek to become, nuclear powers. But the security concerns appeared to be paramount.

Unfortunately, the emergence of even one nuclear-weapons state in a region creates a greater likelihood that others will follow suit. India's nuclear program made it inevitable that Pakistan would go down the same path. Israel's arsenal likely figured in Tehran's calculations. If Iran continues its nuclear ambitions, it is highly probable that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries in that region will decide on a similar course. North Korea's de facto nuclear status creates pressures on Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to abandon their own commitment to remain nonnuclear. The promise of the U.S. nuclear shield may restrain those ambitions for a time, but it requires considerable optimism to believe that it will do so over the long term.
Instead of pursuing the chimera of global zero, the arms control community needs to focus on attainable goals in a world in which proliferation is becoming an unpleasant reality. Getting the United States and Russia to drastically cut their bloated nuclear arsenals is one such goal. So, too, is an effort to induce India and Pakistan to adopt more explicitly defensive nuclear doctrines, and in the case of Pakistan, to improve the security of its arsenal. It may be possible—although it is more of a long shot—to persuade Iran to refrain from weaponizing its nuclear program, thereby reducing the incentive of its worried neighbors to build their own deterrents. An effort to reduce Pyongyang's temptation to become the global supermarket for the sale of nuclear technology has at least some prospect of success.

Even those more limited and practical goals will require patient, creative diplomacy by the United States and other countries. We are entering a more dangerous era, and there is no policy panacea.