The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation has confirmed, and condemned North Korea’s third nuclear test. Throughout the day, other condemnations will likely be made. The test, and the ongoing development of nuclear weapons- by anyone- is worthy of condemnation.
According to the Reaching Critical Will publication Assuring Destruction Forever, all nuclear armed countries are modernising their nuclear weapons and related infrastructure- in one way or another. ALL of them. North Korea just happens to be testing weapons- the same thing that all other nuclear armed countries have done (with the exception of Israel). The United States, one of the first to condemn this test, continues to do nuclear weapons testing- through the guise of sub-critical tests.
What to do?
Ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would finally put a legal framework around the global desire to end the nuclear testing age. While the treaty itself would not be binding on North Korea, its entry into force would legitimise international reactions to the test. When those who have not outlawed testing in their own countries, those who continue to maintain test readiness, condemn a test it is somewhat difficult to take them seriously. When it comes to nuclear weapons, there is a bit too much finger pointing, and not enough disarmament.
Where from here?
Seriously though, what can the international community to do legitimately encourage an end to the North Korean nuclear programme? Sanctions have not led to positive results, and have little impact on an isolated and starving population anyway. Statements of condemnation are little more than pretty words. What actually is a possible way forward?
It’s a good question and pundits around the globe will be offering solutions and suggestions. Personally, I think there needs to be a global shunning of all who maintain nuclear weapons capabilities. So, if you have the weapons (or are suspected of having them), you should be shunned. Shunned by the international financial community. Shunned by the international political community. Shunned like Charlie the Unicorn.
The policies of isolation that drive North Korea to test are failed policies, predicated on unfulfilled agreements. Like any relationship, it is difficult to know the details behind the failure of the U.S. to deliver the heavy fuel oil promised to North Korea in 2002, difficult to know the details of why ships surrounded the peninsula causing the North to feel an existential threat and withdraw from the NPT. What is known, and what is sure, is that this type of nuclear game playing cannot continue for much longer.
The risks are too high. Risks of use by accident, design, or madness. While North Korea doesn’t have many nuclear weapons, it has enough to threaten its neighbours who reside under a nuclear umbrella. The risk of escalation increases, and de-escalation through disarmament is an option not yet tried.