Fri, 10 Jan 2003

A sideshow in U.S. foreign policy

B.A. Hamzah, New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur

It is about the right of a sovereign state exercising its competence to exist. An expression of independence and equality. A desire to harness permissible peaceful nuclear (PNE) technology that could be used to alleviate poverty in North Korea. Such technology (PNE) is widely used in Europe, Japan and the United States. It is legal. It is permissible under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Yet Washington says North Korea cannot possess or harness the indigenous technology even for permissible peaceful purposes. Pyongyang is not even allowed to import oil to run its industries. How does one expect North Korea to survive, to feed itself? Why deprive North Korea from using the same technology that other countries have adopted? If it is not a crime to possess nuclear weapons, why condemn North Korea? Is it a crime to emulate the nuclear powers? Is it wrong to use nuclear power as a cleaner energy alternative for a hydro-carbon poor state? I would have thought that the PNE would be a welcome alternative in a world running out of oil.

We are not talking of nuclear weapons. North Korea does not even have a dirty bomb. So, why the fuss as if the world is breaking apart? What is so evil or devilish about North Korea ? Why is the world quiet about nuclear weapons in the U.S., UK, France, China, Russia, Israel, India and Pakistan? Are they not weapons of mass destruction that Washington wants to ban from Iraq, Iran and North Korea? The U.S. and Russia have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads of varying megatonnage size between them. Their destructive power is millions of times more than the 14- kiloton and 21-kiloton atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

North Korea, Iran and Iraq are sovereign States that cannot even own a nuclear power plant for peaceful purposes, let alone possess nuclear weapons. Reason: Washington believes they are a threat to world peace and security.

No evidence is needed to substantiate the U.S. allegations. If the U.S. says so, it must be so. If Washington says nuclear weapons in the hands of some are safe, no one is supposed to question the judgment. It is the gospel truth.

Such logic by the world's most powerful military state is really convoluted. The double-standard foreign policy pursued by Washington is really disturbing. In Bush's lexicon, Iraq and Iran are also members of the axis of evil because the majority of the citizens profess Islam. And, Islamic countries are not permitted to possess nuclear technology and weapons; they must remain naked.

Washington has also equated Islam with terrorism, the new enemy of democracy. Terrorism has supplanted communism and Soviet Union, the Evil Empire in Ronald Reagan's vocabulary. Who's next? Read Bush's mind and lips.

If the logic of U.S. foreign policy prevails, Washington will soon ask Pakistan to disarm. In the eyes of Washington, an Islamic State with nuclear weapons is a danger to world peace. Washington is also likely to put pressure on Russia to withdraw support for the nuclear power plant in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It is okay for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and many countries in Europe to possess the capability to produce nuclear weapons at short notice. It is permissible for the non-Islamic States to operate nuclear power plants. It is fine for them to operate nuclear spent fuel reprocessing facilities. The UK and France, for example, reprocess spent fuel from Japanese nuclear plants to supply weapons grade plutonium to Tokyo.

But North Korea does not even have a nuclear power plant and yet Washington says it can threaten world security. What logic is this? It is true that with the best of safeguards, accidents can happen. For example, the Three-Mile Power Plant accident in the U.S., the Chernobyl disaster in former Soviet Union and the accident at the Tokai-mura plant in Japan in 1997, to name three. No serious efforts are made to shut the nuclear power plants.

Washington wants North Korea, like Iraq, to voluntarily disarm. Or be disarmed. But while the spotlight is on Iraq, North Korea is only a sideshow in U.S. foreign policy. The real targets of U.S. foreign policy after Sept. 11, 2001 are Islamic States, Islam and Muslims. Terrorism is only a label. A convenient excuse.