Sanctions do not lead to nuke abolition in Asia

Updated 03 February 2013

Sanctions do not lead to nuke abolition in Asia

North Korea’s response to the United Nations Security Council's expanded sanctions recently by threatening to resume nuclear tests and failure last November of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to persuade the five recalcitrant nuclear powers to sign the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) have focused attention on the atomic threat facing the Asian region that is fast emerging as the center of the global economy.
Posited very much in the midst of these developments is the Obama Administration’s so-called US “pivot” or “rebalance” policy toward Asia, which is increasingly seen in the region as a security issue rather than an economic or political re-engagement.
Since this policy announcement two years ago there has been increased tension in the region with regard to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea that has prompted some analysts in Asia to question whether the US is trying to provoke Asian countries like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam into confrontation with China.
With North Korea’s recent posturing, the threat of a nuclear confrontation — though remote — is rather worrisome to Asia that is emerging from centuries of economic subjugation by the West.
A looming confrontation with China in Asia may be one of the major reasons why the three nuclear powered states Russia, France and Britain could not agree to sign the SEANWFZ as planned at the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in November 2012. France voiced its reservations on the right of self-defense, United Kingdom on “new threat and development”, and Russia on the right of foreign ships and aircraft to pass into the nuclear free zone, a concern similar to that of the US.
The notion of a SEANWFZ dates back to Nov. 27, 1971, when the original five members of ASEAN signed a Declaration on a (ASEAN) Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) in Kuala Lumpur. The first major component of the ZOPFAN pursued by ASEAN was the establishment of a SEANWFZ.
However, due to the unfavorable political environment in the region, the formal proposal for the establishment of such a zone was tabled only in the mid-1980s. After a decade of negotiating and drafting efforts by the ASEAN Working Group on a ZOPFAN, the SEANWFZ Treaty was signed by the heads of state of all 10 ASEAN member countries in Bangkok on Dec. 15, 1995 and it took effect two years later. The negotiations between ASEAN and the five nuclear powers on the protocol have been under way since May 2001 with no progress achieved.
Among a number of rules and conditions laid out by the treaty, the main components are that signatory states are obliged not to develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons; station nuclear weapons; or test or use nuclear weapons anywhere inside or outside the treaty zone.
The protocol also stipulates that Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) must abide by articles of the Treaty and not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against States parties. China has previously expressed its willingness to ratify the protocol, but the other four NWS cite the geographical scope of the Treaty as an obstacle. The treaty zone covers the territories, continental shelves, and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the States Parties within the zone.
Malaysian political scientist, Dr Chandra Muzzafar, Executive Director of the International Movement for a Just World says that while ASEAN states must be commended for drafting and signing the SEANWFZ, at the same time “all the five nuclear weapons states are determined to ensure that their nuclear advantage is preserved at all costs, ‘self-defense’ is just a camouflage.”
“Britain and France are US allies and the US through various military and diplomatic moves is reinforcing its agenda of containing China. So it should not surprise anyone if its two European allies are seeking to bolster the US position in the region,” he said in an interview with IDN-InDepthNews.
Asked if the Asian countries should make US access to their markets conditional on the nuclear powers signing the treaty, Dr. Muzzafar said: “ASEAN and other countries in Asia should first demonstrate a strong collective commitment toward the control and abolition of nuclear weapons before they make demands upon outside powers. Such a commitment does not exist at the moment. This is why I do not see them asking these powers to sign the Bangkok Treaty as a condition for access to the expanding markets in Asia.”
Dr. Muzzafar is of the view that governments in the region will not be able to persuade the nuclear powers to sign the treaty and it will have to be non-governmental actors that need to mount a concerted campaign for it to happen. “In the ultimate analysis, it is only a powerful citizens’ movement that can rid the continent of present and future nuclear weapons”, he argues.
In a speech at the University of Iceland in October 2012, Dr Gareth Evans, the former Australian Foreign Minister and the Convener of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN), regretted that the spirit of optimism some three years ago that nuclear disarmament could be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region has evaporated.
“If the existing nuclear-armed states are serious about non-proliferation, as they all claim to be, and sincerely want to prevent others from joining their club, they cannot keep justifying the possession of nuclear weapons as a means of protection for themselves or their allies against other weapons of mass destruction, especially biological weapons, or conventional weapons,” he argued. "All the world hates a hypocrite, and in arms control as in life generally, demanding that others do as I say is not nearly as compelling as asking them to do as I do."
Dr. Evans also pointed out that nuclear weapons would not deter terrorists, as many nuclear weapons states tend to argue. "Terrorists don't usually have territory, industry, a population or a regular army which could be targeted with nuclear weapons," he said.
Rather than subjecting nukes to international scorn, several commentators in regional publications in recent months have argued that the US may need to be persuaded to re-deploy tactical weapons in the Korean peninsula, which the Bush administration withdrew in 1991 — in order to respond to the North Korean threat.
“Tactical nukes on South Korean soil would enhance the credibility of the US nuclear umbrella against North Korea and also reassure the South Korean public of the US security commitment” argues Seongwhun Cheon, a Senior Research Fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in a commentary published by GlobalAsia.
“As North Korea continues to develop long-range missiles, alliance dynamics in Northeast Asia will come to resemble that of Europe in the late 1950s.” he says. “When the Soviet Union first fired its Sputnik missile and opened the intercontinental missile age, Western European allies began to worry that America might decouple its own security from alliance security in fear of a Soviet attack on the US mainland. Similar concerns on decoupling will become widespread in South Korea, and cause ripple effects in Japan. To allay looming concerns about such a possible decoupling, redeploying tactical nukes in South Korea is essential,” writes Cheon.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.