North Korea’s Nuclear Program and the Threat of Proliferation
1. Introduction
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) presents a challenge to international security that is unique and full of risk. Nowhere is this feeling more evident than in the country’s quest since the early 1990s. With the North’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003, followed by a series of nuclear tests early in the 21st century and effective grandstanding in the form of military exercises and aggressive rhetoric that has led to swathes of international sanctions and widespread condemnation by many international actors. With the death of Kim Jong-il and his succession by his son Kim Jong-un in December 2011, talk of the nuclear threat from North Korea increased in the popular media; this was further compounded by the tests and displays of nuclear and missile technology carried out by the North Korean regime early in the 2010s. As it progresses through the decade, the North Korean nuclear problem becomes more and more apparent and prevalent in the contemporary international relations as well as acts of states involved on the world stage. Although the visions of fierce inter-Korean conflict and nuclear war have diminished since the days of the Bush administration, with the emergence of the young and relatively inexperienced Kim Jong-un to world power celebrity and through the diplomatic rhetoric throughout early 2018 suggesting the most significant cooling of international tensions in decades, the threat of nuclear weapon deployment and the real and serious implications this holds for global safety remains a major interest and concern. However, to understand the real risks carried with North Korea’s advanced nuclear capabilities and the ensuing threat of nuclear war, it is necessary to examine in some details the historical background to the DPRK’s nuclear program as well as to explore the monumental impact that a successful and sustained nuclear program would impose on the current international relations and global safety network. This essay seeks to provide such a study, thus it where shall begin you will be informed and provided with an in-depth analysis of the background, the historical construction, and the continuous development of this challenging threat to world safety and peace.
1.1 Background of North Korea’s Nuclear Program
North Korea’s nuclear program can be traced back to the end of World War II, when the Korean Peninsula was divided between the Soviet Union in the North and the United States in the South. The northern part of the Peninsula was under Soviet control, and it was during this time that Russia began to transfer nuclear technology and resources to North Korea. In 1959, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, signed a cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union, and the following year, signed its first agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, North Korea later violated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which it had acceded to in 1985 by not fulfilling its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Although Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, and Algeria have also violated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and North Korea has also performed other missile tests and other WMD consoles. For example, in the crisis was marked by the launch of 12 ballistic missiles, including the first three-stage rocket the DPRK has openly acknowledged at that time. This marks the beginning of the attempt by North Korea to improve the range of its missile technology, and was evident in subsequent tests. North Korea’s acquisition of missile technology can be further divided into three different phases. First is the acquisition of Scud-B technology from Egypt in 1976. During the second phase, starting in 1980 and ending in 1992, North Korea began to manufacture Scud missiles and developed its first Advanced Scud type, known as the Scud-C. Finally, in 1992 North Korea acquired No-Dong missile technology from the Syriac and began production the following year. The missile testing is an international concern because of its location in East Asia, which is geographically one of the most important locations in the world because it is close to two great power clubs, such as India and Pakistan and Russia and NATO. The future is difficult not to imagine, with North Korea and Beijing’s further cooperation in enhancing its missile technology and creating more missiles that can travel a long distance and be equipped with warheads, making the United States and its allies more within reach. North Korea’s close proximity to China, Japan, and South Korea is also a major problem for U.S. foreign diplomacy, and is a barrier to resolving the current nuclear impasse.
1.2 Significance of the Threat of Proliferation
The potential of nuclear proliferation in general raises the risk that regional conflicts could enlarge into broader nuclear wars. If North Korea could get away with proliferating nuclear weapons and the modernization of delivery systems while often threatening its non-nuclear neighbors, this would set a poor example and stimulate nuclear programs in several other nearby states. Furthermore, North Korea’s current unpredictable leader and multiple internal issues that could lead to the fall of the regime give rise to immense difficulties in making an effective non-proliferation strategy. The North Korean regime may focus on getting money from a number of criminal activities, working on the nuclear program while people are starved and in general destroying the economy, and the regime as a whole will focus on the next nuclear advanced scientific development and prioritizing that over the people. These kinds of acts of ignoring the people make the regime more likely to proliferate its own power than to work toward denuclearization. Also, there is no good method to verify whether we have reduced the threat of proliferation. Only by removing the source of the threat, North Korea’s nuclear program, can we be slick sure that the threat no longer exists. For example, in the case of the US and Russia, all nuclear reduction treaties have been reciprocated by mutual inspections and political settlements on verification mechanisms. However, when it comes to a politically closed regime like North Korea, which sets great store by its independence and its right to self-defense, it is in all realistic possibilities impossible to monitor through international inspections what the regime is doing in a country where the regime retains power.
2. Historical Development of North Korea’s Nuclear Program
In the early 1950s, North Korea adopted a policy to develop nuclear weapons under the state founder Kim II Sung. Despite signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in 1985, North Korea developed a nuclear program based on plutonium, not uranium. In 1994, the United States pursued dialogue with North Korea and froze the latter’s nuclear program as a term of agreement. At the same time, the US, Japan, and South Korea agreed to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors with light water nuclear reactors, and the related project was known as the “Agreed Framework” (1994-2006), which was interrupted by the US when accusing North Korea of continuing a covert uranium enrichment program in violation of the agreement. By January 2003, in response to US President George W. Bush’s accusation, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, expelled IAEA inspectors, disabled surveillance equipment, and reactivated Yongbyon nuclear facilities. The “six-party talks” took place in August 2003, and eventually, disarmament for the peninsula was reached in September 2005 between North Korea and the other parties, such as the US, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. However, it did not last long; North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 and the second one in May 2009, which heightened regional tensions among the Korean peninsula, Japan, and the US. In these testing years, North Korea successfully flight tested many short-range and some medium-range missile systems, but the records showed that most recent tests failed until 2015. The large number of missile tests is concerning not only regarding the interests of the international society and regional stability but also the further development of advanced longer-range systems that might be a potential threat to the US. In the 21st century, sustained efforts of the international diplomatic and legal framework in reaction to North Korean nuclear and missile development were performed and resulted in the five committees established by the UN Security Council as follows: Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1718 (2006), Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 2662 (2009), Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 2050 (2012), Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 2087 (2013). Those resolutions were imposed from the first nuclear crisis era, and it shows the significance of the threat of proliferation in the Korean area and the world. The main duty of the committee covers non-military measures and nuclear activities restriction. Based on the recommendation of the UN Security Council, the EU has implemented Regulation 2017/1509 and 474/2012 on restrictive measures. The exclusive competence to act upon the EU for the implementation and progressive development by the Common Foreign and Security Policy has been provided by the regulation.
2.1 Early Stages and Acquisition of Nuclear Technology
After two Punggye-ri nuclear tests, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded in 2017 with moderate confidence that North Korea had learned to produce a compact device that could fit on a ballistic missile. The first nuclear test took place in 2006. The yield of the first nuclear test was low, and the device measured in kilotons, which is less powerful than the bombs that the United States dropped on Japan during World War II. The next nuclear test was not until 2009, and it also had a low yield. It wasn’t until 2016 that North Korea had a successful underground test of a device that could be detonated on a bumpy trajectory in the air, minimizing the radioactive fallout. On September 3, 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth, and most powerful, nuclear test with a yield of 250 kilotons. North Korea claimed that the nuclear test was a “perfect success” and a “meaningful” step in completing the country’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea claimed that the device could be configured as a nuclear warhead for an intercontinental ballistic missile. However, proving such a capability would require more nuclear tests. President Trump signed an Executive Order on September 21, 2017, implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea. These sanctions placed restrictions on North Korean trade and enhanced the United States’ ability to freeze the assets of the North Korean regime.
2.2 Advancements in Missile Technology
One significant aspect of the development of North Korea’s missile program is the move from a reliance on foreign technology to the production of indigenously developed systems. There have been three main periods in the history of North Korea’s missile program: an initial phase of technological dependence focused on short-range missiles, followed by a second stage in which longer range systems such as the Nodong were introduced, and then a third era, characterized by an emphasis on the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Over time, it is possible to observe a progressive increase in the sophistication and range of the various missiles produced in North Korea – a fact that will become increasingly clear as we undertake a chronological examination of the country’s missile inventory. The Scud missile represents the first confirmed instance of North Korean missile development. This weapon, of Soviet design, possesses a relatively limited range and payload capacity; it is, however, extremely versatile and has been employed by many nations and groups. North Korea acquired Scud technology through Egypt in the mid-1970s; the first missile tests took place in 1984, in direct contravention of United States diplomatic efforts to prevent North-South war in Korea. Subsequent development of the Scud series laid the foundations for North Korea to build its first indigenous missile, the Rodong. This weapon, which first entered production in 1990, represents a significant advancement in missile technology. With an improved range of up to 1,300 km – enough to target much of Japan – the Rodong represents a serious change in North Korea’s offensive capabilities. However, the development of new, longer range missile designs is predictably causing concern for both regional security and the wider dilemmas posed by the spread of mass-casualty weaponry. For example, the introduction of the Musudan, which has an estimated range of 3,000 km, marks a distinct increase in North Korea’s potential to project force across the Western Pacific. It is also noteworthy that the technological innovation required to produce missiles capable of performing multiple forms of strikes at different ranges has allowed North Korea to enter the space launch market. The Unha rocket is seen by many military analysts as the prototype for a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Although North Korea claims that such rocket technology has been developed for peaceful space exploration, the interconnectivity between missile and satellite design, in combination with the continuing secrecy maintained over the nuclear program, has led to significant international anxiety. An example of this can be seen in the expressed opinions of US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) officers, who have asserted that technology used in the Unha is almost identical to that employed by early North Korean ICBM prototypes.
2.3 Nuclear Weapon Testing and International Response
After the first nuclear weapon test by North Korea, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1718, which demanded that North Korea cease nuclear testing and prohibited the transfer of any items that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear program. The resolution also imposed a series of sanctions against the regime. However, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons a year later and exercised its second nuclear test in May 2009. This made the international community even more concerned about the possible outcomes of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. In April 2012, the regime attempted a satellite launch using a long-range missile, which was considered by many countries to be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that were in place at the time. This led to the failure of the Leap Day Deal, which aimed for a moratorium on North Korean nuclear tests and uranium enrichment in exchange for food aid provided by the United States. When Kim Jong-un came to power, there were two additional nuclear tests in 2013. In March 2016, North Korea exercised another nuclear test and claimed that it was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb, which is far more powerful than an atomic bomb. Four months later, the United States and South Korea pledged to offer a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in order to protect South Korea from the threats posed by North Korean missiles. This was strongly opposed by China and Russia, as they believed that the system would undermine their security interests. It is particularly worth noting that a series of tough new sanctions were adopted by the UN Security Council in response to the recent missile tests in 2017. A prohibition was imposed on North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. In addition, the Council also imposed “progressive” sanctions on various sectors of the country’s economy and banned any increase in the current number of North Korean laborers working abroad.
3. Current Status of North Korea’s Nuclear Program
North Korea is widely believed to possess a nuclear weapons stockpile, though it is unclear exactly how many weapons they have. In April 2020, a South Korean diplomat was quoted in the press as saying that the country had a stockpile of around 40 nuclear warheads. However, US military authorities had previously estimated that the country might have between 30 and 40 warheads. On the other hand, North Korea is believed to have enough fissile material to be able to produce up to 60 nuclear weapons in total. As of at least 2016, North Korea is also thought to have mastered the technology for putting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile. The country’s state media has released photographs that appear to show such technology in Kim Jong-un’s possession. However, North Korea’s missile and nuclear warhead technology is still being improved, and from analyses of images it is not entirely clear how far that technology has actually moved forwards. Some experts have raised questions around the authenticity of the photographs. An example is the image showing Kim Jong-un standing next to a nuclear warhead model. This image has been used to argue that North Korea now has the capability to produce miniaturized nuclear warheads. However, critics have pointed out that the model shown may have been poorly constructed and was being held by an obviously flimsy support system.
3.1 Nuclear Weapons Stockpile and Capabilities
Following a nuclear test conducted by North Korea in September 2016, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization reported that the explosion yielded a significantly higher amount of kilotons compared to previous tests. A kiloton is an explosive force equivalent to that of 1,000 metric tons of TNT. Such destructive capabilities heighten international concerns regarding the extent of North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile and its technological capabilities. In 2016, the South Korean Defense Ministry estimated that North Korea possesses up to 16 nuclear weapons, an increase from the previous years but still significantly less compared to regional nuclear powers such as South Korea. It is suggested that North Korea is capable of producing four miniaturized nuclear warheads a year, allowing for a potentially larger nuclear arsenal as time progresses. A miniaturized nuclear warhead is one that has been designed to fit onto a ballistic missile. North Korea’s nuclear stockpile, as of 2017 according to the Federation of American Scientists, is estimated to be between 10 and 25 warheads. However, as of the end of 2018, North Korea remains to continuously expand its nuclear stockpile. This suggests that the extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have a wide range of estimations due to its secretive nature. Such uncertainties may contribute to the difficulty for policymakers and international agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program and its operation.
3.2 North Korea’s Missile Program and Delivery Systems
North Korea has made significant advances in the establishment and development of its missile program and delivery systems. The country’s missile program started in the 1970s with assistance from the Soviet Union and China. Initially, its efforts focused on short-range missiles but later shifted to long-range missiles. The development and testing of long-range missiles intensified in the late 1990s. The key institution responsible for missile research and development in North Korea is the National Defence Commission Munitions Industry Department, which oversees munitions manufacturing and procurement. Other key organizations include the Korean Workers’ Party Munitions Industry Department and the State Academy of Sciences. North Korea’s missile program encompasses a wide array of missile types and ranges. Some of the missiles include Scud-B, Scud-C, No Dong, Musudan, and Taepodong. These missiles have different ranges that could cover targets in North Korea, South Korea, and Japan, and some may even pose a threat to US territories in the region. North Korea has successfully developed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can reach the United States. Successful launches of long-range rockets in 2012 and 2016 have demonstrated the progress made by North Korea in its space launch vehicle and ICBM technology. For example, the Unha-3 rocket launched in December 2012 successfully delivered a satellite into orbit, marking a significant leap in North Korea’s ICBM technology. In February 2016, North Korea successfully launched the three-stage Kwangmyongsong carrier rocket, which also placed a satellite into orbit. Also, multiple engine tests were carried out in the same year. These developments have raised international concerns and anxieties, especially after the test launch of North Korea’s first ICBM, Hwasong-14, on 4 July 2017. The launch represented a new escalation by North Korea: with an estimated range of 10,400 km, it places the continental United States within its reach. North Korea’s increasing success in developing long-range missiles in recent years has led to strategic and diplomatic issues in the international arena.
3.3 International Sanctions and Diplomatic Efforts
The United States, along with its regional ally South Korea, have since abandoned ‘sustained dialogue’, which aimed to assist North Korea’s return to serious nuclear disarmament talks, seemingly in favor of an increased emphasis on sanctions pressure. It is concluded, therefore, that even though international sanctions and diplomatic efforts have been employed as measures to halt the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, these efforts have been largely ineffective in realizing diplomatic progress in addressing North Korea’s breach of international law and protecting global security.
For example, in 2003, the United States, China, and North Korea convened diplomatic talks in Beijing, in an effort to reach a negotiated resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue. However, North Korea withdrew from the talks in 2009, proclaiming that it would no longer be bound by its obligations under the 1992 ‘Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’ bilateral agreement with South Korea. From 2014, North Korea has continually stated that it will refuse to engage with any further talks concerning its nuclear activity, and that it will not consider the suspension of its nuclear development.
It is evident that since 2006, when the first sanctions resolution was adopted, the number and severity of these sanctions have only increased. Despite extensive sanctions, debate continues regarding their effectiveness, and whether further sanctions – such as those limiting the exportation of oil to North Korea – should be adopted. Moreover, diplomatic efforts to negotiate with North Korea have not, as of yet, resulted in a diplomatic breakthrough or the cessation of nuclear testing.
In response to North Korea’s continued weapon testing, the UN Security Council adopted numerous sanctions resolutions against North Korea, predominantly under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. It is confirmed, for example, that the two recent substantive resolutions, 2270 and 1718, establish wide-ranging sanctions such as: firstly, a complete arms embargo, which bars the provision of arms and related material to North Korea; and secondly, a ban on all exports from North Korea, particularly coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, and rare earth metals. Furthermore, both resolutions also require the freezing of assets and the expulsion of diplomats if there is evidence of them contributing to prohibited programs.
To curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and in response to its nuclear testing activity, the United Nations (UN) has imposed a series of extensive and increasingly punitive economic sanctions on North Korea. It is notable that UN sanctions, or international sanctions generally, are legal and political instruments to compel a state to abide by – or change its conduct in accordance with – international law. The successful imposition of further sanctions depends on the approval and support of the UN Security Council.
3.4 Regional Security Implications
The nuclear policy of North Korea has regional implications for the security of the Korean Peninsula and East Asia. Firstly, the preservation of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is essential. North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT in 2003 and its display of nuclear capacity contributed to changes in the regional security environment. While the US and South Korea contend that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a security goal, North Korea underlines the strategic environment and the hostile policies of the US as reasons for prioritizing self-defense measures, including nuclear capacity. Indeed, the US approach to North Korea has been criticized for fluctuating from ‘hawkish’ and ‘ideological’ to ‘engagement’ strategies over time, potentially destabilizing the region. Japan’s government has officially expressed its concern regarding North Korea’s nuclear capacity, labeling regional security as a concern of international society. North Korea’s stance on the Korean security issue and the US forces deployed to South Korea are matters of contention between South Korea and China. For Beijing, a US presence in the region is seen as part of a strategy of containing China’s influence and it is possible to infer that any future denuclearization would affect the dynamics of regional competition. Such interactions between different regional actors underscore that the security implications of the North Korean nuclear issue are complex and multifaceted, as both conventional and non-traditional paradigms of security come into play as nations jockey for position around and within the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, the issue of North Korea’s nuclear development underscores the fact that ‘security’ is a highly fluid concept with a broad range of interpretations, being subject to evolution, change, and manipulation by various actors both within and external to a given state or region.
4. Implications and Challenges of Proliferation
The current status of North Korea’s nuclear program and its implications for regional and global security has become a widely discussed topic in academic and policy circles. Since the beginning of nuclearization in the 1950s, nuclear proliferation has always been a great concern to international peace and security. The potential for nuclear weapons to be used by states or non-state actors, either purposefully, inadvertently, or by mistake, has been the main focal point for those who study and write about the international security threats that come with the spread of nuclear weapons. I believe the overall goal is to present a deep understanding of the implications and challenges of North Korean nuclear proliferation and assist scholars, policymakers, or students who have a specific interest in the North Korean nuclear issue. However, there are a lot of uncertainties attached to this goal since political and diplomatic tactics adopted by different stakeholders may change over time, and due to the secretive nature of the North Korean regime. Last but not least, there is a substantive uncertainty on whether the intended objectives of strategic denuclearization of North Korea can be achieved through existing policy strategies. In the following paragraphs, I will be discussing some possible implications and challenges of nuclear proliferation in North Korea. First and foremost, North Korea has never made a secret of the fact that it has been attempting to develop a nuclear warhead that can be mounted on a missile, and there does not seem to be any sign of not achieving this. The effort to achieve this ambition has raised a lot of international concerns because the testing activities clearly and intentionally violate the norms of the non-proliferation regime. North Korea is a nuclear-armed state that has pledged itself to the principle of non-expansion of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. However, the current status of the North Korean nuclear program shows that proliferation could be exacerbated and even lead to a nuclear arms race in that region. This is going to bring a more complicated security environment and make it harder for existing powers to negotiate peace and order. Last but not least, it cannot be ignored that various international communities and security councils such as the UN and ASEAN continuously attempt to create effective strategies for addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation, but so far, to make a substantial change has remained an unrealistic hope. All of this is closely linked with the political atmosphere of that specific period. Defensive realists argue that states in the anarchic international system would find security by forming alliances that can help counter potential threats from other states. However, history has already shown that a world with alliances or without alliances has never ceased to war, and nationalism always strikes the balance between the utility one can obtain and moral consensus. Offensive realists suggest that the self-help system is the rational response to the security dilemma and the only hope for survival is to strive for power maximization. In the context of the North Korean nuclear issue, these realist arguments seem to further justify and materialize the existing political impasse between states and the never-ending tension around the globe. As van Evera puts it in “Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science,” all realist theories share the fundamental assumption that states are always potentially in conflict. However, the struggle and differences come from perceptions of what these potential conflicts may hinge upon and how such conflicts can be managed.
4.1 Potential Threat to Global Security
The potential threat posed by proliferation to global security is an issue of significant concern in international relations and the North Korean case only serves to exacerbate these concerns. Experts have argued that North Korea’s growing nuclear programme could lead to nuclear war in East Asia which, given the heavily-populated nature of the region, would likely have extensive consequences. This would not only manifest itself in the devastation and destruction that a nuclear war would invariably bring about, as highlighted by Robert Gallucci when he noted that “we’ve just been damn lucky that we have not had a nuclear war since 1945”, but it also runs the risk of further nuclear proliferation across the world. As Waldron explains, North Korea’s obsessive focus on building its nuclear arsenal and its position as a ‘rogue state’ possesses the unique danger of providing “a strong motivation and a focus for any terror group interested in buying, stealing or developing nuclear weapons”. He goes on to argue that the lack of sufficient international measures and the apparent futility in stopping North Korea’s nuclear programme, combined with the potential for the country to broker and supply nuclear weapons clandestinely, could create a situation where the international stages is suddenly confronted with numerous nuclear crises across the world, quipping that “the nightmare we’re all dodging is state fabrication of nuclear weapons, which is hardly science fiction at this point”. This apprehension over not only the immediate impact of a nuclear war, but also the wider implications of an increasingly tense and uncertain world, have clearly been expressed by influential members of the international community, such as US senators and diplomatic figures from the United Nations. Therefore, the seriousness and scale of such concerns is clear.
4.2 Impact on Non-Proliferation Regime
As one of the cornerstones of the security architecture, the non-proliferation regime has been instrumental in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons for many years. However, the existence and continuation of North Korea’s nuclear program have significantly undermined the effectiveness of this regime. Firstly and most importantly, the non-proliferation regime may suffer a legitimacy and credibility crisis due to the profound impact of North Korea’s open violation of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations on the regime itself. The legitimacy of the non-proliferation regime rests at least partly on the view among the international community of the covenant as a quid pro quo, in which the states agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and the nuclear-weapon states agree to engage in disarmament negotiations in good faith. However, North Korea’s repeated abrogations of its international legal obligations have jeopardized the integrity of the whole non-proliferation regime. This can be demonstrated by the fact that North Korea’s open threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty resulted in widespread concern about an adverse domino effect, which in turn debilitated the role and image of the non-proliferation regime. Also, the crisis of legitimacy for the non-proliferation regime was further reinforced by the international community’s failure to respond to North Korea’s increasingly flaunting of its non-proliferation obligations, as shown in the lack of effective measures imposed by United Nations Security Council on North Korea. Such failure has undermined the credibility of the enforcement measures under the regime and has thereby facilitated the prevalent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The impact on the non-proliferation regime could also be material in conjunction with its continuous crisis of treaty universality, as the agreement on non-proliferation is not universally recognized by all nations and North Korea’s advance in nuclear capability and subsequent withdrawal from the Treaty further exacerbated the inherent weaknesses within the treaty. All in all, the continuous pursuit of North Korea for nuclear capacity and the strategic motivations behind, as well as its subsequent effects and ramifications, have effectively physically and institutionally proven the ineffectiveness of the non-proliferation regime. As such, our current understanding of the regime and its limitations demands a comprehensive re-assessment in light of the real impact of North Korea’s nuclear pursuits and open presentations of proliferation. These challenges and implications due to North Korea’s open disdain for the non-proliferation regime merit a fundamental reassessment of the regime and its weaknesses in the modern context.
4.3 Strategies for Addressing the Proliferation Issue
In devising strategies to address the proliferation issue stemming from North Korea’s nuclear program, it is important to look at developments that may have contributed to why such a problem exists in the first place. It may also be useful to study methods that were employed in the past – successful or otherwise – in an attempt to learn from history and to see if certain aspects of those strategies could be used in the present context. Furthermore, it is equally important not only to look at specific measures that can be taken to prevent and contain the threat of proliferation that North Korea’s nuclear program poses, but also to look at addressing the root cause as well as any steps that can be taken to change or modify the behavior of the opposing parties essay pro. Perhaps the most notable development in recent years concerning North Korea’s nuclear program is the fact that it has advanced to a stage which is arguably more than just possessing the knowledge and know-how of making nuclear weapons. The internationally condemned nuclear testings in both October 2006 and May 2009 were widely seen as proof that North Korea has indeed moved on to actively expand and deliver its nuclear arsenal. As such, it is perhaps a deservedly justified strategy to intensify and set in place more comprehensive and coordinated efforts with a view to prevent possible export of nuclear arms and related materials from North Korea to other states or non-state entities. Concurrently, the idea of bringing North Korea back to the six-nation talk which involves North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States as a platform for brokering a negotiated settlement has enjoyed much attention in recent years. The six-nation talk basically aims at addressing North Korea’s nuclear program through peaceful negotiation, ultimately to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons. Such an approach is widely seen as a very promising means internationally to tackle head-on the proliferation issue that arises from North Korea and has substantial support throughout the world. However, given the fact that North Korea has walked out of this process and has constantly refused to allow the inspectors to check their nuclear facilities in more than 18 months, whether such a strategy bears fruit ultimately remains to be seen.

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