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Does North Korea Need To Be A Nuclear Power?

B.A. Political Science, Member of®
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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the most isolated nation on earth. This country is commonly known as North Korea and it claims to be sovereign over the entire Korean Peninsula. North Korea was created at the end of the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. At the end of the war, the Kim Il Sung`s socialist government remained in the north and a capitalist government took control of the South. Kim IL Sung, as first North Korean Supreme Leader, led the first socialist government of the DPRK by implementing his self-reliance ideology which isolated North Korea from the rest of the World. The self-reliance ideology, known as Juche in North Korea, aims at protecting the socialist state from any outside influence.

Besides, there are several restrictions on individual liberties such as: very limited freedom of expression, movement, religion, etc. For instance, people cannot freely make international calls, practise religion, or express their political views. In sum, the DPRK is the most isolated nation in the World and the state intervenes in people’s everyday life. Consequently, the Korean Workers` Party can govern as it wishes without being affected by any foreign power. Therefore, North Korea wants nuclear weapons to protect its sovereignty fearing that it could be invaded by Western countries at any future point in time.

                To begin with, the North Korean Government wants to get the nuclear weapons because such military hardware would assure their national survival among nations. Kim Jong Un is concerned by the regime’s survival; he is looking for the best way to protect his totalitarian regime. There was a statement which had been released by the DPRK media which clearly explains why the government needs to become a nuclear power: "History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasured sword for frustrating outsiders' aggression.¨ Fujimoto, former Kim Jong IL cook, reveals in his book that Kim Jong ill thought North Korea was vulnerable without nuclear weapons. For instance, DPRK Leader Kim Jong IL perceived nuclear weapons as a kind of insurance policy for his political regime. Kim Jong Il worried about the future of his regime. This is why the Korean leader started a program to make the DPRK a nuclear power.

                In addition, the country’s national security has always been a high priority for the rogue state in the Korean peninsula; this is because the socialist state has very unfriendly diplomatic relations with several Western nations. These nations accuses Kim`s regime to violate human and democratic rights. Therefore, North Korea has always wanted to be able to protect itself from any foreign attack. For that reason, the North Korean nation tried to get the support from the Soviet Union and the Democratic People’s Republic of China to develop nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, both communist nations refused to give nuclear military technology to the DPRK. China was only interested in using North Korea as a buffer zone between its mainland and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). South Korea is a U.S. friendly nation which supports capitalist and democratic values. In contrast, the Soviet Union supported North Korea since the new nation was governed by a communist party. Consequently, the Soviet Union helped North Korean to get peaceful nuclear technology. As a result, North Korea built a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon in 1965. In 1985, North Korea signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which is an international treaty aiming at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. However, North Korea did not respect its pledge about nuclear weapons and the North Korean nation kept developing nuclear weapons. For that reason, the DPRK withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Two years later, North Korea promises to give up its entire nuclear program in exchange of energy assistance from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Nevertheless, the Kim Jong IL regime never gave up its nuclear program. Consequently, North Korea has been making several nuclear tests since 2009 regardless of its own international commitments.

On the other hand, some experts think that North Korea could try to unite both Koreas by military means. For that reason, Alex Lockie, a foreign policy and military expert, writes in the 2017 Business Insider that North Korea needs nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from getting involved in the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Lockie argues that North Korea might try to reunite both Koreas by the use of military power and the DPRK needs a deterrent to keep the U.S. at bay. Hence, Pyongyang does not want the United States tries to stop them from re-uniting both Koreas; thus, the North Korean top officials need the atomic bomb to prevent the U.S. from sending troops in South Korea. For that reason, other experts support this claim such as Yun Sun who is a senior associate at the Stimson Center. Yun Sun says that: "The North Korean’s development of nuclear weapons is eventually aimed at the eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula.¨ Nevertheless, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed in 1972 that the Korean reunification must be achieved peacefully and without foreign interference. This is just a symbolic agreement because the Kim regime does not intend to give up power and this socialist government wants to control the entire peninsula.  Professor Daniel Pinkston from Troy University told the London Telegraph that North Korea really wants that the Korean Peninsula be unified again on North Korean terms and be ¨recognized as the sole legitimate Korean state.¨ However, any reunification either by political or military means is unlikely. As well, there is a very slim chance that North Korea try to invade South Korea. This dictatorial regime knows that it cannot compete with the strength of the U.S. South Korean Alliance. Therefore, this is very unlikely that North Korea would even think about invading South Korea.

In addition, the DPRK state might have as many as 60 nuclear weapons according to the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency. The North Korean nuclear program started in the 1950s in order to protect North Korea from any foreign invasion. The regime considers that such destructive weapons are the ultimate deterrents against any foreign strike. CNN published an article on November 30 in which the U.S. Defence Secretary revealed that the DPRK has the ability to hit everywhere in the World. Elliot Tepper, a Carleton University political scientist, told CTV News in September 2017 that North Korea intends to use nuclear weapons in case that the survival of the regime is threatened by foreign powers. Leader Kim Jong Un uses weapons of mass destruction as bargaining chips to ¨play tough with the international community.¨ Kim Jong Un’s government can now be seen as a serious play on the international stage. North Korea is a nuclear power by other nations.

Furthermore, China is highly concerned about the DPRK nuclear programs and bilateral relations between both nations have declined over the past few years. The United States hopes that China convinces the DPRK to get rid of its nuclear program. China might be the only country which could bring an end to the Kim Jong Un`s nuclear ambition. The Kim regime highly depends on Chinese trade which accounts for more than half of North Korean imports. In any case, China is the most important trading partner for North Korea; besides, China is the main food and energy supplier of the Kim regime. Therefore, China’s trading relations might be a good bargaining tool to get North Korea to discard its nuclear weapons. Still, this is very unlikely that China would intervene in the U.S. and North Korean disagreement on nuclear weapons. According to Professor Steve Tsang, the director of the China Institute at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, China has no reason to push North Korea to bring Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on a common ground. Professor Tsang argues that China wants to contain the problem over the DPRK rather than resolving. However, Professor Tsang reveals that China does not like the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons. This situation destabilizes Asia and the Chinese would have preferred North Korea not to be a nuclear power.

                Finally, North Korea considers that it needs the nuclear bomb as the ultimate deterrent from foreign powers. The DPRK is a totalitarian regime criticized by most democratic powers for its disrespect of human and democratic rights. The DPRK knows that most authoritarian and totalitarian regimes without the atomic bomb had been brought down by Western powers. For instance, the U.S. and its allies removed from power Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The dictator was prosecuted for crimes against humanity by a special tribunal in Iraq. Kim Jong IL really feared that one day his dictatorial regimes could end like Saddam Hussein’s regime by the U.S. military intervention. As a result, Kim started a long term development program of nuclear weapons. The DPRK cherishes its friendly relations with China which supplies several essential goods to the Kim regime. North Korea signed in 1961 a mutual cooperation treaty which commits both nations to provide mutual military protection in case of foreign invasion. Still, the Kim regime does not consider that mutual protection is enough for the Korean socialist system’s survival. North Korea perceives that the ownership of nuclear weapons is the best deterrent, especially when the nation is faced by the very powerful U.S. Army. Consequently, Kim Jong Un might have achieved his father’s dream of ensuring the long term survival of his regime.


January 20, 2018





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Vallee, Yannick, B.
By Yannick B. Vallee

Yannick B. Vallee is a political scientist who recently graduated from Bishop’s University (Quebec, Canada) in the BA program of political science. He also has a college degree of Business Administration with a specialization in marketing. Nowadays,  he specializes in American, Canadian... (Read next)

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