Peace for Life: Nuclear-free Northeast Asia

International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship 
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea

Toward a Nuclear-free Northeast Asia
Wade L. Huntley*


This paper offers a regional perspective on nuclear proliferation challenges and potential nuclear-free solutions in Northeast Asia.

The first section presents an analytical framework for the dynamics in the region and the challenges that these dynamics pose to the nonproliferation regime. This section outlines two key new features of an emerging new structure of regional relations: the relatively more autonomous role of nuclear policy as distinct from nuclear armament levels, and the relatively greater importance of regional over global security environments in security perceptions.

The second section adopts these analytical precepts to review the current nuclear weapons policies of the two states most critical to the role of nuclear weapons in Northeast Asia: North Korea and the United States. This section focuses on how reliance on nuclear threat-making by both governments both drives and responds to regional threat perceptions.

The paper concludes by underscoring the importance of regional collective security mechanisms to easing nuclear threat reliance and to promote arms control and nonproliferation, and by noting the links between these regional dynamics and contemporary trends in the global nonproliferation regime. The analysis supports the concept of a nuclear weapons-free zone in Northeast Asia as an ideal way to utilize regional collective security to supplant nuclear proliferation and nuclear threat reliance, and so provides an analytical foundation for more specific nuclear weapons-free zone proposals under development by many analysts.

The New Nuclear Age

Nuclear weapons were born into a world defined by the pitched ideological confrontation of the United States and the Soviet Union. Consequently, the dilemmas of the nuclear age were defined by this “bipolar” structure and rarely conceived of outside it. Nuclear weapons also deepened the shadow the superpower competition cast over more localized inter-state disputes, from concern that even the smallest spark could ignite a nuclear conflagration.

Accordingly, the focus of efforts toward nuclear arms control, nonproliferation and eventual disarmament was on the United States and the Soviet Union. Bilateral arms reductions were an immediate priority, and stemming “horizontal” proliferation of nuclear technology to more states was intrinsically linked to rolling back “vertical” proliferation by the two superpowers – a linkage enshrined in the “grand bargain” of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) committing the five “permanent” nuclear weapons states to the ultimate goal of disarmament. Control of nuclear weapons hinged upon the willing participation of the two superpowers.

The end of the Cold War’s pitched ideological confrontation allowed immediate progress in nonproliferation and arms control efforts. Achievements included unilateral actions, bilateral accords and multilateral agreements, reaching a symbolic zenith with the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. However, this progress then languished. The 1998 nuclear tests by non-NPT members India and Pakistan and the US Senate’s refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) augured the closing of the post-Cold War “window of opportunity” for significant progress toward nuclear disarmament.

The failure to realize the hope for reducing nuclear dangers that the end of the Cold War initially offered has many sources, including failures of political will, the pernicious effects of parochial military and economic interests, and the continuing appeal of nuclear weapons as strategic tools and symbols of prestige in an anarchic world. Few of these explanations, however, question the understandings of the basic workings of the nuclear age bestowed by Cold War era analyses blinkered by the bipolar, ideologically-driven competition defining that era.

The end of the Cold War initiated a new, second era of the nuclear age. In this new era, dissipated ideological confrontation has liberated ethnic, national and religious aspirations. Global relations are not structured bipolarly but shaped by crosscutting forces of US primacy, multipolar interaction and transnational globalization. On this new global terrain, nuclear weapons have fundamentally altered roles. The tardiness of arms control and nonproliferation advocates to adjust their thinking accordingly is an important and under-appreciated reason for the waning of progress toward disarmament at the turn of the millennium.

Two elements of the changed circumstances of this new era are particularly relevant to understanding proliferation pressures in Northeast Asia. The first is the relatively more autonomous role of nuclear policy as distinct from nuclear armament levels. The second is the relatively greater importance of regional security environments, as opposed to the global environment, in nuclear strategizing and decision-making. The remainder of this section outlines these two elements.

Nuclear Arms and Nuclear Policy

The distinction between nuclear capabilities (deployed nuclear weapons & associated material assets) and policies pertaining to those capabilities (including both military planning and nuclear threat-making by national leaderships) is in practice sometimes opaque but conceptually vital. Nuclear policies function as the conduit through which nuclear weapons capabilities and practices, on the one hand, and prevailing political-security conditions, on the other, interact synergistically:

In the Cold War era, concern for the autonomous role of nuclear policies was relatively muted because, in its ideologically-polarized climate, both nuclear strategists and nuclear abolitionists tended to regard nuclear weapons issues as largely independent of politics. For the former, the existence of nuclear weapons imposed a logic of its own: theories of deterrence and warfighting held for any “rational actor.” For the latter, a parallel logic obtained: the cataclysmic potential of widespread nuclear warfare rendered their use as a weapon of war “unthinkable” and established the primacy of the imperative of nuclear disarmament. Both communities implicitly held that the Nuclear Capabilities Nuclear Policies Political-Security Conditions driving feature of the nuclear age was the existence of the weapons themselves; policies were derivative.

The manner by which the Cold War ended belies this contextual autonomy of nuclear weapons. Elimination of the Cold War’s ideologically-driven animosity dramatically reduced the perceived threat of deliberate nuclear war between the United States and Russia, despite force levels and launching capabilities as lethal as ever, and so enabled (rather than followed) the subsequent dramatic nuclear arms reductions quickly dwarfing Cold War achievements. The historical lesson is that evolving political conditions are more determinative than abstract strategic logic or operational doctrines of the ultimate role and disposition of nuclear weapons.

Because the emerging autonomous role of nuclear policies was underappreciated, efforts to reduce state reliance on nuclear threats in security policies did not match efforts to reduce nuclear weapons levels. The United States, even while reducing warhead numbers, reinforced its reliance on nuclear deterrence, and other states similarly expanded reliance on nuclear weapons threats (including the threat to develop nuclear capabilities). Belief in the coercive value of possessing nuclear weapons was reinforced. The inevitable stalling of progress in control of nuclear (and other non-conventional) weapons capabilities both reinforced reliance on the nuclear threats and obstructed resolution of security tensions wherever such threats were tangible. These developments highlight the critical linking function between nuclear capabilities and security conditions that policies premising nuclear threats serve. Regional relations in Northeast Asia and the Middle East exemplify these patterns most prominently.

Regional and Global Dynamics

Cold War superpower competition, with its nuclear dimension, imposed itself on many generically regional conflicts; the resultant effects on other states’ nuclear policies led to the presumption that control of nuclear weapons needed to be pursued at the global level. Pursuing disarmament through regional initiatives, such as regionally defined “nuclear free zones,” was often viewed as supplemental to globally focused efforts, rather than as principally useful in its own right.
The end of the Cold War has “loosened” world politics by lessening the influence of overarching global security circumstances on many regional security environments. More geographically proximate and immediate security concerns have taken on higher priority in state security policy-making, driving emergence of regionally-identifiable security environments that have, in turn, taken on a greater role in shaping the overarching global security motif. Thus, while the global and regional security “levels” continue to interact bi-directionally, the end of the Cold War has shifted the weight of influence from the global to the regional level, as the following graph depicts:

Developments in Northeast Asia exemplify how nuclear policy decision-making has followed this trend; as reviewed in the following section, the nuclear policies of each of the principal governments of the region are now primarily responsive to regional conditions. In some cases (e.g. China and Japan) this marks a notable shift from the primary considerations of the Cold War era. Similar thinking also underlies the nuclear policies of governments in South Asia, the Middle East, and even Russia.

While the United States emerged from the Cold War as the world’s only truly global power, its nuclear weapons policies are also evolving toward greater regional specification. During the Cold War, the United States established a network of alliance relationships, girded by extended nuclear deterrence guarantees, as a bulwark against Soviet expansion. With the end of the Cold War removing this overarching strategic motivation, US extended nuclear deterrence alliance relationships are now increasingly justified as protecting US interests and allies from threats of nearer origin.

Thus, the regional determinants of all states’ reliance on nuclear threats and nuclear capabilities (latent or extant) are now of vital concern to the pursuit of nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. In place of the implicit Cold War assumption that regional progress would follow progress at the global level, and could not be realized in its absence, the question now becomes what states in a specific region can do to move toward nuclear disarmament more locally, and thereby facilitate global nonproliferation in the process.

Nuclear Threat Reliance in Northeast Asia

Developments in Northeast Asia over the past fifteen years exemplify how proliferation of nuclear capabilities and propagation of nuclear threats now proceeds primarily along regional lines and for regionally defined purposes. The United States and North Korea now rely heavily on nuclear deterrence or nuclear coercion in their regional security postures

This section reviews the nuclear weapons policies of the United States and North Korea. Operating from the analytical viewpoint of the preceding section, this review focuses on how both states’ reliance on nuclear threat-making pursues security goals derived mainly from regional-origin security concerns. The section concludes by noting how China and even the three principal non-nuclear governments in the region -- Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan1 – also rely to some degree on nuclear threats in their security policies.

US Nuclear Policy

During the Cold War, the United States employed extended nuclear deterrence to protect overseas interests and allies against perceived Soviet global ambitions. In Northeast Asia, extended nuclear deterrence applied primarily to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. To bolster the credibility of the retaliatory threat at the heart of extended deterrence, the United States deployed an array of tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons in the region offering “limited” nuclear options to implement “war-fighting” and “flexible response” nuclear strategies. 2

The end of the Cold War threat that Soviet conventional forces had posed in Europe and Asia fundamentally changed prevailing political and military conditions. Responsively, the United States made unilateral cuts in the absolute size of its nuclear arsenal and drew back most of its forward deployed nuclear forces, including those on the Korean peninsula and on surface naval vessels. However, US policy continued to rely on Cold War era extended nuclear deterrence as a core pillar of the US posture in Northeast Asia. Thus, the end of the Cold War dramatically changed both the general political-security conditions and US nuclear capabilities and operational practices in Northeast Asia, but not the extended nuclear deterrence policies mediating them.

This continued US reliance on extended nuclear deterrence curtailed the ability of nuclear policy to perform its linking function between Northeast Asia’s transformed political-security conditions and reduced nuclear forces. This disjunction introduced new, pernicious sources of regional instability. Russia, China, and North Korea perceived continued US adherence to flexible response strategies despite diminished threats as evincing US determination to compel and coerce them, rather than merely to deter them. These perceptions encouraged destabilizing responses, including North Korean nuclear ambitions and more assertive Chinese nuclear policies (as discussed below). Meanwhile, for Japan and South Korea, continued US reliance on extended deterrence raised questions about the credibility of security guarantees in some circles while in other circles spawning perceptions that US policy was unsympathetic to these allies’ newer security concerns, fueling restiveness in the relationships across the board.

Instead of revisiting nuclear policies, however, US strategic planners began working to bring US military capabilities and threat perceptions in Northeast Asia back into sync with reliance on extended nuclear deterrence. This effort has neared culmination under the George W. Bush administration: the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)3 calls for developing a new generation of low-yield, earth-penetrating, and damage-limiting nuclear weapons to restore the type of tactical capabilities that girded extended deterrence throughout the Cold War, while also depicting the threats posed by “rogue” states armed with weapons of mass destruction (among which North Korea ranks most prominently) to be at least as dangerous as those posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. 4

Unfortunately, US expansion of the breadth and depth of its reliance on nuclear weapons threats in regional contexts, given its preeminent position at the global level, cannot help but produce deleterious effects. Most directly, such US policies may motivate other, conventionally weaker states to seek “equalizing” nuclear capabilities.5 Certainly, emphasis on nuclear threat-making by the world’s conventionally strongest state works to undermine nuclear non-use and nonproliferation norms in Northeast Asia and other key regions, as well as at the global level.

North Korean Nuclear Policy

Throughout the Cold War North Korea’s ruling regime saw itself directly threatened by US nuclear forces, particularly those deployed in and near South Korea, meeting that threat through its own economic and military power and the support of both China and the Soviet Union. By the end of the Cold War, however, both these pillars had collapsed: support from the dissolved Soviet Union evaporated, China was liberalizing its economy and had opened burgeoning trade relations with South Korea, and North Korea’s own economy had disintegrated into energy and famine crises.

This is the context in which North Korea began pursuing an independent nuclear capability – although nuclear research may have begun in the 1950s, a dedicated nuclear weapons program appears to have begun in the mid-1980s with construction of the research reactor and plutonium reprocessing facilities at Yongbyon. North Korea joined the NPT in 1985 but did not reach a safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 1992, at which time the country was already suspected of having extracted enough nuclear material from the reactor to fabricate at least one explosive device.6 From this point on North Korea’s regional relationships have evolved against the backdrop of its potential possession of nuclear weapons.

From 1994 the US-North Korea Agreed Framework successfully froze North Korea’s plutonium-based nuclear program. It intended but never succeeded to resolve discrepancies of past North Korean activities or remove known spent fuel from the country. This circumstance provided the Pyongyang government with a latent nuclear threat that it utilized to considerable effect for the next decade. These shortcomings loomed when, in October 2002, the Bush Administration confronted North Korea with charges that it was undertaking a second, uranium-based nuclear program, initiating an iterated collapse of the Agreed Framework culminating in North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT.7 Early the following year the IAEA referred North Korean “chronic noncompliance” with its safeguards agreements to the UN Security Council.8

The collapse of the Agreed Framework created a critical watershed. Many analysts, whether supporting greater confrontation or greater engagement, fail to recognize that the status quo has shifted fundamentally. Since 2003 there have existed no direct restraints on North Korea’s plutonium-based program. Moreover, by withdrawing from the Agreed Framework and the NPT without suffering meaningful sanction (in part due to lack of viable options), North Korea successfully stepped past several implicit “lines in the sand” which cannot now credibly be redrawn.

In 2003 the United States reportedly detected evidence that reprocessing of the spent fuel stockpile was underway in multiple hidden locations,9 and by 2004 estimated that North Korea had “at least eight” functional nuclear devices.10 In February 2005, just months before the 2005 NPT Review Conference, North Korea for the first time stated explicitly that it possessed nuclear weapons.11 In April 2005 North Korea shut down the research reactor at Yongbyong—which it restarted when the Agreed Framework collapsed at the end of 2002—suggesting that it is preparing to collect a new supply of spent fuel to reprocess into additional weapons-grade plutonium.12 The “six-party talks” have not convened since June 2004, prospects of their resumption are dimming, and the United States and its regional allies are now actively considering new options, including potential UN Security Council action.13 Recent controversy over the statement by the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea had developed nuclear warheads small, light and rigorous enough to ride a ballistic missile to a target illustrates the dynamism and uncertainties of the current situation.14

The long-term prospects are ominous: North Korea with a growing arsenal heightens regional insecurities and uncertainties, threatens the integrity and sustainability of the NPT regime, and creates new potential for fissile material proliferation. Unfortunately, US policies under the Bush administration have been ill-conceived and counterproductive: abandoning prior avenues of US engagement, treating Pyongyang with both contempt and disinterest, and planning vigorous expansion of US nuclear capabilities and policies clearly aimed at North Korea have all fueled its nuclear ambition while offering little alternative to confrontation.15

In the short-run, how many functioning nuclear warheads Pyongyang actually has at hand is secondary; the prospect alone is enough to garner the regime useful coercive leverage. From this point of view, threatening to test a device is more valuable to the regime’s purposes than actually doing so. To be sure, Pyongyang’s motivations to rely on nuclear threats likely entail not just protecting territorial sovereignty but also preserving the regime’s own authority and legitimacy in the face of domestic as well as international challenges. Nevertheless, spending decades subject to US nuclear threats has clearly instructed the regime on the potency of that instrument.

Hence, North Korea’s behavior well illustrates how nuclear threat-making links nuclear capabilities to prevailing political conditions. If in Pyongyang’s eyes the relevant conditions are domestic as well as regional, so they are also for North Korea’s neighbors: bettering conditions within North Korea (with or without the cooperation of the current leadership) is an essential component of the improvement of the regional security environment upon which reducing reliance on nuclear threats in Northeast Asia relies. A comprehensive negotiated settlement, attending North Korea’s nuclear capabilities but aimed at a general resolution of energy, economic and political conditions on the Korean peninsula, is thus also a precondition for moving from the immediate challenges posed by North Korea’s proliferation activities to a more encompassing agenda of reducing or eliminating the role of nuclear weapons threats in Northeast Asia comprehensively.

Other Northeast Asian Regional Nuclear Reliance

Lest one conclude that the United States and North Korea are solely the problem, one should note how China and even the three principal non-nuclear governments in the region -- Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan – also rely to some degree on nuclear threats in their security policies.

Although China is one of the world’s principal nuclear powers, it has tended to view the role of its nuclear weapons less as a means of independence from the global-level superpower competition and more as an instrument of foreign and security policies emanating from the country’s immediate region.16 At the top of the list of China’s regional security concerns is protection of its claims to sovereignty over Taiwan. For Beijing, China’s nuclear missile force serves a vital role in trying to deter the United States from taking too active a role in supporting Taiwan’s sovereignty. This is the driving motivation behind China’s opposition to US missile defense planning.17

Although Japan does not possess nuclear weapons, the country’s security policies rely fundamentally on nuclear weapons threats. This reliance takes two forms: acceptance of the role of US nuclear threats to deter attack on Japan, and the international coercive resource flowing from Japan’s latent capacity to develop nuclear weapons of its own. US policy threatening potential nuclear responses to attacks on Japan – the “nuclear umbrella” – has constituted the central pillar of the US-Japan relationship since end of World War II, but also harbors deepening US-Japan military collaboration that enables expanding the range of Japanese regional activities under joint auspices.18 Japan also quietly relies on the coercive resource flowing from its latent capacity to develop nuclear weapons of its own, as occasionally flourishing controversies on this issue evince.

Neither South Korea nor Taiwan possess the same nuclear power infrastructure as Japan, and so could not so easily pursue nuclear weapons of their own. Both, however, also rely on US extended nuclear deterrence as a vital component of national security policy, and both have attempted to develop nuclear weapons programs in the past that were thwarted by US interventions. In both places, public opinion is less averse than in Japan to eventual nuclear weapons acquisition.

Conclusion: Underpinnings of a Nuclear-free Northeast Asia

The centrality of region-based reliance on nuclear threats as a motivation for nuclear proliferation and as a corrosive influence on global nonproliferation mechanisms remains underappreciated. Reducing reliance on nuclear threats in regional contexts is under-recognized as a priority for nonproliferation advocates. Thus, in addition to asking how progress toward global nuclear nonproliferation could help improve regional security situations, current world conditions present the question of what states in a specific region can do to move toward nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament within their region, and thereby facilitate global nonproliferation in the process.

This perspective offers a crucial element of hope. The loosening of world security relations and nuclear decision-making determinants creates more potential than existed in the Cold War for progress on arms control and nonproliferation to occur in regional contexts relatively independently. Moreover, such autonomous progress in one region or circumstance can directly and positively (albeit not determinably) influence developments in other regional contexts. The salience of regional determinants of nuclear weapons decision-making also highlights the synergistic relationship of regional and global factors. Recognizing these linkages will enhance understanding of contemporary arms control and nonproliferation challenges and facilitate integrative efforts addressing these challenges in mutually reinforcing manners. Such an approach will emphasize resolving regional security dilemmas as a necessary condition for dampening proliferation incentives, highlighting the importance of incorporating non-nuclear precepts into nascent regional collective security mechanisms.

In Northeast Asia today, the nuclear confrontation of the United States and North Korea is a fundamental obstacle to regional security cooperation. This confrontation also contributes to reliance on nuclear threats elsewhere in the region: China also relies in key ways on explicit nuclear threats, and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan may now all be “virtual” nuclear weapon states able to cross the line and make nuclear arms more quickly than the international community could effectively respond.19 Such nuclear threat usage offers an “equalizer” with unique application in the more autonomous multipolarity of the post-Cold War region, offering redress of conventional weaknesses with fewer complications than the alternative of costly alliances.

Nuclear threat reliance in this setting also creates the potential for explosive nuclear arms racing. A nuclear test by North Korea or erosion of the several relatively improved regional relationships (such as China-South Korea) could incite quick escalations in nuclear acquisitions. Thus, creation of durable cooperative security structures in the region, desirable in its own right, is also vital to reducing nuclear threat reliance and dampening proliferation incentives.

Developments in Northeast Asia also interact with circumstances elsewhere. The US-led attack on Iraq appears to have fueled Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions by challenging its confidence that its conventional threat against South Korea alone would deter a US attack20 North Korea’s own proliferation activities have exacerbated proliferation threats elsewhere in the world, and challenge the durability of the NPT regime overall. More generally, the trend of developments in Northeast Asia has contributed to the devastating erosion in the global network of treaties and other international obligations that make up the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Thus, creation of durable cooperative security structures in the region reducing nuclear threat reliance and dampening proliferation incentives is also vital to reinvigorating global arms control and nonproliferation efforts. Such regional progress presupposes solving the proximate security dilemmas that induce reliance on nuclear weapons threats for security policy purposes. Thus, with the Cold War’s rigid ideological confrontation now history, resolving regional security dilemmas has become a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition for global nuclear disarmament.

In Northeast Asia, a genuine collective security structure that satisfies the security concerns of all the states in the region could not only forestall a regional nuclear arms race, but also create a more stable security environment than the region has seen for over a century. Such a structure could credibly aspire to minimize or even eliminate nuclear weapons threats as an instrument of security policy in the region. The concept of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-free Zone could thus be the foundation for an institutionalized regional collective security organization.21

Meeting nuclear proliferation challenges in Northeast Asia would facilitate improvements elsewhere in the world. Because the post-Cold War disaggregation of world security relations creates greater potential for regions to make progress relatively independently, reducing reliance on nuclear threats in regional contexts is now a primary priority for progress globally. The cause of disarmament worldwide now hinges on fostering durable regional collective security eliminating reliance on nuclear threats as instruments of national security. Thus, progress toward instituting viable collective security at regional levels can also contribute to strengthening collective security at the global level (e.g. through the United Nations). Incorporating nuclear weapons-free provisions into regional collective security will offer vital support to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the cornerstone of global nuclear arms control, and to global disarmament efforts in general.

How can such a regional security structure in Northeast Asia, founded on nuclear weapons-free precepts, be achieved? Resolving Korean peninsula security conflicts – not just North Korean nuclear ambitions – tops the agenda for establishing such a regional security regime. Minimizing the role of nuclear deterrence in the US-Japan security alliance, developing a cooperative Sino-Japanese security relationship and engaging Russia as a security partner in the region are also priorities. Japan, as the region’s leading non-nuclear state but also possessing the technologies to develop nuclear weapons, could take the lead in negotiating a nuclear weapons-free zone in Northeast Asia by transforming the unilateral non-nuclear commitment by Japanese governments to the Japanese people into a binding treaty obligation.22 Last but not least is retraction of US regionally-applicable nuclear weapons threats to conform to its withdrawal of deployed nuclear capabilities (as opposed to introduction of new nuclear capabilities to reestablish reliance on nuclear threats). Such retraction would also constitute a significant US step toward fulfilling its NPT disarmament obligations.

Implementing this agenda would also require regional arrangements to constrain pending massive increases in latent and actual conventional military capabilities, modernization and arms trade.23 Such a multilateral security system would surpass the scope of security cooperation envisaged under the rubric of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).24 Yet, certain preconditions of such a structure already exist. Political relations in the region between its historically most adversarial states have improved, over the last decade particularly, exemplified by the burgeoning commercial relations among China, South Korea and Japan. Most of the states of the region, on both sides of the old Cold War divides, have made progress in political and economic liberalization.

The issue is not whether a collective security structure is a practical alternative to the existing security system in Northeast Asia. The existing security system is an artifact of the Cold War eroding under the pressure of changing times. The question is thus how inevitable change can best be managed, and in particular how the ongoing transition can be guided away from increasingly naked balance of power machinations with incumbent arms races and increases in the risks of war, and toward the construction of viable regional security networks capable of improving the prospects for progress and peace. Continued reliance by all the states in Northeast Asia on some form of nuclear weapons threats obscures the new conditions in post-Cold War Northeast Asia and obstructs resolution of regionally-specific security conundrums remaining in the Cold War’s wake. Construction of a genuinely multilateral regional security system thus requires steps at the outset to wean the states of the region from their nuclear reliance, and solve the security dilemmas which that reliance merely suppresses.

* Prof. Dr. Wade L. Huntley: Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research; Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia

1 Note: terming Taiwan a “government” capable of pursuing independent nuclear policies conveys no judgment of its sovereignty status.
2 Policy-makers often defended these nuclear policies strictly in terms of bolstering deterrence; see, e.g., Casper W. Weinberger, “A Rational Approach to Nuclear Disarmament,” Defense (August 1982).
3 The NPR was first publicly summarized at a Department of Defense briefing on January 9, 2002. The classified review was subsequently obtained by The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Substantial excerpts of the review are available at:
4 For an expansion of this assessment see Wade L. Huntley, “Unthinking the Unthinkable: U.S. Nuclear Policy and Asymmetric Threats,” Strategic Insights 3:2 (February 2004), <>.
5 See, e.g., Jeffrey Record, “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism,” U.S. Army War College, December 2003, pp. 29-32 (
6 Joseph Cirincione, Jon Wolfsthal and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002), pp.243-44.
7 For this author’s own assessment of the breakdown of the Agreed Framework, see “Ostrich Engagement: The Bush Administration and the North Korea Nuclear Crisis,” The Nonproliferation Review 11:2 (Summer 2004).
8 IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, “Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors,” Highlights of IAEA Press Briefing, Vienna, 12 February 2003 ( In the context of the impending US-led attack on Iraq, the IAEA simultaneously reported that in Iraq it had been able to maintain its accounting of safeguarded nuclear materials even during the 1998-2002 suspension of inspections and had found no evidence of a revived nuclear program during resumed inspections in the preceding months.
9 David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, “North Korea Hides New Nuclear Site, Evidence Suggests,” New
York Times, July 20, 2003.
10 “N. Korea Nuclear Estimate to Rise,” Washington Post, April 28, 2004, p. A01
11 James Brooke, “North Korea Says It Has Nuclear Weapons and Rejects Talks,” New York Times, February 10, 2005.
12 David E. Sanger, “Steps at Reactor in North Korea Worry the U.S.,” New York Times, April 18, 2005.
13 Choe Sang-Hun, “Allies doubt future of North Korea talks,” International Herald Tribune, April 28, 2005 (; “Japan willing to back Security Council debate on North Korea,” The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2005, (
14 Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, at the public session of the Senata Armed Services Committee, April 28, 2005. David S. Cloud and David E. Sanger, “U.S. Aide Sees Nuclear Arms Advance by North Korea,” New York Times, April 29, 2005; Bradley Graham and Glenn Kessler, “N. Korean Nuclear Advance Is Cited,” Washington Post, Friday, April 29, 2005. This first-ever US official statement that North Korea had progressed this far was greeted skeptically by specialists and subsequently retracted by administration officials. See Joseph Cirincione, “Don't Panic,” May 3, 2005 (
15 For an elaboration of these points, see Wade L. Huntley, “Ostrich Engagement: The Bush Administration and the North Korea Nuclear Crisis,” The Nonproliferation Review 11:2 (Summer 2004).
16 For a good discussion of Chinese strategic policy see Alistair Iain Johnston, "China's New 'Old Thinking': The Concept of Limited Deterrence," International Security, 20:3 (Winter 1995-96).
17 For an expansion of this analysis see Wade L. Huntley, “Missile Defense: More May be Better – for China,” The Nonproliferation Review 9:2 (Summer 2002).
18 See Hans M. Kristensen, “Japan Under the Nuclear Umbrella: U.S. Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War Planning in Japan During the Cold War,” Nautilus Institute (July 1999) (
19 William J. Broad, “Plowshare or Sword?” New York Times (May 25, 2004).
20 Howard W. French, “North Korea Says Its Arms Will Deter U.S. Attack,” New York Times, April 7, 2003, p.13.
21 See J. Endicott, "Great-Power Nuclear Forces Deployment and a Limited Nuclear-Free Zone in Northeast Asia," in P. Hayes and Young Whan Kihl, Peace and Security in Northeast Asia: The Nuclear Issue and the Korean Peninsula, M.E. Sharpe, 1997.
22 For a discussion see A. DiFilippo, “Can Japan Craft an International Nuclear Disarmament Policy?” Asian Survey 40, no. 4 (July-August 2000): 571-98.
23 See D. Ball, "Arms and Affluence: Military Acquisitions in the Asia-Pacific Region," International Security, 18:3 (Winter 1993-94).
24 R. Betts, "Wealth, Power, and Instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War," International Security, 18:3 (Winter 1993-94), relates the view that the prospects for building and sustaining such collective security structures will be affected by the progress of domestic liberalization in the region, particularly in China. On this point see also the conclusion of W. Huntley, "Kant's Third Image: Systemic Sources of the Liberal Peace." International Studies Quarterly 40:1 (March, 1996).