There are increasing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program. U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen strongly implied that North Korea has violated a 1994 agreement in which it froze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for billions of dollars in aid.
The Pentagon believes Pyongyang is building either an underground power plant or a nuclear fuel processing facility at Kumchang-ni, some 25 miles northeast of Yongbyon. North Korea tested a 1,250 miles range missile in August, sold missile parts to Iran and Pakistan, is completing several missile launch facilities, and is believed to want to place atomic weapons on its ballistic missiles. The U.S. believes that the complex at Kumchang-ni could be finished in as little as two years and could produce enough plutonium to build eight to ten nuclear weapons a year.
Supporters seeking the release of Israeli anti-nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu took to the desert this fall with an attempted “citizens’ inspection” of the nuclear weapons factory where he once worked. Police turned them back.
Ten “international inspectors” seeking evidence of weapons of mass destruction at Dimona — eight Americans, a Briton, and an 18-year-old Israeli activist — were stopped at the perimeter of the nuclear complex, detained four hours, then released without charges.
The attempted inspection of the Dimona reactor high-lighted a seven-day international vigil marking the 12th anniversary of the kidnapping and incarceration of Vanunu, the former technician who blew the whistle on his government’s clandestine nuclear weapons program by leaking details to a British newspaper. Vanunu has six more years to serve.
The vigil also set another precedent in the form of a Jerusalem gathering which its organizer characterized as the first public discussion of Israeli nuclear weapons policy in the 40-year history of the secret weapons program. Joining the Israeli organizers were some 17 activists from the United States, Britain, Norway, and Australia.
The inspection (conducted without prior notification of the police) followed an Israeli-organized rally which drew some 70 demonstrators to a site near the reactor fence. Gideon Spiro, leader of the Israeli campaign, renewed his call for elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuri al-Ugbi, speaking for Bedouin tribes whose lands were confiscated to make room for the desert factory, characterized Dimona as “a monster which threatens all in the region.”
Jerusalem police were summoned to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office the next day. International activists had pressed toward the building in support of a Norwegian, Ule Kupreitan, who insisted on presenting Vanunu petitions from trade unions representing more than one million Norwegians. After a brief confrontation, a representative agreed to accept the material.
That night, some panelists and spectators came close to fisticuffs in a Hebrew Union College meeting organized by physicist Daniel Rohrlich to air views on Israeli nuclear weapons. It was the first public meeting on this subject in Israel, according to Rohrlich, who also noted that two dozen prospective panelists had declined to take part.
During the seven-day event the Israeli and international activists also conducted vigils at Ashkelon Prison, the Ministry of Defence, the Atomic Energy Commission, the residence of President Ezer Weizmann, and foreign embassies. They also visited Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert.
In November the United Nations General Assembly unanimously voted to proclaim the first decade of the 21st century “The Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.”
The call came from an appeal signed by 23 Nobel Peace Laureates, as organized by a French humanitarian organization, PARTAGE, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), and its U.S. Branch, the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The proclamation invites each Member-State to take steps so that principles of nonviolence be taught at every level of society.
Despite a meeting between the Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy and U.S. Secretary of State Mad-eleine Albright, U.S. briefer James Rubin insisted that there are no plans to adopt a policy of “no first use.” Declining a public debate, he added “we think NATO’s nuclear strategy is doing just fine, thank you.”