Handling North Korea

Tensions between North and South Korea are high and some observers anticipate warfare, which the North claims would culminate in the use of nuclear weapons.

On November 12, 2010, Siegfried S. Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, visited the Youngbyon nuclear complex in North Korea with two colleagues, John W. Lewis and Robert Carlin. They were shown a small, recently completed, industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility and an experimental light-water reactor under construction.

They had assumed that North Korea possessed a uranium enrichment program, but were amazed by its scale and sophistication. They saw rows of advanced centrifuges, which were apparently operational, and inferred that these must have been built elsewhere over many years and then moved to the new facility. Pakistan had probably played a significant role and possibly Iran as well.

Hecker blamed this development on the George W. Bush administration’s confrontation with Pyongyang in October 2002. The manner of the encounter led to the termination of the 1994 Agreed Framework, which had been intended to yield diplomatic normalization and denuclearization. Ending the agreement gave North Korea an excuse to withdraw from the NPT and build its first bomb.

Hecker believes that, by revealing its facilities, Pyongyang is sending a signal that policymakers must take seriously. He suggests that the US government should quickly press for “the three no’s”—no more bombs, no better bombs, and no exports—in return for one yes—Washington’s willingness to address North Korea’s fundamental insecurity.

Probably the main factor limiting North Korea’s nuclear weapon program is a rather secretive international program call the “Proliferation Security Initiative,” (PSI) which was begun in 2003 by George W. Bush and is being strengthened by Barack Obama. It is a voluntary program in which 98—about half— of the nations of the world are participating. They pledge to strengthen legal efforts, exchange information, and take action to interdict unconventional weapons and materials before they can reach states and terrorist organizations “of proliferation concern.”

Although no specific details can be spelled out and it is unclear what ratio of shipments have been stopped, former officials say that dozens of interdictions have taken place. The effort is supposedly costing the US less than $1 million per year. South Korea is participating in PSI operations, although North Korea threatens that any interdiction of one of its ships will be considered an act of war.

Of the PSI participants, 21 member states form the core, the “Operational Experts Group.” They include Australia, France, Japan, Russia, Singapore, the UK, the US, and South Korea. However, Russia is apparently a lukewarm member and China is not a member, regarding PSI interdictions as illegal under international law. Obama’s administration justifies the initiative on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which aims at denying terrorists access to WMD, though the UN itself does not have an active organization to carry out such exercises as PSI does. The US also says that it operates under the law of the sea, which does not authorize random-type boardings. Interdictions have been with the consent of the flag state or the ship’s master. In any case, the emphasis is extending now from interdictions of ships to those of air cargo. Actual news is not likely to be reported about any of these instances.

The Obama administration intends to make the program “an enduring effort” without creating an international bureaucracy. They provide some leadership while maintaining the voluntary, flexible nature of the project.

The currently dramatic question is: Will North Korea really start a war if a South Korean vessel interdicts one of its ships under PSI? Or is it bluffing?

Sources: “What I Found in North Korea,” by Siegfried S. Hecker, Council on Foreign Relations; “Counterproliferation Program Gains Traction, But Results Remain a Mystery,” by Lee Michael Katz. Special to Global Security Newswire.

IPB Centenary

In beautiful Oslo, 23-26 September 2010, dignitaries and affiliates of the International Peace Bureau marked the centenary of IPB’s Nobel Peace Prize. In 1910, IPB had been almost 20 years old, with a history of conferences and campaigns in Europe for disarmament and the abolition of war. Its work now embraces individuals and 300+ organizations in some 70 countries and was praised by many at the Oslo event, including Federico Mayor, former UNESCO Director-General, for its many con- temporary contributions to building a culture of peace.

IPB’s Sean McBride Prize was awarded to Binalakshmi Nepram, a woman of great courage, for her leadership to eliminate gun violence in politically charged Manipur, India. Please see for details of the substantive conference “A Climate of Peace.” which unfolded in the days following that award. By its finale, Metta Spencer, of this magazine, won a 3-year seat on IPB’s Council. A Swede, Tomas Magnusson, and Ingeborg Breines of Norway will be co-presidents.

Janis Alton, ex-IPB Council member/Co-chair VOW.

Canada’s Parliament Calls for Nuclear Weapons Convention

Inspired by the call for a Nuclear Weapons Convention from 537 members of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Senate passed a motion in June 2010 that was followed by a unanimous motion on December 8 by the House of Commons. The text includes these words: “encourage the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention” and “encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”

Thanks for this action to Murray Thomson, O.C., the Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., Senators Hugh Segal, Romeo Dallaire and Nancy Ruth, Mr. Bill Siksay, MP (Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament), Libby Davies, M.P., John Baird, M.P., Professor John Polanyi, Ernie Regehr, O.C., and the others among the 537 Order of Canada members who have spoken up for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

Bev Delong, Calgary, Alberta

An Ottawa Process for Nukes?

The Canadian parliament is not alone in renewing its resolve to abolish nuclear weapons. At the World Conference Against A and H Bombs, held on August 2-9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a message was sent out, “Letter from Nagasaki to All Governments of the World,” calling for the start of negotiations toward a Nuclear Weapons Convention. By early December the Japanese activist Jojoi Plala notified the IPB Council that her organization had received, so far, replies from 12 states.

The presidents of some countries supported the letter, indicating increasing support for banning nuclear weapons. For example, Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation, wrote that, “It is my conviction that security on our planet cannot be achieved as long as nuclear weapons continue to exist. For this reason, Switzerland is actively committed to work towards the complete elimination of such weapons.” Likewise, the Austrian Chancellor’s office wrote that “Austria shares the view that a nuclear weapons convention constitutes the primary means to effectively achieve complete nuclear disarmament.”

Accordingly, in a November 10 article in The Embassy, Alyn Ware proposed that Canada take an approach resembling its 1996 initiative to ban land mines. Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy had invited “like-minded States” to Ottawa to draft such a treaty, bypassing negotiations that were bogged down in Geneva. The “Ottawa Process” achieved a landmines treaty in just over a year. Ten years later, a similar process starting in Oslo rapidly achieved an international treaty banning cluster munitions.

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) has long been blocked in negotiating multilateral disarmament treaties. The CD requires consensus, so any member State can block a proposal. Ware says that what is needed to start the nuclear abolition process is an “Ottawa or Oslo process.” The Final Document of the NPT Review Conference requires all States to comply with international law—including humanitarian law— the basis for the landmines and cluster munitions initiatives. Like-minded governments can emulate the Ottawa and Oslo processes with the support of civil society for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Here’s a great new opportunity for Canada to lead.

Peace Professionals

The Civilian Peace Service Canada (CPSC) accredited its first two graduates at St. Paul University on November 24, 2010. It is the first organization to develop and apply a standardized methodology for accrediting peace professionals. The certificates were awarded to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, a specialist in negotiation, mediation, and peacebuilding, and Yves Morneau, who has done development work, mainly in Africa, for 40 years.

CPSC is developing a cadre of peace professionals. The plan is to supplement UN-based efforts to implement the Responsibility to Protect with a proposed UN Emergency Peace Service. It is part of an international movement to establish Departments of Peace within national governments, including that of Canada.

Contact Gordon Breedyk at

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2011

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2011, page 30. Some rights reserved.

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