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postheadericon The Hypocrisy Surrounding Nuclear Weapons

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The UN Security Council has today announced that it has voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on North Korea which, in addition to tighter bans on arms exports and greater powers to inspect North Korean ships, include ‘financial measures’ (at this point, however, the type of financial measures are not clear). These developments are a reaction to North Korea’s nuclear tests last month which have led to the excoriation of its actions around the globe.

It is strange, however, that the hypocrisy of the UN Security Council is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Every permanent member of the Security Council boasts huge stockpiles of thermonuclear weapons. Moreover, one member of the Security Council is, hitherto, the only country on the planet to use a nuclear weapon. Indeed, the USA has not only used nuclear weapons, it has also given hundreds of nuclear weapons to its close ally, Israel; the latter being a country which does not admit to owning nuclear warheads and, therefore, also refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

What is good enough for the US and its allies is, it would seem, not good enough for states that are deemed as the ‘undesirables’. The UK, another Security Council member, is also condemning North Korea for its nuclear ambitions despite the UK government’s renewal of its Trident nuclear missile system which could, by some estimates, costs as much as £76bn.

How, then, can such countries condemn the actions of North Korea? Both India and Pakistan have developed their nuclear arsenals and, as a result, both have experienced greater economic and political engagement with the worlds’ superpower, the USA. This is the problem with nuclear weapons: to own them elevates a country into an exclusive club whereby the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks of developing nuclear weapons. Moreover, the greater polarisation of North Korea will no doubt further galvanise its desire to develop its own arsenal of nuclear weapons given that its one-time nuclear ally, China, is now condemning North Korea’s desire to develop its nuclear capability.

One argument for this global condemnation is that countries which currently own nuclear weapons act ‘responsibly’ and that other ‘rogue’ states, such as North Korea or Iran, do not and, therefore, simply cannot be trusted. This, however, is not necessarily true: since the Second World War, the USA has been involved in more wars than any other country and, together with the UK, is currently involved in two armed conflicts: Afghanistan and Iraq. The former, of course, is a war that was built on a pack of lies: that Iraq owned weapons of mass destruction which could be launched in under 45 minutes. Not only did no WMDs exist in Iraq, but the greatest irony of all is that if Iraq did own nuclear weapons then neither the US nor the UK would have invaded the country in the first place.

And what of the sanctions which are to be imposed? History tells us that these sanctions do little to punish a respective regime but, instead, have deleterious effects on the most vulnerable people of a given society, namely its poorest citizens. Therefore, these sanctions seem to be symbolic rather than an effective measure to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

So, what is the solution? The obvious answer would be to dismantle all nuclear weapons. This, however, is unlikely to happen and would leave security analysts delirious with regards to the ‘security vacuum’ that may arise if the world’s strongest states lost their nuclear capabilities. Nonetheless, the solution must lie with a decrease in the overall numbers of nuclear weapons which, unfortunately, is not occurring: the worlds’ nuclear powers have largely failed to deliver on promises to reduce their nuclear arsenals. This is hardly a strong platform in which to ask other states to ditch their nuclear ambitions.

Greater cooperation between nuclear states and those hoping to join the Nuclear Club would also be a more propitious path than an increase in bellicosity which leads to greater distrust and, as a result, stimulates an even greater desire for the non-nuclear state to develop a nuclear warhead. And while the main hypocrisy still exists, i.e. that nuclear armed states continue to threaten non-nuclear armed states regarding the latter’s nuclear ambitions, the chances of dissuading a regime to renege on its commitment to develop a nuclear warhead appear very slim indeed.

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