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Nuclearism and its Spread to Asia


By David Krieger


At its core, nuclearism is the belief that nuclear weapons and nuclear power are essential forms of progress that in the right hands will protect the peace and further the human condition. Nuclearism is a dangerous ideology -- as dangerous as the technologies it has unabashedly and unreservedly promoted. In this belief system, "the right hands" have generally been synonymous with one's own country, and "to further the human condition" has generally been synonymous with benefit to oneself, one's country or one's corporation. The key elements of nuclearism are:

1. The belief that nuclear weapons keep the peace, and are a necessary evil.

2. The belief that nuclear power is a safe, reliable and inexpensive source of energy, and that the nuclear power industry is an absolute good.

3. The belief that, despite the expansion of the nuclear power industry, the diversion of nuclear materials from the nuclear fuel cycle to military uses can be prevented.


The ideology and the technologies it has supported have created extraordinary dangers for all life on Earth. While the dangers posed by nuclear weapons are potentially more immediate and cataclysmic in scope, the insidious dangers posed by nuclear power reactors and their radioactive waste products are now already harming humankind, other forms of life, and the environment and this threat will continue for thousands of generations. Believers in nuclearism, to the extent that they acknowledge these dangers, argue that nuclear technology brings benefits that more than compensate for its inherent dangers.


The dangers of nuclear technology may be summarized as follows:

1. Nuclear deterrence is only a theory. It may fail causing many times more casualties and suffering than were experienced at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2. Nuclear weapons may be used by accident or miscalculation as well as by intention. The nuclear destruction of one city by one bomb could result in millions of deaths and casualties. A large-scale nuclear exchange could result in the annihilation of humankind and most other forms of life on Earth.

3. Nuclear weapons or the materials for making them may find their way into the hands of terrorists or irrational leaders of countries.

4. Nuclear power reactors are subject to catastrophic failures such as occurred at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union and nearly occurred at Three Mile Island in the United States. Such failures could occur as a result of accident, human error, terrorist activity, or destruction by an enemy in time of war.

5. The spent fuel storage pools located at nuclear power reactors are particularly vulnerable to release of radioactive materials as a result of terrorist or military attack.

6. Accidents occurring during the transportation of nuclear materials by highway, railway, ship, or air could result in hazardous releases of radioactive materials.

7. No long-term means of storage of radioactive waste materials currently exists to protect the environment and human health against the dangers of radiation release.


Despite these dangers, the proponents of nuclearism have succeeded in many countries in obtaining large amounts of public funding to support the development, testing, deployment, and maintenance of nuclear weapons and/or the development and subsidization of the nuclear power industry. The costs of nuclear technology have included:

1. Over $8 trillion spent on nuclear weapons and delivery systems by the nuclear weapons states over the past half century.

2. The diversion of generations of scientists and technologists to work on weapons of mass destruction rather than on projects of positive value to humankind.

3. The widespread contamination of the environment by radioactive pollutants created in the process of building and testing nuclear warheads over a fifty year period. Cleanup costs are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars, and it is understood that some areas of contamination will never be adequately restored to safe use. (In the United States, such areas are referred to as "national sacrifice zones.")

4. Nuclear power reactors, once thought to be relatively inexpensive to build, now cost some $5 billion per 1000 megawatt reactor. This cost has priced nuclear reactors out of competitiveness in the United States despite enormous government (that is, taxpayer) subsidies.

5. Radioactive wastes generated by the military and nuclear power industry will need to be stored to prevent environmental pollution and subsequent health problems for tens of thousands of years. The bulk of this burden will fall to future generations.

In this paper, I will review the development of nuclearism in the West, its roots in military technology, its linkage to commercialism, attempts to place a boundary between the military and peaceful uses of nuclear technology, and the spread of nuclear weapons to Asian countries. I will then review the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its reference to nuclear energy as an "inalienable right," return to the nuclearist view that nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and nuclear power an absolute good, and discuss the need for new thinking about nuclear technologies, as called for by Albert Einstein. I will then review nuclearism in Asia, global nuclearism, and finally the pressing need and important opportunity that now exists to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.


Nuclearism Is a Western Ideology
Nuclearism is an ideology that originated in the West. The primary proponents of nuclearism have been the United States, Britain, France, and the former Soviet Union (now replaced by Russia). The "East-West" struggle of the Cold War described the division of Europe with Western Europe and the United States on one side of the divide, and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union on the other side. Both sides were proponents of nuclearism. Both sides believed that their nuclear deterrent forces prevented nuclear war and thereby kept the peace. Despite a lack of objective evidence that there was a causal connection between nuclear arsenals and the absence of a nuclear war, each side credited its expanding nuclear arsenal with keeping the peace. To underline this, the United States during the Reagan presidency named some of its powerful nuclear armed missiles "peacekeepers."

Both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants are products of the West. Nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and the ideology of nuclearism developed in the West and have spread throughout the world.


Nuclearism Originated As a Military Technology
Nuclear weapons were developed by the United States with the aid of European refugee scientists during World War II. The initial impetus for the U.S. effort was the fear that the Germans might develop similar weapons, and that these weapons would be necessary to deter the Germans from using theirs. However, by the time that the first U.S. nuclear weapons were developed, the Germans had already surrendered without having succeeded in developing a nuclear weapon.

The first U.S. nuclear weapon test took place on July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The war in the Pacific was still going on at that time, although the United States was aware that the Japanese were seeking to negotiate terms of surrender. (not1) Just three weeks after the initial successful test of the weapon, it was used at Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, and three days later at Nagasaki, Japan. At Hiroshima some 90,000 persons, mostly civilians, were killed immediately, and a total of some 140,000 persons died as a result of the bombing by the end of 1945. At Nagasaki some 40,000 persons, again mostly civilians, were killed immediately, and a total of some 70,000 persons died as a result of the bombing by the end of 1945. The suffering of the survivors, the hibakusha, continues to the present. The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first victims of this powerful new technology.

The decision to use the newly developed weapon against the Japanese was made by U.S. President Harry Truman. When Truman received confirmation of the "success" of the use of the nuclear weapon dropped at Hiroshima, he is reported to have said, "This is the greatest day in history."(not2) One can imagine that the response to the devastation and mass killing of civilians was viewed somewhat differently in Japan.

In the United States certain myths developed around the use of nuclear weapons. (not3) The weapons were credited with ending the war and saving American lives. They were, therefore, generally perceived in a positive light. In Japan, these weapons were seen from the perspective of the victims, and the Japanese developed what has been described as a "nuclear allergy." At the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park it says, "Never again! We shall not repeat this evil."

With these tragic events the United States brought the world into a new era, the Nuclear Age. Its hallmark was a determined effort that involved the subordination of science and technology to military purpose. The effort resulted in harnessing the power of the nucleus of the atom, and releasing a destructive force far greater than had previously been possible by manmade means. The Nuclear Age was born of a scientific enterprise with a military purpose -- the creation of nuclear weapons -- that was organized, funded and controlled by government. In this new age the destruction of cities by a single weapon became not only a possibility, but a reality. The destruction of humankind became imaginable and possible.


Nuclearism and Commercialism
While nuclearism may have begun as a military-based ideology, it soon also developed a commercial aspect related to the use of nuclear reactors to generate electric power. Thus, nuclearism became an ideology with two intertwined aspects, one aligned with military ends and one aligned with peaceful ends. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower took the lead in promoting the peaceful applications of nuclear energy for generating electricity with his "Atoms for Peace" speech at the United Nations in 1953.(not4)

The promise of "Atoms for Peace" was virtually free and unlimited electric energy to power the world and provide the benefits of electric energy to the poor of the Earth. From this technology of death would come, Eisenhower prophesied, electricity so inexpensive that it would not need to be metered. It was the promise of something too good to be true, and in fact it was not true. It was the promise of creating virtually free electrical power for everyone everywhere. Nuclearism, like a modern alchemy, promised to convert the evil of a city-destroying weapons technology to a tool for powering the future.

The promise of nuclear power would prove to be largely hyperbole based upon wishful thinking or outright fraud. The hope and dream of "Atoms for Peace" became, however, a central tenet of the ideology of nuclearism. By adopting this tenet of nuclearism, developed states were able to shift to taxpayers the financial responsibility for research and development of the so-called peaceful atom. Huge taxpayer subsidies authorized in the United States, Western European nations, and later Japan made possible the development and implementation of the nuclear power industry.

The nuclear power industry continues to operate in the United States only due to Congressional legislation, the Price-Anderson Act, which transfers the majority of liability for a major accident from the corporations operating nuclear power plants to the taxpayers. Even so, there has been no nuclear power plant built in the United States since the early 1970s. In the early 1970s, the U.S. nuclear industry was forecasting 1000 nuclear power plants for the country by the year 2000. Today, however, there are only 110 such plants, and there are no plans to build more.

Costs have been the major roadblock to the continued expansion of nuclear power in the United States. Initially it was estimated that the capital costs for building a 1000 megawatt nuclear power plant would be a few hundred million dollars. By the early 1970s the costs had risen to several billion dollars per reactor.

In true Cold War competitive style, the former Soviet Union raced ahead with its version of the "peaceful atom" by building nuclear power plants that would prove to be among the most dangerous in the world. This was dramatically demonstrated by the major accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This accident had serious consequences in Ukraine, Belarus, many parts of Europe, and even the United States.(not5)


Nuclearism Draws an Artificial Boundary Between Military and So-Called Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Advocates of nuclearism have generally tried to walk a narrow line between the military and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. On the one hand, they have sought to contain the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. On the other hand, they have tried to promote the spread of nuclear energy to other states for research and commercial purposes. Since the knowledge of how to construct nuclear weapons is readily available and the nuclear materials needed for this purpose may be derived from the nuclear power industry, advocates of nuclearism needed to establish at least a facade of control over the nuclear power industry. They accomplished this goal through the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with promoting nuclear energy internationally while providing safeguards against diversion of nuclear materials for weapons purposes. It is, of course, a clear conflict of interest to give promotional functions to a regulatory agency.


The Spread of Nuclear Weapons
The United States would have preferred to have maintained its early monopoly over nuclear technology. It was recognized from the outset, however, that this would not be possible. The U.S. scientific establishment badly miscalculated the length of time it would take the Soviet Union to develop nuclear weapons. Truman was advised that the development of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union could take some twenty years, and in fact it occurred in just four years.

The very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called for the creation of an Atomic Energy Commission that would develop a plan for the elimination of atomic weapons from national armaments.(not6) But early efforts and proposals to achieve international control of nuclear weapons failed, and by July 1946 the United States, then the only nuclear weapons state in the world, began an atmospheric testing program in the Pacific. Radioactivity from the testing spread throughout the world, but brought the greatest harm to the people of the Pacific.

Until 1949, when the former Soviet Union tested its first nuclear weapon, the U.S. remained the sole nuclear weapons state in the world. From 1949 forward, until the end of the Cold War, the United States and former Soviet Union vied with each other for "nuclear supremacy," a concept that some would define as beyond the bounds of reason. These two states would subsequently be joined by the United Kingdom, France, and China as declared nuclear weapons states. China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964, and became the first Asian nation to possess nuclear weapons. A decade later, in 1974, India tested its first nuclear weapon, which it claimed was only for peaceful purposes. Subsequently, Pakistan is thought to have developed a nuclear weapons capability. Israel is the third of the threshold or undeclared nuclear weapons states.

China is thought to have developed its nuclear weapons capability in response to being threatened by nuclear weapons by the United States during the Korean War in 1954 and again during the crisis in the Taiwan Straits in 1958.(not7) India is thought to have developed its nuclear weapons capability in response to China doing so, and Pakistan is thought to have developed its capability in response to India doing so. Thus, there have been security concerns that have led to the spread of nuclear weapons into Asia. China did not want to find itself, as had Japan, the victim of nuclear weapons delivered by the United States or later by the Soviet Union. India feared the possibility of attack by China; Pakistan feared the possibility of attack by India. This is the faulty logic of deterrence, which has grave built-in dangers.


The Non-Proliferation Treaty: An "Inalienable Right" to Nuclear Energy?
It was the general understanding by the U.S., former USSR, and the UK that the spread of nuclear weapons created a more dangerous world. These states considered it acceptable and reasonable that they would maintain their nuclear arsenals, but believed it to be too dangerous for other countries to follow their lead in developing and maintaining such arsenals. This led these leading nuclear weapons states to initiate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was opened for signatures in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.(not8) This treaty created two categories of states, those that had nuclear weapons prior to January 1, 1967, and all other states. In the category of nuclear weapons states were the United States, former Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China. France and China, however, did not become parties to the NPT until the early 1990s.

In the NPT, non-nuclear weapons states pledged not to develop or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, while nuclear weapons states pledged not to transfer nuclear weapons or otherwise help non-nuclear weapons states to develop nuclear arsenals. On its face, this would appear to be an uneven and perhaps even unreasonable bargain. The nuclear weapons states, however, did sweeten the offer by agreeing in Article VI to have good faith negotiations on a cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, on nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. The nuclear weapons states also agreed that they would help other countries develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes; the treaty even refers in Article IV to peaceful nuclear energy as an "inalienable right." Thus, in attempting to halt the spread of nuclear weapons to other states, the treaty actually promotes the use of nuclear technology for generating energy. The dual purpose nature of nuclear technology has opened a back door to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and a number of countries have sought to walk through it.

India and Pakistan were both able to develop their nuclear weapons through nuclear reactor programs that were purportedly being used for peaceful purposes. Iraq also came close to developing nuclear weapons in this way. What is needed to accomplish this, in addition to nuclear reactors for energy or research purposes, are facilities for enriching uranium or separating plutonium from spent fuel. Two countries in Asia with this capability are North Korea and Japan. North Korea is thought to possess enough plutonium for constructing one or two nuclear weapons. Japan has some 13,000 kilograms of weapons-usable plutonium, enough to potentially manufacture more than a thousand nuclear weapons.(not9) South Korea and Taiwan have tried to acquire the necessary plutonium reprocessing technologies to develop nuclear weapons, but they have been kept from doing so by the United States.


Nuclearists View Nuclear Weapons as a Necessary Evil and Nuclear Power an Absolute Good
In the ideology of nuclearism, nuclear weapons are accepted as a necessary evil to maintain the peace. This evil, however, can only be tolerated in certain countries that can be trusted to control the weapons. Nuclear weapons were seen by the West as a threat in the hands of the former Soviet Union, but at least it was understood that they would take necessary steps to control their weapons. The disintegration of the former Soviet Union is viewed by many as a serious danger to world security due to the potential spread of nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear materials to unstable national leaders or terrorists. Apparently, though, it has not been considered a serious enough danger by the United States and its allies to make the control of nuclear weapons and weapons-grade nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union a matter of highest priority with appropriate funding. Some funding has been provided, but the amounts are insufficient to the nature of the danger.

In the view of nuclearists, world peace can be maintained by nuclear arms, which would be used only as a last resort. This intention, of course, could dramatically fail if weapons from the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union or any other state fell into the hands of unstable national leaders or terrorists.

It is also the view of nuclearists that nuclear power is an absolute good. They envision world markets being expanded by building highly capital intensive nuclear power plants throughout the developing world. It is a vision that encompasses the entire world, bringing the promise of nuclear power to rich and poor countries alike. It is unfortunately a vision that primarily benefits its promoters while bringing serious dangers to all who accept the technology.

The public relations arm of the nuclear power industry, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, has painted the promise of safe, reliable, and inexpensive energy in glowing terms (pun intended), while skimming over the high capital costs, the need for huge subsidies, the danger of accidents, the added risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, and the unsolved problems of nuclear waste storage. These are the considerations borne from experience that have dampened enthusiasm for nuclear energy in the United States, Sweden, and other technologically advanced countries. The nuclear power industry has painted a picture of the benefits of nuclear energy that has attracted substantial interest from developing countries, many in Asia -- countries that are eager to light their cities with this high-tech solution that they believe will be cheap and environmentally benign. Beneath the surface of the glittering promises there is some sense that dangers are lurking, but these dangers are easily overlooked in the hope of a quick fix for economies badly in need of inexpensive energy sources.


Need for New Thinking
Einstein, who had at first encouraged Franklin Roosevelt to establish a U.S. government project to develop nuclear weapons, was utterly distraught by what had occurred at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He warned, "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." Einstein's reflection remains the central challenge of the Nuclear Age.

What will it take to change our modes of thinking with regard to nuclearism? One source of encouragement is that nuclearism does not seem to be an ideology with widespread support among the people of the world. It appears to be largely concentrated among those who stand to profit from it, and their supporters in government.

The nature of nuclearism has been revealed in starker terms in the aftermath of the Cold War. Despite the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the end of communism as a state ideology in Russia, the West has continued to rely upon nuclear arsenals and to pursue policies of maintaining these arsenals, although at lower levels than in the Cold War period. But these arsenals do not assure global security, and many experts have argued that the breakup of the former Soviet Union has created serious dangers of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of unstable national leaders or terrorists.

In the West, nuclearism and militarism have forged a strong link. Most Western European countries have become partners of the United States, Britain, and France in relying upon nuclear weapons for security. Russia has also been reliant upon its nuclear arsenal, and recently has announced that it has adopted a first-use doctrine, similar to that of NATO countries, if it is threatened by attack.(not10) Eastern European countries, that formerly fell under the Soviet nuclear umbrella, are now seeking to join NATO and place themselves under the NATO nuclear umbrella. NATO recently voted to admit Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

This proposed expansion of NATO has placed Russia on the defensive, and could have the result of stopping all progress in the reduction of nuclear armaments. The nationalistic Russian Duma may not ratify START II if NATO is expanded eastward closer to Russia's borders. George Kennan, an elder statesman of United States foreign policy and former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, has referred to the expansion of NATO as "the most fateful error in U.S. policy in the entire post Cold War era."(not11)

The linkage of nuclearism and militarism has had huge financial implications. The United States alone has spent some $4 trillion on its nuclear arsenal and its delivery and command and control systems since the early 1940s. The former Soviet Union is thought to have spent nearly a like amount, which ultimately was a key factor in its economic collapse and disintegration.


Nuclearism in Asia Today
There is some hope, albeit slim, that from the geographic East, from Asia, there will be leadership for an end to nuclearism. The Japanese people, as the most prominent victims of nuclearism, have always opposed nuclear weapons. Their government, however, has been content to rely upon the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and has also accumulated thousands of tons of weapons-grade plutonium that could be fashioned into a sophisticated nuclear weapons arsenal. The Japanese government has also built up a substantial nuclear power industry to reduce Japan's reliance on imported oil. The Chinese have always had a better position on nuclear disarmament than their Western counterparts. The Indians and the Pakistanis argued for a universal commitment to complete nuclear disarmament in connection with the drafting of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but they were rebuffed by the West.

Can Asian nations resist the temptations to nuclearism? Are they already too Westernized? Or, is there some aspect of Asian culture that is capable of rejecting nuclearism and leading the world back from the insane policies that were pursued during the Cold War and that continue to be relied upon today? These questions are worth exploring throughout Asia. If they can awaken new possibilities to dull the gleaming but false promises of nuclearism, they may help reverse recent historical trends that have the world on a collision course with disaster. A review of nuclearism in major Asian nations follows.


The major nuclear weapons state in Asia is China, which is thought to have some 400 nuclear weapons, of which some 250 are thought to be strategic weapons.(not12) The remaining 150 weapons are thought to be tactical weapons for battlefield use. Since China's nuclear weapons program has been conducted in great secrecy, it is possible that the size of their arsenal is considerably larger. It remains a relatively small arsenal, however, by comparison with those of the United States and Russia, which are each thought to currently contain some 10,000 nuclear weapons.(not13)

China has always said that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. It is the only one of the declared nuclear weapons states to make this pledge. China has also repeatedly called for nuclear disarmament, and said that it would go to zero nuclear weapons if the other nuclear weapons states would do so as well. There is no reason to doubt that China is serious about these pledges as they would appear to be strongly in their interests given the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals.

China also appears intent upon expanding its nuclear energy program. Today it has three nuclear power plants, and has expressed intentions of expanding to 100 nuclear power plants by the middle of the next century.(not14)


Japan relies upon the U.S. nuclear "umbrella" for its defense. The close relationship that has existed between the U.S. and Japan in the post World War II period has allowed the U.S. to adopt a very lenient posture toward the Japanese accumulation of weapons-grade plutonium. While Japan does not have nuclear weapons, it has the materials, technological capability, and facilities to produce them rapidly in large numbers. This capacity has been referred to as "virtual deterrence." (not15)

The Japanese government has consistently expressed its three non-nuclear principles -- that it will not manufacture, nor possess, nor allow the bringing in of nuclear weapons. In actual fact, however, the position of the government with regard to future Japanese possession of nuclear weapons seems to be more ambiguous than the position of the Japanese people, which is solidly opposed to Japan becoming a nuclear weapons state.

In Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the state renounces the right to make war:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

"In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."(not16)

Despite this Constitutional provision, however, Japan now has the third largest military expenditures in the world, behind only the U.S. and Russia. Japan is now spending some $50 billion per year on its military.(not17) It has a very highly trained and well equipped military force, which it calls its "Self-Defense Forces."

Japan also has the largest concentration of nuclear power reactors in Asia with 53 units. These reactors supply some 28 percent of Japan's energy. Japanese officials are seeking to increase this amount to 42 percent by 2010 in an effort to reduce the country's dependence on imported oil and gas.(not18) The Japanese have been developing fast-breeder reactors, which produce more nuclear fuel than they consume. This has provided the rationale for the country to accumulate large amounts of plutonium that could also be used for weapons. The Japanese have developed reprocessing facilities that give them the capability to produce weapons-grade plutonium. They also have agreements with France for the French to reprocess their spent fuel and provide them with reprocessed plutonium.

A series of accidents at nuclear power plants over the past few years, including one at the Monju fast-breeder reactor, have undermined confidence in nuclear power among the people of Japan. This confidence was also undermined by the Kobe earthquake, and the knowledge that Monju and other reactors were built on earthquake faults. The Japanese government has tried to allay fears about nuclear power with a cartoon character, "our little friend Pluto," who tells children that plutonium is safe enough to drink.(not19)

There is a growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan directed against nuclear power plants. In August 1996 Japanese voters in Maki, about 200 miles from Tokyo, participated in the first referendum in Japan on building a nuclear power plant. The Maki voters overwhelmingly rejected the plant with sixty-one percent voting against it.(not20)

The Japanese people have always strongly opposed nuclear weapons. In the international community the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have remained powerful and eloquent spokespersons for the victims of the bombings in those cities.


North Korea
North Korea, like Japan, has reprocessing facilities to create weapons-grade plutonium. It also has indigenous uranium supplies. It is thought that North Korea may have developed 12 to 15 kilograms of separated weapons-grade plutonium, enough for one or two nuclear weapons. Concern over this possibility led to an agreement in December 1995 in which North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for two 1000 megawatt light water nuclear reactors, to be financed by Japan and South Korea, and various other incentives.

A top level defector from North Korea was recently quoted as saying that "North Korea could turn the capitalist South into a sea of flames and scorch Japan in a nuclear attack." (not21)


South Korea
South Korea has an active nuclear power program with ten reactors generating over 9000 megawatts of electricity. Forty percent of its electricity is provided from these plants. There are plans for an addition 15 reactors in the future.(not22) South Korea has tried since the 1970s to acquire uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities which would give it the capability to develop nuclear weapons, but it has been forestalled in these efforts by the United States.

For many years the U.S. is thought to have maintained tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, but it is now believed that these weapons have been withdrawn. Of course, the continued U.S. military presence in South Korea creates the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used in a potential conflict with North Korea.


Taiwan, like South Korea, has an active nuclear power program, and has tried to acquire facilities for uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing, but has not been successful in doing so. Also like South Korea, it has the technological competence to develop nuclear weapons if it obtained the materials to do so. Given its uneasy relationship with China, Taiwan would probably like to have a nuclear deterrent force against China's nuclear weapons arsenal.

Taiwan meets one-third of its energy needs by means of nuclear power. It has six nuclear power plants supplying some 5,000 megawatts of electricity.(not23)


India and Pakistan
The Indian subcontinent presents one of the greatest dangers of nuclear war. Although both India and Pakistan deny it, they are both thought to have nuclear arsenals. India tested a nuclear device in 1974, and is thought to have a few dozen nuclear weapons. Pakistan has never tested a nuclear weapon, but is thought to possess a similar number or somewhat less than India. Both countries consider the other an enemy, and they have clashed many times over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

India has ten nuclear power reactors generating less than 2000 megawatts of electricity, while Pakistan has only one nuclear power reactor generating 125 megawatts of electricity. In 1991 the two countries signed an agreement not to preemptively strike each other's nuclear facilities.(not24)


Global Nuclearism
Nuclearism in Asia is clearly embedded in global nuclearism. It cannot be separated out and treated for its symptoms without also treating the systemic disease of global nuclearism. It is certain that China will not give up its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. and Russia retain their arsenals. Nor will Japan give up its nuclear option while China retains its nuclear weapons. The same is true of India, and it is equally certain that Pakistan will not give up its nuclear weapons capability while India maintains its capability.

It is fair to say that Asian nuclearism has been a reaction to the West. The United States demonstrated what may be viewed as the "usefulness" of nuclear weapons in warfare and its willingness to use these weapons. But it is a far different scenario to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear armed opponent that is already virtually defeated, as the U.S. did in Japan, than it is to use nuclear weapons against an opponent in possession of nuclear weapons or one that could quickly develop a nuclear weapons arsenal.

It is becoming abundantly clear that nuclear weapons can serve only one reasonable purpose, and that is to deter another state from using nuclear weapons. Once one state has used nuclear weapons against a nuclear armed opponent or the ally of a nuclear armed opponent, retaliation is likely, and this would make any first use untenable. If the only purpose of nuclear weapons is deterrence, then it is clear that as long as any state has nuclear weapons other states will want to maintain theirs or acquire such weapons as a means of deterrence. Therefore, there are only two choices: proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons, or the elimination of all nuclear weapons. General Lee Butler, the former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, has found that a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons is necessarily a world devoid of nuclear weapons.(not25) How are we to proceed in this direction?


Achieving a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
In 1994 the United Nations General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, for an advisory opinion on whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons was permitted under international law under any circumstances. Oral hearings on this question were held at the end of 1995. The three declared Western nuclear weapons states (U.S. UK, and France) and Russia all argued before the Court that the Court should decline to answer the question but, if it did choose to answer, it should find that under certain circumstances the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be legal. Some NATO allies of these nuclear weapons states supported their position. China chose not to participate in the hearings.

Many non-aligned states argued before the Court that the threat or use of nuclear weapons should be considered illegal under all circumstances. They argued that international humanitarian law did not permit any use of nuclear weapons because such law prohibited the use of excessively injurious weapons (and surely nuclear weapons fit this category) and that nuclear weapons cannot distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Nuclear weapons, in fact, have been targeted at civilian populations in policies known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

After receiving written and oral testimony from states, the Court deliberated extensively, and released its opinion on July 8, 1996.(not26) The Court found unanimously that the rules of international humanitarian law apply to any threat or use of nuclear weapons. They also found in a split vote, decided by the President of the Court, that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal under the international law of armed conflict. The Court indicated that it was unable to determine one way or the other whether or not the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be allowed in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which the very survival of a state would be at stake. With regard to this point, the President of the Court, M. Bedjaoui stated in his separate declaration, "I cannot sufficiently emphasize the fact that the Court's inability to go beyond this statement of the situation can in no manner be interpreted to mean that it is leaving the door ajar to recognition of the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons."(not27) He also referred to nuclear weapons as the "ultimate evil."(not28)

The Court also interpreted Article VI of the NPT to the effect that the nuclear weapons states are under an obligation to complete good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. The Court stated: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."(not29)

Responding to the Court's opinion, the United Nations General Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Court and called for negotiations to begin in 1997 for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to prohibit and eliminate all nuclear weapons.(not30) (See Appendix A.)

Thus far, the nuclear weapons states have ignored the Court and the United Nations General Assembly. But the pressure is building around the world to force the nuclear weapons states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. In December 1996, 58 generals and admirals from 17 nations released a statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They stated: "We, military professionals, who have devoted our lives to the national security of our countries and our peoples, are convinced that the continued existence of nuclear weapons in the armories of nuclear powers, and the ever present threat of acquisition of these weapons by others, constitute a peril to global peace and security and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect."(not31) The generals went on to urge that "long-term international nuclear policy must be based on the declared principle of continuous, complete and irrevocable elimination of nuclear weapons."(not32) (See Appendix B.)

At the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, representatives of citizen action groups from around the world gathered in New York to lobby the delegates for nuclear abolition. An Abolition Caucus was formed and drafted an important statement known as the Abolition 2000 Statement. (See Appendix C.) This statement calls for the nuclear weapons states to enter into a treaty by the year 2000 to eliminate nuclear weapons in a timebound framework. Based upon this statement an Abolition 2000 Global Network was formed that now has participation by over 700 citizen action groups around the world. It is a growing citizens movement advocating the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.(not33)


A Sunflower Story
In June 1996 Ukraine, which had inherited nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union, transferred the last of its nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantlement. The defense ministers of Ukraine and Russia met with the Secretary of Defense of the United States at a former Ukrainian missile base which once housed 80 SS-19 missiles aimed at the United States. They celebrated the occasion by scattering sunflower seeds and planting sunflowers. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said: "Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would insure peace for future generations."(not34)

The sunflower has become the symbol of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is a simple symbol that powerfully suggests the difference between a flower that is bright and beautiful and whose seeds provide nutrition on the one hand, and a missile that is armed with nuclear warheads that can incinerate the inhabitants of entire cities on the other hand. There should be no doubt that the sunflower is the right choice. It represents life rather than death, and the sun's abundant radiant energy that can be used to benefit rather than destroy humanity.


Momentum is building throughout the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is necessary to counter the logic of death and destruction, the logic of the Cold War that ended many years ago, with a logic of hope for the future of humanity. If we are to give hope meaning in our time, we must seize the opportunity afforded by the end of the Cold War and move surely and rapidly to denuclearize our planet. Asia has an important role to play in this movement, which must be primarily a movement of people that will become so powerful that no government can stand in its way. Opposition to nuclearism provides an opportunity for humanity to unite around a common theme of assuring a future for our children and grandchildren. The time to act is now. There is far too much to do that is positive rather than to continue to spend our human, our scientific, and our financial resources on weapons of mass annihilation and nuclear power reactors that create radioactive poisons that will endanger the Earth for thousands of generations. Hiroshima and Nagasaki should have been enough of a lesson for the world to learn. There is no need to wait until more cities are added to this unfortunate list. East and West, North and South face the common problem of nuclear terror. We can end that terror once and for all if enough of us will stand up, speak out, and demand an end to nuclearism. It is time to reject both nuclear weapons and the dangerous technology of nuclear energy with which weapons production is so intimately intertwined.



* Paper prepared for conference, "Human Security and Global Governance," sponsored by the Toda Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 5-8, 1997. The author would like to thank Lori Beckwith for her research assistance.

** David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He can be contacted at Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 123, Santa Barbara, CA 93108; Fax: 805 568 0466; E-mail:; Web Site:



1. See, for example, President Truman's personal journal, July 18, 1945. "Stalin had told P.M. [Prime Minister Churchill] of telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace. Stalin also read his answer to me. It was satisfactory. Believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in...."

2. Wyden, Peter, Day One, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, p. 289. Also quoted as "It is the greatest thing in history" in Udall, Stuart L., The Myths of August, New York: Pantheon Books, 1994, p. 23.

3. For a good review of these myths, see: Udall, Stuart L., The Myths of August, New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

4. Speech given by Dwight Eisenhower to the United Nations General Assembly, December 8, 1953.

5. Yaroshinskaya, Alla, Chernobyl, The Forbidden Truth, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. See also "Chernobyl spawns crisis in Belarus," by Angela Charlton, The Honolulu Advertiser, March 26, 1996.

6. United Nations General Assembly Resolution I (1), January 24, 1946.

7. Mack, Andrew, Proliferation in Northeast Asia, Washington D.C.: Henry L. Stimpson Center, Occasional Paper No. 28, July 1996, p. 6.

8. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 729 UNTS 161.

9. Mack, Andrew, Op. Cit., p. 2.

10. "Russia Adopts 'First Strike' Nuclear Tactic," Santa Barbara News Press, May 26, 1997.

11. Kennan, George, "A Fateful Error, Expanding NATO Would Be a Rebuff to Russian Democracy," New York Times, February 5, 1997.

12. "British, French, and Chinese Nuclear Forces," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1996, p. 64.

13. Arkin, William M. and Robert S. Norris, "Nuclear Notebook," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 1997 and May/June 1997.

14. Farley, Maggie, "Asia and the Atom: Willing and Wary." Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1996.

15. Mack, Andrew, Op. Cit., p. 17.

16. Asai, Motofumi, "Japan at the Crossroads: 'Redefinition' of the U.S.-Japan Security System," Pacific Research, May 1996, p. 11.

17. Mann, Jim, "Clinton Second Term Resembles Ike Redux," Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1997.

18. Watanabe, Teresa, "In Historic Vote, Japanese Town Rejects Nuclear Plant," Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1996.

19. Farley, Maggie, Loc. Cit.

20. Watanabe, Teresa, Loc. Cit.

21. "Defector Suggests N. Korea Has Atom Arms, Paper Says," Los Angeles Times,

April 23, 1997.

22. Farley, Maggie, Loc. Cit.

23. Pollack, Andrew, "Reactor Accident in Japan Imperils Energy Program." New York Times, February 24, 1996.

24. Kapur, Ashok, "Western Biases," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 1995.

25. General Lee Butler speaking at the National Press Club, Washington D.C., December 4, 1996.

26. "Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons," United National General Assembly A/51/218, October 15, 1996.

27. Ibid., 40.

28. Ibid., 42.

29. Ibid., 37.

30. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 51/45 M, December 10, 1996.

31. "Statement on Nuclear Weapons By International Generals and Admirals," December 5, 1996.

32. Ibid.

33. For more information on Abolition 2000, contact the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation at 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 123, Santa Barbara, CA 93108; (805)965-3443; e-mail: Information is also available on Worldwide Web at

34. "Sunflower Seeds Sown at Ukrainian Missile Site," New York Times International,

June 5, 1996.





David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and TFF adviser.

1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 123
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