Parliamentarians and the North Korean nuclear test

Parliaments condemn the test.
PNND leaders call for diplomacy, cooperative security and disarmament.
NE Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone could provide a regional solution.

On January 6, North Korea announced it had conducted a nuclear weapons test, and claimed it was a hydrogen bomb – a fusion weapon which is much more powerful than the fission bombs it had tested previously. The evidence points however to another fission bomb explosion. Data collected at a Global Seismographic Network Station in Mudanjiang, China indicates a three – seven kiloton blast, far too small to be a hydrogen bomb.

Regardless, the nuclear test was perceived by neighbouring countries Japan and South Korea as threatening to their security, and by countries around the world as provocative, irresponsible and in violation of a global norm against nuclear tests.

The parliaments of South Korea and Japan adopted resolutions condemning the test, and calling for additional sanctions against North Korea.

'North Korea is the last and only country still testing nuclear weapons’, says Hon Phil Goff MP, PNND Co-President and former New Zealand Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control. ‘The negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) should have ended nuclear tests for all time.’

The nuclear test serves as a reminder that the North East Asian region is experiencing a range of conflicts amongst nuclear-armed States (China, Russia, USA and North Korea) and those under extended nuclear deterrence relationships (Japan and South Korea) – elevating the possibility of a nuclear exchange by accident, miscalculation or intent.

'Civilization cannot tolerate more tests of mass destruction weapons,’ says Natalia Diaz Quintana MP, PNND Co-President and Chair of the Costa Rican National Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs. ‘Such testing increases the threat of nuclear war. International organisations such as the United Nations must contain this issue to ensure that it does not develop into a full-blown crisis that destroys our planet.'

Diplomacy, cooperative security and disarmament

PNND leaders, while condemning the North Korean test, called for diplomacy, cooperative security and disarmament as the most important response.  

‘North Korea's nuclear test, whether successful or not and regardless of whether it was a hydrogen bomb reminds us of the heightened risk nuclear weapons pose,’ says Saber Chowdhury MP, PNND Co-President and President of the Inter Parliamentary Union. ‘What we need is not an escalation in rhetoric but in action to ban nuclear weapons just as we have banned biological and weapons, land mines and cluster munitions and put in place a legally binding instrument that prohibits nuclear weapons.’ 

The Japanese parliament also called for diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict with North Korea, and highlighted the Pyongyang Declaration (adopted in 2002 by Japan Prime Minister Koizumi and North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il) in this regard. The Pyongyang Declaration confirmed ‘the importance of establishing co-operative relationships based upon mutual trust among countries concerned in this region, and shared the recognition that it is important to have a framework in place in order for these regional countries to promote confidence-building, as the relationships among these countries are normalized.

NE Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone

Calls for North Korea to unilaterally abolish its nuclear arsenal – and the imposition of sanctions until it does so – are unlikely to succeed as long as North Korea perceives there to be a nuclear threat or threat of attack from the United States or from North Korea’s neighbours Japan and South Korea.

PNND Japan and PNND Korea have therefore been exploring proposals to decrease the threats from, and increase the security of, all parties in the region. One of these proposals is the 3+3 North East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

This would require all three regional countries of South Korea, North Korea and Japan to agree to prohibit the possession of nuclear weapons and the deployment of nuclear weapons on their territories, as well as agreeing not to threaten the other countries with the use of nuclear weapons (e.g. through extended nuclear deterrence relationships). It would also require the US, China and Russia to recognise the zones and not to threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the parties in the zone.

The answer to dealing with North Korea is not to accept their sabre-rattling, but to understand it, and to find an approach that addresses their security concerns as well as those of the countries threatened by North Korea,’ says Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator. ‘The NE Asia NWFZ proposal provides a win/win/win/win approach which enhances the security of all States in the region.’

Already the proposal has high-level cross-party support in the Japanese and South Korean parliaments, plus support from academics, policy analysts and over 400 Japanese mayors. It was also highlighted in a PNND joint parliamentary statement in response to the first North Korean nuclear test in 2006.

 

For further information see: Nuclear sabre-rattling in North East Asia: Can Godzilla be tamed? By Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator.