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West must take the first step: Hans Blix
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15:15, June 03, 2009

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Nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula and Middle East worry the world. How can the world convince North Korea and Iran that they don't need nuclear weapon? The argument will be much stronger if the US and Israel themselves reduce their arsenals first. Hans Blix, former general director of International Atomic Energy Agency and UN weapons inspection team to Iraq recently wrote an article in the Swedish Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet to voice his opinion.

The article analyzes what drives North Korea and Iran to hold nuclear test or enrich the uranium and what are the dangers of them.

First, it is not likely that North Korean military force dares to send bombs to another country. But the country got the capacity of developing bombs and missiles are of serious consequences. In Japan the voice of developing its own nuclear weapon is higher and higher. If Japan got such material and technology, the temperature in Far East will drastically increase. North Korea can sell or threat to sell nuclear material and bombs to other countries. China has good reasons to support the denuclearization of North Korea.

Iran is not suspected to develop nuclear for selling to another country or organization, it claimed to develop nuclear energy. But the risk is that if Iran can build an industrial capacity to enrich uranium to 4%, it will sooner or later get the capability to enrich it to 90% and further develop nuclear weapon. That Iran wants to threat Israel or any other country with nuclear weapon is not true, but nuclear weapon in Iran will probably make Israel neutral.

Can the world stop the risky development by offering measures that convince North Korea and Iran that they don't need nuclear weapon?

In both cases it is possible to stop the nuclear race. North Korea should be offered with energy, rice and other necessary goods. Iran wants to develop nuclear energy. If Iran wants to develop nuclear weapon, it means it wants to avoid military threat from outside.

Another factor which was often neglected is that during the Bush Administration, the US refused to talk with these two countries and even listed North Korea as an evil country.

During recent period of talks about North Korea, people said if North Korea closes down the nuclear program, it is possible to establish relations with both Japan and the US if the latter promises not to have military strike against North Korea.

The North Korean leaders may believe that the Obama administration is a military threat that needs North Korea to develop nuclear weapon and latest nuclear test aimed at increasing price for future.

People also speculated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il took a hard line in order to see a smooth succession of his power.

Another consideration is that the North Korean military thinks that negotiation, peace and reform will put a risk on their power and to conflict with the world will be best to keep their power.

If this speculation is true, the Obama administration's first reaction was right to protect South Korea and Japan and increase economic pressure on North Korea to make China be harder on North Korea. However, to provoke the North Korean military will just give a good excuse for them to develop nuclear weapon.
It is a bit surprising that the US will not give such a promise to Iran. The US and Iran stopped diplomatic relations in 1979. Maybe it will take many more measures to solve the problem in the Middle East.

But it is time to put up forward the idea of nuclear free zone for the Middle East.

If Israel can get rid of its own nuclear weapon so that the surrounding countries will not develop nuclear either, negotiations are possible.

Blix said in his article that without such a solution, the risk of nuclear proliferation will be large because if Iran has nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt might follow suit. And if Iran really has nuclear weapon, the value of Israel's nuclear will be reduced. But if Israel gets rid of its nuclear weapon so that the surrounding countries will not have it, there will not be much loss for the country. The conventional weapon in Israel will be enough to match the surrounding region.

Blix ends his article by saying that it is not certain that North Korea and Iran will become more cooperative if the US and Israel reduce their own arsenals, but, to demand Iran and North Korea not to develop nuclear weapon will have greater moral strength if they themselves take it seriously.

By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online, Stockholm.

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