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September 21, 2016

Taming Godzilla: Nuclear Deterrence in North-East Asia

ALYN WARE, KIHO HI, HIROMICHI UMEBAYASHI

Godzilla, a giant monster mutated by nuclear radiation, first appears in a 1954 Japanese science fiction movie by the same name, ravaging Japan in a symbolic warning about the risks of nuclear weapons. Since then Godzilla has appeared in more than 28 films as well as many video games, novels, comic books, and a television series.

Like Godzilla, nuclear weapons continue to mani-fest themselves in various ways, threatening the security of people and countries in the North-East Asian region.

In the West the most publicized North-East Asian threat remains North Korea (DPRK) – with their withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003, nuclear test detonations in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and the testing of ballistic missiles possibly carrying nuclear weapons, the most recent of which successfully launched a space satellite in December 2012.

Western media in particular, highlight the totalitarian nature of the North Korean regime, occasional military skirmishes with South Korea, as well as frequent vitriolic official statements against the U.S., and what North Korea calls the ‘U.S. puppet governments of South Korea and Japan’. Evidence of collaboration in the nuclear black-market network of A.Q. Khan is also taken to indicate the threat from the North.1“Letter to A.Q. Khan.” The New York Times, July 7, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/08/world/as ia/20110708_KHAN_LETTER_DOC.html?ref=nuclearpro gram. Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times goes as far to state, “the greatest atomic peril since the Cuban Missile Crisis looms just beyond the horizon as the situation worsens in North Korea.”2Kristof, Nicholas D. “Nuclear Collision Course.” The New York Times, July 17, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/opinion/17NORTH KOREA-FEATURE.html

On the other hand, the nuclear deterrence policy of North Korea can be seen as a logical response to perceived threats from the United States, Japan and South Korea. North Korea’s repeated requests for a peace treaty to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War have been rejected.3“North Korea Calls for Unconditional Peace Treaty With U.S.” Global Security Newswire, July 26, 2012. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/north-korea-callsunconditional-peace-treaty-us/. The U.S., Japan and South Korea refuse to rule out the option of a first-use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Various U.S. administrations have called North Korea a “rogue” state and have discussed “regime change”.4“Post–cold War Policy – Isolating and punishing “rogue” states.” Encyclopaedia of the New American Nation. http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/O-W/Post-coldWar-Policy-Isolating-and-punishing-roguestates.html#ixzz1km2m5X7A. Joint military exercises off the coast of North Korea, such as “Team Spirit” and “Resolve” exercises, are perceived by North Korea as “war games aimed at northward invasion.”5 Kim, Min-seok and Min-yong Lee, “North strongly protests new Key Resolve joint exercises.” Korea JoongAng Daily, March 9, 2010. http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/articl e.aspx?aid=2917570.

The decision by North Korea to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and acquire a nuclear deterrent capacity was made after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. North Korea argued that it was the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that removed their deterrent, thus enabling a U.S. invasion. They announced the need to develop their own nuclear deterrent to prevent a similar invasion.6“It is a serious lesson the world has drawn from the Iraqi war that a war can be averted and the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation can be protected only when a country has a physical deterrent force, a strong military deterrent force capable of decisively repelling any attack to be made by any types of sophisticated weapons. The reality indicates that building up a physical deterrent force is urgently required for preventing the outbreak of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula and ensuring peace and security of the world.” Press Statement by the DPRK, May 12, 2003. See “U.S. to Blame for Derailing Process of Denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”, Korean Central News Agency, 12 May, 2003. http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2003/200305/news05/13.htm Within this political context, the possibility of reversing the nuclearisation of North Korea without addressing their security concerns, whether perceived or real, is very low. In particular North Korea has been calling for a peace treaty to end the uneasy armistice, and for guarantees of non-aggression against them.

The Korean peninsula is not the only flashpoint in North-East Asia that could trigger a nuclear con-frontation. China and the United States, both nu-clear-armed States, continue to face off over the status of Taiwan. The Chinese claim sovereignty over Taiwan, whilst the U.S. provides military and political support to the Taiwanese.7Carpenter, Ted, Galen. America’s Coming War With China: A Collision Course Over Taiwan. New York, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Competing claims between China and neighbouring countries (including U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and the Philippines), over small islands in the South and East China Sea, are increasing in intensity. With increasing ambitions by States to exploit seabed resources within the exclusive economic zones of these islands, a military conflict could escalate into a nuclear crisis.8“China’s Territorial Disputes.” The New York Times, Accessed January 13, 2013. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countrie sandterritories/china/territorial-disputes/index.html. Johnson, Robert. “China Newspaper Says To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ After Military Confrontation With Japan In The East China Sea”, Business Insider, January 12, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/china-fighter-jet-flightsdiaoyu-senkaku-islands-2013-1#ixzz2HvLyb3XV.

The variety of nuclear threats in the region and the interlinking of nuclear doctrines with security issues and perceptions, points to the need for a regional approach that enhances security guarantees on the non-use of force, and decreases the role of nuclear weapons for all nuclear-possessing States and their allies. The alternative approach, focusing on the nuclear capabilities of only one country (such as the original Six Party Process, which aimed to reverse the North Korean nuclear program), has already been proved unrealistic.9 Blank, Stephan. “Rethinking the Six-Party Process on Korea.” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, 20/1, (2011). A new flexibility in the Six Party process to include security concerns of DPRK along with those of Japan and South Korea might be more successful. Such an approach could include the possibility of a 3+3 NE Asia NWFZ treaty.

The Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Aboli-tion, based at Nagasaki University, has put forward a comprehensive strategy to address nuclear threats in the North-East Asian region. The plan focuses primarily on establishing a North-East Asian nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ). A draft treaty was released in 2008 by Katsuya Okada, the then Chair of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Parliamentary Disarmament Group, who went on to become Japan’s Foreign Minister. It has been the subject of a number of academic and parliamentary meetings in Japan and South Korea since then.

Based on a ‘3+3 formula’10The 3+3 formula would involve three intra-zonal States (Japan, South Korea and North Korea), and three ‘neighbouring’ nuclear weapon-States (China, Russia and the United States). The ratification of all six States would be required for the treaty to enter-into-force. , the draft treaty pro-poses that North Korea give up its nuclear weap-ons and become subject to verification, but not unilaterally. Under the treaty the other five nations; South Korea, Japan, Russia, China; and the United States, would also have to decrease the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines:

  • Japan and South Korea would commit to not allowing nuclear weapons on their territories and to not threatening North Korea with nu-clear weapons being used by the U.S. in their ‘defence’
  • The U.S., China and Russia would commit to not deploying nuclear weapons on the territories of Japan, South Korea or North Korea
  • The U.S., China and Russia would commit to not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against Japan, South Korea or North Korea.

The proposal provides a ‘win/win/win/win’ ap-proach to enhance the security of all States in the region. North Korea would receive binding guarantees, particularly by the United States, that nuclear weapons will not be used against them. Japan and South Korea would receive binding guarantees, particularly by China and Russia, that nuclear weapons will not be used against them. The proposal thus provides the most realistic approach to persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons capability. Tensions between China, Russia and the U.S. would be reduced through decreasing the role of nuclear weapons in their doctrines. Furthermore regional tensions regarding the islands in the South and East China Seas would be reduced, as the possible threat from nuclear weapons would be taken off the table.11As such there is some talk about also inviting Taiwan to join a North-East Asian nuclear weapon-free zone. However, the complications regarding the status of Taiwan might preclude this. China might not be agreeable to Taiwan joining the treaty as a State. Taiwan and the U.S. might be hesitant for Taiwan to join the treaty in any other status.

The proposal draws from other nuclear weapon-free zones established in Antarctica, Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South-East Asia, Africa and Central Asia. It is nonetheless uniquely designed to address the specific security environment in North-East Asia.

Already the proposal has received considerable political and civil society support. 93 parliamentarians from Japan and South Korea have endorsed a Joint Statement by Parliamentarians of Japan and the Republic of Korea on Denuclearization of Northeast Asia, which supports the establishment of a North-East Asian NWFZ. Endorsers include former foreign ministers and other high-level parliamentarians from both government and opposition parties.12“NE Asia NWFZ – moving toward sustainable regional security”, PNND Update, 32 (April 2012). http://www.gsinstitute.org/pnnd/updates/32.html#13. In Japan, mayors and other heads of over 400 local authorities have supported a statement to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in North-East Asia.13“The heads of more than 400 local authorities express support for a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone”, Peace Depot, August 13, 2012.

A number of issues remain unresolved within the proposal, including whether such an agreement would need to proscribe the role of nuclear weap-ons completely in Japanese and South Korean security policies, or whether a reduced form of extended nuclear deterrence would be permitted.

The draft treaty circulated by Okada proposes that, “Each Intra-zonal State shall undertake to eliminate all dependence whatsoever on any nuclear weapon or any other nuclear explosive device in all aspects of its security policy.”14Treaty on the Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (tentative translation): The Democratic Party of Japan Nuclear Disarmament Group, August 2008. http://www.pnnd.org/docs/NEA-NWFZ.pdf Some analysts argue that this is an unrealistic approach as Japan and South Korea rely on extended nuclear deterrence for their security, particularly relating to security threats from nuclear-armed China and Russia. These analysts argue that neither Japan nor South Korea would be prepared to join a treaty, which entirely eliminated extended nuclear deterrence.15Nobuyasu Abe and Hirofumi Tosaki write, “Without extended nuclear deterrence, Washington’s allies, including Japan, would question the credibility of the US commitment to their security and the region’s security.” Abe, Nobuyasu and Hirofumi Tosaki. “Untangling Japan’s Nuclear Dilemma: Deterrence before Disarmament.”, in Disarming Doubt, The Future of Nuclear Deterrence in East Asia, edited by Rory Medcalf and Fiona Cunningham, 19-46. Woollahra: Lowy Institute, 2012, p. 31.

This argument is questionable. The proposed draft treaty stipulates it would only enter into force, when the 3-named nuclear weapon-States (China, Russia and the U.S.) ratify the treaty protocols under which they guarantee not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against any of the 3-zonal parties (Japan, South Korea and the DPRK). Thus under the 3+3 NWFZ Treaty, Japan and South Korea would no longer ‘require’ extended nuclear deter-rence from the U.S. to deter China and Russia.

Australia’s membership in the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty (SPNFZ), despite its nuclear alliance with the United States, shows how flexibility in negotiations can bring success and normative shifts in policy, without having to directly confront the nuclear weapon-States. Australia couldn’t agree to prohibit nuclear deterrence in the SPNFZ Treaty. Officially Australia continues to embrace an extended nuclear deterrence relationship with the U.S..16“For so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are able to rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia. Australian defence policy under successive governments has acknowledged the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the US alliance. That protection provides a stable and reliable sense of assurance and has over the years removed the need for Australia to consider more significant and expensive defence options.” Australia Defence White Paper, Section 6:34, 2009. http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/docs/defence_whit e_paper_2009.pdf However, both China and Russia perceived Australia’s joining the SPNFZ Treaty as an indica-tion of a lowering of the role of extended nuclear deterrence by the U.S. in the region. They thus ratified the treaty, thereby committing not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against the States parties to the zone.

Some analysts argue that despite current Japanese and Korean policy embracing nuclear deterrence, there is a very real chance that this could be phased out in the near future with sound diplomacy and political leadership. Jeffrey Lewis, for example, argues that the Japanese-U.S. extended nuclear deterrence arrangement is but a smoke-screen – with no evidential commitment from the U.S. to utilize nuclear forces in response to military threats confronting their North-East Asian allies. Rather than risking a nuclear escalation, the U.S. in reality, relies on conventional forces for extended deterrence.17Lewis, Jeffrey. “Rethinking Extended Deterrence in Northeast Asia.” Nautilus Institute Policy Forum, Policy Forum 10- 054, November 3, 2010. http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policyforum/rethinking-extended-deterrence/

Peter Hayes argues that Japanese and South Kore-an policy makers are beginning to understand that extended nuclear deterrence has been counter-productive in efforts to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that an alternative strategy based fully on non-nuclear military power might be more effective. Hayes goes further, argu-ing that North Korea’s nuclear policy is not pri-marily a response to extended nuclear deterrence, but relates to a perceived direct threat of nuclear attack from the United States. Thus North Korea’s willingness to join a North-East Asian NWFZ will rely on negative security assurances from the U.S., and also on progress towards global nuclear abolition.18Hayes, Peter. “Extended Nuclear Deterrence: Global Abolition and Korea.” Nautilus Institute Policy Forum, Policy Forum 09-096A17, December 17, 2009. http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-specialreports/extended-nuclear-deterrence-global-abolition-andkorea/

In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament. This envisions achieving a nuclear weapons-free world through a global nuclear abolition treaty. The treaty would be negotiated concurrently with interim measures including establishing additional nuclear weapons-free zones.

The UN Secretary-General’s proposal has been supported worldwide, including in a unanimous resolution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, representing 160 national parliaments and 10 regional parliaments. Continued adherence to nuclear deterrence, including extended nuclear deterrence, is the primary barrier to achieving this vision.

As such, in 2009 a number of leading parliamentarians from countries under extended nuclear deterrence released a paper calling for the practice to be phased out. They argued that the 21st century key security issues constitute non-military threats, which require international collaborative and non-military responses. These security threats include climate change, poverty, the spread of diseases, resource depletion and financial crises. The provocative approach of nuclear deterrence prevents rather than assists global collaboration required to meet these security needs.

Secondly it was argued the military threats that continue to exist could be better met by non-nuclear means. Nuclear weapons have no role in civil wars. Nor can nuclear weapons deter terror-ists. International aggression is better prevented and responded to by collective action under United Nations authorisation, than by the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The threat of a nuclear attack by a rogue state is furthermore best addressed by UN collective response, or if necessary, by conventional military force.

Thirdly, regional security is more effectively pro-moted by security mechanisms and mutually bene-ficial economic and trade relationships than by nuclear deterrence. International security mecha-nisms include the United Nations Security Council, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, and various arms-control and disarmament treaties. Regional security mechanisms in Europe include the European Union, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and the NATO Partnership Program.

These arguments should move political leaders in North-East Asia to commence negotiations on a North-East Asian NWFZ and increase their sup-port for global nuclear abolition. This would pre-vent the nuclear Godzilla from rearing its ugly head again in the region, or anywhere in the world. Political leaders are all too often ‘joined at the hip’ with antiquated security frameworks, militaristic ideology, and the political interests of the nuclear weapons industry. An additional push by civil society will probably be needed in order to get the ball rolling, and finally condemn the nuclear Godzilla to the waste-bin of the past.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • ALYN WARE is a policy analyst and nuclear abolition advocate from Aotearoa-New Zealand. He is the founder of the Nuclear Abolition Forum, Global Co-ordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), a member of the World Future Council, a consultant for the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and a 2009 winner of the Right Livelihood Award.
  • KIHO YI is an Associate Director of Nautilus, a research institute on North-East Asian security. Previously YI Kiho served as the Korean Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, and Secretary General of Korea Peace Forum. He studied at Waseda Uni-versity in Japan, looking at the local civil movement and its links to peace in East Asia. Before 1999 he worked for ten years in the Korea Christian Academy, where he focused on Korean political change and global peace networks.
  • DR. HIROMICHI UMEBAYASHI is Director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University, Former President & Founder of Peace Depot Japan and North-East Asia Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. He is a Ph.D. holder in the field of Applied Solid State Physics from Tokyo University. After resigning from university teaching in 1980, he became a fulltime campaigner and researcher for peace, disarmament and human rights issues. He is the Editor in Chief of bi-weekly periodical “Nuclear Weapon & Test Monitor” (in Japanese) and the Supervising Editor of the Year Book “Nuclear Disarmament & Peace – for Citizens and Local Authorities” (in Japanese). He won the Peace Prize of the Peace Studies Association of Japan in 2008.

References   [ + ]

1. “Letter to A.Q. Khan.” The New York Times, July 7, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/08/world/as ia/20110708_KHAN_LETTER_DOC.html?ref=nuclearpro gram.
2. Kristof, Nicholas D. “Nuclear Collision Course.” The New York Times, July 17, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/opinion/17NORTH KOREA-FEATURE.html
3. “North Korea Calls for Unconditional Peace Treaty With U.S.” Global Security Newswire, July 26, 2012. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/north-korea-callsunconditional-peace-treaty-us/.
4. “Post–cold War Policy – Isolating and punishing “rogue” states.” Encyclopaedia of the New American Nation. http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/O-W/Post-coldWar-Policy-Isolating-and-punishing-roguestates.html#ixzz1km2m5X7A.
5. Kim, Min-seok and Min-yong Lee, “North strongly protests new Key Resolve joint exercises.” Korea JoongAng Daily, March 9, 2010. http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/articl e.aspx?aid=2917570.
6. “It is a serious lesson the world has drawn from the Iraqi war that a war can be averted and the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation can be protected only when a country has a physical deterrent force, a strong military deterrent force capable of decisively repelling any attack to be made by any types of sophisticated weapons. The reality indicates that building up a physical deterrent force is urgently required for preventing the outbreak of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula and ensuring peace and security of the world.” Press Statement by the DPRK, May 12, 2003. See “U.S. to Blame for Derailing Process of Denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”, Korean Central News Agency, 12 May, 2003. http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2003/200305/news05/13.htm
7. Carpenter, Ted, Galen. America’s Coming War With China: A Collision Course Over Taiwan. New York, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
8. “China’s Territorial Disputes.” The New York Times, Accessed January 13, 2013. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countrie sandterritories/china/territorial-disputes/index.html. Johnson, Robert. “China Newspaper Says To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ After Military Confrontation With Japan In The East China Sea”, Business Insider, January 12, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/china-fighter-jet-flightsdiaoyu-senkaku-islands-2013-1#ixzz2HvLyb3XV.
9. Blank, Stephan. “Rethinking the Six-Party Process on Korea.” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, 20/1, (2011). A new flexibility in the Six Party process to include security concerns of DPRK along with those of Japan and South Korea might be more successful. Such an approach could include the possibility of a 3+3 NE Asia NWFZ treaty.
10. The 3+3 formula would involve three intra-zonal States (Japan, South Korea and North Korea), and three ‘neighbouring’ nuclear weapon-States (China, Russia and the United States). The ratification of all six States would be required for the treaty to enter-into-force.
11. As such there is some talk about also inviting Taiwan to join a North-East Asian nuclear weapon-free zone. However, the complications regarding the status of Taiwan might preclude this. China might not be agreeable to Taiwan joining the treaty as a State. Taiwan and the U.S. might be hesitant for Taiwan to join the treaty in any other status.
12. “NE Asia NWFZ – moving toward sustainable regional security”, PNND Update, 32 (April 2012). http://www.gsinstitute.org/pnnd/updates/32.html#13.
13. “The heads of more than 400 local authorities express support for a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone”, Peace Depot, August 13, 2012.
14. Treaty on the Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (tentative translation): The Democratic Party of Japan Nuclear Disarmament Group, August 2008. http://www.pnnd.org/docs/NEA-NWFZ.pdf
15. Nobuyasu Abe and Hirofumi Tosaki write, “Without extended nuclear deterrence, Washington’s allies, including Japan, would question the credibility of the US commitment to their security and the region’s security.” Abe, Nobuyasu and Hirofumi Tosaki. “Untangling Japan’s Nuclear Dilemma: Deterrence before Disarmament.”, in Disarming Doubt, The Future of Nuclear Deterrence in East Asia, edited by Rory Medcalf and Fiona Cunningham, 19-46. Woollahra: Lowy Institute, 2012, p. 31.
16. “For so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are able to rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia. Australian defence policy under successive governments has acknowledged the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the US alliance. That protection provides a stable and reliable sense of assurance and has over the years removed the need for Australia to consider more significant and expensive defence options.” Australia Defence White Paper, Section 6:34, 2009. http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/docs/defence_whit e_paper_2009.pdf
17. Lewis, Jeffrey. “Rethinking Extended Deterrence in Northeast Asia.” Nautilus Institute Policy Forum, Policy Forum 10- 054, November 3, 2010. http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policyforum/rethinking-extended-deterrence/
18. Hayes, Peter. “Extended Nuclear Deterrence: Global Abolition and Korea.” Nautilus Institute Policy Forum, Policy Forum 09-096A17, December 17, 2009. http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-specialreports/extended-nuclear-deterrence-global-abolition-andkorea/
Rob van Riet

About Rob van Riet

Rob van Riet is Coordinator of the Disarmament Programme at the World Future Council. In addition, he has been U.K. Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND) since 2011 and has served as the Director of the Nuclear Abolition Forum since its founding in 2011. He was a co-author of the InterParliamentary Union/PNND Parliamentary Handbook Supporting Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, released during the 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Quebec City, Canada, in October 2012.

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