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16/10/2018

North Korea, Iran and the real nuclear threat

As the United States seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons from North Korea, our cover this week looks at how arms control is unravelling. President Donald Trump is poised to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. The limits on the nuclear arsenals of Russia and America are set to lapse by 2021, leaving them unconstrained for the first time in almost half a century. The chances are increasing that nuclear weapons will spread and that someone, somewhere will miscalculate.

Despite North Korea, arms control is unravelling

Complacent, reckless leaders have forgotten how valuable it is to restrain nuclear weapons

 

May 3.– Rarely do optimism and North Korea belong in the same breath. However, the smiles and pageantry in April’s encounter between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in, leaders of the two Koreas, hinted at a deal in which the North would abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee from the world, and in particular America. Sadly, much as this newspaper wishes for a nuclear-free North Korea, a lasting deal remains as remote as the summit of Mount Paektu. The Kims are serial cheats and nuclear weapons are central to their grip on power (see article). Moreover, even as optimists focus on Korea, nuclear restraints elsewhere are unravelling.

 

By May 12th President Donald Trump must decide the fate of the deal struck in 2015 to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. 

This week Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, gave a presentation that seemed designed to get Mr Trump to pull America out. He may well oblige. Worse, within three years current agreed limits on the nuclear arsenals of Russia and America are set to lapse, leaving them unconstrained for the first time in almost half a century.

In the cold war a generation of statesmen, chastened by conflict and the near-catastrophe of the Cuban missile crisis, used arms control to lessen the risk of annihilation. Even then, nuclear war was a constant fear (see article). Their successors, susceptible to hubris and faced with new tensions and new technology, are increasing the chances that nuclear weapons will spread and that someone, somewhere will miscalculate. A complacent world is playing with Armageddon.

START worrying

One problem is that the critics of arms control overstate its aims ...

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