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Comments on Nuclear Deterrence and Double Standards

In the previous posting, Jessica Kinloch explains that North Korea has developed a uranium-enrichment program as part of a nuclear deterrence strategy. Before suggesting possible actions to be taken against this, it is important to understand the principle concepts behind the theory of nuclear deterrence. The main idea is that with the threat of retaliation via the posession of nuclear weapons, a country can prevent a potential enemy from attacking. In order for nuclear deterrence to succeed, a nation must be capable and willing to use the nuclear weapons if attacked, and must also communicate this willingness and capability to the potential enemy in order to dissuade them from attacking. Deterrence was an essential policy of the United States during the Cold War and, although the U.S. has decreased its nuclear stockpile by more than 50% since 1991, it remains an important US strategy today. It is therefore going to be difficult to dissuade North Korea from continuing with a defense program that the U.S. has deemed very important for its own national security.

In the mean time, KNCA, the official North Korean news agency, accused the United States of a policy of “double standards” with respect to nuclear weapons. It claims that the U.S. has ignored the nuclear advances of its allies while insisting on the disarmament of its enemies. This came mostly in response to the discovery that 20 years ago, South Korea had conducted experiments with plutonium, and that four years ago, it conducted experiments with uranium, two ingredients of nuclear weapons. Both of these experiments were not, at the time, revealed to the UN Nuclear Agency.

Has the U.S. been coming down hard on its enemies while letting its allies get off scotch-free in the development of nuclear weapons? To do so would strategically seem to be in its benefit: the ideal existence of nuclear-armed allies and unarmed enemies would result in a world situation very much in the US’s favor, so why not? Unfortunately, this cannot be done without angering and scaring the US’s most prominent enemies, thus creating an even more dangerous situation for the United States: a situation in which potential enemy countries are not only creating weapons with more fear and determination, but they are also unwilling to negotiate or talk about it. Today on KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, North Korea announced that it will not commence negotiations with the U.S. until the U.S. agrees to drop its “double standard” regarding the nuclear weapons of ally- and enemy-states and allow North Korea its deterrence force. The result is yet another standstill in the peace talks and another game theory for the United States: either follow North Korea’s risky terms with the hopes of negotiations, or take a hard stance with the danger of North Korea’s possible retaliation.

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  1. I would make an addition to Danielle’s discussion of nuclear deterrence. The logic of nuclear deterrence between two states assumes the rationality of both states’ leaders. Even during a “successful” period of deterrence such as the Cold War, we know that the United States and Soviet Union came perilously close to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was under the “rational” leadership of Kennedy and Khrushchev. So how can anyone legitimately use it to describe the build up of the North Korean nuclear program? Few would consider Kim Jong Il a rational leader when comparing him to John F. Kennedy.
    I’m dubious of the theory that nuclear weapons deter war at all. But if they do, it is only when rational leaders are making the decisions. Kim Jong Il can try to use the theory of nuclear deterrence to justify his nuclear program, but he won’t be successful. There isn’t a double standard when it comes to nuclear deterrence. Rationality is the standard.

  2. booo bush!

  3. booo bush!

  4. booo bush!