N Korea condemned for nuclear tests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am

North Korea's nuclear test and firing of at least five short-range missiles were carried out in the name of self-defence. It is difficult to know if this is the true reason or whether the nation's secretive leaders have an economic, political or strategic agenda.

Whatever the reason, it has regrettably created new tensions in the region. Some governments are being pressured by voters to step up their defences or obtain similarly dangerous weapons to counter the threat.

Northeast Asia's people crave peace and stability. North Korea's weapons tests have created fear. Territorial disputes have kept nations at arm's length. Only in the past year, for example, have tensions between Beijing and Taipei eased. A weapons race is not what the region needs or wants.

Hawks in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party have in recent years been questioning the country's pacifist constitution. The North's firing last month of a rocket that could have been a disguised long-range ballistic missile test heightened calls for a rethink. There has been a deafening increase in the volume since Monday's atomic blast. A proposal by the party's defence committee says the military should be allowed to launch pre-emptive strikes against enemies.

Unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is looking for ways to get votes from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. In the wake of North Korea's nuclear tests, the promise of a first-strike capability or even a nuclear deterrent could well have that effect. This would not please Beijing or South Korea.

Proliferation is claimed to prevent conflict. An example was the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Several times the nations were on the verge of war, but it was common sense and diplomacy that kept them apart, not their nuclear and missile arsenals.

This is an edited version of the editorial which appeared on page 10 of the South China Morning Post on May 28, 2009