AIR spotlight summary: Nuclear Weapons and Security concerns

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AIR spotlight summary: Nuclear Weapons and Security concerns


 

Context:

North Korea has conducted a long range nuclear missile test called as ballistic missile. It can go up to 13000 km. It takes in entire USA into its range. India is not far from North Korea. It is within that range.

How do you see the missile test as this test propels North Korea into the League of Nations which got Intercontinental ballistic missiles?

This test enhances the credibility of North Korea as a state which now possesses intercontinental ballistic missile capability. This test, North Korea called it a Hwasong-15 missile, had an actual trajectory of about 960 km. But it was fired at a certain angle where by it acquired an altitude of almost 4500 meters up in the atmosphere. If altitude and range is extrapolated, the expert opinion is that this is the missile that can cross 12000 km when it is fired in the optimum range manner. Now it can reach large parts of continental US.

With this test North Korea demonstrated two kinds of capabilities – nuclear explosion and ballistic missile.

The real challenge now is can they miniaturise the warhead whereby they can actually have a nuclear tipped ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic missile). However, that is unlikely with the current evidence. Because miniaturisation of a nuclear warhead onto an ICBM very tricky.

The missile credibility is there but it is not an immediate threat in term of it nuclear missile capability at this point.

How does it matter now especially for India?

Japan can perhaps be targeted mainly because of proximity whereas USA is a distant entity. Both of them see each other as enemy because Korean War is not yet over technically. There has been no formal closure.

India is affected to an extent that any kind of turbulence in East Asia which is triggered by North Korea and any kind of response by any of the players which leads to a greater instability. India will be affected because today East Asia, all the way from ASEAN to China, is a major partner for India’s trade and economic orientation. So to that extent India is an affected party.

North Korea’s capability was enabled to a great extent by Pakistan through covert linkages between China-Pakistan, Pakistan-North Korea, North Korea-China. India is affected to an extent that North Korea’s manifestation of this triangular linkage.

Therefore India has to be monitoring this carefully because any exchange of ordnance that has the potential to hit the higher levels of weapons of mass destruction will create turbulence. 

Japanese have sought for an emergency meeting with UNSC. Can the UNSC intervene in this?

UNSC has been alerted many times regarding NK issue. Emergency meetings have been called. The permanent members have had different views of how to deal with NK.

USA, France and UK had one view like penalties, imposing sanctions. Whereas China has been ambivalent, so has Russia to a certain extent. Therefore that cohesion is not there in UNSC. Also North Korean issue is very different from the Iraq issue as North Korea possesses Nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

What is the kind of Air defence covered to prevent these ICBM targets?

During Cold war both former Soviet Union and USA had these ICBMs. To deal with such missiles at that time the world had thought of what is called as the Antiballistic missiles (ABM). But for reasons of deterrence stability during cold war both sides signed an ABM treaty. That is neither side would acquire defensive capability that could degrade the incoming ICBM of other side, therefore there ensured a certain degree of stability by what is called Mutual Assured destruction (MAD).

But after the end of cold war, there has been a certain investment in Ballistic Missile defences (BMD). USA had used this defence system during Gulf war. Now many countries possess the BMDs.

Who can stop North Korea from carrying out nuclear threat?

It is difficult to restrain North Korea because North Korea regime seems to be convinced that the USA and its allies are determined to affect the regime change in North Korea. So it has to be restrained through negotiation but not by force.

Is North Korea acting on the behest of China?

China has considerable influence over North Korea but over the last year North Korea has been exuding a higher level of autonomy in terms of its actions. China is not exerting the kind of pressure or leverage that is required. China can completely cut-off all supplies. But Chinese analysts say that NK would implode.

Hence China thinks that the current regime with supreme leader Kim is a better option than increasing the leverages and imposing severe penalties.