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North Korea restarts Nuclear Weapons Programme says IAEA – Will Taliban acquire Nuclear Weapons?

North Korea restarts Nuclear Weapons Programme says IAEA – Will Taliban acquire Nuclear Weapons?


  • GS 3 || Security || Tackling Security Threats || Nuclear Weapons

Why in news?

North Korea restarts Nuclear Weapons Programme

Present context:

  • The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog described the resumption of operations over the weekend at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor as “deeply troubling.”
  • In its new annual report on North Korea’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that while monitors have not been granted access to the Yongbyon site
  • There are “indications” that the five-megawatt reactor is once more producing plutonium for the first time since December 2018.
  • According to the report, there were “indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor” in early July.
  • It concluded that the North’s nuclear activities, “continue to be a cause for serious concern” and are “deeply troubling.”
  • The continuation of the DPRK’s (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,”
  • It said, adding that the IAEA called on Pyongyang to comply with UN resolutions.
  • Images captured from satellites also show that the steam plant for the radiochemical laboratory was also operational in the first half of the year, and that milling and concentration activities are ongoing at the Pyongsan uranium mine and the associated fabrication plant.

What is North Korea planning?

  • North Korea has a number of reasons for resuming production of fissile material.
  • The global coronavirus pandemic has made life within the nation’s sealed borders even harder than in past years, prompting the regime to seek concessions from the international community.
  • Despite the incredible stress North Korea’s economy and society are suffering under self-imposed pandemic isolation, the regime of Kim Jong UN pushes forward with its nuclear programs.

Concerns over nuclear proliferation:

  • Daniel Pinkston, a former deputy project director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, warned that North Korea may be planning to sell nuclear technology or completed weapons.
  • The North’s economic problems, brought on by international sanctions but exacerbated by the regime’s decision to close borders to trading partners due to COVID, mean that the country is desperate for money that it needs to survive.
  • Biggest worry” over the resumption of processing activities at Yongbyon is an elevated possibility of nuclear proliferation. North Korea has allocated an immense amount of its limited resources to this program for many, many years so they are not walking away from it any time soon.
  • “The North is estimated to have somewhere between 50 and 60 warheads, so adding one more warhead to that stockpile does not have much meaning.
  • They may be looking for states that have no nuclear weapons at the moment and for whom a single warhead would therefore be very significant.

Rogue States:

  • Rogue States have been actors in the past and will also be so in the future, threatening other states in whatever way. Today, countries that are often labelled as Rogue States are North Korea, Iran, Syria and Sudan.
  • In addition, some states are not a Rogue State at this moment, but are seen as a potential future one. Examples are states like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Some authors also consider the United States to be a Rogue State.
  • When talking about the threat of Rogue States in the near future, especially North Korea and Iran are frequently named, mostly because of their nuclear programmes.
  • Their quest for weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of other international actors. The threat becomes even greater when weapons of mass destruction are proliferating from these Rogue States to other states, or even worse: to non-state actors like terrorist organisation

Non-State Actors and Nuclear Weapons:

  • The most serious security concern is the possibility of non-state actors assembling a nuclear weapon themselves.
  • Apart from fissile material fuel, there are several sophisticated components that go into a nuclear weapon, such as its special casing, electronics, conventional explosives and fuses arranged to fire in the right sequence.
  • Although most of these would be difficult to acquire by a small rag-tag group of terrorists, a well-organised group like al Qaeda or ISIS may be able to induct or abduct the necessary experts, as well as assemble the ingredients needed for that purpose.
  • The second risk scenario involves the theft or acquisition of nuclear materials and their fashioning into an improvised nuclear device by non-state actors. The two primary materials that could serve as fuel for a bomb are HEU and Pu.
  • Non-state with legitimate access to weapons or materials can pose a threat if they are sympathetic to the goals of non-state actors or decide to assist them for any reason, including coercion.

Nuclear attacks in past:

  • Israel, the most important issue is that of national security. In 2006, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, launched an attack against Israel in order to pressure the country into releasing Lebanese prisoners. The war ended after thirty-four days and left over a thousand of Lebanese dead or displaced .
  • Iranian policy is driven less by a rigid ideological revolutionary to one that encompasses different national interests in order to be more receptive to global norms and rules. Looking at the individual level of analysis, Iranian leaders are locked onto particular interests of which they will be very reluctant to let go (Mayer 4). These domestic political actors have persuaded government leaders and societal elites that nuclear weapons are needed for political power and military strength.

Why do states pursue nuclear weapons programmes?

  • Security: Security concerns have long been advocated by Realism as the exclusive reasons for nuclear weapons proliferation. Realism assumes the state as a unitary and rational actor who responds to outside pressure, and that power in an anarchical system is a zero-sum game.
  • Inner Parameters: Inner parameters focus on domestic determinants of nuclear proliferation by opening the black box of the state.
    • States pursue nuclear weapons when leaders perceive them as significant symbols for state identity.
    • States pursue nuclear weapons when domestic actors need them to justify their survival.
    • Nuclear weapons when inward-looking politicians are in power and stop when outward-looking politicians are in power.

Nuclear Deterrence’s Benefits:

  • Nuclear Weapons as a Global Conflict Deterrent: The prospect of being overwhelmed or facing mutually assured destruction is sufficient to keep the world’s superpowers from escalating a dispute to the point where a military confrontation is required.
  • Deterrence proponents argue that nuclear weapons not only defend countries from other countries using nuclear weapons, but also avoid conflict and foster stability.
  • Increases a country’s bargaining power: Nuclear weapons provide countries with a geostrategic edge. North Korea, for example, has developed this technology independently, allowing it a place at the negotiating table with the United States.
  • Increased Weapons Maneuverability: Nuclear weapons may be deployed from the ground, the sea, or the air. Nuclear weapons, like their conventional counterparts, have a lot of versatility. When evaluating the breadth of deterrence philosophy, this adaptability is a distinct benefit.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Deterrence

  • Do Not Stop Small-Scale Warfare: Nuclear weapons have not been demonstrated to deter guerilla warfare on a small scale. Because there is always the risk of escalation in a battle, the prospect of nuclear war cannot be ruled out.
  • Inequality of Opportunity: Because of today’s unequal distribution of nuclear capabilities, certain countries have an instant edge over others.
    • Since 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have all developed nuclear weapons with far greater destructive capability than those that annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Nuclear Deterrence Doctrine Faces New Challenges

  • The Beginning of a New Cold War: As the globe enters a new Cold War between the United States and China, the possibility of nuclear war has returned.
  • Rogue States: A rogue nation or state is one that violates international law and poses a threat to the security of other countries.
  • The boundaries between conventional and nuclear delivery have blurred as a result of technological advancements. Cyberattacks on nuclear command and control, for example, are improving their capabilities.
    • The introduction of hypersonic missiles with tremendous speed and maneuverability has rendered nuclear bombs difficult to intercept once launched.


These existential security threats were fostered by the beliefs of influential elites who created a nuclear security myth and influenced the Supreme Leader to restart a dormant nuclear programme. Iran’s strategic security situation has improved. However, uncertainty remains regarding future development of existential security threats in the Middle East Region. Teheran has therefore adopted a nuclear hedging strategy; the presence of US troops advocates latent existential security threats. The long standing isolation of the regime has created inner socio economic problems which the regime has not been able to address.

Mains oriented question:

Discuss the feasibility of nuclear deterrence as a tool for world peace in the context of technical and other geopolitical advancements. ( 200 words)