GCN Security Brief: Nuclear Weapons and North Korea, Disaster Brewing in the DRC, and more
North Korea and their Nuclear Weapons
This week North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest (by all estimates) nuclear test. Jeffrey Lewis the Director of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies estimates that the 10 kiloton explosion has about the same impact as the bomb that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. This is a radical shift from the global community treating North Korean “bombs” with scepticism and dismissing them as whimsical cries of an immature leader.
It is no coincidence that these tests happened so close, in terms of proximity and timing to the G20 summit. North Korea’s intent was to make sure that the world was watching. North Korea has now demanded the US recognise it as a “legitimate nuclear weapons state”. While the United Nations Security Council has publicly denounced the tests it is yet to produce a resolution against North Korea.
A statement by the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that they can continue to produce nuclear material at will and in a variety of quantities. The statement said, “ The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the technology for producing and using various fissile materials.”
The troubling aspect is that so much remains unknown about North Korea in terms of their capabilities and resources. The full statement can be found here.
This comes at the same time that an article in the New York Times said that President Obama will be dialling back on his plans of declaring a no first-use-policy on nuclear weapons for the U.S. This could be because it would embolden nuclear powers like Russia, China and (now) North Korea while at the same time would trouble allies such as South Korea and Japan in the region.
The BBC has put together a series of Q and As for you to better understand what is happening with North Korea. I use the phrase “better understand” because I don’t think even Kim Jon-un fully understands what happens in North Korea. This makes this the most troubling entrance into the “community” of nine states which possess nuclear weapons. This list includes the US, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and now, North Korea.
Cease-fire in Syria
US Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson might not know what Aleppo is but unfortunately, ignorance will not stop the violence that continues to ravage Syria. This week large strides were made when representatives of the US and Russia jointly announced a ceasefire in Syria started on Monday 12 September. The pact which was brokered in Geneva calls for an initial 48-hour ceasefire with hopes that it will last the rest of the week.
The truce calls for the Syrian government to cease its action against rebel forces and envisions a reciprocal halt from the rebels. The Syrian government will also cooperate in air strikes against terrorist targets and the expectation is that rebel troops will start delineating themselves from the terrorists.
This two-day ceasefire is a pivotal part of a larger peace pact and involves humanitarian support; especially to those in Aleppo. This is very significant as it marks the festival of Eid al- Adha, which is described by many Muslims as a festival of sacrifice and generosity.
So, why wasn’t Syria present at these talks which relate to a war that is going on in Syria? The answer is very simple (and yet complicated). Syria is a very close ally of Russia. Russian air strikes which were meant to help the Syrian government defeat rebel forces have not only failed at stymying rebel forces but have also made life a living hell for the people of Aleppo and other parts of Syria. The US is primarily interested in rooting out the so-called Islamic State which is why the terms of the ceasefire clearly called for a delineation between rebel forces and terrorist organizations in the region.
Next week this column will evaluate how the seven-day cease-fire worked during its first week.
Spotlight: Disaster Brewing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The national elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo are slated for November 2016. However, the sitting President Joseph Kabila refuses to stand down. His attempts to remain in power after his constitutionally allowed two terms as president serves as another instance in Congolese politics of never having a peaceful transition of power.
So far, the president and his team have claimed lack of logistic and budgetary constraints as well as incomplete electoral list which excludes 7 million new voters. However, the Congolese people see through these excuses.
Another disturbing trend that emerges as the DRC joins the list of African countries whose leaders have or have made attempts to stay in power is that this has usually resulted in massive violence. That list includes Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso and Burundi.
Kabila has everything to lose when out of power. He has amassed great personal wealth from the trading and mining industries of the country and corruption. His team will do everything they can to keep him there as they will most likely face repercussions for their actions when a new administration comes into power.
This video provides a brief history of the conflict in Congo and the Catholic Church’s response.