Nuclear Free Zone on the Korean Peninsula: A Russian View

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NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation

Gennady Chufrin, "Nuclear Free Zone on the Korean Peninsula: A Russian View", NAPSNet Special Reports, May 31, 1994,

Nuclear Free Zone on the Korean Peninsula: A Russian View

by Gennady Chufrin
Institute of Oriental Studies Moscow
produced for the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network
managed by Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development Berkeley, California USA

Recently the international situation on and around the Korean 
Peninsula has become very  strained  because  of  widely  spread 
suspicions about the nuclear program of the Democratic People's 
Republic of Korea (DPRK) and  alleged  aggressive  intentions  of 
Pyongyang. In  the  Western  press  gloomy  forecasts  are abound 
predicting a possibility of a large-scale  military  conflict  on 
the Peninsula.  The  DPRK  is  described  as having a substantial 
military superiority over  the  Republic  of  Korea  and  the  US 
government is called  upon to prevent the North Korean attack on 
the South.

In order  to  see  clearly  through  all these suspicions and 
allegations as well as to assess properly what is real  and  what 
is imaginary  one  has  to  step  back a little and recollect the 
experience of the Korean war.  When this war began  in  1950  the 
military strength  of  the North was indeed far superior than the 
defense capabilities of the South. And yet the war was not an 
easy affair for Pyongyang.

At first an unforeseen two day  delay  at  the  38th  parallel 
followed by  a  much longer stoppage near Pusan resulted in the 
loss of strategic initiative by the North,  the loss which  even 
the capture  of  Seoul could not offset.  And when 50,000 US 
troops were landed at Inchon in the rear of the North Korean army 
the latter  was  forced to retreat hastily and in great disorder. 
After that the Korean war was fought predominantly by  two major 
powers -  the  USA  and China.  When the hostilities were finally 
stopped and the armistice signed in July 1953 the warring parties 
found themselves again facing each other across the 38th 

Even now,  more than 40 years after the armistice, the Korean 
people remain  divided by a 240 kilometer long and 5 meter wide 
wall along the demarcation line which speaks very

vividly  about the futility  of resolving the unification of 
Korea by force. If this became impossible at the time Pyongyang  
enjoyed  political, economic and  military  support not only of 
China but also of the Soviet Union, at present after the collapse 
of the bi-polar world any military adventure on behalf of the 
DPRK is even less feasible and can be safely excluded as  a  real  
possibility  of  resolving outstanding problems between two 
Korean states.

Let us, however, look more closely at the strategic situation 
which exists now on the Korean Peninsula. 

1.1. Military balance between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea.

 a) Ground forces.

 According to the available information the DPRK ground forces 
number 1 to 1.2 million men.  They include 30 infantry and 
mechanized divisions, 15 armors,  20 mechanized,  4 infantry and 
22 special combat brigades.  They  are armed with 3600-3700 tanks 
(including 100-200 light  ones),  6500-6800  (100,  122,  130  
and  152  mm) conventional artillery pieces,  9000  (82  and  100 
mm) mortars, about 900 infantry fighting vehicles and 4000 
armored  personnel carriers. Besides  the  North  Korean  army 
has a large number of anti-aircraft guns and antitank guided 
missiles at its disposal.

The ground   forces   of   the   Republic   of  Korea  number 
approximately 650,000 men.  They consist of 3 mechanized, 19 
infantry and  23  reserve  divisions,  several special combat and 
airborne brigades. Besides there are 3 anti-aircraft brigades and 
3 separate tactical  missile  divisions.  The South Korea ground 
forces are armed with 2000 tanks, 1000 infantry fighting vehicles 
and over 1500 AFV, 4500 (105, 155, 175 and 203,2 mm) conventional 
artillery pieces and 5300 (81  and  106,7  mm)  mortars.  Besides 
there are 110 Hawk  and  200  Nike Hercules launchers,  a large 
number of  anti-aircraft  and  anti-tank guns  as  well  as  450 
helicopters at the disposal of the South Korean army.

b) Naval forces.

 The naval  forces  of  the  DPRK  number 40,000-41,500 men.  
There are two operational fleets in  North  Korea  equipped  with 
approximately 600  surface  combatants. However among them there 
are only 6  relatively  large  combatants  -  3  frigates  and  3 
corvettes. The  rest are small surface combatants that include 39 
missile gunboats,  168 torpedo boats,  142 patrol boats  and  180 
landing ships.  Such  composition  of  the  North Korean navy is 
determined by geography of the Korean Peninsula characterized  by 
a complex  coastal  line  and  a  large number of small bays that 
presupposes the use of small high speed vessels. The main task of 
such a  navy  is  to  disrupt naval communication lines,

to land small special combat and reconnaissance groups, to 
demolish ports of an  adversary and  protect  its  own  ports  
and   littoral infrastructure.

The main  attack  force  of  the  DPRK navy consists of 24-27 
middle class submarines whose task is to disrupt sea lanes in the 
Sea of Japan,  Yellow and East China Seas as well as in the Korea 
straits. Besides there are 48 mosquito submarines  for sabotage 
purposes in the North Korean navy.

The South Korean navy numbers 60,000 men  including  25,000 
marines.  This composition of the naval forces reflects the 
experience of the Korean war when the  South Korean  marines 
participated in landing operations alongside the US troops. After 
the Korean war the  South  Korean  naval  forces  continued  to 
upgrade their  interaction  with  the  US Navy during annual Team 
Spirit military exercises.

The South  Korean  navy consists of three operational fleets, two 
flotillas and an air wing  of  naval  aviation.  Having fewer 
submarines than  in  the North Korean navy (3 to 27 respectfully) 
the South Korean navy outnumbers the North in surface combatants 
in the  same  proportion.  The  total  number  of  large  surface 
combatants is  66, including 9  destroyers,  7   frigates,   26 
corvettes and 14 large and medium landing ships. Besides Republic 
of Korea has 97 speed boats,  including 11 missile  gunboats,  66 
patrol boats and 20 landing boats.

The main task of the South Korean navy is to defend major sea 
lanes, ports and military bases,  as well as to carry out landing 
operations and sea blockades together with the allied  navies  of 
the USA and Japan.

The South  Korean  naval  aviation  consists  of  20   patrol 
aircraft and  50 anti-submarine  helicopters.  There  are  three 
divisions of marines (including one reserve division)  armed  
with tanks, amphibious  armors  personnel  carriers,  105  and 
155 mm conventional artillery and Harpoon missiles.

It is  important  to  emphasize  that  South Korean combatants 
(especially large surface ones) are armed with more advanced 
weapon systems and have more sophisticated electronic equipment 
compared to the North Korean navy.  Besides Republic of Korea has 
a large program aimed  at  bridging  the  gap  with the North as 
to the number of  attack submarines  as  well  as  at  increasing   
its superiority in  the  number and quality of surface combatants 
and ASW aviation.

c) Air Force.

 The North Korean air force numbers 70,000 men  (compared to 
40,000  men in the South Korean AF) and about 750 combat aircraft 
(compared to 500 combat  aircraft  in  the South).  One should 
not  disregard  however  the superior quality of the South Korean 
air force both because of its more advanced weapon systems and 
better models of aircraft used (F-16 Fighting Falcons now and F-
18 in the near future) as well  as  because  of  US  air force 
presence on the Peninsula.

d) Reserve Forces.

 The North   Korean   military   reserves,  military  civilian 
services and militarized security forces are estimated to be  5.4 
million. men. The comparable forces in South Korea are estimated 
to be 3.4 - 4.2 million men.

Summing up the results of the above comparison we come to the 
conclusion that while North Korea has a larger armed force  (with 
or without  the  reserve forces) and enjoys numerical superiority 
over the South in the number of tanks, artillery pieces, mortars, 
combat aircraft and attack submarines,  the Republic of Korea has 
a much larger Marine corps,  has more surface combatants and  ASW 

But what may be even  more  important  is  that  the  nominal 
superiority of North Korea in conventional weapons over the South 
is only 1.8 times while the share of military expenditures in GNP 
in the  North is almost 50 per cent compared to only 6.5 per cent 
in the South.  That means that the military industrial complex in 
the South  is  far  more efficient, a fact that will become even 
more obvious in case of any prolonged military  conflict between 
the North and South. If on the other side the North plans a short 
war it is unclear how it can win it without  having  a  classical 
threefold superiority  in  conventional weapons recommended for 
offensive operations.  Moreover a 1.5 times superiority  of  the 
North in the number of artillery pieces is substantially reduced 
by more  powerful  artillery  systems of  the  South  while  its 
superiority in  the number of tanks is effectively offset by more 
effective anti-tank weapon systems in the South as well as  by  a 
large number of helicopter gunships deployed there.

It has been already mentioned earlier that the  South  Korean air 
force  has a clear advantage over the North Korean air force. As 
to the naval forces of two Korean  states,  the

North  Korean navy though  having  more  submarines is rather 
vulnerable to air attacks of ASW aircraft because of insufficient 
air protection of its major  naval  bases.  At  the same time the 
South Korean navy will enjoy superiority in  the  number  and  
fire  power  of  its surface combatants.

Lastly, more powerful amphibious  forces  of  the  South  are 
able, if its naval and air superiority is established,  to ensure 
successful large-scale landing operations of the Marine Corps.

Of course,  the deployment of a major part of the North Korea 
armed forces within 100 km from the demarcation line as well as a 
strategically vulnerably geographical location of Seoul may be of 
a certain advantage to the North.  However as may be judged  from 
the experience  of the Korean war an occupation of Seoul does not 
guarantee a victory in a warfare.  Besides while preparing  for  
a possible attack from the North the South Korean army has 
deployed about 350 thousand troops,  i.e. over half of its total 
strength, around the capital.  Moreover,  it is totally unclear 
why the US forward deployed forces in Japan and South  Korea  
itself  (i. e. over 83 thousand men, 200 combat aircraft and 15 
surface combatants) would be unable to react timely and 
efficiently  in  case  of  an attack from the North.

Under such conditions the only possibility for the  North  to 
achieve a decisive military superiority over the South may appear 
if the Northern armed  forces  launch  a  very

powerful  missile attack against all major ports,  air fields and 
military bases in the South. Such a possibility however may be 
real only  if  DPRK possesses nuclear weapons and means of its 
delivery.  Let us then consider such a possibility.

1.2.  Nuclear weapons: possible scenarios of their deployment and 

 An issue  of  nuclear  armament  is closely connected with an 
issue of its delivery. As is known surface-to-surface  ballistic 
missiles of  various  ranges  are  considered  to  be the  most 
effective means of nuclear weapons delivery.  It  is  also  known 
that the major nuclear powers, i.e. the United States and Russia, 
have practically stopped now  to  use tactical  nuclear  weapons 
delivery systems  including  nuclear-capable artillery,  tactical 
missile launchers and tactical aircraft. According to SALT-I and 
SALT-II agreements  there are also restrictions imposed upon the 
use of tactical sea-launched cruise  missiles  as  the means  of 
nuclear weapons delivery.  That leaves practically only ICBMs and 
strategic aircraft as major nuclear weapons delivery  systems  in 
the United States and Russia.

 However, already  in  1990   according   to   the   available 
information about  30 countries were armed with various types of 
short-range and  medium-range  delivery  systems   with   range 
capabilities up  to  several  hundred  kilometers.  And there are 
already a lot more threshold states that are prepared to  follow 
their example.  This phenomenon  reflects current changes in the 
geostrategic situation  when  the   confrontation 

between   two superpowers has  been  replaced by an ever 
increasing competition at the regional level  between  local  
actors.  Modernization  of delivery systems in these countries 
moves in the following forms:

 *    through the use of foreign  know-how  and  foreign  experts 
(Egypt, Argentina);

*    through the development of ballistic missiles on the basis 
of national know-how (Israel, India, Pakistan, Brazil);

*    through modernization and upgrading of foreign made missiles 
along  with development of local tactical missile launchers 
(Iran, Iraq, North Korea and South Korea).

 Since the  development  of  national  nuclear  capability  is 
usually unpopular  among  the local  population and for those 
countries that have became a party to the  Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty  (NPT)  such  activities  are  a   gross 
violation of  its  provisions, nuclear  research and creation of 
nuclear weaponry are conducted under conditions of great secrecy 
and without  any control not only from international agencies but 
also from national public opinion. Such indeed may be the 
situation on  the  Korean Peninsula as suspected by international 

What kind  of missile launch systems do the DPRK and Republic of 
Korea possess at present?  Officially the North  Korean  armed 
forces have 70 tactical missile launchers at their disposal. Most 
likely these are somewhat modernized Soviet or  Chinese  tactical 
missiles imported from China.  They are, however, rather outdated 
and their range capability does not exceed 150-200 km.

However in  May 1993 North Korea carried out a test flight of a 
new Rodong-1 missile. Being launched it covered the distance of 
480 km  in  the  direction  of  Tokyo and fell down in the Sea of 
Japan. This  missile  is  capable  of   delivering   a   nuclear, 
biological or  a  chemical  war  head.  To all probabilities this 
missile is a modified version of a  tactical  Scud  missile  that 
became well-known during the Persian Gulf war. The test flight of 
Rodong-1 proved the fact that its range capability is  enough  to 
reach US  military bases in Japan and even threaten Tokyo,  which 
means that  the  DPRK  possesses  now  a modern  launch   system 
potentially capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

One should not overlook,  however, that the Republic of Korea 
also possesses  a modern  delivery  system  which  is  even more 
powerful than that of North Korea.  At the beginning of June  
1993 South Korea  launched  a  Science-1  space  rocket  which  
though officially described as a civilian one can  easily  be  
used  for military purposes.

Officially the  South  Korean  armed  forces  have  in  their 
possession 12  US  built Honest  John  launch  systems  which are 
outdated and have been replaced in the US Army long ago.  However 
in 1975  South  Korea  bought  in  the  United Stated a plant for 
production of  solid  fuel  missile  engines   which   was   then 
transported from California and assembled in South Korea. Already 
in 1978 first successful  tests  of  unguided surface-to-surface 
missiles with  the range of 35 to 150 km were carried out.  Then 
that production of guided air-to-air missiles was  organized.  At 
present South   Korea assembles  at  this  plant  modern  guided 
missiles with all necessary electronic guidance systems  out  of 
local parts  and  materials  and in accordance with a US licence.  
The mere fact of launching a space rocket by South Korea in  June 
1993 clearly   proves   its  superiority   in   missile-building 
technology over the North.

The principal  difference  between  strategic position of two 
Korean states lies in the fact that while South  Korea  enjoys  a 
US "nuclear umbrella" protection,  North Korea has to create such 
an "umbrella" on its own.

As is  known  the US troops deployed in South Korea are armed 
with aircraft and missile launchers capable of delivering nuclear 
weapons. The  US  forward  deployed forces in Japan as well as in 
the Pacific (including the 7th  fleet)  are  armed  with  nuclear 
weapons which may be used in accordance with the US decision.  It 
is well known that this US nuclear capability is far superior  to 
any military  capability  of  North  Korea or even to its nuclear 
capability if it really exists at all.

What is actually known, however, is the following:

 a)   North Korea has seven nuclear sites at  the  Yongbyon  
complex capable of producing  nuclear  weapons.  After the 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carried out  several  
inspections  of nuclear installations  there in accordance with 
the provisions of the NPT its  experts  voiced  certain 
suspicions  regarding  two nuclear storage  sites.  However  the  
DPRK not only declined the IAEA request to conduct special 
inspections of these  two suspected nuclear sites but in March 
1993 declared its withdrawal from the NPT. 

b)   At  about  the  same time numerous reports appeared in the 
South Korean  and international   press   about   an   allegedly 
increasing military  and  nuclear threat coming from North Korea. 
According to these press reports  Pyongyang after  creating  the 
second nuclear  reactor  has developed a capability of producing 
annually up to seven nuclear war heads. It has been also reported 
that the  North  possesses  enough  facilities  to  produce  also 
chemical weapons  and means of their delivery.

c)   At the end of December 1993 the New York Times published an 
article which contained a leak from the US  secret  sources about 
North  Korea having 12 kg of plutonium which was sufficient for 
production of two nuclear bombs.
Leaving aside  for  a  while an issue of reliability of these 
press reports let us assume that  the  DPRK  indeed  possesses a 
small amount   of  plutonium  and  is  capable  to increase  its 
production for the creation  of  nuclear  weapons.  Let  us  also 
consider the military aspects of the possible deployment and use 
of such weapons by the DPRK.

Acting on  these assumptions one must state that from the 
military point of view the North Korean army command should 
undertake such actions that  would  prevent  the  South Korean 
from carrying out successful landing operations in  major  South  
Korean  ports  and military bases  (as  it happened during the 
Korean war).  For that purpose the North Korean armed forces 
should demolish such  ports and bases  in the South as well as 
establish a blockade of the US forward deployed forces in Japan 
(see endnote 1).

It is  quite obvious that such a task is unattainable for the 
DPRK. The number of major military bases and sea ports  in  South 
Korea, such as Pusan and Masan sea ports, Chinhae, Mokpo, Pohang, 
Cheju, Inchon naval bases and air force bases in  Pusan,  Pohang, 
Chinhae, Kunsan to name only a few of them, is far more and above 
the possible (two) number of nuclear bombs in possession of North 
Korea. And  that  is without mentioning Seoul since it is located 
within the range of North Korean artillery fire.

As of now North Korea is capable of arming only tactical missiles 
and - at the most - tactical aircraft with nuclear  war heads and 
bombs.  However the range of those tactical missiles is 
insufficient to reach most of the South Korean bases  located  at 
the Southern tip of the Peninsula, i.e. over 300 km from the DMZ.  
Neither small naval vessels can be used for deployment of nuclear 
weapons, nor  available  artillery is capable of launching 
nuclear shells.

In other words, even if the DPRK indeed has only two nuclear war 
heads at its disposal,  its armed forces are unable from  the 
military point  of  view  to carry out successfully the principal 
strategic task.  And if,  as it is discussed  now  by  Seoul  and 
Washington, the  United  States  are  actually  going  to  deploy 
Patriot air-defence missiles in South Korea,  then a  possibility 
of an  effective nuclear attack by the North against the South is 
reduced almost to zero.

North Korea can possibly change this balance of forces in its 
favor only if it attains a capability of manufacturing at least 
seven nuclear warheads annually.  However the reaction of 
neighboring countries, and above all Japan,  to such  a  
situation  is  quite predictable.

According to the information coming  from  official  Japanese 
sources the  total amount  of  processed  plutonium available in 
Japan in  1993  amounted  to  1.6  tons. Besides  2.9  tons   of 
Japan-owned plutonium  is  stored  for reprocession in France and 
Britain. The total amount of unprocessed plutonium in the form of 
nuclear fuel  already  used

or still being used at nuclear power stations in Japan is 
estimated to be 27 tons.  It is quite clear that to  reprocess  
this  plutonium  to  weapons-grade  form will present no problem 
for Japan.  And one must not forget that Japan already possesses 
modern missile technology.

Having said that one logically reaches a conclusion  that  if 
North Korea  is  indeed in  the  process of creating its nuclear 
weapons capability it is doing so because one (or both)

of two following  reasons.  The  first  one of them is dictated 
by a desire to  create   a situation   preventing   any   
reasonable possibility of an outside military attack on North 
Korea and thus defending the existing political  regime  from  an  
overthrow  by force by  a potential  aggressor.  Creation  of the 
North Korean nuclear deterrent capability is thus aimed at making  
a  military conflict between  the North and the South a virtual 
impossibility given the relatively small size of the  Korean 
Peninsula and a very high degree of exposure   of  its

population  to  the consequences of a nuclear war.

The second  reason  behind  an  alleged  North Korean nuclear 
program may be of a completely different nature,  i.e. formed by 
the desire  of  Pyongyang  to  use  it  as  a political threat or 
pressure in order to achieve better political and economic  terms 
in its dealing  with Seoul as well as with the United States and 
other Western countries.

The DPRK  and  Republic  of  Korea  signed   a   Non-Nuclear 
Declaration in December  1991  which  was  aimed  at creating an 
atmosphere of mutual trust between them on  the  nuclear  issue. 
However almost immediately talks between the two Korean states on 
practical measures to realize this Declaration came to a dead  
end because of fundamental differences between the North and 
South on the problem of bilateral control measures over the 
implementation of nuclear safeguards.

Thus Republic of Korea believed that in  order  to  create  a 
nuclear-free zone  on the  Peninsula it would be insufficient to 
hold only the IAEA inspections and demanded the right to  inspect 
not only  nuclear but also  military bases and installations in 
North  Korea. This  approach  to  the   nuclear   issue   was 
interpreted however  by  the  DPRK  as an attempt by the South to 
conduct military  intelligence  operations  in  the  North  while 
withholding inspections  by  North  Korean  authorities of the US 
military bases  in the South.  The North Korean  approach  on  
the nuclear issue  stemmed  from its belief that the issue itself 
was originally created by the United States when they deployed  
their nuclear weapons  in South Korea in the 1970s.  Therefore 
inspections of the US military bases in the South were  necessary  
especially since the   US   authorities  neither  denied  nor 
confirmed the existence of nuclear weapons there.

On the  other  hand  the  DPRK  after joining the NPT in 1985 
spent over six years instead of mandatory 18 months on discussing 
conditions of  regular  IAEA inspections before actually allowing 
them. Moreover when the IAEA raised suspicions about two nuclear 
sites at Yongbyon   and   demanded  their  special  inspections 
Pyongyang, as it was already mentioned,  declared its  withdrawal 
from the NPT in March 1993.

After that and especially after the resumption of the  US-ROK 
joint Team Spirit military exercises in 1993 negotiations between 
the North and the South were completely broken.  The ROK together 
with the United States tried in response by every political means 
at its disposal to bring the DPRK back to a negotiating table and 
to accept  its conditions for nuclear safeguards.  On top of that 
Seoul explored various scenarios of applying  economic  pressures 
on Pyongyang  that  might  have included coordinated actions with 
Japan and  even  China.  However  Seoul  was  prepared  to   make 
concessions too, such as, for instance, scaling down the size of 
Team Spirit exercises that normally involved up to  100 thousand 
US and ROK troops, large number of aircraft and naval vessels. 
Also political guarantees of nonaggression were  offered  to  the 
DPRK as well as the development of economic relations with Japan 
and the United States much sought after by Pyongyang (see endnote 

It is  a clear case of a stick and carrot policy to which the 
DPRK is now much more vulnerable than ever before when it enjoyed 
a powerful  support  of  the Soviet Union and China.  There is no 
more Soviet Union now while China though remaining an ally of the 
DPRK follows  a very cautions policy towards North Korea and does 
not support its intention to acquire nuclear weapons.

The political vulnerability of the DPRK has been increased by its 
deteriorating economic condition.  Poor harvests in the  last few 
years have severely depleted its food stocks. A sharp decline of 
oil imports from the former Soviet Union  has  resulted  in  a 
steep decline  of  production  of  fertilizers,  reduction in the 
number of aircraft flights and disruption of transport services.

Though the share of military expenditures exceeds half of the 
total GNP of North Korea,  even the  army  faces  now  increasing 
difficulties that  include more severe food rationing of soldiers 
and imposition of strict limits on fuel consumption.

The economic  and  external  political difficulties have been 
further increased by the growing domestic political  tension  and 
unpredictability of  Kim Jong Il,  a new North Korean leader,  of 
whom very little is reliably known  while  he  has  come  now  in 
control of  many  vital  spheres of the DPRK domestic and foreign 
policy. Some observes even believe that under present 
deteriorating political and  economic conditions and without 
former restraining influence of the Soviet Union and China on  
the  decision  making process in Pyongyang the new leadership 
there may indulge into a risky game of using its nuclear program 
as a means  of  political survival.

Thus acting on a seemingly correct assumption that the United 
States was prepared  to make  serious  concessions in order to 
prevent the  DPRK  withdrawal  from  the  NPT Pyongyang  engaged 
Washington into  a  direct  dialogue leaving aside not only South 
Korea but even its negotiations with the IAEA.  In  its  dialogue 
with the  United  States the DPRK set down several conditions for 
the resolution of the nuclear issue, that included:

 a)   a  formal  obligation  of  the  United  States  not to use 
nuclear weapons against the DPRK;

b)   a  formal declaration by the United States of the complete 
withdrawal of the US nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula;

c)   a discontinuation of Team Spirit exercises;

d)   conclusion of  a  peace  treaty  that  would  replace  the 
present armistice agreement;

 e)   a denunciation by Washington of its treatment the DPRK as a 
"terrorist state";

 f)   support by the United States of the Korean unification  on 
the basis of a confederation.

 These conditions appeared to be quite realistic or  at  least 
much more  realistic  than earlier ones with a probable exception 
of the last one.  Thus the DPRK does not  demand any  longer  an 
immediate full diplomatic recognition by Washington or the speedy 
US troops withdrawal from South Korea or  the  US  assistance  in 
replacing its outdated nuclear reactors.

As to the US response to the  DPRK  policy  on  the  nuclear 
issue it  may  be characterized  as  a combination of diplomatic 
efforts with economic and military pressures on  Pyongyang.  Thus 
the US government agreed to start a direct dialogue with the DPRK 
at a critical moment when the DPRK-ROK negotiations  were  broken 
and North  Korea declared its withdrawal from the NPT.  The first 
round of the US-DPRK talks was held in New York in June 1993.

As the  result  of  this  and  subsequent  rounds of talks an 
agreement was  reached between  Pyongyang  and   Washington   in 
February 1994   which   envisaged  the resumption  of  the  IAEA 
inspection of North Korean nuclear sites while the United  States 
promised not to hold Team Spirit exercises in 1994.

However this agreement was shortlived.  Already in March 1994 
representatives of the IAEA who arrived in North Korea to conduct 
inspections accused Pyongyang of refusing to allow them to visit 
some  of its nuclear sites.  The reaction of the US government to 
this was violent though  predictable.  The  US authorities 
confirmed their plans to deploy Patriot missiles in South Korea 
and to hold Team   Spirit   exercises  as  originally  planned.  
The US government actions  included  also  a  suspension  of  US  
troops withdrawal from South Korea,  an intensification of 
intelligence data collecting as well an appeal to the UN  

Council to condemn North Korea.

At the same time the US administration  started  preparations for 
a  more  active defence support to South Korea in accordance with 
the  provisions  of  the  mutual  defence treaty  of  1954.  
Moreover Senators  Nann  and  Lugar  were reported to propose the 
re-deployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.

As to  the  reaction  of another great power,  China,  to the 
developments in and around  the  Korean  Peninsula,  it  is  more 
cautious and  ambivalent.  Though  remaining a formal ally of the 
DPRK and refusing to support any economic  sanctions  against it 
China regards  negatively  nuclear  proliferation  and  does  not 
approve any steps of North Korea in this  direction.  A  positive 
role can  be played by China in the current crisis not by joining 
possible economic sanctions against North Korea but by using  its 
political influence on  the DPRK in the classical style of quiet 

At the  first glance Japan takes a very clear and unambiguous 
stand on the Korean nuclear  issue.  It  supports  its  principal 
allies, i.e.  the  USA  and  ROK,  in their political efforts and 
favors an establishment of a nuclear-free  zone  on  the  Korean 
Peninsula. At the beginning of April 1993,  a delegation of the 
Japan Socialist party visited Pyongyang and criticized the  North 
Korean decision  to withdraw from the NPT (see endnote 3).

However after the test flight of the Rodong  missile  in  the 
direction of  Tokyo  the Japanese government has changed some of 
its previous attitudes towards the nuclear  issue. Thus  it  has 
been announced  that Japan is going to reconsider its position on 
the long-term prolongation of the Non-proliferation  Treaty  when 
this problem will be raised in 1995.

What may become even more serious is Japan provoked by  North 
Korea beginning the development of its own nuclear weapons. So 
far Japan has refrained from undertaking  its

own  military  nuclear program because its security has been 
adequately guaranteed under the USA-Japanese Treaty.  The 
Japanese  government  continues  to regard this  Treaty as a 
mainstay of its foreign policy.  However the Treaty security 
provisions  may  be  considered insufficient under emerging  new 
geopolitical conditions and challenges,  such as a nuclear threat 
from North Korea.

As to  the  Russian  policy  on  the  Korean nuclear issue it 
passed through several stages during the last  two  years.  While 
continuing to  remain  highly critical of the North Korean 
approach to that issue and of Pyongang intentions to withdraw 
from the NPT, Moscow moved  from  being merely supportive to the 
United States, South Korea,  Japan and other nations in  their  
condemnation  of North Korea  to  assuming  a  more  active  
stand on the evolving situation. That  change  of  policy  
approach  resulted  in   the proposal to hold multilateral 
negotiations on the Korean nuclear issue that would include not 
only  North Korea  and  the  United States but  also  other  
parties  whose  national  interests  are directly involved,  such 
as Russia,  China, Japan and, of course, South Korea.  The 
reasoning behind this proposal may be explained by a serious 
disillusion felt in Moscow with the results  of the US-North 
Korean  dialogue  on the issue which is considered to be highly 
sensitive to Russian security concerns (see endnote 4).

2.2. The changing role of nuclear-free zones under changing 
geopolitical conditions.

 The idea  of  establishing  nuclear-free  zones  (NFZs) dates 
back to the period of Cold War. At first there was an increase in 
the number  of  nuclear  zones (i.e.  zones where nuclear weapons 
were deployed) followed by a movement in favor of creating NFZs. 
In 1961

the  world  was  put  on the brink of a nuclear war as a result 
of  the  Cuban  crisis. Fortunately  a  prompt  political 
compromise was  reached  between  Moscow  and Washington.  Soviet 
nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Cuba in  return  to  the  US 
guarantees of  Cuban sovereignty.  One of the positive results of 
this compromise to the outside world became the  re-emergence  of 
Latin America  as a nuclear-free zone which was formally recorded 
in 1967 in the Treaty of Tlateloco.

So far it remains to be one of the very few examples of a NFZ  
the status of which has been respected  by  nuclear  powers  (the 
only other  two successful examples of NFZs known to the author 
of this paper are Antarctica and Greenland).  In other parts of 
the world - South Pacific,  South-East Asia,  Middle East, etc - 
that aspired to become nuclear free the actual results were  far  
less satisfactory or even completely negative.

One such example is the story of the South Pacific NFZ. In August 
1985 Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other members of the 
Pacific Forum agreed to create a  nuclear  free zone  and  as  a 
result the South Pacific NFZ Treaty was signed in Raratonga. This 
Treaty prohibited  deployment   of   nuclear   weapons   on   the 
territories or within territorial waters of member states as well 
as dumping of nuclear waste and conducting of  nuclear tests  in 
the zone area.  The five nuclear powers were asked to support the 
Treaty, to sign corresponding protocols to that effect as well as 
not to  use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the 
parties to the Treaty.

However in  the still prevailing atmosphere of the Cold War a 
reaction of the nuclear powers to the Raratonga  Treaty  was  far 
from uniform. Thus the Soviet Union and China signed protocols to 
the Treaty as requested  while  the  United  States  and  Britain 
refused to do  it  and  France completely disregarded the Treaty 
continuing its nuclear testing program at the Muroroa attol.

Similarly a  proposal  to create a NFZ in South-East Asia put 
forward by the ASEAN states as far  back  as  in  September  1984 
could not be realized until the Cold War was finally over and the 
US military bases at Subic Bay and Clark Field in the Philippines 
where the  US  nuclear  weapons  were  reportedly  deployed  were 
closed. As to the Middle East or the Mediterranean Sea area  
where creation of NFZs was also proposed many years ago no 
progress has been  achieved so far.

With all  those  differences  among  NFZs prosed or realized 
during the Cold War period their major  similarity  lies  in  the 
fact that  their  status centered on prohibition of nuclear tests 
and deployment of nuclear weapons.  As can be seen in the case of 
the South Pacific NFZ,  however,  such,  zones,  even if created, 
remained handicapped unless all five

nuclear  states  agreed  to respect it.  Therefore  lately it has 
been realized that NFZs may be much more  effective  is  they  
become  an  integral  part  of collective or cooperative security 

2.3. Prospects of a NFZ on the Korean Peninsula.

 The analysis  of the political and strategic situation on the 
Korean Peninsula made earlier brings us to  the  conclusion  that 
after the  dissolution  of  the Soviet Union the DPRK lost a very 
powerful political,  economic and military support and seemed  to 
have chosen  a nuclear  option  to  compensate  this  loss  as a 
guarantee of its security. If that assumption is correct then one 
must unequivocally  state  that such a policy is extremely risky, 
highly adventurous and in fact futile.  Our analysis of  possible 
scenarios of future developments brings us to the only conclusion 
that North Korea cannot under any conditions achieve  a military 
victory over  South  Korea in the event of an open conflict.  But 
even if the DPRK-ROK conflict remains in the present latent  form 
it creates  an  atmosphere of a dangerous unpredictability on the 
Korean Peninsula and in North-East Asia  that  may  result

in  a nuclear proliferation and  even a nuclear conflict.

One may safely predict that if Japan, provoked  by the 
developments  in  North Korea, decides to go nuclear, Russia and 
China will react with the utmost concern.  One may express 
serious  doubts that such a course of events would correspond to 
the national interests of the USA.

To prevent   such   undesirable  developments  the  concerned 
countries should apply more pressure on the  DPRK  leadership  
but only up  to  a  certain point since introduction of 
comprehensive economic sanctions to say nothing  about  threats  
to  use  force against Pyongyang  may  become  politically  
counter  productive.  Therefore a continuation of the direct US-
DPRK dialogue seems  to be one of the most feasible and effective 
instruments of bringing the DPRK leadership to desired results.  
Without doubt a  promise of an  economic assistance  coming  from 
the USA on certain very concrete political  conditions  may  be 
very  helpful in the negotiation process  especially  since  the 
DPRK now is in a very serious economic situation.

However, if  this  dialogue  fails,  as the present situation 
suggests, in order to reach an acceptable and  lasting  agreement 
on peace and security on the Korean Peninsula,  that will involve 
a creation of a NFZ there, more energetic multilateral efforts by 
both Korean states,  the USA,  Russia,  China and Japan should be 
undertaken that may finally result in an international conference 
on Korea  and  establishment  of a cooperative security system in 
North-East Asia.


1.  Here as elsewhere, I have tried to convince readers that the 
DPRK is unable to launch a conventional or nuclear attack with 
any reasonable chance of success; this view is also expressed by 
General Kolesnikov, chief of the Russian Army GS.

2.  After the second round of the US-DPRK talks (February 1994) 
was concluded with a four-point agreement on the resumption of 
the IAEA inspections and of the North-South dialogue as well as 
on discontinuation of Team Spirit exercises, the first deputy 
Foreign Minister of North Korea made a statement on March 4 which 
called the USA to stop nuclear threats and hostile policies 
against the DPRK; to assist it with light water reactor 
technology; and to improve the US-DPRK relations.

3.  Indeed, at the beginning of 1994 there were reports in the 
Japanese press accusing Russia and its nuclear and missile 
experts in assisting the DPRK in its nuclear military program.  
To make these accusations credible a certain secret document 
allegedly issued by the Russian Defense Ministry was referred to.   
However, the Russian government rejected these press reports as 
completely false.

4.  As to Russian nuclear forces in the Far East, their size and 
structure are maintained in accordance with principles of the 
national doctrine of defense sufficiency as well as with the 
provisions of the US-Russian START agreements.  Their purpose is 
to serve as a nuclear deterrent to either of three major possible 
threats to Russian national security that may come from North-
West Pacific, Russian-Chinese border or Korean Peninsula.  The 
backbone of this nuclear deterrent is constituted by SSBNs 
equipped with long-range SLBMs that can operate successfully not 
only from the open sea but also from Russian coastal waters.  
Since this nuclear force is now practically the only effective 
deterrent against possible security threats it makes, in my 
opinion, the Japanese proposal of a NFZ in Northeast Asia that 
will encompass among other areas Littoral Siberia completely 
unacceptable for Russia.

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