Ni nos falta razón, ni nos sobra razón

11 de noviembre de 2004

Los experimentos nucleares de Corea del Sur

Muy buen artículo de Daniel Pinkston sobre el programa nuclear de Corea del Sur en el Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). Aunque es mejor leerlo entero, ahí van las conclusiones:
Korean division and the legacies of the Korean War and the Cold War exacerbate the security dilemma in Northeast Asia. South Korea's dependence on nuclear power creates a legitimate economic incentive to establish a domestic fuel cycle capability to eliminate dependence on nuclear fuel imports and to deal the country's spent fuel storage problem. Many South Koreans resent that Japan has been permitted to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel. Koreans believe this is a double standard and that Japan's militaristic past should bring restrictions upon Tokyo instead of Seoul. However, South Korea's past bomb program and the security dynamics on the peninsula mean that the U.S. will not support a complete South Korean fuel cycle.

South Korea's plutonium extraction and uranium enrichment experiments were not part of a robust program to develop nuclear weapons, but they provided data and experience that could be applied to a bomb program or to a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle that could later be part of a "virtual bomb program" under certain contingencies. The South Korean government is correct that the experiments were insignificant in terms of bomb production. In sum, the Koreans were sloppy and got caught. However, the experiments do not help alleviate suspicions in Pyongyang or the region and they make it more difficult for diplomats working to achieve a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. The experiments and how the issue is resolved also have implications for the nuclear nonproliferation regime deals with Iran and other states considering their nuclear options.

Despite the possible oversight problems, the good news is that there has been no apparent diversion of significant nuclear materials or technology to the South Korean military or other consumers. The South Korean government is cooperating with the IAEA and Seoul has implemented institutional reforms to prevent a similar problem in the future. However, the experiments are another indication of the potential problems we face if diplomacy fails to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions. There are several legal and political constraints preventing Seoul and Tokyo from going nuclear--but no real technical obstacles. South Korea could probably live with a limited and ambiguous North Korean nuclear capability, but no South Korean president could resist the nuclear option if Seoul believes Tokyo is moving forward with its own nuclear weapons program to match Pyongyang's.

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