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What the Hanoi summit should have also addressed

Mar 02,2019 - Last updated at Mar 02,2019

There is more at stake in the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit in Hanoi than meets the eye. What is at stake is not only the denuclearisation of North Korea and the reciprocal lifting of sanctions on the country, but also the very criteria that decide which country may, or may not, develop or possess nuclear weapons with impunity.

Besides the “Big Five” countries, which have developed their own vested interest in having such mass destruction weapons, by virtue of the fact that they are five permanent members of the UN Security Council and can dictate what is right and what is not, there are a few other mid-size nations which have now their own nuclear arsenal. India, Pakistan, Israel and possibly Iran are all de facto nuclear nations.

So, what gives the licence for some countries to go ahead and obtain nuclear weapons, while denying it to others? There is a sense of unfairness and disequilibrium in the exiting de facto criteria for the lawful possession of nuclear weapons by some powers and denying it to others. This is what the Hanoi summit should have also addressed and not only the immediate issue of the North Korean nuclear programme.

Some major capitals fear that nuclear weapons might fall in the hands of oppressive or dictatorial regimes. This much makes sense. In other words, only democratic nations may have such weapons. If this is the criterion, then it must be clearly pronounced so that the entire international community may know in advance which states could be legitimate or illegitimate possessors of nuclear weapons. And accordingly, many democratic countries may go ahead and acquire nuclear weapons, while existing undemocratic nations must dispose of their nuclear weapons and place their national security and safety in the hands of the nuclear powers.

There is something uneven in this equation and needs correction.

Besides, the use of all mass destruction weapons, especially the nuclear kind, is prohibited by the international humanitarian law. The statute of the International Criminal Court outlaws the deployment of nuclear bombs. Why then do some nations have them and are ready to use them, while at the same time denying them to the weaker countries? This issue needs redress one way or another, and the sooner the better.

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