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2003-04-30

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference Opens to Discuss Nuclear Issues in An Age of Preemptive Attacks: Rebecca Johnson of the Journal Disarmament Diplomacy Joins US From Geneva

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North Korea said today it will regard any U.S. move to seek U.N. sanctions as "the green light to a war." The official North Korean news agency said the country will take defensive measures.

The warning came after the White House yesterday rejected North Korea’s offer to scrap its nuclear program, stop selling ballistic missiles, and re-admit UN inspectors. North Korea said it would disarm after the US provides a guarantee that it will not attack, and resumes shipments of oil and food aid.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Pyongyang will not be rewarded for: "bad behavior".

Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "We will not be intimidated by their claims and threats. As the president has said, we will not be blackmailed."

All of this comes as the nearly 200 nations who have signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty are meeting in Geneva to review implementation of the 1970 pact.

In an address to the gathering on the opening day, U.S. assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation John Wolf criticized North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty, and accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Disarmament experts say the risks of nuclear proliferation are worse now than for 50 years. They say Washington’s lack of commitment to non-proliferation is as damaging as the behavior of the proliferators.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive 17, which stated: "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force–including potentially nuclear weapons–to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States ..."

One analyst told the London Independent that more and more countries are likely to buy the argument that there is only one way to be secure in world where the US is the only major superpower: "to pre-empt pre-emption", to develop nuclear weapons. The analyst said: "People look at the different ways that the 'Axis of Evil' states–Iraq and North Korea–have been treated and they draw their own conclusions."

  • Rebecca Johnson, Director, The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. She is in Geneva to cover the talks for the Institute’s journal, Disarmament Diplomacy, which covers international arms control negotiations and development.

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