North Korea attacks: Are we skipping towards a nuclear apocalypse?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By Paul Martin

By Praveen Swami World
November 23rd, 2010

Eight weeks after 9/11, the Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir sat down for a meal of bread and olives with Osama bin Laden in Kabul. “I wish to declare,” bin Laden told him, “that if America uses chemical or nuclear weapons, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons.”

That nightmare scenario has haunted governments, and Hollywood, ever since 2001 – leading the world to miss a far more dangerous nuclear threat. North Korea’s attack on South Korean forces stationed on Yeonpyeongdo island underlines the seriousness of the global nuclear threat, something many of us fondly imagined had ended with the Cold War.

It isn’t that the Korean fighting signals the coming of an East Asian nuclear apocalypse – but it does demonstrate just how nuclear weapons fundamentally transform geopolitical equations.

No great imagination is needed to understand what North Korea now seeks. South Korea is one of the engines of Asian prosperity, on which the world’s hopes of an early economic recovery rest. By attacking an island of no strategic value, North Korea’s dysfunctional but eminently rational regime is telling the world how much pain it could inflict if it isn’t bribed to behave itself. Both sides want wealth, not war – and nuclear weapons are North Korea’s means to extract it.

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