The United States successfully tested the world's first atom bomb in July of 1947 and the humankind has since entered the age of nuclear weapons. A leading scientist involved in the research and development of the first global nuclear test, R. Oppenheimer, then in a complex state of mind, reminded people of the Bhagavad Gita, an Indian epic poem: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
At present, some people are anticipating that the world is now entering into the second nuclear age. Mohammed M. El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said recently he believes that many countries see nuclear weapons as 'instant' national security. In addition to nine nuclear powers, he noted, another 20 to 30 would have the capability to develop nuclear weapons in a very short time.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the outstanding outcome the humanity had scored in curbing the nuclear proliferation, has become effective for 36 years. Then, why is it that the development of nuclear weapons has become "instant" today? Taking a panoramic view of changes in the world setup and the historical process of anti-nuclear proliferation effort, three major reasons are self-evident.
First of all, major changes have taken place in the world security structure. The absolute uni-polar advantage and unilateralism policies of the United States have imbued some nations hostile to the U.S. with survival concerns and they are therefore resolved to acquire nuclear weapons, an extreme guarantee for their national security. The U.S. and the former Soviet Union, in a heated nuclear armed race, maintained a terror balance on the fringes of war in the cold war era, constraining the nuclear impulse of other countries. After the fall or disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the United States showed its uni-polar superiority. In recent years, it has all the more resorted to its unilateral policies to seek absolute security and spared no effort to subvert the political power of other nations, so that those nations hostile to it feel terrified and turn to nuclear weapons as their "indispensables".
Secondly, though a total of 188 nations acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signify the self-control of the humanity to distance itself from nuclear weapons and acknowledgement for collective security. But the treaty, without any mandatory power, could not do anything with those nations which kept themselves aloof or detached from the treaty. India and Pakistan "broke down barriers" to acquire nuclear weapons in 1998, and Israel had a de facto possession of nuclear weapons, and the international community acquiesced in nevertheless. The poly-standards of the United States on this issue, in particular, have become an object of public condemnations. It winks at Israel, imposes punitive measures against India first and then shifts to nuclear cooperation with the nation, and it brings Iran under the threat of force.
Thirdly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty explicitly demands nuclear nations to stop their armed race, and spur their nuclear disarmament process. But as a matter of fact, few individual nuclear powers have kept on researching and developing new-type nuclear weapons, with an implication that they would launch preemptive nuclear strikes when necessary. So Baradei said, "It is difficult to maintain the logic that for some countries' reliance would be made on nuclear weapons or even trying to develop new nuclear weapons while telling every body else that is not good for you."
Looking around the world today, in East Asia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted a nuclear test, which made general public in Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) fretful and agitated, and some people in Japan even claim that they will publicly debate whether they should develop nuclear weapons. In the Middle East, Iran still perseveres in an ambitious nuclear program. Once it owns nuclear weapons, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will follow suit. The international community is now faced with risks for "nuclear" dominoes to fall, with a possible merging of nuclear weapons and terrors to further dim the perspectives. As far as the whole world is concerned, it is crucial for few major individual nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear weaponry arsenal in a sustained and effective way, revoke the threat of military force and establish an anti-nuclear proliferation system.
In the post-World War II days, someone once asked the top scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) what weapons would be used during the possible ensuring world war, Einstein replied: "I don't know what kind of weapons will be used in the third world war, assuming there will be a third world war. But I can tell you that the fourth world war will be fought with--stone clubs." It suggested that nuclear weapons will surely bring people back into wilderness, and this reply of Einstein's seems merciless but makes people clear-headed.
By People's Daily Online 11/13/06