The US President George W Bush can claim to have a shot in the arm at the fag and of his tenure. Now that North Korea had made public, the documents and dossiers related to its nuclear installations, the president can heave a sigh of relief amidst a plethora of political charges and counter charges regarding the Iraq war and its repercussions.
The Vice-foreign minister of China, Wu Duwei declared to the world that North Korea has submitted a list of its nuclear facilities to China, which was a long pending demand that led to the six-party talks. The six nations involved in the talks were United States of America, Russia, Japan, the two Koreas and China.
With North Korea spilling the beans now, the US president at an early interview to the media at the Rose garden proclaimed that the sanctions imported on North Korea would be lifted. The US President has also announced that Washington would remove North Korea from the list of states that sponsored terrorism, which presumably should keep the nation in cloud nine. He said he was happy with the progress, but Washington would continue its sanctions on North Korea, though in good faith it presumed that the de-nuclearization is a verifiable one.
The sanction on North Korea dates back to 1987, when North Korean agents bombed a South Korean airliner in which 155 were killed on board. The US's economic and trade sanctions came into effect since then. After hectic parleys last year, the six nation talks yielded positive results. Pyongyang agreed to divulge their de-nuclearization details on two counts. One - based on economic aid equivalent to $1 million of fuel oil and two - normal diplomatic ties with US and Japan.
UN inspection agencies have also confirmed closure of its 'Yongbyon' nuclear complex, which consists of five facilities. The blasting of the 25 meter cooling tower of Yongbyon on Friday the June 27 marked a new era in the annals of DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). Diplomat Sung Kim, Director of the US State Department's Office of Korean Affairs told reporters in Seoul that he saw North Korean Engineers have an emotional attachment towards their nuclear program. Journalists from the six nations concerned, reportedly witnessed the blast - the event that was ample testimony to North Korea's commitment to the nuclear disarmament.
UN inspectors that visited North Korea to assess the nuclear facilities were expelled and sent back in 2002. Huge quantities of Plutonium were manufactured from spent fuel rods, which is a testimony to growing nuclear apprehensions in the Korean peninsula.
If North Korea joined the mainstream of diplomatic ties with US as a bonanza to its initiative on nuclear disarmament, Britain's nuclear arsenal may need to have introspection - if reports by 'The Daily Telegraph' are any indication to go by. The threat of a nuclear catastrophe looms large - considering the radiation doses of 100 sieverts - 16 times the lethal dose, which if not nipped in the bud, could trigger a 'popcorning' effect in the nuclear missiles. The popcorning, as known in nuclear parlance is the setting up of chain reaction by warheads, if accidentally dropped. The design flaw, according to different sections of nuclear intelligentsia is debated to be either catastrophic or otherwise.
The nuclear weapons safety manual contradicts the safety feature of a 'Single point safe' design, which defense companies claim that a sudden knock at a single point shall not detonate the Plutonium core. The MoD's manual which was reportedly declassified last month specifies that the standard single point design might be insufficient to avert the 'popcorning'.
Some submarines reportedly carry 24 missiles; and a typical trident missile comprises 3 to 6 warheads. One may imagine the magnitude of colossal damage in the event of an unpleasant nuclear accident.
'The New Scientist' has opined that warheads should withstand multiple simultaneous impacts that would contribute to prevention of popcorning. It also recommends the replacement of high explosive that surrounds warhead's plutonium core, as a single knock could set off the explosive. The US government's National Security Administration (NSA) has been quoted as advocating the redesigning of warheads and switching to less sensitive explosives for safety purposes, but maintains that present warheads continue to be safe.
While there are comments that it may only be a theoretical possibility, the accidental loading of nuclear weapons onto a flight last year from North Dakota to Louisiana raised many an eyebrow, which was a classic example of neglect. And if such recurrences could take place, popcorning effect cannot be overruled - with all the safety aspects intact. After all, one cannot afford to take chances with nuclear arms, where apprehensions run parallel to the advantages; and it becomes imperative to keep checks, and have serious second thoughts to arrive at safe and lasting solutions to such matters of utmost importance.