Thursday, October 09, 2008

Geopolitics: North Korea and the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Strange I have never thought of it this way until the recent North Korean U-turn on its nuclear program, forbidding IAEA inspectors from its Yongbon reactor once again: How can the definition of a "state-sponsor of terrorism" be subject to change just because they abandon their nuclear program? How can that be realistically tied to a deal to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program in the first place? Shouldn't a state-sponsor of terrorism stop becoming one if and only if no evidence of continuing activities in that direction be found (assuming the definition of terrorism stays constant, of course)?


Donaldson Tan said...


I replied your comment at the blog post:

Anyway, ASEAN has nuclear issues too. Check out my article and tell me about it. Look forward to your comments.

Chee Wai Lee said...

cool, thanks!

I've posted a response to your comment on your blog.

I've read your nuclear power article. I still find it hard to wrap my head around all the issues that surround the use of nuclear power in general, so please correct me if I make any comment out of ignorance of facts (which I try to avoid if I can hehe):

I agree that this can be a platform for trust and cooperation in ASEAN.

More importantly though, I think we may have to work towards that trust and cooperation *now*, ahead of the nuclear issue. This is so we can create an environment where it is easier to build a neutral, fair and well-empowered ASEAN body to actively oversee the civilian nuclear activities of member states (rather than rely solely on the IAEA). Mainly the oversight should be on issues of non-proliferation, plant safety and waste disposal as highlighted in your article.

I am not sure if we're really there yet. We still have (like it or not) Myanmar where trust issues are concerned. Member states of ASEAN still have serious geopolitical issues with one another (eg. Thailand and Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, plus the currently-calm Spratly Islands territorial issue).

Anyway, the above just highlights the challenges. I am sure for the nuclear issue, the various member states can cooperate on a footing orthogonal to other geopolitical issues. It is just that important and potentially dangerous. I am just not particularly optimistic it can be done as part of an "integration" framework.

You make a good point about Singapore purchasing power from nuclear sources from Indonesia. It should be up for consideration as our power needs grow. We've had our fair share of problems dealing with our neighbors in that respect, though (e.g. water talks with Malaysia, sand with Indonesia). In all those arguments we've had with our neighbors, I've never really been able to figure out just *what* is the "fair" price to pay for these comodities. I have actually empathized with the Malaysians on part of the water issue. We secured a deal years ago that was very cheap and yet we sell processed water back to the Malaysians for what appeared to be top dollar (again, I'm unsure what "fair" would be). Tying the water issue to other geo-political issues, to me, turned out to be rather unwise ... making those arguments just so much more acrimonious. We just need to avoid the same where nuclear (or otherwise) power is concerned.