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Kazakhstan's lesson for North Korea

28 August 2017 21:24 3298

ASTANA. KAZINFORM US News, a popular agency, has recently published an article by the American expert Theodore Karasik, who reminds of the positive example set by Kazakhstan for the countries that have the ambition to establish or strengthen their nuclear arsenal, threatening the international security. The text of this article is given below.

North Korea's pursuit of a deliverable nuclear-tipped ICBM aimed at the United States is the latest emerging threat to the American homeland. The U.N. Security Council has imposed another round of sanctions, which Russia and China supported.

Other countries have dealt with their nuclear legacy differently. North Korea may want to look at Kazakhstan as a way out of its nuclear predicament. Kazakhstan is the leader in contending with its nuclear history in a smart and innovative way. Kazakhstan's opening of the world's first nuclear bank, supervised by the IAEA, at Oskemen's Ulba Metallurgical Plant, is a nonproliferation milestone. Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for nuclear power stations is to be stored in a commercial first that makes the Central Asian country a leader in nuclear nonproliferation. With imagination, North Korea could have followed suit.

For 40 years, Kazakhstan was the test site for Soviet nuclear weapons. Hundreds of nuclear tests occurred and left a terrible toxic legacy. President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the closure of the Semipalatinsk site, and now that date, Aug. 29, is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. To be sure, Kazakhstan gave up its nuclear weapons in the wake of the Soviet collapse quickly after the successful negotiation that established a non-proliferation first. No country has done more to meet the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty mission.

Kazakhstan's drive to rid the world of nuclear weapons started in the 1990s. The country sought guarantees of sovereignty and security from nuclear powers in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons in the wake of the Soviet collapse, and it succeeded in receiving them. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia signed a 1994 Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Kazakhstan's Accession to the NPT thus setting Astana on its non-proliferation trajectory that we see today. There is no reason why the U.S., China, and Russia won't follow suit on North Korea.

Most of the former Soviet Union's nuclear tests occurred in Semipalatinsk, in northeastern Kazakhstan. By 1989, following the closure of the program due to protests, Semipalatinsk conducted 30 surface, 88 atmospheric, and 340 nuclear underground tests. Hundreds of thousands got sick with cancer and other diseases or were born with birth defects, which resulted from radiation, and many died.

In 2006, the leaders from five Central Asia States - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan - signed a treaty to create the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The treaty forbids the development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition or possession of any nuclear explosive device within Central Asia. Peaceful uses of nuclear energy are permitted if placed under enhanced IAEA safeguards. CANWFZ is the first nuclear-weapon-free zone located entirely in the northern hemisphere.

Kazakhstan tried to persuade Iran to join CANWFZ as part of unlocking the stalled P5+1 negotiations in 2013. Astana hosted in February and April 2013 two specific rounds of discussions to convince Tehran to join Central Asia's non-proliferation regime. To push the issue, Kazakhstan's president formally announced his country's readiness to host the LEU Bank on its territory during the April 2009 joint press conference with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at his side in Astana, to show the international community that Astana hoped that countries like Iran would make use of the fuel bank. Tehran balked immediately, but Kazakhstan's desire to host such talks demonstrated that Astana is a valuable player in the global nuclear arena.

Kazakhstan's anti-nuclear weapons stance does not prevent it from being at the forefront of peaceful nuclear energy. It is the largest producer of uranium in the world, and the Kazakhs have proven expertise to secure nuclear facilities for the LEU Bank. The basic principle underlying the LEU bank is that buyers for civilian-use nuclear fuel will have access to stable and cost-effective supplies, avoiding the need for them to create their own enrichment cycles and instead of expanding the nuclear fuel cycle.

Kazakhstan's enthusiasm for the fuel bank fits Astana's seriousness in halting nuclear proliferation. To this end, Astana wants all nuclear states to prevent further proliferation by adhering to the NPT.

With Kazakhstan's non-permanent seat in the UNSC and upcoming chairmanship of the rotating chair in January 2018, Astana is in a position to influence LEU banking and policy discussion to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Pyongyang needs to view Kazakhstan as an example of a responsible nuclear non-proliferation state, and as a route out of the current standoff.


Keywords: Mass media, World News,