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Earth Shaking News

Translated Friday 13 October 2006, by B. G.

Seismographs recorded the shockwave at 1.45 GMT. Authorities in Moscow and Peking, warned hours earlier, feared the worst. The first North Korean atomic bomb has just been exploded. Even if no radiation has been detected in neighbouring areas, the shockwave hasn’t yet stopped shaking the planet.

It is a serious act in fact. By breaking international controls against proliferation of nuclear arms, the Pyongyang dictatorship wants to do more than just worsen the economic catastrophe being suffered by 23 million North Koreans. In a peninsula that has known one of the worst conflicts since World War Two, this test compromises good neighbourly relations and encourages the most dangerous nationalist regimes. In Japan, where a right-wing regime is nostalgic for old times – already celebrating its war criminals – this test could be an excuse to abandon the denuclearised status of the archipelago that suffered so much in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or to install an American arsenal that would equally threaten both China and Russia. This explosion also seems like a slap in the face for the North’s southern neighbour, whose foreign minister, Ban-ki Moon, is preparing to become the UN’s next head. And yet Seoul has been a reconciliatory partner since a summit in 2000 brought the two governments together.

Kim Jong-il, who inherited power in North Korea, may be seeking a return to isolation and nuclear sabre-rattling to help him forget his bankruptcy. And to close ranks by provoking new external enemies. By doing so, he is playing with the world’s security. He isn’t the first. India, Pakistan, and then again Israel, have gone ahead of him down that path. But the international context makes it even more risky.

A dozen years ago, South Africa freed itself from both apartheid and nuclear weapons. Today there is hardly any consideration for either non-proliferation or disarmament. The United States, which has sown the seeds of war here and there, to the extent of increasing the terrorist threat, according to the CIA’s own admission, is least well placed to demand respect for international security. George W. Bush, who has violated international law by putting Iraq through blood and fire, has no credibility whatsoever when he demands that the decisions of the UN be respected. By only considering its own interests as a superpower, and the appetite of multinational companies, Washington bears a crushing responsibility in the dangerous games of Doctor Strangeloves like Kim Jong-il.

The struggle of pacifist engagement has therefore not gone out of fashion. Resolution of this crisis, as with the similar one with Iran, implies a new vision of international relations, and must lead to new efforts in dismantling existing nuclear arsenals. Relaunching the disarmament process is becoming urgent. France could be a dynamic force to this end, taking the rest of the EU along with it. From now on a great majority of the world’s countries will share this universally welcomed ambition. For this to happen, France must not let her decisions be subject to the orders of the White House. An international vision - freed from the brutalities of capitalist globalisation - is now needed. From global warming to the risk of atomic confrontations, the idea of the common good of humanity is taking hold. For international law to have any strength, it must represent public opinion. That’s one of the major battle stakes that will have to cut a trail in the 2007 elections.

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