North Korea’s Nuclear Deterrent

In a recent interview, former Director of Los Alamos Siegfried Hecker made an important observation about North Korea’s nuclear weapons: “I do not believe that North Korea’s leadership has any plans to bomb the United States, its assets or allies. However, it wants to hold U.S. interests at risk of a nuclear attack to deter us from regime change and to create international leverage and diplomatic maneuvering room.”

Hecker’s assessment fits with North Korea’s statement last year that the West’s role in overthrowing Gaddafi “proved once again the truth of history that peace can be preserved only when one builds up one′s own strength as long as high-handed and arbitrary practices go on in the world.” That communiqué went on to mock President Bush’s earlier promise to Gaddafi that, having given up his WMD programs, he would “find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations.”

Hecker’s observation highlights the choice we in the West must make. It is understandable that we would like North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and to see a more humane regime in Pyongyang. But, if we continue to lobby for regime change, we will face a more aggressive regime with more and better nuclear weapons. We need to decide which is more important to us, and swallow the bitter pill that remains. We cannot have our cake and eat it too.

Martin Hellman

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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