[photopress:nuke_1.jpg,full,alignleft]As we all know by now, North Korea tested one of their nukes as a way of showing the whole world that yes, they do in fact have the bomb. It all makes me think of the way China became a nuclear power, as I’m just about to finish a controversial book you may have heard of.
While the objectivity of its authors has rightly come into question (the Economist said that they "took relentless aim at their subject [Mao], portraying just about everything he did in the worst possible light, and the man himself as a virtual monster"), the book provides some great insight (mostly true, I bet) of how Mao got the bomb.
Basically, he extracted it from the Russians. He provoked two crises with Taiwan by shelling the island of Quemoy (Jinmen Dao 金门岛), bringing China to the brink of war with America, who had sworn to defend Taiwan. His intentions were to scare the Russians into believing that America would drop the bomb on China (forcing Russia to honor its committment to defend China). If I remember correctly, the Americans actually threatened to do this during the second Taiwan crisis.
The Soviets, not wanting to get tangled up in nuclear war with America, agreed to transfer lots of nuclear technology to the Chinese, so that they could fend for themselves. This included hundreds of Soviet scientists. Although later the relationship soured and the USSR withdrew all its assistance, their help was instrumental in China’s eventual detonation of an atom bomb on October 16, 1964 (hey, that anniversary is coming up…)
Naturally, Mao claimed that China produced the bomb all on its own, the same claim made by North Korea today. My question is, what country played the role of the USSR for Kim Jong Il? Pakistan perhaps? The saddest part about the drive to build the bomb, for both China and North Korea, is that it was done by a ruthless leader who deprived his people of valuable resources for personal vainglory.