- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Sydney Morning Herald

The ‘nuclear club’

SYDNEY, Australia — Mao Tse-tung declared in 1956 that a nation that did not want to be bullied by others “should have the atomic bomb by all means.” At the time, the Chinese leader feared the United States’ considerable military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Mao wanted his own “nuclear card” to play at times of crisis, if only to dissuade Washington from ever turning its sights toward China. By 1964 Mao’s weapons team had detonated its first nuclear device.

The publication this week of documents, passed to the United States by Libya last year, exposes China as a key link in a global trading chain that provided nuclear secrets to Pakistan, which sold them to Libya and, possibly, beyond. … Beijing’s standing as a responsible member of the global “nuclear club” has been seriously undermined.

China is one of five nations permitted to possess nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970. The others are the United States, Russia, France and Britain. The treaty unequivocally prohibits the “nuclear five” from transferring nuclear weapons, components or specifications to nonnuclear states.

China did not sign the NPT until 1992, but was well aware of its intent. It has since publicly supported the U.S.-led campaign to end the illicit trafficking of nuclear material. But new U.S. claims [Feb. 16] that China has continued to assist Pakistan’s nuclear program will further complicate Washington’s efforts.

The United States is relying on China’s influence over North Korea in talks next week. … Pyongyang insists that the United States has not invaded North Korea because, unlike Iraq, it is nuclear capable. …

The NPT also commits the nuclear five to gradually dismantling their nuclear arsenals. However, the United States is moving mini-nukes into its first-strike arsenal for the first time and its missile defense plans have derailed arms-reduction treaties with Russia. These contradictions — and the West’s silence over Israel’s undeclared nuclear capability — do not engender the good will needed to enforce the treaty elsewhere.

Japan Times

Turmoil in Iraq

TOKYO — What is most disturbing about Iraq is that the security situation there continues to deteriorate, even as the country prepares to take over the reins of government from the U.S.-led coalition at the end of June. In particular, terrorist and guerrilla attacks over the past two weeks reveal an ominous shift in tactics and targets — from direct assaults on U.S. forces to suicide bombings against Iraqi people.

The escalation of violence is certainly not lost on the Japanese government, which earlier this month sent the first units of the main ground-force contingent to southern Iraq. …

Until December, insurgents’ main targets were U.S. forces in the “Sunni triangle” northwest of Baghdad — a region dominated by Sunni Muslims once loyal to ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Since his capture, however, attacks on American troops have sharply decreased. …

By contrast, attacks on Iraqi security forces and Kurdish organizations have sharply increased. And, as if emulating the self-destructive example set by terrorists elsewhere, most of the attackers have chosen the way of suicide bombers. …

An international terrorist network — perhaps al Qaeda — may be masterminding the suicide attacks. More disturbing is the possibility of Iraq plunging into a full-blown civil war. A British newspaper, citing a confidential report from the U.S. Agency for International Development, says Iraq faces the danger of “Balkanization,” a splintering of the country into feuding political units.

This does not seem a far-fetched notion, considering the proliferation of terrorist and guerrilla assaults over the past two weeks. …

One thing seems clear from these attacks: Insurgents are trying to sabotage Iraqi cooperation with the U.S. occupation. The attempted assassination of the top Shi’ite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, may well have been part of their efforts to foment trouble ahead of the planned handover of power.

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