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US-North Korea: What is ‘Libyan model’ of disarmament which annoyed Pyongyang?

By Shubham
|

US National Security Adviser (NSA) John Bolton's emphasis on the "Libyan model" when talking about nuclear negotiations with North Korea left Pyongyang livid, so much so, that the June 12 meeting between its supreme leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump could now be derailed.

US National Security Adviser (NSA) John Bolton

Trump though distanced himself from Bolton's remarks but there was enough confusion over his exact stand on the matter, hence helping little in getting things sorted out and pacifying the Kim regime about Washington's approach towards it.

But what is the Libyan model that all are talking about?

By Libyan model, Bolton tried to convey that all of North Korea's nuclear devices should be turned over to the US and stored at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Talking about the Libyan model, when the late Muammar Gaddafi took over as the leader of Libya in September 1969, the North African country was a wealthy one with massive oil resources.

Gaddafi had a close working relation with Pakistan over developing the nuclear programme. The Libyan dictator wanted his country to have its own nuclear programme and in the beginning, it wanted to have reactors that could also produce plutonium. In 1977, a nuclear research centre was also set up near Libya's capital Tripoli but Gaddafi always had a scarcity of personnel to carry forward the programme. Trained personnel were brought in from countries like Egypt but it was always going to be uncertain since those workers could be called back by their countries any time, depending on the politics of the day.

Having failed to make their own reactors, Libya turned to buying them. They got one from Russia - a small one - but it was not confirmed whether it could produce any plutonium ever. Neither did Libya's quest for a centrifuge programme succeeded.

In 1989, the Gaddafi regime purchased a nuclear weapons programme from Pakistan and succeeded in making a cascade of nine centrifuges but they needed thousands to make adequate fissure material.

After his numerous attempts towards acquiring nuclear weapons hit the wall, Gaddafi started looking the other way, i.e., save his country from the crippling sanctions and in 2003, two years after the 9/11 attacks which the dictator had denounced as part of his efforts to normalise relations with the US, he announced to shut its nuclear programme. In January 2004, American military cargo aircraft transferred massive amounts of documents and equipment related to Libya's nuclear programme out of the African nation to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Gaddafi was praised by the West but criticised by many in the Arab world for not extracting benefits in lieu of his disarmament. The leader, who was killed in 2011, also grew dissatisfied in the later years for he thought that the US had given very little significance to Libya's disarmament.

This is in a nutshell, the Libyan model of nuclear disarmament and it says enough about a country's national humiliation. North Korea is at a more advanced stage of nuclear affairs and is understandably upset with the US for equating it with a hapless Libya. Pyongyang, after all, is not as weak in Libya in international politics for it not only has a better nuclear programme but also a solid ally in China behind it.

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