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Ajai Vir asked - How do you view the nuclear stance of Iran and North Korea? Is it similar in the context of geopolitics?

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  • S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Iran and North Korea have presented significant challenges to the international non-proliferation regime. Both countries face difficult regional security situations. However, there are differences in the two cases which make their respective nuclear stances also different.

    Iran is a regional power in its own right – a huge country (Robert Kaplan calls Iran ‘the greater Middle East’s universal joint’), significant population, massive natural resources, among other strengths. The only claim to fame for North Korea is its dubious nuclear status. While Iran is a theocracy with democratic elections, the other is an authoritarian state based on a personality cult.

    As regards their interactions with the non-proliferation regime, North Korea is no longer part of the NPT, while Iran had threatened in the past that it will quit the treaty if pushed to the wall. However, all of Iran’s ‘declared’ nuclear activities continue to come under NPT/IAEA safeguards. While Iran has not followed through on IAEA/UNSC resolutions since September 2005 urging it to stop its uranium enrichment activities among other requirements, North Korea has indulged in a series of nuclear and missile brinkmanship and has been unpredictable in its nuclear stance.