South Korea's Abysmal Record of Disability Rights Despite Economic Prosperity

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

SINAN COUNTY, South Korea – Though South Korea’s record of human rights abuse is not as heinous as its neighbor North Korea, it still grapples with abuse of the weakest members of its society. Prior to the latest exposé, there have been several studies and reports on the targeting of poor women and runaways who are approached by brokers with offers of domestic work, only to find themselves forced to work in the commercial sex trade.

Recently, it was reported by a number of news outlets that salt farmers have been using disabled men to perform the arduous work in the salt farming industry. These men are treated inhumanly and most are physically abused by their ‘employers.’ These men work to produce an estimated "two-thirds of South Korea’s sea salt on more than 850 salt farms on dozens of islands in Sinan County, including Sinui island, where half the 2,200 residents work in the industry. (Source: National Post)

According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, the “latest National Survey on Persons with Disabilities estimated 2,683,400 persons with disabilities in South Korea, of whom 58% were men and 42% were women. People with physical disability represent approximately 50% of the entire population with disability. Disability-related policies and services to improve the participation of persons with disabilities have been expanded in the last decades, guided by 5-yr plans.” (Source: Pubmed.gov)

In 2009, the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) published a report that stated that The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (‘NHRCK’) issued a number of “key decisions on protecting the rights of people with disabilities.” (Source: APF) Yet, 5-years later the issue of wage inequality and equal protection under the law is still problematic. Until the 2014 expose by the Associated Press (AP) the issue of enslavement of the disabled on salt farms, which had previously been reported on, had slipped quietly from the public’s eye.

Though South Koreans and the rest of the world were outraged by these abuses, like many atrocities that don’t directly affect us, these concerns became “those peoples’ problems,” and we assuaged our conscience with the belief that some organization has now intervened to correct the problem. However, as with many human rights abuses in the Asian manufacturing sector, we as beneficiaries turn a blind eye because of the affordability of the items that are produced. Many of us cannot afford to boycott low cost items sold by Walmart and other megastores because it has a direct impact on our budgets. But, these savings come at the cost of enslavement or barely subsistence level wages paid to the people who spend long, back-breaking days producing the products we use.

With a population of 50.22 million, of which 632,000 are international residents, and the ubiquity with which salt is used in cooking and other processes, a great number of people are benefiting from the enslavement of disabled South Koreans who unfortunately find themselves caught up in this industry. AP and other news outlets published extensive interviews with people who were beaten, tortured, starved, and otherwise abused but knew there were no viable alternatives available to them.

Those who were brave enough to report the abuse by the salt farmers routinely discovered that their complaints were not taken seriously, and in fact, the legal system (police and courts) routinely disregarded or dismissed these allegations. When a plaintiff was successful in getting their case to court, most salt farmers were given a small fine which they quickly paid. This tacit approval of these human rights abuses only serves to reinforce the farmer’s heinous behavior, while demonstrating to the ‘salt farm slaves’ that their plight will go unchanged.

Thus, many of the enslaved disabled eventually returned to the salt farms and greater abuse because they were unable to support themselves otherwise. Salt farm owners refuted the claims of abuse and slavery with the assertion that able bodied people don’t want these jobs and if they didn’t provide employment to people with disabilities then these individuals would become a burden on society and would likely die from starvation. This argument is specious and self-serving, our outrage then complacency is deplorable, but the real culprit is the South Korean government.

Many reported on this story at the beginning of this month, and just as many have claimed that the government has investigated and brought the slavers to justice. The arrest of a few or the scapegoating of more does not address a systemic problem of the abuse of the disabled. South Korea must face the fact that it benefits from its position as a rising global economy and the political echelon would do well to remember that “...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
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Kim Jong-un Promises War

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HOLLYWOOD, California -- Could James Franco and Seth Rogen start a war? Until yesterday, that notion seemed absurd. But now, Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, has promised 'merciless' retribution if Columbia Pictures releases the film The Interview, which stars both Franco and Rogen.

In a nutshell, The Interview is a comedy in which the two superstar's characters team up in order to assassinate Kim Jong-un. After realizing that the press are given unparalleled access to international dignitaries during media ops and conferences, the two plan to murder the North Korean leader during an interview. Admittedly, the nature of the movie is combative, and should be expected to draw criticism, especially from the real-life man who is caricatured and assassinated in the film.

But, is the movie an "act of war," as Kim Jong-un alleges? Few think so. But for years, North Korea has inflated their international ego with empty [yet still terrifying] threats. In March 2013, Kim Jong-un warned that he would attack parts of South Korea using nuclear weaponry which he did not yet possess. Since then, Kim Jong-un has proudly planned nuclear attacks on Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Obviously, the film is controversial, even to many who do not sympathize with Kim Jong-un or his agenda. To me, The Interview is a more inflammatory version of Team America World Police, which featured marionette characters, including a crew of American special forces who penetrate North Korea in order to foil Kim Jong-il's fictitious attacks against America. A main difference between The Interview and its predecessor are that the new movie stars a Kim Jong-un lookalike, which is more provocative than a war between puppets. And also, the fictional plot in Team America is actually true-to-life today, where Kim Jong-un promises war against those who oppose or disrespect him, even Hollywood creatives.

Essentially, Kim Jong-un is playing a dangerous game of chicken with Columbia Pictures, which is almost certainly a lose-lose proposition for North Korea. Either Kim Jong-un engages the United States government in so-called catastrophic attacks, or Kim Jong-un will publicly undermine his brawny remarks with failure to follow through. Inaction, following such severe threats, will certainly show the limitations of Kim Jong-un, no matter his Herculean confidence. Both outcomes will augment doubts about Kim Jong-un's executive rationale and international image.

While I understand how the movie can be incendiary to a North Korea audience, I feel that making a movie, a piece of art, about assassinating a world leader is far less offensive than a national government guaranteeing nuclear warfare against the people of the world. Kim Jong-un has little room with which to point fingers, especially in terms of needless threats against oppositional nations.

It is unlikely that Columbia Pictures will withhold the release of The Interview. After all, the First Amendment protects free speech and those who practice it. But as human beings, I believe we should be promoting love and peace more than division and homicide, especially in the art we produce.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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American Man Detained in North Korea

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 09:36 p.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Kim Jong-un clapping" Photo by: Petersnoopy October 9, 2010 http://www.flickr.com/photos/54050720@N05/6549444309/

PYONGYANG--North Korea has detained an American man as he tried to leave the country following his tourist trip which began on 29 April 2014. State media identified the man as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, of Maimisburg, Ohio and he is the third American citizen to be detained by Pyongyang in the past 18-months.

He was arrested for what they describe as activities inconsistent with his stated intent on his tourist visa. Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that he allegedly left a Bible in a hotel where he had been staying. North Korea has been promoting tourism in an effort to attain foreign currency, but the country is sensitive to how visitors act while in the country.

The State Department has warned against travel to North Korea, and being part of a tour group will not prevent possible arrest. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there’s “no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” though they cannot give any further information about specific details without consent from the individual.

Because the U.S. has no diplomatic presence in North Korea, the Swedish Embassy handles consular matters for Americans in North Korea and are working to return Fowle to his three children, ages 9,10, and 12, and his wife, Tatyana, a 40-year-old Russian immigrant.

The Swedish embassy has been in contact with one of the other two U.S. detainees, Kenneth Bae, 45, a Korean-American missionary from Lynwood, Washington who is serving 15 years of hard labor for alleged hostile acts against the state aimed at bringing down the regime of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea contains state-controlled churches but forbids independent religious activities. Bae is fearful for his health after he was returned to labor camp following a stay in the hospital. He told Swedish diplomat, Cecilia Anderberg, that he has likely lost 10 pounds since his return to the camp. Bae spends eight hours a day doing manual labor with his hands, and he suffers back and neck pain.

U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has offered to go to North Korea to help with Bae’s release. For a second time, North Korea has rescinded its invitation to Ambassador Robert King, with no explanation. Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg, has visited Pyongyang, but for matters unrelated to the 3 Americans held captive.

Matthew Miller, or Miller Matthew Todd, 24, is being detained for improper behavior after he entered North Korea on April 10th with a tourist visa, tore it up, and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum with North Korea “as a shelter.” Last year an 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War, Merrill Newman, was freed from Pyongyang, after being held for several weeks following an organized private tour in the country. He was released after involuntarily giving a videotaped confession apologizing for killing North Koreans during the war.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

International Volunteers Series: Teaching English in Yanji, China

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 2:55 p.m. DST, 1 June 2014

Oliva Elswick

CHINA, Yanji -- For The first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with young volunteers around the globe, I spoke with Sarah Dickhut, an English teacher in Yanji, China. Dickhut graduated from Loras College in 2013 with degrees in Biological Research and Philosophy, and will attend law school at University of Iowa this coming fall, where she hopes to combine law and philosophy to advocate for and raise awareness about major issues in international human rights.

Dickhut teaches at Yanji International Technical Cooperation High School, a boarding school for about 200 students of Chinese and Korean descent. Situated among farmland and pastures, this school is a quaint relief from the bustling downtown just minutes down the road. With a population of half a million people, Yanji is considered a small town by Chinese standards. Situated on the border of North Korea and Russia, Yanji is a busy transportation and trade link between North Korea and China, and Yanji’s population is largely ethnic Korean.

What prepared you for the job of being an English teacher in China?

I’m currently working as a high school teacher in a technical school, which is a subject area which differs from my degrees, so I haven’t had a lot of job-specific preparation. However, I think service in general has helped a great deal in providing me with a “willing heart,” and frequent consultation with other ESL teachers has been very useful.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction you did in teaching English in China?

I don’t often have “defining moments” where the clouds break and a light from the heavens shines down to illuminate my path in life. My decision to volunteer rose from a gradual recognition of how much I have been given and a desire to give something back. #blessed

What were your thoughts about China before you arrived and how have they changed or stayed the same?

A few people vocally expressed (an unfounded) concern for my safety, which initially cast a little bit of a shadow over my excitement. So after that, I really tried to avoid preconceptions or assumptions about the country.

What is one common misconception people might have about China?

The most common misconception I’ve encountered about China is that it’s extremely dangerous. In reality, as long as you avoid trouble with the government, the threat from other citizens (mugging, murder, kidnapping) is extraordinarily low. The biggest concern is really pickpocketing.

What kind of reception have you been given in Yanji?

The teachers at our school have been very cordial; the most common way I’ve experienced hospitality is through a meal. It’s not uncommon for the English department, or for the whole school to go to dinner together.

How do students usually react to you when you first meet them?

Most students have never seen a foreigner before, so when I first meet a class it usually goes like this: I walk in the door, the students audibly gasp, I say hello, and there’s a few minutes of shyness before I get them talking in English.

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What is a typical workweek like for you?

I teach conversational English to three different grades of high school students, and based on the Chinese class schedule I have about two classes a day. The government provides a conversational English textbook, but as long as I cover the main topics and grammar patterns I have a lot of freedom to develop creative lessons. Some of the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed teaching include lessons on the psychology of personality, American slang, and a murder mystery game.

How does this compare to the workweek of other teachers in your school?

Because the Chinese educational system is completely controlled by the government, they control the curriculum, number of classes, and number of teachers. The government’s control over teaching jobs causes them to hire as many teachers as possible within one school. Consequently, each teacher has considerably fewer classes per day than the average American teacher—no more than four 40-minute lessons a day. This means that I’m doing approximately half of the work of the average Chinese teacher.

How is your school alike or different from other schools you’re familiar with?

Since our school is a technical school, the prevalent attitude among the teachers is that classes are not so much preparation for future education as they are to help students develop into better people. So there’s a lot more flexibility in grading and the rigor of classwork. Additionally, the school allows students quite a bit of free time; they have an hour and a half for lunch, and at least one free period every day. As I mentioned, the same relaxed attitude seems to apply to the teachers. There is less demand to prepare lesson plans in advance and most teachers have time for a nap every day.

Can you explain the educational system in the part of China you live?

Structurally, our school is designed and painted exactly the same as the other high schools in the area. This system of “equality” is carried out to such an extent that even the color of paint within the schools is exactly the same. Our school does differ, however, in that it is an international endeavor between China and Korea. Basically our school is funded by both Chinese and Korean parties, and there are both Chinese and Korean administrators. The purpose is to help expand job placement for students post-graduation—we send students throughout China and South Korea.

How is Yanji different from other places you’ve visited in China?

I’ve had the privilege of visiting some larger cities, like Shanghai. These populous international cities house a multitude of cultures, so it’s easier to feel at home.

What are the hardest parts about living in Yanji?

Although Yanji is a city of 500,00, by Chinese standards it’s the modern-day equivalent of a rural village. The result is that by living in this city we are cut off from virtually all aspects of western culture.

What is the most rewarding part about living in Yanji?

Total immersion in a new culture, and the lack of English in the city propels me to use Chinese and Korean more frequently.

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What is your best memory so far?

It’s actually difficult to choose a single best experience…but I think one that stands out in my mind is visiting the local ice festival. It’s similar to the ice festival in Harbin, where builders take immense quantities of ice and snow to build large structures like castles and slides. At night the giant snow-slides are lit up with colored lights. It’s a really beautiful sight.

Have you found that women are viewed differently than men in Yanji?

In my experience the Chinese state that intellectually women and men are equal, however they hold gender stereotypes for careers, physical ability, and child preference. In terms of careers, I have been told on several occasions that some professions (like engineers) are more suitable for men, and that teaching is the least honorable profession for men as it indicates a fastidiousness of character. Additionally, it’s assumed that in sports, all females are at a disadvantage, so activities are carefully structured to give female players an advantage. Finally, Chinese families still have a strong preference for male children, as the male will care for his parents later in life. When a female is married, she is expected to show preference for her in-laws over that of her own parents (i.e. on family holidays a couple is expected to spend the time with the male’s parents).

What have you discovered about China’s 1 child policy?

While the one-child policy is still enforced, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, ethic minorities (like the Chinese-Koreans in my area) are allowed to have additional children. As a result, because of the high percentage of ethic minorities in my region, I have less experience with the imbalance of genders seen in many other Chinese regions.

How much of a hand do you think the government has in the lives of ordinary citizens?

I guess I can answer that through the example of the typical teacher in my area. A teacher works for the government, and as such is guaranteed a job by the government. Usually upon graduation, the government will place teachers at specific schools, and may move them if deemed necessary. As the educational system is federally run, there is immense pressure for every teacher to be a member of the Communist party—in fact, it’s unofficially necessary for promotion and awards. However, if a teacher is not a member of the Party, they are still exposed to Communist ideals through their co-workers, and “training videos” which are thinly veiled propaganda discouraging religion and political activism. The average teacher likely has a phone and computer, however the government has access to all cellular data, and censors online information including websites such as facebook, twitter, tumblr, google, and virtually all blogs. Donations for natural disasters are derived from the paycheck and are compulsory. Salary and benefits are subject to change without discussion or ability to lobby. It seems the government does everything but assign a police officer to every citizen.

How does being so close to North Korea impact your city?

The proximity to North Korea means there are many North Korean refugees in the city. Additionally, there is a military base which is used for training and to arm the border. The city is also a hub for the transportation of goods into North Korea. All commerce is supposed to be controlled directly by the North Korean government, but as this infrastructure has been weakened significantly by economic hardships, North Koreans have built an extensive black market. Common exports from our city include food, clothing, and unfortunately, methamphetamine.

You spent time in Seoul, South Korea. How similar is Yanji to Korea?

Since there is a large Korean minority living in Yanji, there are tangible influences of both South and North Korean culture in my city. The most obvious is the language; Korean is an official language of the province and many people in Yanji speak Korean (albeit a different dialect). Additionally, there are a few South Korean chain restaurants throughout the city. In terms of pop culture, most residents of Yanji are well-versed in Korean dramas, and Korean pop music, or k-pop.

How does it feel to be an American living in China?

Eventually you just get used to being “strange.”

What is the most interesting thing you’ve observed or been a part of?

Something that I still haven’t adjusted to is other peoples’ reactions to my ethnicity. There are very few people of Caucasian ethnicity in Yanji, so my features can be surprising. People stare openly, sometimes stopping what they’re doing to get a better look at my face. Occasionally people will call out a series of non-related words in English to see if I’ll respond, or if I’m walking they might follow me a short distance to get a better look.

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Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCELswick

Kim Jong-un's North Korea Revealed on Hidden Camera

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Jessamy Nichols and Ayanna NahmiasLast Modified: 01:56 a.m. DST, 28 January 2014

Starving North Korean Children, 1997, Photo by Justin Kilcullen (Cropped)

PYONGYANG, North Korea - Unfortunately not all countries in today’s world govern on a moral foundation of democracy and human rights. However, many fall into the improving category, because in recent decades many governments have moved towards elections, freedom of the press and media, and openness to adopting other global cultural and political norms.

And then there’s the farthest end of the spectrum where the most egregious offenders remain. Countries like Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, etc. (Source: Maplecroft).

Though life under these regimes is brutal and the citizenry victimized, in North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the human rights abuses are on steroids. In the DPRK, there is no pretense toward basic human rights. To ensure complete dictatorial control, the borders are almost completely shut off to global interaction, media is censored, and propaganda is par for the course. Couple this with the possession of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and you have one of the world’s biggest threats to international peace wrapped up in one small country.

In Middle Ages fashion, Kim Jong-un rules with an iron fist that dictates how citizens speak, express themselves and live their lives. Carrying on the legacy of his father, Kim Jong-il, the current Kim continues to govern the country using public executions, intimidation, political prisoner camps, military threats, and ludicrous laws. Leaving the country without permission is even illegal, so citizens are forced to agree with Kim politically, economically and so forth because dissent routinely results in public executions. Even Kim's uncle, Jang Song-taek, was recently executed, purportedly because of his push for economic reforms.

This dismal and desolate state of affairs inside North Korea provides us with many sad and discouraging mental images, but what’s worse is that the citizens of North Korea cannot have their voices or stories heard because of North Korea’s paranoiac laws governing access to citizenry, as well as travel in and out of the country.

Luckily in the past few months, director James Jones worked with a Japanese journalist, Jiro Ishimaru, to use an underground network of North Korean reporters to gain a glimpse of the “real” North Korea. The insight and findings were made into a film entitled Secret State of North Korea, released earlier this month. The film gives voice to the growing skepticism and disapproval inside North Korea, where citizens are hungry for foreign movies and music and are eager for the day Kim is out of power.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19stdf_secret-state-of-north-korea_shortfilms

At this point, Kim’s method of rule continues to get more bizarre and far-fetched, as the state-controlled media boasts lies about landing people on the moon and Kim hosts parties with Dennis Rodman. Although, the potentially unbalanced retired basketball player, Rodman, has been to DPRK and is friendly with Kim, this by no mean implies that the country or its dictatorship is on the verge of embracing freedom or equality for its populace or a rational approach to international diplomacy.

Throughout history, nations and governments fall from within. When dictators start "partying" with former American basketball players, can the end be far behind? This type of hubris and excess, mixed with an increasingly frustrated population is a recipe for political pressure, friction, and eventual regime change.

It is widely accepted fact that a nuclear armed DPRK would have disastrous geopolitical consequences and thus all means public and private, have been brought to bear to prevent their success in this area. But the true defeat will come through the hands of the proletariat, and for them to be successful, the international community needs to continue to assert more pressure.

In this day and age of hackers, nothing is more porous than the Internet, and information is key, and knowledge is power. With the slightest bit of prodding, and continued calls for North Korea reform, the population could gain the impetuous they need to force Kim into improvements. Dictatorships are not sustainable, so let’s hope we see the end of North Korea’s sooner rather than later.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Undeterred by Threats North Korea Prepares for Missile Launch

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:19 p.m. EDT, 22 April 2013

Anti-North Korean Nuclear Bombs, Photo Courtesy of Reuters UNI-8RSOUTH HAMGYEONG PROVINCE - Despite continued international pressure, North Korea is reported to have moved two short-range missile launchers to its east coast.

In an apparent bid to save face, Kim Jong-un, the youthful North Korean leader, is pushing ahead with his plans to flex his nuclear aspirations.

This planned test comes on the heels of heightened hostility in the Korean peninsula.

This planned missile launch is scheduled to occur nearly a year to the date of a humiliating failed rocket launch at a commemorative festival for the late Kim Jong-il.

According to Reuters, "an unidentified South Korean military source told the South's Yonhap news agency that satellite imagery showed that North Korean forces had moved two mobile missile launchers to South Hamgyeong province for short-range Scud missile tests."

The North moved two mid-range Musudan missiles in early April and placed seven mobile launchers in the same area, Yonhap said. A North Korean show of force could be staged to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of its army on April 25."

This latest demonstration of aggression a recalcitrant North Korea steadfastly defies a U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at curtailing North Korea's ability to develop the technology necessary to deliver a nuclear warhead mounted long-range missile.

In February, North Korea engaged in its third test of a nuclear weapon, which according to Reuters, instigated new U.N. sanctions which in turn led to a dramatic intensification of North Korea's threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.

This past weekend, Pyongyang signaled a willingness to discuss disarmament, but rejected any consideration of a solution which would require the relinquishing of its nuclear weapons.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Exclusive ICBM Club Gains Member

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:23 PM EDT, 19 April 2012

India's Agni V Missile Launch, April 2012NEW DEHLI, India – Following close on the heels of North Korea’s failed rocket launch earlier this week, the Indian government successfully launched the Agni-V from India’s east coast. According to other reports, Agni (means "fire" in Hindi and Sanskrit), a fitting term for a missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

The Agni-V has a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles) and it is completely manufactured in India. It is 17.5m tall, solid-fuelled, has three stages and a launch weight of 50 tons. It has cost more than 2.5bn rupees ($480m; £307m) to develop.

The missile was launched from Wheeler Island off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa at 0807 local time (0237GMT) on Thursday, and it took approximately 20 minutes to hit its target somewhere near Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. The launch theoretically proved that India possesses the technology to fire nuclear warheads at Beijing and Shanghai, China.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the "successful launch" of the missile. He said that the launch “represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science.” However, most speculate the real reason for the missile launch was to demonstrate India’s growing prowess in the region.

Although, there has been no direct confrontation between China and India, with populations of approximately 1.3bn and 1.2bn respectively, these two juggernauts are in a tight race to control the economic, political and military destiny of the region. Prior to the launch today, China was the only Asian nation counted as a member of the elite nuclear weapons club.

Other members include Russia, France, the US and UK which already have long-range, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), although the nuclear weapons possessed by these nations have much greater range than the Agni-V. Israel is also thought to possess nuclear weapons though this has not been confirmed.

The international community seems to have tacitly accepted India’s nuclear program and its development of ICBMs. India's induction into the elite ICBM club is much less contentious than bids for entree by North Korea or Iran. In fact, the greatest criticism to the news of the Agni-V launch centered on its cost versus the per capita income of its citizenry and how much India spends on education by comparison.

It is a specious argument at best because most nations, particularly those with large, organized militaries, spend a significant portion of their budgets on defense against real, imagined and manufactured enemies.

The threat of use of nuclear weapons to deter first strike is a relic of the Cold War era and an unfortunate legacy of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. nuclear strategic policy. Although we now live in a world order in which rogue nations and groups have greater access to weapons of mass destruction, many nations continue to implement the Cold War paradigm of deterrence through stockpiling of nuclear weaponry.

With regard to India’s Agni-V launch, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, said his country was not threatened by the test. "China and India are large developing nations. We are not competitors but partners. We believe that both sides should cherish the hard-won good state of affairs at present, and work hard to uphold friendly strategic co-operation to promote joint development and make positive contributions towards maintaining peace and stability in the region."

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