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The Selective Nuclear Blame Game: North Korea And Iran

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By Rupam Sindhu Kalita:

I write this as Washington increases its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region amid growing apprehension over the US confronting North Korea over its nuclear program. China, of course, is tensed as Washington’s maneuvers in the Korean Peninsula signals a steady US incursion in an area hitherto dominated by the Chinese. No wonder China is tensed as the US has deployed the missile destroyer The USS John McCain in Korean waters.


The nuclear test recently carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had elicited a wide range of responses from across the world. While the United States called the nuclear test a “highly provocative act”, North Korea’s principal regional ally China had been more restrained saying that it was “firmly opposed” to the move. Japan, on the other hand, had been equally unambiguous in its criticism of the test.

This is one of the rare moments when the US and China have aimed their disapproval at the same target. China has been cautious in its response to the test though. But how long will it continue to support Pyongyang? The Chinese know that its support for its strategic ally has come with a cost. China finds itself increasingly isolated over its support for Pyongyang. The Japanese and the South Koreans will seek enhanced protection from the US nuclear umbrella now. The US might respond by increasing its military presence in East Asia and there is nothing the Chinese could do about it.

American footprint in East Asia

China has showed no signs of rethinking its ties with Pyongyang following its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. China might push for the Six Party Talks, a series of multi-national interactions which also involves South Korea, Japan, China, the US and Russia to reconcile North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The first round of the Six Party Talks took place in 2003 after North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The negotiations produced little results but in my view took a significant turn in East Asian diplomacy because of the involvement of the Americans in a regional crisis. That a regional problem requires US mediation points to the increasing influence of the US in the East Asian region. That was not the first American involvement in the Korean Peninsula though. The US attended the East Asia Summit for the first time in 2011. Though the East Asian Summit had been formed primarily to promote East Asian unity, the member states were happy to include the US as a member. The reason behind this move is not hard to grasp. The economic and military rise of China in the region is hard to ignore. One of the unifying points for the member states was the counter-balancing act done while admitting the US to have a stake in the region.

In 2009, after Pyongyang’s second nuclear test, China voted in favor of a UN Security Council Resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea. Four years hence, the North Koreans have conducted another nuclear test by defying UN sanctions. Though China has condemned the tests, it is unlikely that the Chinese will support stronger sanctions being called for by the United States and its allies. North Korea has historically been a buffer-state for China against the US’s allies in the region. Both South Korea and Japan have large US military bases housing thousands of US soldiers. The US has had good relationships with the Philippines and Indonesia, two key players in South Asia. Any move to antagonize North Korea by siding with the US would undermine the last bastion of Chinese support in the region. China is aware that joining the international calls for tougher restrictions on Pyongyang would be contrary to China’s own interests.

Whither Iran?

North Korea’s nuclear test comes at a time when the international community and the IAEA are set for a new round of talks with Iran. North Korea’s underground test is shrouded in secrecy and has taken place away from the glare of the international media. On the other hand, Iran has been in the limelight for weapons that don’t even exist. Fears over Iran’s nuclear ambitions are predicated on ‘imagined’ weapons that the Iranians might build in the future. Why does nuclear power assume so much importance for Iran? This is despite the fact that Iran has always asserted its commitment to using nuclear power for peaceful purpose while the North Koreans have overtly singled out the US as its main target.

Japanese and South Korean apprehensions over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal might be alleviated by the US nuclear umbrella. But there is no way that the Egyptians and the Saudis would consent to American nuclear safeguards in order to balance Iran’s nuclear weapons in the future. Fears about a nuclear Iran are mixed with fears over nuclearisation of a Shia state. A nuclear Shia state could offset regional power relationships in the Middle East. A nuclear Iran could trigger mass nuclear programmes in the region.

The US should understand that a nuclear bomb could cause equal fatalities irrespective of its Iranian or North Korean origin. The disproportionate attention to Iran’s nuclear ambition by the US and its allies should be balanced by more concrete sanctions against North Korea. This will do the US and the entire world a big favor.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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