The Development of Nuclear Weapon Program Decision Making: The Cases of Iran and Vietnam

Jason Poirier Lavoie Essays Leave a Comment

By Zhuo Xi Wang

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It seems to be understood in contemporary politics that immense prestige and respect comes with a state’s possession of a nuclear arsenal given how states are reluctant about other states obtaining weapons of their own. In recent developments, Iran has chosen to pursue a nuclear weapon to deter its perceived enemies only to stop its program recently under an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. Iran’s chief perceived enemy is Israel and this likely justifies why it chose to pursue a nuclear weapons program given the history of animosity between these states. However, at the same time, Vietnam, a state that faces threats from China in the recent islands dispute between the two states apparently has no intention of building its own nuclear weapon to deter China if the situation escalates between the two states. Vietnam also has a history of animosity with China that is more substantial than that of Iran and Israel as will be shown. Therefore, the question to be asked is why has Iran pursued a nuclear weapon while Vietnam has not when both states face an external threat? This is a puzzle that needs to be solved as the procurement of nuclear weapons is a serious global issue and it can show why some states construct nuclear weapons as protection from external threats while others do not. Why do states act differently to an external threat? This paper is organized as follows. A literature review of current explanations for why states choose to build nuclear weapons will be examined followed by presenting an alternative explanation that fits the cases better. A brief examination of the relationship between Iran and Israel will be provided followed by one that looks at the relationship between China and Vietnam. An analysis of these relationships is conducted and finally the implications of these findings will be expressed.