A Nuclear Shadow Looms Over Us All
The shadow or threat of nuclear war is not only imaginable, it is a real possibility. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen after North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles toward Japan on March 6th in apparent response to the annual US-South Korean “Foal Eagle” military maneuvers — and in defiance of international law.
In response, the US has begun deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, despite vigorous protests from China, which fears the deployment will only increase tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
Amid these moves on both sides, Beijing has proposed that North Korea freeze its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for suspending the large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises — confidence-building measures that could get Pyongyang and Washington back to the negotiating table and resuscitate talks on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li compared the DPRK and the US-South Korea to two trains speeding toward each other head-on. “Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” he asked. “The priority is to flash the red light and apply the brakes.”
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley rejected a diplomatic solution outright, saying: “I appreciate my counterparts wanting to talk about talks and negotiations, but we are not dealing with a rational person,” said the Trump-appointed US envoy. She stated that now “all options are on the table” with regard to North Korea.
Nevertheless, diplomacy should be given a chance since a military response could open the proverbial can of worms and threaten civilian lives in both Koreas with nuclear catastrophe. Like the United States, North Korea — along with Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan —is a nuclear power.
Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, warned in a detailed report for the Heritage Foundation, that “preemptive [US] attacks on test flights that do not clearly pose a security threat could trigger a war with a nuclear-armed state that also has a large conventional military force poised along the border with South Korea.”
A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay.
The crisis with North Korea presents us with an opportunity. Should we move in the direction of dialogue and negotiations with North Korea, a process that could lead toward nuclear disarmament? Or should we engage in a military response that could spin out of control with untold consequences for millions of innocent people?
Are we willing to take a courageous step in the direction of peace? The decision we make will affect countless future generations.