On Tuesday, President Trump gave his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly. In it he said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” His implication may have been to use nuclear weapons.
The very next day, also at the U.N., in a solemn yet joyful ceremony, the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” opened for signatures and eventual ratification by the 122 nation states that created and agreed to the language of the treaty. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, remarked in her speech during the ceremony, “We are seeing, today, international law standing up against weapons of mass destruction, prohibiting the use, possession and development of nuclear weapons.” Nuclear weapons states and their allies refuse to be a part of the treaty … yet.
The U.S. is the only country to ever have used nuclear weapons. In 1945, 135,000 and 64,000 people were killed, respectively, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, with thousands more as time went by, according to the “Atomic Archive.” According to ICAN, nine countries together possess about 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status — ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
Pyongyang’s displays and threats to use its developing nuclear technology are terrifying, but according to the New York Times, American nuclear advances threaten to start a new arms race and change the logic of “mutually assured destruction.” The Pentagon has increased the overall offensive power of its nuclear arsenal. All three legs of the nuclear triad have been enhanced: Sea, land and air-launched nuclear missiles have been or are being refurbished.
It is a delicate calculus. As the nuclear nations are gearing up to develop more bombs, maintaining status and reaping profits, nuclear activists and all who seek peace know that disarmament flies in the face of the military-industrial-complex. And we have the powerful beginning of a truly international nuclear weapons ban treaty.
What is your choice?
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.