As many as 200 North Korean laborers were killed after a mine shaft being dug at the regime’s nuclear test site collapsed, according to Japan’s Asahi TV. Sources in North Korea told the news channel that a tunnel being excavated by about 100 workers at the Punggye-ri test site collapsed in September. An additional 100 laborers sent to rescue their colleagues were reportedly killed when the tunnel suffered a second collapse.

It happened shortly after North Korea conducted its sixth, most powerful underground nuclear test at the site. Seismologists had picked up signs of underground collapses in the days following that blast, according to Japan’s Asahi TV. And sure enough, there it came, a devastating collapse with what must have be a terrifying, agonizing death for workers and the possibility of escaped radiation.

Chinese scientists have issued warnings, suggesting that nuclear fallout could spread across “an entire hemisphere” if the whole mountain did collapse according to The Telegraph, a national British daily news outlet.

This tragedy happened just weeks before the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the international Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and a month or so before the U.S. Congressional Budget Office released its new report, “Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046”: $1.2 trillion. This isn’t just for deterrence; thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. Are we nuts? Talk about irony.

In a “Counterpunch” article in August, Ron Forthofer wrote, “Given what we know, it is criminally irresponsible to continue tit-for-tat provocations with North Korea.” Couldn’t it be said that the “tit-for-tat” the U.S. has been playing with North Korea created the intricate “perfect storm” in which this latest tragedy occurred?

Forthofer went on to remind readers that Russia, China and North Korea have offered a solution that would freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs in exchange for a freeze on joint war games by the U.S., South Korea and now Japan that alarm North Korea with the possibility of a nuclear attack. We must negotiate!

I’m reminded of a quote by H.G. Wells that a friend used whenever he wrote something, “Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe.”

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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