North Korea’s missile launches and Donald Trump’s twitter tirades may seem benignly juvenile for now but this does not mean the threat of mutually-assured destruction in an all out thermonuclear annihilation is not real.
The belligerence of the United States in antagonising Kim Jong-un is being blamed for an escalation of the temperature in this dangerous game of `dare’.
Malaysian anti-nuclear activist Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy – founding member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – calls the United States the culprit of the piece for holding naval exercises and making nuclear gestures that is interpreted by North Korea as a threat.
“As soon as one state has nuclear weapons, others want the same, naturally. So, America first, and almost immediately, Russia did. As soon as India had nuclear weapons, Pakistan had nuclear weapons too,” says Dr McCoy.
“When you threaten North Korea with nuclear weapons and having naval exercises along the coast of North Korea, what do you expect them to do? You threaten them with nuclear weapons, of course they will build their own nuclear weapons! The culprit is not North Korea, the culprit is the United States.”
The culprit is not North Korea, the culprit is the United States
When 87-year old Dr McCoy first mooted idea of ICAN, a campaign for nuclear disarmament back in 2005, little did he expect that it would go on to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
Drawing inspiration from International Campaign to Ban Landmines – a group which efforts had led to the formation of an international treaty banning the use of anti-personnel landmines globally in 1997, the work of ICAN was instrumental in the conception of the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Also known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, it seeks to formally ban the possession, production, transfer, threat of use or use of nuclear weapons.
“When we had the landmines, chemical weapons and biological weapons ban treaties, many countries, at that stage, didn’t join. But after a while, they did. So we expect the same to happen.”
On July 7, 2017, 122 states voted to adopt the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.
But will the treaty have any weight in terms of operational impact? As all nine nuclear weapon possessing states (including the five permanent members of the Security Council) have stayed away from the treaty.
In order for the treaty to come into effect to become international law, signature and ratification by at least 50 countries is required – and the ban treaty is legally binding only on signatories.
“Until the nuclear weapon states join, sign and ratify the treaty, you cannot impose the law on them. So, we still have a lot of work to do,” says Dr McCoy.
“It is difficult but we will try. I am guessing here – maybe Britain will be the first country (to ban nuclear). If we have Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, it is a possibility. China, in my view, is just waiting to get rid of nuclear weapons as soon as the others do. China doesn’t want war with anybody. China just wants to get on with its own business.”
Dr McCoy says the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China will have to take lead by committing themselves unequivocally to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
I have a very simple philosophy. If you have a man-made problem, then man can solve those man-made problems
“Somebody has to take the lead, and the lead has to be taken by the big nuclear weapon states.”
Numerous nuclear disarmament advocacy and treaties have helped reduced the worldwide nuclear weapons stockpile from over 60,000 in the mid-eighties, to about 15,000 currently.
“I have a very simple philosophy. If you have a man-made problem, then man can solve those man-made problems.”
“Simple in logic but, of course, difficult to achieve. But we have to work on it. We cannot wish this things away. We have to work hard,” Dr McCoy adds.