Summer Quarterly 2018 (Updated June 21, 2018)
By Kelly Lundeen
Extreme fluctuations in relations between North Korea and the rest of the world in recent months have kept war hawks and peace doves at the edge of their seats. At one moment the United States and North Korea were lobbing nuclear threats at one another, sounding closer than ever in recent history to a potential military conflict. In the next moment, North and South Korea were signing a “Peace Declaration” to denuclearize the Korean peninsula at an unprecedented meeting in the Demilitarized Zone. A historic summit between the presidents of North Korea and the United States was announced, then cancelled by Mr. Trump, and, then went ahead. Finally the Singapore Summit brought a sigh of cautious relief with many hopeful signs that relations will continue in the direction of peace. The new approaches to these relations are in line with the agendas of changing leadership of the three countries and understanding those help explain the unfolding news.
What’s in it for the US?
As North Korea is now a nuclear weapons state, the official US government position was to demand “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Skeptics of the motives behind US leadership allege that the summit was planned to fail; that is, the US projects an image of working toward reconciliation while never having disavowed bellicose intentions. A week after the Summit, those fears have yet to be affirmed.
Throwing a curveball into the decades-long US policy of military threats, diplomatic hostility, and harsh trade sanctions, is the US “dealmaker” seeking to fulfill his need for celebrity, and desires for economic expansion into new territories and cutting military costs related to defense of other nations.
“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” suggested South Korean President Moon Jae-in. This absurd prospect may have strategically furthered the continued opening of diplomatic relations with North Korea. The tension between those supporting long-standing US policy and others embracing Trump’s chaotic treatment of North Korean President Kim Jong-un (calling him a “madman” one month and “honorable” the next) has led to roller coaster relations.
The North Korean Deterrent
North Koreans have a justified fear that the US is looking for regime change. Both John Bolton, the recently appointed National Security Advisor, and Vice President Mike Pence have promoted the “Libyan model” in relation to the North. In Libya, relief from sanctions was offered in exchange for international oversight as the country relinquished its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Despite Libya’s disarmament, it was bombarded by the US and NATO allies in 2011, and Col. Muammar Gaddafi was publicly assassinated by US-supported militias. Additionally, the North views the regular joint military exercises by the US and South Korea as rehearsals for invasion and regime change. On June 17 Trump announced a halt to the exercises which he even referred as “war games.” The North has long offered denuclearization in exchange for a halt to the exercises and a non-aggression pact.
Again in May, a statement from the South Korean president’s office said: “The North showed willingness on denuclearization…. If military threats to North Korea decrease and regime safety is guaranteed, the North showed that it has no reason to retain nukes.” And now, that was agreed to in the peace agreement in Singapore. North Korea agreed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” while the United States “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.
What Does North Korea Want?
In 2017 there was a New Year’s announcement that the North was close to completing its nuclear program, and at the end of the year the government declared that mission accomplished. Tim Shorrock, who writes for the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism and The Nation, who was raised in South Korea and Japan, remarked about the nuclear weapons program that, Kim “does have the weapons, though [the] interesting thing about his program last year was that they stopped short of actually getting a weapon onto a missile that can enter the atmosphere and hit a target. So, they do not have a nuclear-armed ICBM that can hit the United States at this time. They may be two or three years away from that.”
High on the North Korean priority list are a peace treaty, a non-aggression pact, an end to the military drills, but also energy and food to ameliorate chronic malnourishment. “The policy of the North Koreans has been something called the Byungjin Line and it has been a dual track. One has been the pursuit of its nuclear and missile program,” said Christine Ahn, of Women Cross DMZ. “The other track has been improving the economy of North Korea, and that is so critical to understanding what is the incentive also for North Korea to be willing to give up its nuclear weapons, because they want so much to advance their economy,” she said.
Prospects and Progress
Whatever may happen between the United States and North Korea, there are high expectations for realization of parts of the Declaration of Peace between South and North Korea. That is what drove the South Korean grassroots movement that led the candlelight revolution when, according to Ahn, “almost for half a year where one in three South Koreans, 16 million people took to the streets to call for the impeachment of [President] Park Geun-hye” and in turn elected Moon Jae-in. Within two months of being elected Moon Jae-in reached out to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to meet. On Jan 1, 2018 Kim accepted the offer, followed by a slew of diplomatic moves fostering new levels of trust and common ground among the US, South Korea and North Korea. On April 27 the two Korean leaders met in Panmunjeom. Kim Jong-un was the first North Korean leader to ever set foot inside South Korea.
Some of the points in the Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace can be pursued independently between the Koreas. In the Declaration Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un pledged “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.” In the brief document they agreed to three points to improve relations between the Koreas, alleviate military tension and establish a peace regime, determining the future of the “Korean nation on their own accord.”
Some of the specific points of the Declaration have begun to be fulfilled. The week after it was signed, South Korea ended their loudspeaker broadcast into North Korea. South Korean police even prevented activists from unloading a truck with 5,000 anti-North Korean leaflets. North Korea shifted its clocks by 30 minutes to be in sync with South Korea. A direct telephone link between the two leaders has been set up.
Other gestures indicating openness to reconciliation have been made. In addition to freezing nuclear weapons testing, North Korea has unilaterally destroyed its underground nuclear testing facility, and on May 9 released three United States prisoners. In the Singapore Summit North Korea also committed to returning remains of US veterans of the Korean War.
Even the United States has made concessions. According to the New York Times on May 3, Trump ordered the Pentagon to find ways to reduce the number of troops in South Korea. Later in May Trump abandoned further sanctions that he had been seeking.
The South Korean movement that nonviolently overthrew Park Geun-hye lit the fire for peace in Korea. The momentum for peace has been built and shot down over and over. Today it is moving in a direction that lets the doves be optimistic about one thing for the first time in a long time, even if for a brief moment.
—Sources: “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit”, June 12, 2018; Wall Street Journal, May 28; Agence France Presse, May 6; New York Times, May 3; The Intercept, May 2; Democracy Now!, April 30; “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” April 27, 2018
Summer Quarterly 2018
By Peter Maurer, ICRC
The International Committee of the Red Cross appeals to all States, global leaders and citizens to act on the increasing risk of the use of nuclear weapons. Whether used in a specific region or among major powers, the use of nuclear weapons would cause a catastrophic and irreparable humanitarian disaster.
If a nuclear conflict happened today, there is no international plan or capacity to respond adequately to even a limited use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the only sound course of action is prevention. We appeal for urgent efforts to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used.
Avoiding a global nuclear catastrophe requires urgent action by all the world’s governments:
- States possessing nuclear weapons and their allies must urgently take measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the risk of nuclear weapon use. All other members of the international community have a stake in ensuring they do so;
- States Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) must use the 2020 Review Conference, and its April 2018 Preparatory Committee in Geneva, to change course, away from threats of use and modernization of nuclear arsenals and towards full implementation of commitments they made in 2010 and previously to nuclear arms reductions, risk reduction and other effective nuclear disarmament measures; and
- States should take the necessary steps to adhere to the 1972 NPT, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and other nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation treaties to which they are not yet party and fully implement their provisions.
The ICRC makes this Appeal against the backdrop of a world in which the risk of use of nuclear weapons seems to be increasing. With previous restraints steadily falling away, and threats of use of nuclear weapons entering mainstream politics, we see a shift from a focus on non-use and elimination to making the use of nuclear weapons possible or more likely:
- With military incidents involving nuclear States and their allies occurring with disturbing frequency, the danger of use of nuclear weapons may be greater today than during the cold war.
- The UN Secretary General recently warned the Security Council that “The cold war is back… but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”
- States possessing nuclear weapons have plans for adapting nuclear weapons in ways that will make them able to be used in a wider variety of contexts. In parallel, their command and control systems have become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
To be clear, the ICRC understands that all States and, in particular those engaged in conflicts in volatile areas of the world, face complex security challenges, including risks to their security and that of their allies. Regional conflicts are now intertwined with global rivalries. A multitude of protracted conflicts continue with no political solutions in sight. Yet the introduction of nuclear weapons and threats of their use only renders such conflicts more dangerous and increases the risk of a global conflagration in which much of humanity will suffer irreparably. Indeed, in some cases, the existence of nuclear weapons and the “security” benefits attributed to them are root causes of the tensions themselves.
We also recognize that in the last two decades, significant steps have been taken to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons from Cold War levels. Yet reductions alone do not reduce the risk of their use in light of the facts and dangers mentioned above. Concerted steps towards reducing nuclear risks are therefore urgently needed. Nuclear weapon States and those allied to them bear particular responsibility. Such measures are well known and include:
- Unequivocal commitments never to use nuclear weapons first [only China, India and North Korea have done so];
- Removal of nuclear weapons from “hair trigger” alert status;
- Pre-notification of military exercises that may involve the launch of missiles or other vehicles associated with nuclear weapons;
- Re-establishment of joint early-warning centers to clarify in real-time unexpected and potentially destabilizing events; and
- Steps to progressively reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies.
This Appeal is rooted in what the ICRC knows through its own experience in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 73 years ago and that of Japanese Red Cross hospitals which, even today, continue to provide treatment for many thousands of survivors of the US atomic bombings. From this experience, and from what has been learned through engagement with environmental experts, the United Nations and other organizations, it is clear that:
- The catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons use cannot be limited in time and space, and that more victims will die in the months and years following their use than at the moment of the blast through radiation poisoning, cancers and other diseases;
- There is still today no international capacity or plan for humanitarian assistance to respond adequately to the use of nuclear weapons; and
- Even the use of just a hundred nuclear weapons, which represents a fraction of existing arsenals, against urban targets could lead to [mass smoke from vast firestorms causing] a cooling of global temperatures, shortening of growing seasons, food shortages in large parts of the world, and the deaths of over a billion people.
This Appeal by the ICRC also reflects the urgent concerns of the entire International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including 191 National Societies and millions of volunteers around the world. Just last November, the Movement expressed its deep alarm at the increasing risk that nuclear weapons may be used and stressed “that any risk of use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable given their catastrophic consequences.” Together we adopted an ambitious four-year Action Plan to ensure nuclear weapons are never again used and are eliminated.
Three years ago in my statement on nuclear weapons to the Geneva diplomatic corps ahead of the 2015 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, I concluded: “We know now more than ever before that the risks are too high, the dangers too real. It is time for States, and all those in a position to influence them, to act with urgency and determination to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end.”
Too often, the international community has been unable to prevent foreseeable crises. This time it is imperative that we prevent impending nuclear catastrophe. Seldom has collective action to reduce nuclear weapon risks and move towards their elimination been more urgent. —April 23, 2018
Summer Quarterly 2018
Adapted from The Nuclear Resister
Seven Catholic plowshares activists entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia on April 4th, 2018. They said in a statement that went “to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to ‘beat swords into plowshares.’” Once on the base, the activists used crime scene tape, hammers and hung banners reading: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide —Dr. Martin Luther King,” and “Nuclear weapons: illegal/ immoral.”
The seven acted on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the “triple evils of militarism, racism and materialism.” Another of their banners reworked Dr. King’s “ultimate logic” declaration, applying it to nuclear weapons saying “The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide.”
Kings Bay Naval base is the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean Trident submarine port. In southeastern Georgia, 38 miles from Jacksonville, Florida, Kings Bay is the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. The site maintains six giant Trident long-range, nuclear missile submarines (each two football fields long), and two guided missile subs.
The group also carried a written indictment of the nuclear weapons base accusing the US government with crimes against peace.
Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to symbolically convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day by wasting scarce resources desperately needed to address hunger, disease, and homelessness.
The action statement added that nuclear weapons kill before being detonated “through our mining, production, testing, storage, and dumping, primarily on Indigenous Native land.” The statement quoted Dr. King, who said in his Beyond Vietnam speech, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”
The seven activists are Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Jonah House, Baltimore; Fr. Steve Kelly SJ, 69, of the Bay Area, California; Martha Hennessy, 62, and Carmen Trotta, 55, both of the New York Catholic Worker; Clare Grady, 59, of the Ithaca Catholic Worker; Mark Colville, 55, of the New Haven, Conn. Catholic Worker; and Patrick O’Neill, 61, of the Garner, North Carolina Catholic Worker.
The seven were charged in federal court with felony Conspiracy, Destruction of Property on a Naval Station, Depredation of Government Property, and Trespass. The Kings Bay protest is the latest in the long series of 100 previous Plowshares actions. The Plowshares disarmament movement began in 1980 with “The Plowshares Eight” who entered a General Electric nuclear warhead factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta and Martha Hennessy were released on bond to house arrest on May 24, 2018. The four others can be sent only plain, white pre-stamped postcards that can be purchased at a post office, using only blue or black ink, at: Clare Grady #015632; Elizabeth McAlister #015633; Stephen Kelly #015634; Mark Colville #015635,
Glynn County Detention Center
100 Sulphur Springs Road
Brunswick, GA 31520
Summer Quarterly 2018
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said in 2016 that the US was then “bombing seven countries.” Politifact rated the statement “True”on Dec. 31, 2016, identifying the target countries as Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya. NBC News re-confirmed the claim on Jan. 9, 2017. A December 2015 report to Congress from the Obama Administration on presidential war powers named 14 countries with varying levels of ongoing US military combat, including warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Somalia, Yemen, Djibouti, Libya, Cuba, Niger, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, and Kosovo. Cuba was included because the military personnel operating the off-shore penal colony at Guantánamo Bay are combat troops. A legal analysis by lawfareblog.com which includes links to all of the Obama-era “War Power Letters to Congress 2009-2015” notes: “The most recent report, from December 2015, explicitly refers to ongoing operations of variable intensity in 14 countries.”