A Nobel warningOn Dec. 9, seeds from trees that survived the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were planted in a botanical garden in Oslo, Norway. The president of the University of Oslo said that hopes for the future would grow there. Survivor Toyoko Tagawa, who experienced the bombing at age six, said that her brother was in excruciating pain and asked his father to end the suffering with a weapon they had at home.
The next day, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded at the City Hall in Oslo. This year’s recipient is ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. In the acceptance speech, Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said, “The only rational course of action is to cease living under the conditions where our mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away . . . The end is inevitable. But will that end be the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us? We must choose one.”
The Nobel Prize ceremony reminded me that the terrible reality of nuclear weapons has been overlooked amid the controversy over the North Korean nuclear program. As North Korea’s nuclear armament speeds up, calls for a military response are growing in the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump exchange verbal insults like “warmongering old lunatic” and “sick puppy.”
However, ICAN demanded that nuclear states, including the United States, join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. While the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into effect in 1970, the United States, Russia, China, the U.K. and France all focused on modernizing nuclear arsenals. President Trump has been advocating nuclear weapons since he was a president-elect. He reversed his predecessor Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague vision of “a world without nuclear weapons.”
After Trump mentioned the reinforcement of the nuclear program, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would improve their nuclear weapons’ strength. The United Kingdom is currently modernizing nuclear submarines, and French President Emmanuel Macron went aboard a nuclear submarine after his inauguration. The five countries are estimated to have 22,000 nuclear bombs.
While the need for multilateral diplomacy for nuclear arms reduction is greater than at the time of the Cold War, trust among powers has weakened. The rivalries are intense and the United States and their European allies are not getting along. The Guardian pointed out that nuclear powers chose nuclear augmentation over reduction, providing the grounds for North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.
ICAN lamented, “These weapons were supposed to keep us free, but they deny us our freedoms.” The fundamental solution of North Korean nuclear threats may be found when we share fear of nuclear weapons and the international community strongly calls for the reduction and freezing of nuclear weapons in North Korea and other nuclear powers.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 12, Page 38
*The author is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.