Atomic bomb­ing starts our moral awak­en­ing

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

The fol­low­ing is a state­ment is­sued Aug. 2 by the Asia-Pa­cific Lead­er­ship Net­work for Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion and Dis­ar­ma­ment (APLN) on the oc­ca­sion of the 75th an­niver­sary of the Hiroshima and Na­gasaki nu­clear bomb­ing. The state­ment was writ­ten by APLN Chair Gareth Evans and APLN Vice Chair and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Moon Chung-in. — ED.

Seventy-five years af­ter the bomb­ing of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki put be­yond ar­gu­ment that nu­clear weapons are the most in­dis­crim­i­nately in­hu­mane ever de­vised, the dis­tress­ing re­al­ity is that the risk of nu­clear catas­tro­phe is as great as it has ever been, and the goal

— shared by all APLN mem­bers — of achiev­ing their elim­i­na­tion from the face of the Earth is as far from achieve­ment as it has ever been. Ex­ist­ing nu­clear arms con­trol agree­ments are dead or dy­ing. There is no prospect what­ever of any nu­clear armed state join­ing the Nu­clear Ban Treaty.

There has been no progress on moder­at­ing the salience of nu­clear weapons in strate­gic doc­trines. There have been no ad­vances on “no first use,” “neg­a­tive se­cu­rity as­sur­ances,” “de-alert­ing” or serious stock­pile re­duc­tion — all long-standing goals of APLN. Hopes for progress on de­nu­cle­ariz­ing the Korean Penin­sula have stalled, and all six nu­clear-armed states in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion are in­creas­ing their nu­clear pro­files.

No ac­tion on dis­ar­ma­ment by the nu­clear weapons states means that com­mit­ment to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty re­mains frag­ile, and ef­forts to strengthen it im­pos­si­ble. The re­al­ity re­mains, as stated over the decades by suc­ces­sive in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sions, that so long as any state has nu­clear weapons, oth­ers will want them; so long as any nu­clear weapons re­main they are bound one day to be used, by ac­ci­dent or mis­ad­ven­ture if not de­sign; and any such use would be cat­a­strophic for life on this planet as we know it.

Mak­ing progress on nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment is a slow, grind­ing, frus­trat­ing, un­re­ward­ing process, but it is an ef­fort that must con­tinue, for the sur­vival of hu­man­ity de­pends on it. The nu­clear threat, like the two other ex­is­ten­tial threats to life as we know it the world faces, cli­mate change and global pan­demics, can only be over­come through serious, sus­tained, in­tel­li­gent in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.

The in­dis­pens­able in­gre­di­ent in meet­ing all these ex­is­ten­tial chal­lenges is ef­fec­tive, prin­ci­pled po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. On the nu­clear threat, that lead­er­ship could most im­me­di­ately be shown by the heads of the three ma­jor nu­clear pow­ers — the United States, Rus­sia and China — each com­mit­ting them­selves to a serious re­sump­tion of nu­clear arms con­trol ne­go­ti­a­tions at all rel­e­vant bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral lev­els, and re­stat­ing what Pres­i­dents Rea­gan and Gor­bachev so pro­foundly and rel­e­vantly ar­tic­u­lated 35 years ago: “A nu­clear war can never be won and must never be fought.”

While the im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment for such com­mit­ment is des­o­late, it is im­por­tant to stay op­ti­mistic, and work for change — how­ever in­cre­men­tal — as we at APLN con­tinue to do. Lessons are some­times learned, pen­du­lums do swing, wheels do turn and pres­i­dents and prime min­is­ters do change.

Pres­i­dent Obama spoke in Hiroshima in 2016 of us choos­ing “a fu­ture in which Hiroshima and Na­gasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic war­fare, but as the start of our own moral awak­en­ing.” It is cru­cial to keep the mem­ory of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki alive, and to keep alive the idea that out of their ashes 75 years ago a bet­ter and more hu­mane world can in­deed grow.

Gareth Evans

Moon Chung-in

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