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What about North Korea?

This is a frequent response to opening a discussion about global nuclear disarmament with people outside the peace movement. Especially in the light of recent events some people are subscribing to the idea that we ‘need’ nuclear weapons to keep us ‘safe’. A recent press release from Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) an organisation to which SCND is affiliated and which we strongly support, tackles this question head on. It explains why at a time like this a nuclear weapons ban treaty, even if everyone doesn’t immediately sign up to it, matters more than ever. The press release argues that the test firing of an ‘intercontinental ballistic missile’ by North Korea is proof positive of the need for a nuclear weapons ban treat. A summary of their viewpoint is presented below. The full press release , with contacts and  references can be found here 


The  NFLA are very concerned with the reported news that the North Korean Government has apparently successfully test-fired a missile – which could contain a nuclear weapon – to a potential distance of over 7,000km, putting them in the range of North America and much of Europe. 

The proliferation of nuclear weapons to now include North Korea is a real example of the weakness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and why it is more important than ever to move forward with more effective multilateral policies for nuclear disarmament. That the existing nuclear weapon states are all planning to modernise their nuclear weapons – at huge financial cost – is a key part of what has influenced North Korea to pursue a nuclear weapons programme at all cost, even at the expense of the welfare of its own people. 

During the past month at the United Nations over 120 countries have been in  discussions to develop an international treaty seeking to ban nuclear weapons, due to be adopted at 3pm on the 7th July 2016.The nuclear weapons states, along  with most NATO members have boycotted all discussions to develop a nuclear weapon ban treaty. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has argued their non-attendance is because of these ‘new’ nuclear proliferation threats from the likes of North Korea. 

While it is a major breakthrough for North Korea to fire a missile which could theoretically travel such large distances, it does not mean they could yet be able to deliver it. There remains a limited window of opportunity to put international diplomatic pressure on North Korea to negotiate on its nuclear programme. That opportunity should be taken. 

However, North Korea’s belligerent stance partially derives from the perceived threat it sees to it, and it sees little evidence that the nuclear weapon states will ever seriously move towards multilateral nuclear disarmament. 

The development of a UN Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty says that the vast majority of the governments of the world want a nuclear weapons free world. It is now incumbent on nuclear weapon states to stop boycotting such discussions and actively work for nuclear disarmament, or North Korea will be joined by other states that have followed the actions of Israel, India and Pakistan to develop their own nuclear weapon programmes since the NPT was ratified. 

NFLA Steering Committee Vice-Chair Councillor David Blackburn said: “Whilst there remain so few signs of significant nuclear disarmament amongst existing nuclear weapon states it is hardly surprising North Korea is continuing to develop its own programme. We have limited time to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table and the United Nations must try to do so. A fully nuclear armed North Korea is part of the nightmare scenario the NPT was supposed to prevent. Now we must look to the new Nuclear Ban Treaty process as the genesis of a more effective and widely supported 

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