The Benefice Cross of Ampfield, Chilworth and North Baddesely

North Korea: are we missing the real threat?

President Trump's words 'Fire and fury' ... ' like the world has never seen before' were a nuclear threat. The church should not acquiesce in the face of a renewed recourse to nuclear arms in pursuit of political aims.

Concern over the threat and counter threat being exchanged over the DMZ in the Korean Peninsula is right and necessary. In our concern though, we might miss the more frightening threat. In war colleges and defence ministries around the world that the answer to some military problems, far short of global war, is seen to be nuclear weapons. The church should not, cannot be, silent in the face of this grave threat to the peace of the world. 

On 7th July this year 122 nations signed a treaty to prohibit the use of nuclear arms, an agreement for which the World Council of Churches, and other inter church and inter-religious organisations have long advocated. Our world now has many nuclear armed countries. We risk nuclear war because deterrence, or the balance of terror, becomes increasingly uncertain as more parties threaten one another in unpredictable combinations. It is time for nuclear weapons to be as unacceptable as chemical and biological weapons have been for many years

It is time to say no. No to violence, of course, but No particularly to the special violence that the effects of nuclear arms bring in EMP and neutron radiation. We have heard enough of the argument that this weapon or that weapon reduces casualties. The solution to hard human problems is not a different weapon. It is peace brought by the exercise of our capacity and common responsibility to be human.

Unguarded the President's words are, but they reflect emerging doctrines of war that anticipate the 'necessity' of limited use of 'small' and 'clean' nuclear arms in the USA, Russia. and China. The signing and development of the treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons signed by 122 other countries was boycotted by the major nuclear powers. Only parts of the reason for that boycott are knowable. That each has suggested that some sorts of nuclear arms might be usable war must play a role. We cannot permit this. Nuclear arms bring additional, unique, destructive effects, apart from size, in addition to the heat and shock of conventional weapons.

Nuclear arms are not simply bigger bombs. In addition to producing heat and shock like conventional weapons they give rise electromagnetic pulse and neutron flux or radiation effects. Electromagnetic pulse or EMP poses terminal risks to the worlds infrastructure and satellites. Neutron flux, at sufficient levels kills all living things in range. All current nuclear arms, even those the militaries describe as 'clean' still poison the wider earth with radioactive fallout.

Ian Wyllie is a volunteer for and a contributor to this site. This column does not necessarily give the authoritative view of the church. He writes:
I’m not a natural pacifist. Indeed a career in the arm of the UK Armed forces that operates this countries strategic nuclear deterrent was terminated by injury not by doubt. I hold it is possible for recourse to force, and the manner of its use to be just. On reflection though, however justified the cause, I don't think that a nuclear exchange can ever be just conduct in war. The risk of escalation and the hazard to our natural environment is too great. Perhaps in the pursuit of God I am become peaceable. Perhaps not.
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