There’s a new world super-villain (COVID-19), it’s time for nuclear disarmament


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in North Korea’s northwest. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

THE Associated Press (AP) this week reported that a barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the peninsular’s east coast on Tuesday. AP further reports that North Korea also launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters. According to a South Korean defence official, North Korea seems to be resuming its military drills that it had scaled back due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This, consequently, pushing back the deadlocked denuclearisation negotiations fostered by the United Nations.

The timing of this development is a stark reminder of mankind’s self hate, as it invokes a global sense of how political elites are so obsessed and possessed with the desire for military supremacy while paying a blind eye to what is truly threatening the world’s population. At a time when 7 billion people across the globe are battling to survive the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, countries should not be focusing on scaling up military drills for their preparedness against human conflict, and pushing that agenda to the outside world. It’s time for mankind to reroute from self-hate.

It is imperative for countries such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and all other world military super powers to realise that the world has a new villain. This vicious super-villain is not one to be fought with missiles or nuclear warheads. The world is currently undergoing world war III, but non of those weapons can defeat or defuse the ticking time-bomb. This is no time for the world to hear about which country is foremost in nuclear preparedness. Instead, world leaders must start to envision how to rebuild economies post the pandemic.

In fact, the Coronavirus global outbreak presents a fresh opportunity for countries like North Korea to resubmit their commitments towards the denuclearisation programme. In June last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his commitment to denuclearisation remained unchanged, adding that he wanted to resolve the nuclear concerns through dialogue. This commitment from Pyongyang needs to be encouraged as a necessary disarmament virtue that can redirect the world from the imminent global catastrophe.

The global community needs to encourage the North Korean supreme leaders’ efforts to improve his country’s global image and make North Korea a friendlier nation committed to world peace. On the other hand, North Korea’s willingness for a gradual, step-by-step denuclearisation should be met with an equal measure towards the relaxation of sanctions from the global community, and the United States in particular. The two sides must now show real flexibility in their actions, not merely in their words. Pyongyang must take more tangible steps for denuclearisation beyond the symbolic dismantling of old testing sites, and Washington must seriously consider lifting sanctions in response.

Meanwhile, the African continent has a key role to play towards nuclear disarmament. The international community has never been as close as it is today to an absolute ban on the use of nuclear weapons. A shift from a pure security discourse to a focus on the humanitarian consequences of these weapons has allowed many States to enter a debate that for decades appeared reserved for powerful and wealthy governments. With the strength of 54 States and its moral standing as a nuclear weapons-free continent, Africa has the opportunity to contribute to the humanitarian consequences debate and to have a significant impact on the advancement of nuclear disarmament.

According to the Red Cross International Review of the human cost of nuclear weapons, although African States have long joined
the call for a world free of nuclear weapons and have been actively participating in discussions at various multilateral fora, the power of the African voice in influencing and advancing the debate has remained limited. Neither the African Union (AU) nor individual African governments have demonstrated a concrete interest in coordinating a position or strategy. This has to change, Africa needs to face the nuclear threat with the attention it deserves.

South Africa, for example is a country with the highest moral authority worldwide to speak on the topic of nuclear disarmament. South Africa is well known as the first and only country to have voluntarily dismantled its own nuclear weapons programme towards the end of the apartheid regime. Indeed, as Red Cross argues, the stage has been set for increased African involvement in the nuclear disarmament debate and South Africa needs to rally the rest of the continent towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Honest talks with Pyongyang, through its diplomatic mission in Pretoria, could be a good starting point towards a strong African position on nuclear weapons.

Coalition of non-governmental organisations such as ICAN warn that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in the scale of the devastation they cause, and in their uniquely persistent, spreading, genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they are unlike any other weapons. A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would disrupt the global climate, causing widespread famine.

Nuclear weapons violate international law, cause severe environmental damage, undermine national and global security, and divert vast public resources away from meeting human needs and emergency health crises such as the prevailing COVID-19. They must be eliminated urgently.


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