Nonviolence, Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

A Theological Foundation for Rejecting the Possession and Use of Nuclear Weapons

Marie Dennis (former co-president of Pax Christi International) and Ken Butigan (Pace Bene) reflect on a Theological Foundation for Rejecting the Possession and Use of Nuclear Weapons:

The Universal Ethic of Nonviolence Rooted in the Life and Mission of Jesus

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Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

Marshall Islands – a tragic confluence of nuclear testing and climate change

by Claude Mostowik, msc
Pax Christi Australia

A chosen people

In 1946, after a Sunday church service, the people of Enewetak Atoll (also known as Bikini Atoll) were told they are a chosen people, like the Israelites, who would deliver humanity from future wars as the US perfected the atomic bomb. Within weeks after the people being relocated, the first tests began. The so-called ‘promised land’ was a destroyed land.

Background

The Marshall Islands (RMI), with its 29 coral atolls, lie between Hawaii and Australia. In 1914, they were captured by Japan. When Japan was defeated by the US in 1944, the Japanese bases became U.S. military bases. Its remote location, sparse population, and proximity to other U.S. military bases, made it seem ideal for testing of U.S. nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, 23 at Bikini Atoll, and 44 near Enewetak Atoll, but the fallout was not contained to these atolls. It became the most contaminated place on Earth and the people are still dealing with the fallout more than 70 years later.

Since 1945, the U.S. expanded nuclear research and development programs as they conducted 67 tests in the RMI between 1946 to 1958. Their combined explosive power if parcelled evenly over that 12-year period would equal 1.6 Hiroshima-size explosions per day. The ‘Castle Bravo’ test in 1954 was detonated with 1,000 times the force of the Hiroshima explosion.

Nuclear issues are forever.

Once subjected to the ravages of nuclear testing and its effects, the people now face oblivion due to climate change. Both are connected. Having endured burns to the bone, forced relocation, nightmarish birth defects, and short and long term cancers, the people have inherited a world unmade, remade and then conveniently forgotten by the USA. Washington has tried to close the book on a history of destruction and sadness. Over the years following the testing, the Marshall Islanders living on the fallout-contaminated islands ended up breathing, absorbing, drinking and eating considerable amounts of radioactivity.

Most of the people live in Majuro, and the ocean or lagoon can be seen from every part of town. The people depend on the ocean but rising sea-levels due to global warming now threaten their homes and lives. The effects of contamination by nuclear testing and climate change have embraced. Assurances by the USA that the well-being of the islanders would secured have not eventuated. Though an independent nuclear claims tribunal awarded the RMI $2.3 billion in health and property damages, there was no mechanism to force the USA to pay it. Washington does not acknowledge ongoing liability apart from the tens of millions of dollars it grants annually to environmental, food and health-care programs. The claim is that the US acquitted itself reasonably. In 2014, lawsuits against the United States and the eight other nuclear-armed nations, alleging noncompliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, were filed. The U.S. Justice Department labelled it a stunt. The suit was dismissed. For the international court, it was not an issue because the USA does not recognise its jurisdiction…

Click here to read the entire article in “Just Comment”.

Peace

PyeongChang? A “new name” for peace

by Jonathan Frerichs
UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International

PyeongChang, South Korea, is the home of last year’s Winter Olympics. Now it’s the home of a “Global Peace Forum” too.

There’s a connection. Careful preparations and hockey diplomacy at the 2018 Olympics signaled an opportunity. They touched off a year of inter-Korean dialogue, summitry and other successes, after years of nuclear confrontation and belligerent rhetoric. The Olympic Organizing Committee decided to cap the year by inviting more than 500 people to PyeongChang. From 9-11 February 2019, advocates, academics and activists from 50 countries debated the synergies between peace, sports, sustainable development, gender equality, climate justice and disarmament.

The provincial governor and local mayor, two national cabinet ministers and the head of the Korea International Cooperation Agency took part in the ceremonies. More than one host official declared with a smile, “PyeongChang is a new name for peace.”

Pax Christi International was among the international civil society co-sponsors of the gathering. The Catholic peace movement contributed to panels on the UN Secretary General’s recent Agenda for Disarmament, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and inter-religious cooperation for peace.

The PyeongChang Global Peace Forum ended by adopting three forward-looking resolutions.

“Immediately declare the end of the Korean War and negotiate and sign a peace treaty,” says a resolution on the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. It calls for the forthcoming summit in Vietnam between the US and North Korean leaders to issue a “concrete declaration of the end of the Korean War”.

The resolution also affirms the relevance of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons “in building a durable peace in Northeast Asia”.

A more general PyeongChang Declaration for Peace 2019: “Sustainable Future for All: Ending War, Guaranteeing Peace” notes that the 1999 Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century “must live on”. Like the Hague Appeal, on which it hopes to build next year, the PyeongChang declaration says “it is time to end all wars” and calls peace “an inherent human right for all”.

The South Korean host organizations plan to convene another forum in 2020 to debate and adopt a “PyeongChang Agenda for Peace 2030”.

Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

Sanctions and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

by Doug Hostetter
Pax Christi International UN Representative, New York

(The following was presented at the Global Peace Forum on Korea, Columbia University, September 29, 2018, New York City.)

When I was first asked to speak about sanctions and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Global Peace Forum on Korea, I thought that I would cite the experts on effect of the sanctions on the people of the  DPRK, like the recent United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that indicated that 41% of people within the DPRK are undernourished, and 70% are vulnerable to food insecurity and child-stunting equals about 39.4% in all children in the DPRK[1].

I had planned that I would also mention the other ways in which sanctions are changing the country.  In addition to less nutrition, there is also less access to healthcare.  Many major humanitarian NGO’s have been forced to leave the DPRK, including the Global Fund, which over the past eight years gave more than 100 million dollars for life saving treatments of tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria to patients in the DPRK[2]. I would point out that the sanctions have created banking obstacles so great that even serious UN efforts have been unable to provide banking channels for UN agencies and NGOs that do humanitarian programs in the DPRK.

I had intended to go into some detail about the absurdity of the sanctions on the DPRK. Security Council Resolution (s/RES/2397 -22 December 2017, paragraph 7) states:

“Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK … of all industrial machinery (HS codes 84 and 85), transportation vehicles (HS codes 86 through 89), and iron, steel, and other metals (HS codes 72 through 83).”[3]

The sanctions have even been interpreted to include fingernail clippers and simple water filters, which the Mennonite Central Committee has tried unsuccessfully to send to pediatric hospitals in the DPRK.  I had even considered pointing out that the UN sanctions on the DPRK could be considered collective punishment on the people of the DPRK, which, during time of war, is a war crime under the Hague Regulations of 1899 and subsequent Geneva Conventions, most recently, article 33 of the Geneva Conventions IV of 1949[4]. (This is another compelling reason to end the Korean War.)

On reflection, however, I decided that it would be simpler and more useful to look at the issue of efficacy, to see whether sanctions have actually been effective in achieving desired results, or if other measures might in fact be more successful in accomplishing those goals.

Security Council Resolution 1718[5] is quite clear that the goal of the sanctions was to discourage the DPRK from pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and to encourage the DPRK to return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

So, let us compare the accomplishment of the sanctions to the accomplishments of dialogue.

The UN Security Council significantly increased sanctions against the DPRK with Security Council Resolution 1718 on 14 October 2006, five days after the DPRK detonated its first nuclear explosion.  In the past 12 years, the UN Security Council has passed more than ten resolutions sanctioning the DPRK, each resolution more draconian than the previous one.  During those last 12 years of sanctions, the DPRK has detonated five additional nuclear tests, and has continued to improve the power of their missiles from intermediate range rockets in 2006, to intercontinental missiles today, capable of reaching the United States.

Now let us look at the accomplishments of persuasion in just the last nine months.  Chairman Kim Jong-Un, in his New Years speech on January 1, 2018 stated:

“We will open our doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel, if they sincerely wish national concord and unity. . . As for the Winter Olympic Games to be held soon in South Korea, it will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. From this point of view we are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures; with regard to this matter, the authorities of the north and the south may meet together soon. Since we are compatriots of the same blood as South Koreans, it is natural for us to share their pleasure over the auspicious event and help them.”[6]

Chairman Kim’s New Year’s statement was welcomed by President Moon Jae-in, who immediately invited the DPRK to send athletes from the north to join the Olympics, and even filed a joint women’s hockey team for the 2018 Olympic Games.  Since then, there have been numerous meetings at various levels between the DPRK and ROK, as well as a joint meeting in Singapore between President Trump and Chairman Kim on June 12th earlier this year.

Since January of 2018, the DPRK has suspended all nuclear testing and missile launches, demolished its only nuclear testing sight, and destroyed its rocket engine testing site.  The DPRK has also returned the remains of US military service personnel killed in during the Korean War.  The ROK and DPRK have worked together to establish a liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the DPRK, have established a program for reunifications of Korean families who were separated by the war, and just last week held another inter-Korean summit, the third this year, in Pyongyang. These are only a few of the major changes that have been initiated as the result of dialogue.  It is hard to remember that it was only one year ago, at the opening of the Seventy-Second General Assembly, that President Trump and Chairman Kim were threatening each other with nuclear annihilation.

Since the beginning of time people have been arguing which is stronger, hard power or soft power: the use of force, or the arts of dialogue. There is an ancient Greek fable which tells of an argument between the north wind and the sun as to who was the more powerful.  They argued for many days, each boasting of their superior strength and finally deciding to settle the argument by a contest.  A pilgrim was traveling below so they decided that each would try to remove his coat.  The north wind went first, blowing a gale force wind which nearly tore away the coat, but the pilgrim grabbed his cloak, and the harder the north wind blew, the more tightly the pilgrim wrapped his coat around himself.  When it was the sun’s turn, the wind and the clouds disappeared, and the sun beamed its kind warmth on the pilgrim, who immediately took off his coat.

In the past 12 years, we have witnessed the abject failure of the use of sanctions and military threats to get the DPRK to dismantle its programs for nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.  It is now time for us to give support to dialogue, already begun by Chairman Kim, President Moon and President Trump, which has produced many positive results , but need to be continued to end the Korean War, lift the sanctions, normalize the relations between the US and the DPRK and establish a Korea Peninsula Nuclear Free Zone – a Korea Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and protected from threat of nuclear attack by international treaty[7].

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[1] UN Resident Coordinator for DPR Korea. “DPR Korea Needs and Priorities March 2018.” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 11, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-peoples-republic-korea/dpr-korea-needs-and-priorities-march-2018.
[2] Seung, Kwonjune J. “Why Is the Global Fund Pulling out of North Korea?” NK News – North Korea News. May 02, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.nknews.org/2018/05/why-is-the-global-fund-pulling-out-of-north-korea/.
[3] UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 2397 (2017) [on strengthening measures regarding the supply, sale, or transfer to the DPRK], 11 September 2017, S/RES/2397 (2017), available at: https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/s/res/2397-%282017%29 %5Baccessed 17 September 2018
[4] “Practice Relating to Rule 103. Collective Punishments.” Treaties, States Parties, and Commentaries – Geneva Convention, 1864 – 3 -. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule103
[5] [5] UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 1718  (2006) [on recalling its previous relevant resolutions], 14 October 2006, S/RES/1718 (2006), available at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1718%20%282006%29 %5Baccessed 17 September 2018
[6] “Kim Jong Un’s 2018 New Year’s Address.” NCNK. January 01, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.ncnk.org/node/1427.
[7] See also Pax Christi International’s statement of 12 June 2018: https://www.paxchristi.net/news/statement-todays-historic-meeting-between-donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-key-points-be-included.
Peace

Harnessing the power of faith to eliminate nuclear weapons

by Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International Co-President

In November 2017 during a private audience with participants in a Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament, Pope Francis definitively condemned the “very possession” of nuclear weapons. Panelists during the Vatican conference, which brought together members of the Catholic hierarchy, diplomats, politicians, civil society leaders, religious communities, students, theologians, and other Catholic leaders, repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen said it clearly: “We should cease to imagine nuclear weapons as tools for us to manage, but rather as a curse we must banish.”

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, captured the determined atmosphere of the gathering. Humans, she said, “harnessed the power of science to build these weapons; we have harnessed the power of faith to stop them.”

But does the opinion of the Catholic Church—even of Pope Francis—have any impact on public opinion or shift attitudes among world leaders toward nuclear disarmament?

That depends.

Those already concerned about a growing threat from continued reliance on and proliferation of nuclear weapons paid very close attention to Pope Francis’ definitive statement in November 2017. They had done the same in December 2014 when the Holy See shifted from a strictly conditioned moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence toward the outright condemnation of nuclear weapons in its important contribution, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

The Holy See subsequently played a very important role in negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Faith-based communities and other religious institutions did likewise during both the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) and the ban treaty negotiations. They observed the negotiations, made interventions, held side events and prayer vigils, met with government delegations, sent messages to their governments encouraging them to participate, and educated the public about the importance of the treaty. On September 20, 2017 the Holy See was one of the first states to sign and ratify the treaty, and religious groups have remained central to getting 60 countries (thus far) to sign and 14 to ratify…

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* Photo from https://www.armscontrol.org/sites/default/files/170531_02_Burroughs.jpg.