North Korea and the Nuclear Crisis

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Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Politics / 18 January 2018


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For months now, global public opinion has been living in fear of a possible nuclear war; a fear at times irresponsibly amplified by both the media and the continuous threats of war and mutual insults launched by the two protagonists of the moment, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

There are no precedents in recent history for such exchanges, or rather ad hominem insults. In the years of the Cold War, even at the most critical moments, the political clash between the two superpowers (U.S. and USSR) was mediated by the correctness of diplomatic form (the rest, including personal attacks, was left to the party newspapers and the various news agencies). In this way many occasions for conflict – including nuclear conflict – were avoided, like the famous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, where in order to ensure peace, even Pope John XXIII was asked to mediate.

The great fear is that the war of words could gradually lead to nuclear war. Both rivals have recently made shows of force: North Korea has expanded the number of missile launches and nuclear tests of increasingly more powerful weapons; meanwhile the United States has sent various naval and air units to the Pacific. This has led to a further increase of tensions. At this point the big risk is that a nuclear conflict could be triggered by either an erroneous assessment of the facts or an accident due to human error.

 The hard work of parallel diplomacy

While Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un exchange concrete threats of atomic war, U.S. and North Korean diplomats continue to meet prudently and carefully at the United Nations in New York, according to the U.S. magazine The Atlantic.[1] The hope is to lay the groundwork for formal negotiations between the two powers in the future, to reach an agreement on the controversial issues, and interrupt the dangerous escalation that could lead to a disastrous nuclear war. It is a question that has kept the international community on edge for months now.

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