WASHINGTON – According to several reports published earlier today, North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead designed to fit inside its missiles. Hours after the news broke, President Donald Trump warned that continued threats by North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In reaction to this unfolding crisis, Derek Johnson, the Executive Director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:
“Kim Jong-un’s nuclear capabilities are coming into alignment with his rhetoric. The situation on the Korean peninsula has evolved into a full-blown crisis and the Trump administration needs to immediately come to grips with that. That means putting an end to the President’s escalatory bravado and immediately opening a direct line of communication with Pyongyang, without preconditions. Talking risks nothing; not talking risks everything.
“The public must come to grips with the gravity of this crisis, too. We’ve got two nuclear-armed megalomaniacs facing off and no reason to expect cooler heads will prevail.
“When Trump promises ‘fire and fury,’ remember he has unfettered authority to make good on that threat. The nuclear briefcase follows him everywhere. At any moment he can pick up the phone and order a nuclear strike. The system designed to execute that order was built for blind deference and speed; we shouldn’t pin any hopes on having ‘an adult in the room.’ Neither his subordinates nor Congress can stop him.
“Within minutes of Trump giving the order, nuclear missiles will fire from the submarines that carry them. There will be no calling them back; they’ll reach the Korean peninsula in 15 minutes. Even without a retaliatory strike — which would almost certainly kill tens of thousands of people in the region, including deployed American forces — the death toll would be horrific and far-reaching.
“The potential consequences of a military confrontation between the United States and North Korea can’t be overstated. Every diplomatic effort must be made to avoid any scenario that risks the use of nuclear weapons. The time for crisis talks is now.”
Earlier this summer, Global Zero’s Nuclear Crisis Group released a set of urgent recommendations to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and called on national leaders to act now to reduce the unacceptably high risk of nuclear conflict. The report called for the United States and North Korea to begin immediate discussions, without any preconditions, to reduce the risk of conflict. Full denuclearization through the “Six Party” process, including a freeze on nuclear and missile tests, production of nuclear materials, suspensions of military exercises, and negotiation of a formal peace regime will take time, but must not be allowed to prevent urgently needed discussions to avoid escalation of nuclear risk.