The time has long come for some clear thinking about the North Korean military threat. But, of course, it is not the only military threat in the area. Another is the United States under President Trump. More widely, militarism is a world-wide problem encouraged by the arms trade. Most states have weapons, a visible sign of mistrust of other states and of domestic populations. Wars are often about the existence of these weapons and their destructive power around the globe is immense, causing grief, poverty, masses of refugees and the destruction of property and infrastructure. Militarism is the biggest failed experiment on the planet, causing perhaps 10% of total global warming, yet the big problem is rarely addressed. North Korea is a symptom of a bigger problem, but a serious one.
North Korea is now a nuclear crisis. The regime is testing nuclear weapons and missiles. We note nuclear tests have already killed an estimated 60 million world-wide through cancer. But now it seems there is a direct nuclear threat in the hands of a dictator who might use them.
It is time Christianity, espoused by well over two billion of the world’s population, made its contribution to world politics and to the increasing militarism around the world. Its principles and perspective should be there in the arena of world affairs. Sadly, Donald Trump has not undertaken any Christian thought beyond kindergarten and is completely unequipped to make any contribution.
There are three basic principles. Christianity sits under God’s commandment not to murder. Christ requires us to love our enemies, and we are to be peacemakers. Now we have threats, the building of hate and misunderstanding and war preparation. We are travelling exactly in the wrong direction, and need a rethink in the light of these Christian principles.
Christ deconstructed fear and trauma. Let us think in a different way. First, let us put North Korea in context. It has an economy half the size of Lancashire and a population which is poor. Second, we can understand that it has remained traumatized since the Korean War, when General MacArthur, had not Eisenhower firmly sacked him, would have happily nuked the North. It needs extracting from that past. Third, the United States and South Korea have undertaken forty years of joint military exercises against North Korea and subjected it to sanctions. As with Cuba, it has tried to make it into a failed state. No love there. Fourth, North Korea has built up its nuclear weapon capability partly through Pakistan, but also by buying bits and pieces from the nuclear and missile industries east and west; we have helped because we have not disarmed and removed the threat under which North Korea cowers. The United States has 9,600 nuclear warheads; it, and we, have killed vast numbers in a unilateral war in Iraq. North Korea can legitimately feel in danger. Finally, the double standard: – We can have nuclear weapons and you cannot – is laughable as well as violating our signing of the Non-Proliferation treaty.
The biggest point remains Christ’s insistence that we love our enemies. If you treat someone, or a state, as an enemy, for forty years, it is likely they will turn out to be an enemy, especially if bullying is involved, but if an enemy is loved and respected, they will grow not to be antipathetic and vindictive. As Christian leaders met after the intense hatred of the Second World War and vowed friendship and an end to conflict and have made European War unthinkable, so friendship and love can mark all international relations. Loving enemies is the basis of all international politics, not the UK’s frequently stated national self-interest, and it involves justice, closing down militarism and making sure that nation speaks peace unto nation. But we have wasted forty years and the danger is intense.
This perspective shows the way ahead. China, not the United States, should be the lead country. Actually, China has had a patient, long-term relationship with North Korea which has neither involved sloppy acceptance of faults nor threatening aggression. It is neighbour and a good neighbour to North Korea, and it also has good relationships with South Korea and very strong trading links. In other words, it is a close by, fair broker between the two regimes, and moreover its trading relationship and size gives it strong leverage. China advocates total nuclear disarmament, is totally against the first use of nuclear weapons, and it could make clear to North Korea that all external aggression is out, given the absence of the United States from immediate engagement with the area. The policy required is therefore the withdrawal of the United States from this situation. At the same time, if North Korea has no threat, it needs, and should have, no nuclear weapons, like the rest of us. Multilateral nuclear disarmament could happen here and begin now.