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World Peace Eludes, Nuclear Armageddon Looms

Viewpoint by Somar Wijayadasa*

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NEW YORK (IDN) – Lately, we have seen a barrage of international conflicts that have severely undermined the United Nations efforts to maintain peace and security.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May – in total disregard for the noble British norm “innocent until proven guilty” – rushed to accuse Russia of trying to poison the Skripals, and provoked an unprecedented ouster of 151 Russian diplomats from UK, U.S. and EU that the Russians dutifully reciprocated.

May also rushed to blame the Syrian government for an unverified chemical weapons attack, and instigated U.S./UK and France to launch an illegal missile attack on Syria.

Also adding fuel to the fire are: Israel’s indiscriminate violation of Syrian sovereignty on the pretext of Iranian infiltration; the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem that fueled violence on the Israel-Gaza border that has killed over 100 and injured thousands of Palestinians; and the Saudi bombing and embargo on Yemen that starves millions to death.

The uncertainty is further fueled by United States President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear Deal, and the recent cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea Summit. 

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), countries around the world spent $1.7 trillion on arms in 2017 – which for sure will not trigger peace.

A threat to UN’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts

On May 8, Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by Iran, the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany in 2015 – that could have wide ramifications at the regional and global level. 

On July 20, 2015, the UN Security Council by its Resolution 2231 unanimously endorsed the JCPOA. Article 25 of the UN Charter obligates Member States to abide by the Security Council’s decisions.

Therefore, Trump’s decision to unilaterally abrogate the Iran nuclear deal is a violation of International Law especially because the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed that Iran was in total compliance of JCPOA terms.

This not only threatens UN’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts, but also has the potential to seriously damage transatlantic relations.

Later, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo introduced new sanctions on Iran accentuating that those will be the "strongest in history" and will make Tehran battle to "keep its economy alive."

All signatories to the JCPOA lambasted Trump's decision and confirmed their commitment to the agreement. The harshest comments came from the leaders of the UK, France and Germany:

Theresa May: We remain firmly committed to the deal “as the best way of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon”.

Angela Merkel: “Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. to protect us”, and that “Europe must take its destiny in its own hands”.

Jean-Claude Juncker: “Europe should take over the U.S.’ role as a global leader”, and that he intends to activate the 1996 “blocking statute” that would prohibit European companies from complying with any sanctions the U.S. will reintroduce against Iran.

Donald Tusk: “With friends like that who needs enemies?” and that Europe should be grateful to Trump “as he helped the bloc to get rid of illusions”.

Forgetting four years of harsh sanctions against Russia, NATO expansion to Russia’s borders, and relentless 'Russophobia', Merkel and Macron dashed to Moscow to seek Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for the Iranian deal. 

Despite European leaders raucous statements, I am confident that all European partners who blindly follow U.S. orders would abandon Iran and the Iranian Deal. No matter the tough talk, Europe is disunited and unable to face the American political military and economic juggernaut.

Abrogating an international treaty for no valid reason creates the impression that the U.S. is an unreliable ally, and holds out the prospect of scuttling future international deals such as the pending denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Besides, it might serve as a precedent to violate other international treaties. By the same logic, Iran could resume its nuclear weapons program.

On-Off-On historic meeting with North Korea: Deal or Die

On May 24, the day North Korea destroyed its only known nuclear test site, Trump called off the much-anticipated U.S.-North Korea summit saying that North Korea has displayed “tremendous anger and open hostility”.

In his hasty letter to Kim Jong-un – with affable compliments and invitation for future talks – Trump once gain proved his freakish ability to browbeat by inserting another threat: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

Expectations are now high that the on-off-on meeting would indeed take place. Nonetheless, there are several factors that may have overwhelmed the North Korean regime.

Firstly, while preparing for the historic summit, it was grossly inconsiderate to hold provocative U.S.-South Korean military exercises that involved about 100 warplanes from the U.S. and South Korea, including eight F-22 stealth fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers.

For North Koreans, U.S. bombers provoke painful memories of the devastating 1950-53 Korean War during which the U.S. carpet-bombed the country – just as the U.S. did in Laos and Vietnam.

According to U.S. air force estimates, bombing raids by B-29 bombers caused more damage to North Korea’s urban centers during that conflict than that seen in Germany or Japan during the Second World War, with the U.S. dumping 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea compared with 503,000 tons during the entire Pacific war.

Secondly, since the Korean War ended with an armistice – not a peace treaty – the two countries have been technically at war for the past 64 years.

Thirdly, the U.S. demand for “The complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” has been anathema to North Korea.

Kim may eventually agree to a gradual and phased denuclearization process ONLY if he receives credible security and economic guarantees – that can only be provided by North Korea’s immediate neighbors Russia and China as providers of that guarantee.

Fourthly, and perhaps what derailed the Summit was when the U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton, invoked the “Libyan Model” insisting that the Korean regime hand over all its nuclear weapons and production equipment before receiving any benefits.

In the “Libyan Model”, Gaddafi (who had no chemical weapons) gave up his chemical and biological weapons in 2003. In 2012, Gaddafi was overthrown after a NATO backed insurrection, and was brutally killed and paraded by his opponents.

Later, Trump and Mike Pence threatened Kim that if he refuses to make a deal he could face the same fate as Gaddafi. Invoking a brutal murder is not an inducement for peace talks.

In this atmosphere of U.S.’s past credibility (and, now the unilateral abrogation of the Iranian Nuclear Deal), it would be suicidal for Kim to dismantle his proven nuclear arsenal, which is crucial to his survival in power.

Only the six-party negotiations (the UN Security Council, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and North Korea) would be able to convince all parties to: comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions; ban the joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea; pull out 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea; remove the U.S.'s so-called "nuclear umbrella" security commitment to South Korea and Japan; remove the THAAD missiles from South Korea; and the signing of long-overdue Peace Treaty between the two Koreas.

North Korea on its part should re-enter the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and provide necessary guarantees that North Korea’s nuclear program is inactive. 

Denuclearization alone may not lead to total peace in the Korean Peninsula until and unless all of the above impediments are removed. As for now, Kim remains a wildcard, and as Trump often says “We’ll see what happens”.

Instead of intimidating with annihilation, and hastily clamoring to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the only way to solve the current crises of Iran and North Korea, and to enjoy a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons is for all countries to rally around the United Nations, and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in July 2017, which is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons.

Or, is Trump essentially interested in landing the Nobel Peace prize via a hasty Korean peace deal, as the The Guardian suspects in its Editorial: “Donald Trump’s meeting was all about grabbing plaudits for his over-sized ego rather than a serious effort to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.”

*Somar Wijayadasa, an International lawyer was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 May 2018]

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IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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