I.P.O. Information Service

North Korea Nuclear Weapons Crisis -- Message to World Leaders

Vienna, 14 July 2003//18241c-is

In a message sent to regional and world leaders among them President Bush of the United States, President Hu Jintao of China, President Putin of Russia, Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, Prime Minister Howard of Australia, and the Presidents of North and South Korea, Kim Jong Il and Roh Moo-Hyun , the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), together with other international, regional and national NGOs from all continents has expressed its serious concern about the threat of nuclear war on the Korean peninsula and has called for the adoption of urgent measures to preserve world peace in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The message was signed, among others, by the Mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, on behalf of "Mayors for Peace," representing 547 cities in 107 countries.

The I.P.O., in co-operation with the International Peace Bureau, has initiated the Appeal of Lawyers against Nuclear War (1987).

Following is the text of the joint letter on the North Korea nuclear weapons crisis:


"The undersigned organisations, representing millions of people, are writing to you to urge that a peaceful solution be reached to the problems posed by the possible existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

We believe strongly that talk of military solutions and 'regime change' must be firmly removed from consideration, and a solution arrived at that promotes the well-being and security of all parties on an equal basis, and that contributes to the elimination of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

It must also be borne in mind that whatever the size and capabilities of the nuclear arsenal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), it in no way remotely compares with the 8-12,000 warheads of the US arsenal, the approximately 22,000 warheads of the Russian arsenal, the roughly 400 warheads held by China and France, the 200-400 held by Israel, the 150-200 held by the UK, nor even with the arsenals held by India and Pakistan. The DPRK has from at least 1956, faced the threat of US nuclear weapons and up to 100 tactical nuclear warheads were stationed south of the DMZ until at least 1991.

The desire of the DPRK to defend itself may be understandable. Nonetheless, a DPRK nuclear capability could lead to the early  pursuit of nuclear capabilities by the Republic of Korea, Japan and Taiwan, putting  the global framework of nuclear nonproliferation in grave jeopardy. Further nuclear proliferation must be prevented. A return to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is not at all an empty dream, but a vital necessity.

However it is the strong belief of the undersigned organizations that attempts to use force, sanctions, threats of sanctions, 'regime change', or talk of such measures not only bear no possibility of producing a peaceful and nuclear free Korean Peninsula, but run a real risk of complete catastrophe. Threats of this kind, as the DPRK itself has repeatedly made clear, will induce the DPRK not only to retain and to augment its nuclear arsenal, but may induce it to actually contemplate its use.

Even a conventional war on the Korean Peninsula, which would almost certainly result from military action, would be catastrophic. Some 4 million people are said to have died in the 1950-53 Korean War,  while up to 10 million people are unable to visit families because of the border.  The existence of a large number of nuclear power plants in the Republic of Korea would mean that even a conventional conflict could be catastrophic in its consequences.

The undersigned organisations believe that the only way to solve the proliferation problem is for the US and the other nuclear weapon states to finally make good on their nuclear disarmament commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The double standard regarding their ownership must be eliminated along with the weapons themselves. The ownership of nuclear weapons by the US is in itself the most powerful motivator for a DPRK arsenal, whatever its real capabilities.  It is vital, not only that the DPRK uphold and not withdraw from the NPT, but that the US abide by its NPT obligations.  The US cannot  ask the DPRK to respect the NPT when US plans to develop new nuclear weapons types violate its clear Article VI obligations.

Estimates of DPRK capabilities vary, but it seems reasonable to suggest that if it does not now have at least a rudimentary nuclear arsenal, it soon will have. It is prudent to make the most pessimistic assumptions in assessing the risks of any course of action, and not to assume that DPRK claims are 'bluff'.

Accordingly, we can only conclude that the risk of nuclear weapons actually being used,  is such that military options,  or options that could eventually lead to military options,  should be decisively removed from consideration and be demonstrably taken off the menu of possibilities. In this case even the very contemplation of such options creates a very real risk of a 'pre-preemptive strike'.

We absolutely urge the US administration to desist from the contemplation of military options or of any option that might lead to military action.

We urge the US administration to signal to the DPRK, by its own actions, that it will encourage the DPRK to enter into real engagement with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with Russia and China, and with the US itself, that will lead to an overall reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  The DPRK has asked the US for a nonaggression pact. We believe this is a reasonable request that would lead to a genuine reduction of tensions on the peninsula.

We are firmly of the belief that this is not merely a realistic option, but that it is the only realistic option.

If the US is serious about  discouraging nuclear proliferation worldwide, the single most vital thing it must do is live up to its own obligations under article VI of the NPT, to accomplish the total and unequivocal elimination of its own vast nuclear arsenal.

There is a clear choice:

On the one hand, peace on the Korean Peninsula.

On the other side, a continued increase in tensions, a continued increase in both conventional and nuclear arsenals, and finally a disastrous resort to military action that risks the use of nuclear weapons against Korean, Japanese, or possibly US, cities.

The choice is clear. We urge you to choose peace."

END/2003-07-14/North Korea Nuclear Weapons Crisis/P/RE/18241c-is