Originally issued October 10, 2006.

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, condemns the nuclear test explosion conducted by North Korea on October 9 and reaffirms its longstanding call for a comprehensive end to the scourge of nuclear weapons. As followers of the nonviolent Christ, and adherents to the social teachings of the Catholic faith, Pax Christi believes that nuclear weapons represent the essence of evil in our world and condemns unequivocally all development, testing, possession and deployment of these horrendous weapons by all nations.

The test by North Korea underscores the failure of U.S. leadership in dealing with the growing problem of nuclear proliferation as well as the ongoing failure of U.S. compliance with its own commitments to eliminate its arsenal under Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty. That commitment was affirmed in 1996 by the International Court of Justice when it stated unambiguously: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament.”

Pax Christi USA believes that the testing of a nuclear device by North Korea, as well as the growing tensions over Iranian nuclear developments must be addressed through direct bi-lateral discussions between the United States and these nations. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has instead chosen to pursue a confrontational approach with both countries, labeling each a member the so-called “axis of evil,” rejecting repeated calls for direct discussions, calling for regime change and pursuing a policy of belligerent neglect rather than constructive engagement.

While the North Korean test presents a real challenge to the international community, it does not at this time pose an imminent threat and should not be characterized as such. A military response to this development would be ill-conceived and potentially catastrophic. Real leadership is needed at this time; beginning with the acknowledgement that either all nations must give up their right to possess these weapons or all nations will claim that right. Put differently, we must move to a nuclear-weapons-free-world or we will face a nuclear-weapons-free-for-all. Already, the North Korean test is being used to justify further nuclearization in the region, with calls for Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons of their own.

The United States, which continues to maintain more than 5,000 nuclear weapons, must offer effective leadership, starting by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rejected by the Senate in 1999 and abandoned by the Bush Administration thereafter. The U.S. must enter into direct, bilateral negotiations with North Korea and Iran to address the range of concerns legitimately held by all three nations. Finally, the U.S. must abandon its ongoing reliance on nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of U.S. strategic security. That reliance, explicitly stated in the National Security Policy of the United States, undermines the authority of U.S. calls for other nations to give up their nuclear ambitions and weakens U.S. efforts at nonproliferation worldwide.

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