Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS University of London dp27@soas.ac.uk

SCRAP Needs You

Written by David Franco, alumnus of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London, and former SCRAP Project Co-ordinator from 2011 to 2012.

If, in 2010, someone had predicted that in less than a decade the world would have adopted an arms trade treaty and a global ban on nuclear weapons, many critics would have dismissed them as being unrealistic. Yet that is precisely what has happened, demonstrating that human drive and a commitment to world stability and humanitarianism can trump self-interest and bridge the gap between aspirations and reality.

When I worked on the SCRAP project between 2011 and 2012, our strategy consisted of coalescing with like-minded disarmament platforms, including the small arms and humanitarian movements, to reinvigorate the stalled global disarmament agenda. Building on the successes of the 1980s and 1990s in the areas of conventional and weapons of mass destruction disarmament and arms control, we drafted and took a proposal to the United Nations advocating for the adoption of an internationally legally-binding agreement on general and complete disarmament.


The idea of general and complete disarmament is not founded on illusion or delusion, but on the realist certainty that the absence of such an aspiration, and its practical applications, exposes the world to disaster and injustice. Fortunately, many people are ready to commit and spend time and effort pursuing this objective. Thanks to the work of post-graduate and doctoral students and volunteers at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the SCRAP flame continues to burn vigorously, showing us the path to a more stable world. From digital campaigns and advocacy activity in international fora, through to academic research and publications, the SCRAP project marches on.


In the current environment, where multilateral diplomacy, international institutions and global stability are under attack, and where the international order is sliding dangerously back to a zero-sum game, pursuing a global disarmament agenda is more critical than ever. Disarmament is not a fairy tale nor a theoretical ideal. It is a practical paradigm aimed at moving weapons out of security agendas by scaling back and ultimately removing weapons of mass destruction and controlling conventional weapons. That is precisely what SCRAP proposes, and that is also what the UN is committed to pursuing with its recently launched disarmament agenda Securing Our Common Future

 

The road will be long and there will be setbacks. We may even see the return of great power conflict: a prospect that is infinitely more likely if disarmament is ignored. Skeptics and opponents will criticise and try to undermine the movement, but that has always been the case throughout history. Our challenge rests in building on the recent successes and expanding the movement to incorporate those who have been hesitant to support this work. 

Often would-be supporters ask why SCRAP advocates for general and complete disarmament instead of nuclear disarmament or the removal of small arms or land mines. The hyper destructive nature of nuclear weapons and their threat to humanity as a whole has meant nuclear disarmament movements have attracted large numbers of supporters. Similarly, civil society can relate more easily to the threat that the illegal arms trade poses to unstable nations experiencing civil conflict or the indiscriminate nature of land mines. A holistic approach to disarmament appears too daunting or unrealistic to many, yet it is critical given that weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms often feed each other.


The SCRAP team and anyone working in disarmament have a challenging road ahead, yet the personal and collective reward is incalculable. We must also recognize how far we have already come. Six years ago, we did not have an arms trade treaty, a global ban on nuclear weapons or a clearly delineated and UN-sanctioned disarmament agenda. We do not know what the future holds but if world powers, international organisations, academia and civil society at large do not take disarmament seriously, we will all pay the price. The SCRAP team knows it. We all know it. It’s time we all turned that knowledge into tangible action.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki : The Legacy of Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament

Written by Alexandra MacAulay Abdelwahab, MA International Studies and Diplomacy Student at SOAS University of London and social media and public engagement coordinator for SCRAP.

It’s been 73 years this week since the United States detonated atomic bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during the final stages of World War II. The bombings happened on the mornings of 6th and 9th August, 1945 respectively. Today, they remain the only use of nuclear weapons in war. However, as the potential for a new nuclear arms-race grows, we cannot forget the real-life consequences of using these weapons.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Like today, 6 August 1945 was a Monday, and so while most industrial workers had already reported to work, many other workers, as well as almost all school children were out in the open when the first bomb, a uranium gun-type bomb known as ‘Little Boy’, went off at 8:15 a.m. devastating the city. The bomb caused a blinding white flash, followed by a fire-storm and then a tremendous blast. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people, about 30 per cent of the city’s population, died instantly, while another 70,000 to 80,000 people were injured. Nearly 70 per cent of the buildings were destroyed. Over the next few months, the number of dead would rise to an estimated 140,000 in the city. Since then, many survivors faced leukaemia and other cancers as well as other side effects from the radiation.

Setsuko Thurlow, a hibakusha or survivor of the atomic bomb, painted a vivid picture of the destruction in Hiroshima during her speech on behalf of ICAN at the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Thurlow was 13-years-old during the bombing but still remembers the destruction:

‘At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window. I remember having the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the silence and darkness, I found myself pinned by the collapsed building. I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries: “Mother, help me. God, help me.”

Then, suddenly, I felt hands touching my left shoulder, and heard a man saying: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! I am trying to free you. See the light coming through that opening? Crawl towards it as quickly as you can.” As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire. Most of my classmates in that building were burned to death alive. I saw all around me utter, unimaginable devastation.’ (You can read the transcript of her speech and watch the ceremony here.)

Three days later, a second bomb, a plutonium implosion-type bomb known as ‘Fat Man’, was detonated over Nagasaki at 11:02 a.m. killing at least 35,000 to 40,000 people instantly, and a further 35,000 to 40,000 people over the next several months as a result of burns, radiation sickness, other injuries, and malnutrition.

Personal effects from victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Personal effects left behind by victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on display at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, as part of the ‘Ban the Bomb’ exhibit. The items include a knapsack that belonged to Yukitoshi Masuda, a 13-year-old student killed in Hiroshima, a lunchbox that belonged to another student, Yuso Ikula, also killed in Hiroshima, a rosary and a wristwatch each found in the ruins of houses in Nagasaki. The watch stopped at exactly 11:02 a.m. and 1945, including from a 13- knapsack, a lunch box, a rosary and a wrist watch that stopped at exactly 11:02, the time the atomic dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Photographed by: Alexandra MacAulay Abdelwahab, MA International Studies and Diplomacy student at SOAS, University of London and SCRAP social media and public engagement coordinator.

Never Again: A Timeline

In the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the world vowed never again to repeat the horrors of the bombings. In 1946, the first resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly established a commission tasked with eliminating nuclear weapons and ensuring the use of atomic energy only for peaceful purposes.

As tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified in the years after World War II, fears of an unwinnable nuclear war led the United Nations General Assembly to unanimously pass resolution 1378 in 1959, which called for general and complete disarmament, describing it as the most important question in the world today.

Then in 1961, the McCloy-Zorin joint statement between the United States and Soviet Union set out a number of principles for a general and complete disarmament agreement. As Bolton (2016, p. 7) describes the UN General Assembly, endorsed this statement and created a disarmament committee, which later evolved into the conference on disarmament. However, these efforts soon stalled with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Throughout the 1960s, smaller states continued to push for nuclear disarmament, which lead to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1967, as well as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968, in which non-nuclear weapon states promised never to undertake to develop or receive nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapon states promised to disarm. As Article IV states: ‘Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.’

Now 50 years later, overall discussions of general and complete disarmament have stalled and frustration over the lack of progress on disarmament by nuclear-weapon states led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations General Assembly on 7 July 2017. The treaty will come into force once 50 states have ratified or acceded to it.

Yet, nuclear disarmament is unlikely if states believe it will make them vulnerable to conventional attacks. Similarly, states will not undertake conventional disarmament so long as nuclear weapons exist. With this reality in mind, SCRAP has proposed a framework for general and complete disarmament that bypasses real and diplomatic obstacles to disarmament. Our aim is to reinvigorate the global discussion.

Securing Our Common Future

On 24 May 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced his disarmament agenda. In it, he pointed out that the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki are considered low-yield today. In fact, some nuclear weapons today are estimated to be 3,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped over Hiroshima. An estimated 15,000 nuclear bombs remain stockpiled in nine countries (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea).

According to the report, there is ‘widespread perception that progress towards nuclear disarmament has stalled and there are troubling signs that the nuclear agenda is now moving in the wrong direction’ (16-17). So it outlines a number of action plans for resuming dialogue, extending norms against nuclear weapons and preparing for a world without nuclear weapons. As Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS University of London explained, the ‘inspiring, visionary document’ was developed after extensive consultations with both governments and civil society. You can read a summary of all the report’s action plans here.

Discussions around implementing this agenda are happening in Geneva this month and next month and SCRAP will be attending the meetings. You can find out more details on our event page.

WATCH: Interview with Dr. Dan Plesch on Truthloader

This is an older interview but many of the themes are still relevant today. In August 2014, Dr. Dan Plesch sat down with Truthloader to talk about the possibility of World War III. The interview is split into three parts. Give them a listen below.

Nuclear disarmament is crucial for global security – it shouldn’t have to wait

Dan Plesch, SOAS, University of London

A network of global institutions were created in 1945 to try and avert another global conflict. They have been gradually undermined over the last 20 years, and now we see them being trashed wholesale. The world leaders responsible are perhaps best described by General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove: “They have neither the time nor inclination for strategic thought.” The latest round of top-level summits and meetings have duly been coloured by a very real fear of war – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

This year’s NATO Summit and the upcoming Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki present the best opportunities in years for today’s leaders to emulate their more distinguished predecessors, who understood that disarmament and arms control were prerequisites for the enhancement of national security and international stability.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, NATO Summit declarations were full of debate on arms control and disarmament. And back in 1986, the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik resulted in one of the greatest disarmament achievements of the last century: the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which helped dramatically reduce US-Soviet tensions in Europe. But this year’s NATO summit began with an openly acrimonious exchange over the allies’ relative defence spending, and the US and Russia have both threatened to withdraw from the INF altogether.

Outside of the North Korea-US talks, disarmament and nuclear arms control are all but left out of today’s high-level summits. All the while, the global arms control architecture is falling apart, global military expenditure is at its highest since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the potential nuclear flashpoints in Europe, the Middle East and the South China Sea are multiplying. In a climate like this, what hope is there for eliminating the nuclear threat altogether?

Another way

The challenge has been taken up by the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, who recently issued a document entitled Securing Our Common Future. This is an inspiring, visionary document produced after extensive consultations with governments and civil society. For those with no prior knowledge but now seeking less military solutions to global and regional problems, it’s an introduction and a handbook to the hows and whys of disarmament – a rough guide to world peace, if you will.

In clear terms, Guterres surveys the potential for world disarmament, everything from “hand grenades to hydrogen bombs”. He argues that the instability and dangers in international affairs should provide an impetus for disarmament – a direct challenge to the five nuclear-armed members of the UN Security Council, who typically argue that peace should be established before disarmament can be seriously entertained.

To tackle this line of thinking, Guterres poses a simple question: do the leaders of the nuclear powers agree with Reagan and Gorbachev that nuclear war by definition cannot be won, and therefore must not be fought?

Guterres’ agenda could not be more timely, and never has the UN secretariat produced such a substantive document on disarmament. If the whole of the UN infrastructure integrated disarmament into its work with the support of its member states, that could change the game profoundly. But will the member states heed Guterres’s call? Will civil and political society rally to his banner, or simply remain on the sidelines and wring their hands while nothing is done?

A rusty toolbox

Some critics point to the Guterres plan’s lack of detailed technical action points, and many will hesitate to accept its ambition to be truly comprehensive. But it should be understood as a rallying cry, an attempt to bring together different constituencies which don’t usually work together.

Missing this opportunity will further reinforce the status quo – and that in turn might have dire consequences. It’s hard to think of a scenario where the militarisation of international relations contributes to stablity and security rather than making the world less safe.

Guterres’s agenda is a handbook for those who want to find a way out of the gathering chaos. Disarmament progress in tense geopolitical times is not impossible. In previous times of crisis, rival superpowers have taken steps to reduce arsenals, increase transparency, lower alert levels and mitigate risks. If today’s major players wait indefinitely for security conditions to be “ripe” before pursuing disarmament and arms control, the resulting lack of dialogue will only make the climate worse.

Disarmament talks need not start from scratch. Many of the tools are tried and tested, and have simply fallen out of use, with past agreements long overdue for implementation and negotiations on strategic arms stalled. If nations fail to honour their existing commitments, they will not only put the entire disarmament and arms control regime at risk, but also damage the mechanisms designed to defuse tensions and foster dialogue on sensitive security issues.

It’s time to return to the common ground on which we stood in the past, the ground where world-changing multilateral and bilateral treaties were struck. Notwithstanding the events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the UN-sanctioned inspection regimes provide a sound technical blueprint for verified elimination of weapons of mass destruction. The OSCE’s various agreements, confidence- and security-building measures, and “open skies” regime provide an institutional platform for the exchange of information, verification and regulation of conventional weaponry.

The ConversationWhile they certainly need updating, the precision tools needed for disarmament and conventional arms control are readily available. What’s needed now is the political impetus to use them. The Guterres agenda offers an optimistic way forward at a deeply pessimistic moment; it must be taken seriously.

Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS, University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The summit strategy we really need

Written by Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS University of London and Kevin Miletic (PhD Candidate and Project Manager, CISD)

Fear of war looms in the background of the latest round of presidential meetings. At a time when Stanley Kubrick’s General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove seems an apt description for the behaviour of world leaders: ‘Politicians have neither the time nor the inclination for strategic thought’­, the political world either supports an increasingly militarised approach, or is left directionless, with an aspiration for peace and security undermined by lack of a guide to the intimidating world of acronyms and military technologies.

The NATO Summit and subsequent Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki present the best opportunity for leaders to emulate predecessors who understood disarmament and arms control were pre-requisites for national security and international stability. At the height of the Cold War, the NATO Summits of the 1980s were full of debates on arms control and disarmament. Recently, there has not been such focus.

Back in 1986, a presidential summit in Reykjavik resulted in one of the greatest disarmament achievements of the last century: the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which dramatically decreased tensions in European. Now, both the US and Russia are threatening to withdraw from it.

If disarmament and arms control continues to be disregarded in high-level talks, do we see a soft landing for regional and global crises without dialogue?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ Securing Our Common Future may be the strategy we need. You could call it a ‘rough guide’ to world peace. It is a visionary document produced after extensive consultations with governments and civil society that surveys the potential for general and complete disarmament from ‘hand grenades to hydrogen bombs’.

Never before has the UN Secretariat produced such a substantive document on disarmament. Having the whole of the UN integrate disarmament perspectives into their work, with support of Member States, could be a game changer.

While critics highlight the lack of detailed action points on technical issues, the document is meant to foster momentum for disarmament efforts of all sorts and could create synergies among different constituencies that do not usually work together.

Directly challenging the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Guterres argues instability and danger in international affairs provide additional incentives for disarmament. To spotlight how bad things have gotten, he offers a question: Do the leaders of the nuclear-armed states support the joint statement by Reagan and Gorbachev that nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought? For it seems today none of the nuclear-armed states are willing to say this. Rather, all except China declare they are ready and willing to turn a war into a nuclear war.

The agenda reminds us that reducing arsenals, increasing transparency, lowering alert levels and mitigating risks have promoted stability in times of crisis. Furthermore, disarmament talks do not need to start from scratch. The tools at our disposal provide tried and tested practical measures to effectively manage a broad range of disarmament issues.

It is worth revisiting the common ground of the past, which led to multilateral and bilateral treaties. Notwithstanding the highly politically controversial nature of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the UN-sanctioned WMD inspection regimes provide a sound technical blueprint for verified elimination of WMDs.

Similarly, the OSCE agreements on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the associated confidence- and security-building measures and open-skies regime provide an institutional platform for the exchange of information, verification and regulation of conventional weaponry.

While both certainly need updating, these agreements offer precision tools for WMD disarmament and conventional arms control.

Read more: We summarised Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament.

Reconciling National Security with General and Complete Disarmament

SCRAP was recently mentioned in a new paper by Marc Finaud, an expert from the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), titled Reconciling National Security with General and Complete Disarmament.”

Finaud was invited by the Permanent Representative of Belarus, Ambassador Yuri Ambrazevich, coordinator of Subsidiary Body 5 of the Conference on Disarmament to present the paper on 21 June 2018.

The paper follows up on United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ Agenda for Disarmament released last month.

In his paper, Finaud outlines several benefits of general and complete disarmament (GCD), including offering a holistic view of all categories of weapons, either current or potential, and their relationships to each other.

He concludes that a GCD approach would ensure all states have defensive capabilities ‘at the lowest possible level of armaments’.

The paper is only four pages and is definitely worth a read. You can click on the link above to download a PDF version.

40 Acts to Save the World : Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament

WATCH: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres introduces his disarmament agenda.

We’ve summarised the Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament report released last month by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Office for Disarmament Affairs.

In the report, Guterres sets out a comprehensive framework for general and complete disarmament that places it at the centre of the United Nations’ work. It includes practical measures for disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms and future weapons technologies.

Here are all the action points highlighted in the report:

DISARMAMENT TO SAVE HUMANITY

Read More

UN Secretary General disarmament report a comprehensive agenda for disarmament

On 24th May, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres released his new agenda for general and complete disarmament at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, which included a plan to control and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons and new battlefield technologies.

The report includes a commitment by the Secretary-General to boost nuclear disarmament discussions together with Member States in three specific areas: resuming dialogue and negotiations for nuclear arms control and disarmament, extending norms against nuclear weapons and their proliferation and preparing for a world without nuclear weapons, including by encouraging states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, enhancing nuclear-weapons free zones.

The report also promises to work to ensure the norm against the use of chemical and biological weapons remains, including by creating a new, impartial mechanism to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

In the field of conventional weapons, planned actions include: establishing a facility to support governments in tackling small arms and light weapons, as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing armed violence and the diversion of weapons, and promoting more effective State and regional action on excessive and poorly maintained stockpiles.

The report also includes actions to prevent the emergence of new weapons technologies, including through ensuring the security and sustainability of activities in outer space, reigning in destabilizing strategic weapons.

Read the Report – Securing our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament 

Briefing by Dr Dan Plesch at NPT PrepCom 2018 on ‘Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?’

Fear of world war has crept back with alarming swings in the political mood.   Crises and hopes on the Korean peninsula and the NPT talks  in Geneva will be followed this month by the UN Secretary General’s new disarmament initiative, President Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear agreement, and the Pentagon’s latest missile defense strategy

Dr Dan Plesch presented his disarmament research at the NPT PrepCom 2018 in three presentations.

On the first panel organised by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, he joined Fabian Hamilton MP, the UK Labour Party disarmament spokesman (photo) to discuss CISD’s project scrapweapons.com with the International Parliamentary Union.

On the second panel organised by Western States Legal Foundation, he gave a briefing on US conventional military strength and addressed the question of his latest “The Conversation” article Could the US win WW3 without using nuclear weapons? .

“In analysing crises and the risk of war, there is a destabilising trend to overestimate US adversaries and underestimate the US military, which may even be able to disable Russian nuclear forces without using America’s own nuclear forces; and the US outclasses all other potential adversaries. Fortunately, the tested Cold War arms control agreements provide prototypes for global security.” said Dr Plesch who leads the www.scrapweapons.com project at SOAS.

On the third panel organised by Western States Legal Foundation, he discussed the tradition of Southern leadership on disarmament at the UN.

Link to Dr Plesch’s article “Could the US win WW3 without using nuclear weapons” in The Conversation – https://theconversation.com/could-the-us-win-world-war-iii-without-using-nuclear-weapons-94771

Prospects for Arms Control in North-East Asia

By Sid Bagri, MA Candidate, Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy, SOAS University of London and SCRAP student Ambassador.

The world is currently inching towards a precipice. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have put Asian security in a precarious position and it risks dragging in other world powers that also have a stake in the region, such as the United States. This state of affairs bears an uncanny resemblance to the Security Dilemma, which dictates that a state seeking to build up its military power in order to consolidate its security inevitably makes surrounding states less secure. This encourages other states to increase their military power as well, which in turn leads the original state to continue doing the same, culminating in an arms race that makes everyone more vulnerable. This is essentially what is happening in North East Asia. For decades the North Korean regime has seen America’s military presence in South Korea and Japan as a threat to its security, despite the fact that they are primarily there as a protective force (Gilsinan 2017). This would suggest that North Korea pursued nuclear weapons in order to increase its own security, but having a nuclear armed state like North Korea, which has repeatedly threatened to bomb both South Korea and the United States, has lowered security for everyone else, resulting in the situation today (BBC, 2015).

Many notable figures in the past have tried to reduce tensions and decrease North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. One of the earlier efforts was led by the American President Bill Clinton in 1994. In exchange for North Korea discontinuing its plutonium reactors, America would help the North build light-water reactors and supply the North with fuel oil in order to, theoretically, make up for the loss, despite the fact that the reactors were intended to create nuclear weapons and were not connected to the power grid (Kessler 2017). However, American intelligence discovered that North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons through enriched uranium. When confronted with this issue, the North confirmed it, leading the Bush administration to cut off the oil flow and abandon the construction of the reactors, which were far behind schedule (Kessler 2017). The “Agreed Framework,” as it was known, had broken down. A new approach was tried with the Six-Party Talks in 2003, which included North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and America. By this time, North Korea had left the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and would soon realize their goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, which likely happened around 2006. The six rounds of talks did not produce much progress, but it did result in a breakthrough where North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons and dismantle its program and the parties agreed on a number of steps to implement this process (Davenport 2017). Unfortunately, the steps were never implemented and North Korea continued to improve its nuclear capabilities. The failure of these past approaches means that a new one must be considered, and to get an idea of what a more effective approach would look like, one should look to the Cold War.

One of the most innovative approaches used to manage tensions during the Cold War was the Hotline Agreement created in 1963 shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis revealed the necessity for direct communication between the Soviet Union and the United States and it became a concrete recognition of the perils of nuclear war (State Department). A direct communication link between the United States and North Korea today may not be a bad idea. One already exists between North and South Korea and it was established for similar reasons. The hotline had been essentially defunct since 2016, but in January South Korean officials made a call, to which the North stated that they had nothing to report (McCurry, 2018). Even a simple exchange such as this can have the effect of dampening tensions, even if it is temporary. Of course, in order for this to be plausible, America first must agree to engage diplomatically with North Korea on some level. One of the most straightforward ways of ending the uncertainty surrounding the current situation is to provide the option of direct communication between both heads of state, even though both the US President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un are decidedly less rational than John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were. Trump’s infamous temperament may get the better of him if he were to speak with the North Korean leader directly, and Kim Jong-Un’s paranoia may not be placated by hearing the bluster of an adversary. However, the current situation does not offer a path to peace. North Korea can now legitimately threaten American cities in Guam and Hawaii, and Donald Trump’s insulting monikers such as “Rocket Man” have won him no favors (The Economist 2018). To make matters worse, the American government is considering military options against the North. Any sort of pre-emptive strike would be seen by Kim Jong-Un as a prelude to invasion, and would likely spark a war on the Korean peninsula (Jervis 2018). A hotline between America and North Korea would be risky but it would provide the opportunity to clear misunderstandings between the two countries and it would at least show that America is willing to extend a hand to the North. Also, it appears that North Korea has made attempts to ease some tension in recent months. In November of last year, North Korea tested some new missiles but followed up with a statement expressing its desire to be a responsible nuclear power and that it would not threaten any other country as long as its rights were not infringed (The Economist 2017). This could be a signal that North Korea can be reasoned with and does not wish for war. Donald Trump also values personal relationships a great deal, and having direct contact with Kim Jong-Un could provide a way to develop a personal relationship. The current path of bluster and disengagement has the potential to be catastrophic. Almost any other approach would be preferable.

When the Cold War ended in the early 1990’s, European nations signed several treaties, such as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, and the Vienna Document, with the intention of limiting armed forces each nation could deploy and reduce the risk of war. Each of these treaties were specifically designed to work in a European context which is why they have been largely successful, but that does not mean certain aspects of them cannot be applied to places like Northeast Asia. The Vienna Document of 1990 was constructed for the purpose of military transparency and one requirement in particular can be plausibly applied to Northeast Asia. States involved must notify each other about major military activities ahead of time and they may invite other states to observe certain military activities (OSCE 1990). In Europe, this is a politically binding agreement that works well because most of the countries there are allies. It has also worked with countries such as Russia which has not been a traditional European ally, proving that even adversaries can cooperate on pressing military issues. Most countries in Asia see each other more as rivals than as allies which could make this recommendation difficult to sell, and of course it would have to be non-binding. However, tensions have been rising in Northeast Asia for several years and providing countries with an opportunity to reduce these tensions voluntarily may be appealing. No one in the region wants a war, and all want to be seen to be promoting security rather than threatening it. This logic could be used to help support this recommendation.

The Paris Charter of 1990 also possesses certain aspects that could be applicable to Northeast Asia. Its emphasis on economic integration would be the most effective aspect to recommend, especially since much of that is already happening (OSCE 1990). The most difficult part would be the question of how much North Korea should be integrated into the regional, and by extension, world economy. An easing of sanctions and slightly looser rules on who can trade with North Korea would provide a signal that the world is at least willing to tolerate the Kim regime, and a greater openness could open North Korea to a greater level of scrutiny in case they do not remain peaceful. Unfortunately, it is difficult to imagine any other aspects from the charter that could be of use. Emphasizing a common culture in Asia is possible and has a basis in history, but the nationalist governments currently ruling much of Asia would likely twist this narrative for subversive purposes. China has been indoctrinating its youth with what they call a “patriotic education” and Japan has rewritten textbooks to fit its own cultural and historical narrative (Cain 2017). It would also be difficult to promote understanding among the youth for these same reasons. Putting an emphasis on common values would also be inadvisable since each country in Northeast Asia has a different political system. Japan, South Korea, and America are all liberal democracies that value concepts such as individual and human rights. China is an authoritarian technocratic country that more or less rejects both of these, and North Korea’s totalitarian dictatorship would never allow such concepts to cross its borders. Recommending anything else besides economic integration has the potential to derail any agreement. It is best to craft an approach that would start with something comparatively easy to agree with and then raise the other points depending on how the negotiations progress, a sort of “baby steps” approach.

The core of the CFE would likely be impossible to apply in Northeast Asia. The treaty essentially sets limits on the number of troops and military equipment that could be deployed on European soil with the specific aim of keeping both NATO and the Warsaw Pact from being able to dominate the continent. It also requires both sides to have a degree of transparency when it comes to military affairs (Kimball 2012). It is difficult to imagine that China, which has been increasing its military budget, Japan, which is currently trying to remilitarize, and South Korea, which is still technically at war with the North, would ever agree to limit their own military power. It would also likely be difficult for America, the guarantor of Asian security since the end of World War II, to agree to limit its own military forces in the region. The section of this treaty that could plausibly be recommended would be the issue of transparency. It would be difficult to convince rival powers that they should share more information about their military with each other, but a desire for regional peace could be the key driver for an agreement on this issue. Once again, a “baby steps” approach could work here. For example, Northeast Asian countries could start with providing more information on a smaller issue such as military budgets and once tensions begin to decrease, they could agree to go a few steps further. Building trust in today’s political climate will be extremely difficult, but considering the alternative, it is the only plausible way to start walking back from the brink.

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