Nearly 72 years ago - in August 1945 - the US detonated the first nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing over a hundred thousand Japanese civilians in the first four months after the bombs were detonated.
In actuality it was the first use of a weapon of mass destruction on civilian targets. The effects of the bomb killed many thousands within minutes. It completely destroyed the two cities, left thousands suffering from radiation exposure and unborn who would continue to suffer the effects of the destruction wrecked by the two bombs.
According to Huffuingtonpoast.com the bomb dropped over Hiroshima used Uranium-235, while the Nagasaki bomb had Plutonium-239. The half-life of U-235 is 700 million years, while that of Plu-239 is 24,000 years!
The US has been the only country to unleash the devastating power of nuclear weapons on civilian populations. It has still to apologise for the suffering and destruction it caused, neither has it paid compensation to the victims of the atrocity.
On September 15, North Korea carried out yet another missile test over Japan. The missile flew over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and travelled a distance 2,300 miles before crashing into the sea. According to CNN, North Korea has fired22 missiles during 15tests since February this year.
Earlier this month on the 3rd of September to be specific, the newest member of the nuclear club –North Korea- successfully tested a hydrogen bomb underground. Its state-run broadcaster warned the bomb could be loaded onto its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The Japanese fear and anger over the North Korea tests overflying the country is understandable and North Korea’s action deplorable.
Condemnation of the test came fast and swift with the US leading calls for stronger sanctions and demanding Russia and China call the latest member of the ‘club’ to heel, and halt its weapons development programme.
North Korea with its experience during the Korean War, where the US Air Force dropped napalm bombs on parts of that country killing nearly 20% of its population, adamantly refuses to halt its weapons development programme, claiming its weapons of mass destruction are its sole safeguard against a possible future US attacks.
The North Koreans do have a point. They too cannot have forgotten the US atomic bombing of Japan during the closing stages of World War II, that came at a time Japan was on the brink of surrendering.
So, is there a way the world can move away from more countries developing nuclear arsenals and toward nuclear non-proliferation? Yes, there is a remote possibility. A faint light appears to be hovering at the end of the tunnel.
In July this year, more than 70 years after the first and only nuclear weapon was used against civilians, the United Nations (UN) adopted a global treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was approved by 122 nations with only the Netherlands voting against and Singapore abstaining.
In two days time; September 20, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will be open for signatures from all UN members at the sessions of the UN General Assembly.
The ‘Guardian quotes Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Geneva saying “…we banned biological weapons 45 years ago, we banned chemical weapons 25 years ago, and today we are banning nuclear weapons.” Within two years the treaty could have the 50-state ratifications that it needs to enter into international law.
As Finn points out, treaties like the ‘Landmines Treaty’ too did not have the backing of the US and a few other key states, but today they too have aligned themselves to it. It may not happen soon, but it will happen, sometime in the future and the ban on nuclear weapons will become part of international law.
Nuclear-armed nations, US, Britain, France, Israel, India, China, Russia, Pakistan and nations under their protection or hosting weapons boycotted the negotiations. The US angrily criticised the negotiations holding up North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles as a reason for retention of nuclear weapons. Yet, the US is the only country in the world to have calculatedly used nuclear weapons on civilian populations.
The vociferous din it is creating over North Korea’s weapons programme rings hollow when viewed with its own actions.
What the world and its people’s need, is freedom from the threat of a nuclear holocaust. Not the angry trumpeting of slogans such as “all options are on the table…”