North Korea appears to have successfully tested a Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb. This terrible step must be condemned by all. Describing the bomb in that way, with reference to Hiroshima, brings home – in the most graphic way possible – the full horror of nuclear weapons. From that one bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, around 200,000 people were killed, from the blast or afterwards from radiation.
It is not clear what North Korea is hoping to achieve by testing a nuclear weapon, but nothing can ever justify such an act, or possession of nuclear weapons. Nothing justifies seeking and keeping the ability to kill millions of people in violation of international law, and against every moral and humane instinct that we have. Nothing justifies the North Korean test. Nothing justifies Britain’s possession and replacement of Trident, with its weapons each eight times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. Or any other nuclear arsenal that exists.
There is much optimism about the current possibilities for nuclear disarmament. Presidents Obama and Medvedev are taking concrete steps on a whole range of related issues. This moment must not be lost, and the momentum that has been building must not be thrown off course. North Korea must go back to the Six Party Talks and complete its disarmament process. The rest of the nuclear weapons states must take rapid steps to adopt a verifiable nuclear weapons convention banning all nukes. Otherwise, further proliferation and actual nuclear use is just a small step away.