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North Korea Weren’t Kidding: Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights Abuses

While you were sleeping last night, North Korea tested another nuclear weapon. North Korea said, “The test was to defend our country’s safety and sovereignty against the US’s aggressive behaviour that infringed upon our republic’s lawful right to peacefully launch a satellite.”

North Korea hasn’t yet figured out how to put one of their bombs into a ballistic missile, and so at the moment they are several years off having the technology to destroy a neighbouring global metropolis. But there remains cause for concern.

North Korea is a country that can’t afford to feed its own people, relying on foreign supplies since the mid-90s. Last year comments were made at a US Senate committee that in the light of the worsening famine in North Korea, the US was discussing increasing food aid. But only on the condition that North Korea ended their nuclear program. China, who have historically been North Korea’s only friend – and supply 90% of North Korea’s fuel and energy – are likewise concerned with North Korea’s nuclear activity: the newspaper Global Post recently indicated China might reduce aid to North Korea if they carried out more nuclear tests. North Korea is thus risking their lifeline to both food and power by shooting missiles into space.

VICE points out that this recklessness can be seen as a way for North Korea to maintain power domestically, and “propagate its ruling ideology, which legitimizes and glorifies the regime in its current form.” The problem is that all their grandstanding is increasingly frustrating the global community, and demonstrating the irrationality of the North Korean government. Generally speaking, nobody likes irrational groups of people having nuclear capabilities.

In December, the Sydney Opera House hosted a talk by Geoffrey Robertson – arguably the world’s most famous human rights lawyer – who spoke on human rights and nuclear weapons. In his talk, Robertson outlined the reasons why he believes the world should call the construction and use of nuclear weapons a human rights atrocity. While Robertson is most concerned with Iran, his arguments also pertain to North Korea. The danger is that weapons capable of causing catastrophe may fall into the hands of “malevolent regimes which seek to gird their loins for Armageddon”.  Robertson advises making the acquisition of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity, and that North Korea should be one of the first to disarm.

“I suppose,” he says, “it would be wonderful to envisage a ceremony in about 2035 in which Grandfather Obama and Putin in a wheelchair would be there and the last nukes in the arsenals of America and Russia were dismantled. But that’s a long way off and there’s a lot of work to be done. And it may be that the world will only see sense if, in this new climate of proliferation, there’s an accident or an incident or a war.”

Watch the talk here.