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North Korea standoff reminds us that nuclear weapons must never be used
August 18, 2017
This year, PSR members commemorated the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki against the backdrop of a very real risk of nuclear war with North Korea. The escalation of threats from President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un has aggravated nuclear anxieties to levels not seen in decades. PSR encourages our members to take action.
The public's concern over a nuclear war has spiked. Even stories on how to "prepare" for a nuclear attack have pervaded mainstream media. Sales in backyard shelters have shot up, with one Texas-based manufacturer reporting they have quadrupled their sales over the last year.
However, the growing hysteria over "preparing" for nuclear war misses the mark. As health professionals and advocates, it's crucial to reiterate PSR's message that prevention is the only cure. "Duck-and-cover" drills are dangerously misleading in terms of the actual humanitarian impacts expected from nuclear weapons. Further, conservative estimates found that a conventional war drawing in North Korea, South Korea and the United States could produce 500,000 casualties in the region within ninety days. (For comparison, the 1950-1953 Korean War caused 2,859,000 deaths including over 36,500 Americans and 1,600,000 civilians.) A regional war involving nuclear weapons would be catastrophic on a global scale.
The total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only path to safety. No nation should wield the power to indiscriminately kill civilians with weapons of mass destruction. PSR is calling for the United States and North Korea to step back from the brink, cease the incendiary rhetoric, and begin direct negotiations with each other with no preconditions.
Fortunately, many members of Congress have urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to cool down the crisis. Rep. John Conyers gathered 62 signatures from his colleagues on an August 10 letter to Tillerson, advocating steps to defuse the crisis and direct negotiations.
PSR recommends several actions you can take on this issue. Submit a comment to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson using the State Department's web portal. Meet with your Members of Congress while they are on recess through August or see if they are holding Town Hall meetings near you. Ask Members of Congress to cosponsor the Markey-Lieu Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would require Congressional approval before a president could launch a nuclear first strike (H.R. 669 for Representatives, S. 200 for Senators). Please help PSR impress upon national leaders how important it is to step back from the brink and negotiate directly with North Korea.