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North Korean war would be ‘catastrophic’ say Church leaders

08 September 2017


Preparing for the worst: a photo released by the South Korean Defence Ministry of ships taking part in naval exercises on Tuesday

Preparing for the worst: a photo released by the South Korean Defence Ministry of ships taking part in naval exercises on Tuesday

CHURCH leaders have warned against the danger of war with North Korea.

All parties must redouble their efforts to find a diplomatic solution, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has said. And Pope Francis has warned of the “long journey ahead”.

They were speaking in the wake of the testing of an underground hydraulic bomb on Sunday, ordered by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, which registered 6.3 on the Richter scale. Satellite images on Wednesday suggest that the blast triggered landslides near the peak of Mount Mantap.

It was reported to be more powerful than the bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War.

The test was condemned by the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, as a “serious breach” of the international obligations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The move undermined “international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts” while profoundly destabilising regional security, he said.

President Trump is under pressure from world leaders to neutralise the escalating nuclear crisis. The United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York that the North Korean leader was “begging for war” and that, while the US did not desire this outcome, its patience was limited.

The Catholic News Service reports that the head of the international justice and peace committee of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Rt Revd Oscar Cantu, has written to the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that the reality of a “high certainty of catastrophic death and destruction from any military action must prompt the United States to work with others in the international community for a diplomatic and political solution based on dialogue”.

Speaking in Geneva, the WCC’s director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Peter Prove, said: “North Korea has done enough to demonstrate its capability as a nuclear-armed state. The WCC strongly advocates for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere, including on the Korean peninsula where the risk of nuclear conflict is currently by far the greatest.”

The “reality” of the nuclear threat could not be ignored, he said. None the less, all parties must redouble efforts to enter diplomatic dialogue, rather than impose sanctions that might risk conflict.

The Pope, addressing the Korean Council of Religious Leaders at the Vatican on Saturday, spoke of the challenge of interreligious dialogue across nations, Vatican Radio reported. “The world is looking to us . . . for answers and a shared commitment to various issues,” he said.

“We have, therefore, a long journey ahead of us, which must be undertaken with humility and perseverance, not just by raising our voices but by rolling up our sleeves, to sow the hope of a future in which humanity becomes more human, a future which heeds the cry of so many who reject war and implore greater harmony between individuals and communities, between peoples and states.”

The visit was organised by Archbishop Kim Hee-jong, of the RC Archdiocese of Gwangju, in South Korea. Pope Francis concluded: “Religious leaders are thus called upon to initiate, promote, and accompany processes for the welfare and reconciliation of all people: we are called to be heralds of peace, proclaiming and embodying a nonviolent style, a style of peace, with words clearly different from the narrative of fear, and with gestures opposed to the rhetoric of hatred.”

South Korean officials reported signs this week that the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, was preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It was also reported that South Korea had carried out live-fire exercises in response to the nuclear test on Sunday, and had refused to rule out redeploying US tactical nuclear weapons, compromising efforts to ease tensions.


Paul Vallely


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