Here’s what you need to know about North Korea’s nuclear test

North Korea’s latest nuclear test is a perfect example of how our current approach to proliferation isn't working.

Earlier today around 1:30am GMT, North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test, detonating a bomb 10km underground near a known nuclear test site in the eastern part of the country.

World leaders are already condemning North Korea’s provocation, and rightfully so. Under an existing United Nations Security Council resolution passed after the country’s first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea is prohibited from conducting nuclear tests.

But there’s another story that’s starting to take hold. And it’s a dangerous one. Politicians and pundits are saying that this test is precisely why nuclear states need to hold onto their own nuclear weapons; more nuclear weapons means a safer, more secure world.

This could not be further from the truth.

Nuclear weapons threaten us all -- and not just in the hands of North Korea. Almost 25 years after the end of the Cold War, more than 1,500 U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons are on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch in minutes and wipe major cities off the map. The only way to protect ourselves from an intentional or accidental nuclear exchange is to secure all nuclear materials and eliminate all nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s latest nuclear test is a perfect example of how our whack-a-mole approach to proliferation isn't working. Whether it’s stolen nuclear material in Moldova, a Russian warplane shot down that threatens nuclear escalation, or North Korea’s latest nuclear test, we cannot keep flitting from nuclear crisis to nuclear crisis and expect to change the status quo.

Additionally, calls for North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program come at a time when the U.S. is going on the biggest nuclear spending spree in history. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the U.S. will spend more than $1 trillion over the next three decades to maintain the current arsenal, buy replacement systems, and upgrade existing nuclear bombs and warheads. How can the U.S. and the rest of the international community then encourage other states like India, Pakistan, China or North Korea to forego expanding their own arsenals?

It’s time to change our approach.

The only solution is to exercise the full strength of diplomacy. It is long past time for world leaders to initiate a multilateral dialogue with nuclear and key non-nuclear weapons countries to reduce nuclear risk and work toward the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons globally.

Last August, we saw just how successful diplomacy can be when the P5+1 (China, Russia, United States, France, United Kingdom and Germany) negotiated with Iran to put an end to their nuclear weapons program. This effort, that many Global Zero members from around the world helped to pass, proved that diplomacy can in fact freeze and roll back nuclear proliferation of potential “rogue” states.

It’s time to use this same roadmap to not only roll back the nuclear weapons of North Korea, but to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide.

Today is the kind of day when it’s easy to feel powerless to do anything to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, or to eliminate them. But together, as a global movement, we are far from powerless.

The message from people around the world is clear: these are weapons of mass destruction that pose the most urgent threat to human life, the environment and the global economy. They do not address today’s security needs and siphon precious financial resources from the things that do. And the only way to eliminate the global threat of proliferation and increasing risk of nuclear use is to eliminate all nuclear weapons everywhere. It is high time we get to work to make that happen.

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