National Security

Seventy-Two Years Ago Nuclear Bombs Fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – Is North Korea Next?

“Last month Japan sided with nuclear powers Britain, France and the United States to dismiss a UN treaty banning atomic weapons…rejected by critics for ignoring the reality of security threats such as North Korea.”

Seventy-two years ago, on Aug 6th was the first time a nuclear weapon had been utilized on the battlefield. A second was used three days later. The bombings claimed the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 people in Nagasaki.  Some died immediately while others succumbed to radiation-related illnesses weeks, months and even years later. Six days after Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender on August 15, 1945.

Toward the end of WWll, the reality of invading the Japanese homeland weighed heavily on the Allies.  The US forces, as well as those of our allies, were war weary from years of battle in North Africa and Europe.  The Experienced US Marines in the Pacific had been in constant and heavy combat against the Japanese and the forces that would be needed to effectively invade Japan would be drawn from the new and inexperienced draftees.  Those facts taken with the expected extremely heavy casualty numbers as the result of an invasion prompted the US to move forward with the use of nuclear weapons.

Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic attacks as nuclear weapons have not been used anywhere in the world since.  Many in Japan feel the attacks amount to war crimes and atrocities because of the destructive nature of the weapons and the fact they targeted civilians.  Many Americans believe they hastened the end of a bloody conflict, and ultimately saved lives, thus justifying the bombings.

Although Japan is the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, the threat of nuclear weapon use has been a strategy for decades.  During the Cold War (1947 to 1991), the threat of nuclear weapons and their use was a strategy pursued by both countries.  Mutual Assured Destruction(MAD) was the theory that if the US or the USSR were to launch a nuclear strike, the other country would retaliate with the resulting complete annihilation of both countries.  MAD was part of U.S., and USSR strategic doctrine that held nuclear war could best be prevented if neither side could expect to survive a full-scale nuclear exchange.

UN Treaty To Ban Nuclear Weapons

Last month Japan sided with nuclear powers Britain, France and the United States to dismiss a UN treaty banning atomic weapons, which was rejected by critics for ignoring the reality of security threats such as North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at the annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, said Japan hoped to push for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that all countries can agree.  “For us to truly pursue a world without nuclear weapons, we need participation from both nuclear-weapons and non-nuclear weapons states,” Abe said. “Our country is committed to leading the international community by encouraging both sides” to make progress towards abolishing nuclear arms, Abe added without directly referring to the UN treaty.

Eight nations have successfully detonated nuclear weapons.  Five are considered to be “nuclear-weapon states” (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  The United States, Russian Federation (the successor state of the USSR), United Kingdom, France, and China all possess nuclear weapons and are members of NPT.

Three additional nations have acquired nuclear capability but are not parties to the Treaty.  Those nations are India, Pakistan, and North Korea.  Ironically, North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003.

Israel is also widely thought to have nuclear weapons but is not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test.  South Africa developed nuclear weapons but then disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT.

It is telling that none of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons took part in the negotiations or vote on the UN treaty.

Now the threat of nuclear conflict has again raised its head in North Korea. The issue is about the damage that could and most likely would be caused to those allies of the US in the region and within the range of the North Korean military.

Even though MAD does not apply directly in this case, the threat to other nations that are under the protective umbrella of the US nuclear capability is of major concern.  MAD by proxy it would seem.

Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on www.dispatchfromdownrange.com. He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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