38 groups call for "Law not War" to settle North Korean nuclear crisis

Press release - 9 April, 2003

On the eve of North Korea's formal withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Greenpeace and 37 non- governmental organisations (NGOs) called on all members of the United Nations Security Council to support a negotiated settlement over the conflict between North Korea and the United States.

In a letter sent today to the United Nations Security Council, as they held a formal "consultation" on the North Korea issues, the NGO's called for a strengthened non-proliferation regime and on the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states to stop evading their disarmament obligations.

John Loretz of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear war said: "We fear that the US's 'preventative war' against Iraq has set a dangerous and damaging precedent for response to crises involving states with suspected weapons of mass destruction capabilities. We appeal to all U.N. Security Council members to engage in active diplomacy to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and avoid further war."

The NGOs called for North Korea to remain within the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state and for the United States to definitively reject the use of military force to address the crisis. The dispute could be settled through bilateral talks between the US and North Korea, supported by multi-lateral negotiations involving Security Council members and countries within Northeast Asia.

The NGOs said they welcomed initiatives by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to mediate in the crisis, but that further proactive measures by all states were needed to re-vitalise the non-proliferation regime.

North Korea has restarted a plutonium production reactor outside of the 1994 Framework Agreement and announced on January 10th that it would formally leave the NPT. The US Administration has labelled North Korea a member of the "axis of evil" and refuses to rule out pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea.

"We urge the North Korean government to re-join the international community as a non-nuclear member of the NPT." said Kimberly Roberts from Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Most importantly, The United States must not evade its own non-proliferation obligations under Article VI (1) of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by retaining a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. We urge the US Administration to commit to the goal of eliminating its nuclear arsenal, to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to adopt a "no first use" policy with regard to the use of nuclear weapons."

NGOs also urged nuclear weapons states to immediately pledge not to threaten or target with nuclear weapons any non-nuclear country, and reject the policy of first use of nuclear weapons, including in response to chemical and biological attack. They also called on to desist from any and all nuclear policies and programs that undermine this objective, including the development and production of new nuclear weapons.

The NPT, which includes the vast majority of the world's states and all nuclear weapons states except Israel, India and Pakistan, will next meet at the United Nations in Geneva from April 28-May 9th to start planning a formal review of the NPT schedule for 2005. The NGOs said that the crisis in the non-proliferation regime must be urgently addressed at the meeting and that member states must commit to multilateral treaty-based non-proliferation mechanisms to stop any further repeat of unilateral action such as that taken by the US and the UK against Iraq.

"From out of the dark clouds of war which now hang over us, the global community has a unique opportunity for progress toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation," said Tom Clements of Greenpeace International nuclear campaign in Washington. "We must increase our efforts to rid the world of all nuclear weapons and not let this crisis-induced opportunity slip away," he concluded.

Notes: (1) Article VI, Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."