Pope warns of nuclear terror threat

Pope Francis. (L’Osservatore Romano/ AP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Pope warns of nuclear terror threat

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Friday renewed calls for global nuclear disarmament, warning that new technology had increased the risk of deadly weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
“You only have to note that nuclear technologies are spreading, partly because of digital communications, and the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons,” Francis told a seminar at the Vatican.
“The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare.”
Francis was addressing a Vatican conference on disarmament that was attended by several Nobel peace prize winners and top UN and NATO officials, against the backdrop of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
Western powers are also increasingly concerned over the possibility of groups like Islamic State getting their hands on the technology that could allow them to manufacture an improvised nuclear device.
Describing the current international situation as marked by a “climate of instability and conflict,” the Argentine pontiff said the prospects for disarmament appeared “increasingly remote.”
“The escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations.
“As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.”
Citing the memory of the victims and survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs at the end of World War II, Francis said any new use of such weapons would have “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects.”
“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.
“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.”
Despite his overall gloomy tone, Francis said he was encouraged by a recent UN vote declaring the use of nuclear weapons illegal, even in warfare.


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.