Editorial: Denuclearize the UK – and the World Sign Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

In June I joined 40 activists from Trident Ploughshares who chained ourselves to the wrought-iron fence surrounding Westminster Parliament. One week after Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un agreed to work towards “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” our banner proclaimed: “Denuclearize the World – Sign the Treaty”. Their meeting got a lot of press. Our action was largely ignored by the media.
A stunning reversal from the twitter threats the Trump- Kim summit was a step back from the abyss. Most significantly Trump announced the US would stop provocative “War Games” including real bomber flights carrying nuclear weapons along North Korea’s borders. During the war the US considered using nuclear weapons on North Korea, but media coverage of the summit ignored the fact that the US has threatened N Korea with nuclear weapons for fifty years.

The Trump – Kim summit should have been a wake-up call. While the world focusses on North Korea eight other countries have over 14,000 nuclear weapons. The US, UK and other nuclear powers can’t expect Kim to give up his nuclear weapons while we keep ours. Sure, let’s denuclearize Korea. But, if the US – and UK – want to eliminate the risk of nuclear war they must look to their own houses. Nearly fifty years ago the nuclear weapons states promised to negotiate to disarm their nuclear weapons. Their failure to keep that promise has led countries like North Korea to seek them. In July 2017 most countries agreed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – but the UK and other nuclear weapons states are building new nuclear weapons and actively undermining that process.
The world remains largely oblivious to the danger of nuclear weapons. An exchange of just one hundred of the thousands of nuclear weapons deployed today would cause a nuclear famine and the deaths of two billion people. By chaining ourselves to the railings we were sending a strong message: nuclear weapons keep the world in chains. We must break those chains. British politicians claim to support multilateral nuclear disarmament. If so the UK should sign the Ban Treaty, denuclearize Britain and the denuclearize World.

Our action echoed the action of two suffragettes who chained themselves to a metal grille that confined women to a separate seating area in Parliament. Like the suffragists we’ve tried many ways to promote nuclear disarmament – we’ve lobbied MPs, signed petitions, marched, and blockaded the Trident submarine base. The nuclear disarmament movement has been at it for 70 years since the “Nonviolence Commission” was created by the PPU in 1949. The campaign for Women’s suffrage spanned more than a hundred years. The first Women’s Suffrage Bill came before Parliament in 1838. All women only got the vote in 1928.

US activists are in prison for a symbolic “Plowshares” act of nuclear disarmament at Kings Bay Naval Base in the US where UK Trident submarines go to get the D-5 missiles made in the US by Lockheed Martin. We are connected. And we need to keep at it.

Brian Larkin

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