Sunday, 20 August 2017

Diplomacy and international relations

My article in last week's Cornish Guardian pondered international relations in the age of Donald Trump and his Presidency of the United States. It was as follows:

August 9th 2017 marked the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, which had followed the nuclear attack on Hiroshima three days earlier.

All in all, more than 140,000 people died in the initial blasts over the two cities, or lost their lives as a consequence of their injuries, radiation poisoning and other factors.

Just over twelve months ago, Barack Obama, in his final months as US President, visited Hiroshima. Speaking at the main memorial in the settlement, he told a large and sombre crowd: “On a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

He spoke about how the “image of a mushroom cloud” that twice rose in the clouds over Japan was a stark remainder of “humanity’s core contradiction” and that the “very spark that marks us as a species,” such as “our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will,” also equates to a “capacity for unmatched destruction.”

How right Obama was to urge the world to “choose a future when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

This week, I have read a number of personal recollections of people from Nagasaki and the terrible horrors they experienced in 1945 and the years that followed.

One man called Hirotami Yamada, who was a child at the time, has recalled how “the flash and heat from the detonation felt like the sun had fallen from the sky; then everything went dark. When the light returned, much of Nagasaki had been vaporised in a cloud of smoke and dust that barrelled a mile up into the clouds.”

Most of his family initially survived because they were some distance away from the centre of the blast, but in the coming days he had to watch heartbroken as his siblings succumbed to death.

Such awfulness should never be forgotten and it must reinforce why everyone should be working to get rid of all weapons of mass destruction.

It is therefore truly disturbing that it was on “Nagasaki Day” that the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, intensified his war of words with the belligerent leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, threatening "fire and fury like the world has never seen;" before following this up with a statement that his military was “locked and loaded.”

Such outrageous and intemperate language makes the world a much less safe place, and world leaders need to rise to the challenge to put real diplomacy at the heart of international relations.

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