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Urgent action needed to reduce the risk of nuclear war

15 1 0

By John Carlson

Most people believe the risk of nuclear war ended with the Cold War in 1991. Unfortunately they are wrong. If anything, this risk is even greater today.

First, the U.S. and Russia have continued dangerous practices from the Cold War, particularly keeping nuclear weapons on high alert, known as "launch on warning" status. To avoid losing their nuclear weapons through a surprise attack, each country will launch its missiles immediately if it believes the other has initiated an attack. This is inherently dangerous.

In the case of an apparent attack, the U.S. or Russian president has only 20 minutes to decide whether to launch missiles in retaliation. Obviously mistakes can be made. Historically there have been several false alarms, "close calls" where catastrophe was averted only by cool heads and good luck. We cannot rely on good luck lasting forever.

Factors contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war include: The number of countries with nuclear weapons has grown and some are expanding their arsenals; the end of arms control agreements; the introduction of new types of nuclear weapons; and changing attitudes toward the possible use of nuclear weapons. Perhaps most dangerous of all is the lack of engagement on risk reduction measures among the nuclear armed countries.

While the U.S. and Russia, and now North Korea, get most attention, there are now nine countries with nuclear........

© The Korea Times