As President Donald Trump foments tensions with world powers by behaving recklessly and pursuing aggressive action over diplomacy, developments in several major nations over the weekend sparked urgent concerns among peace groups, activists, and analysts that the world's largest militaries are inching dangerously close to war.
"Firing off a bunch of missiles does nothing to address the crisis. We need negotiation not posturing."
—Peace ActionIn response to North Korea's second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test late last week, the U.S. on Sunday carried out what the Washington Post called a "show of force" by flying two B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula. The Post noted that the move is "a sign that tensions are spiraling upward rapidly."
"The sense that time is running out in the confrontation with North Korea was reinforced as the day wore on," the Post added. "Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, batted down rumors that the United States would seek an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. It was pointless, she said, as long as China wouldn't commit to increasing the pressure on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un."
The bomber flights were in addition to the U.S. and South Korea's joint missile exercise on Friday immediately following Pyongyang's ICBM launch.
China also looked to put its military might on display Sunday, unveiling in a massive parade an assemblage of new weaponry and technology, including ICBMs "that can reach the U.S. in just 30 minutes" and a J-20 stealth fighter plane that "could potentially rival the F-22 or F-35."
These events were punctuated by the Russian government's response to a sanctions bill passed by the U.S. Congress last week, which Trump is expected to sign.
"President Vladimir V. Putin announced Sunday that the American diplomatic mission in reported. The Times went on to characterize the response as one "ripped right from the Cold War playbook and sure to increase tensions between the two capitals."must reduce its staff by 755," the New York Times
Also raising alarms were reports last week indicating that the Trump administration is gearing up to challenge the legitimacy of the Iran nuclear deal by alleging that Iran has not lived up to its side of the agreement (Iran, for its part, has charged the U.S. with abdicating its responsibilities under the agreement).
Trump "desperately wants to cancel" the deal, according to the Associated Press, and he is "pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test" the agreement's strength.
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Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, argued that such a move makes clear Trump's desire to "sabotage" the agreement. If he is successful in scrapping the deal, Parsi noted, the stage would be set for "a military confrontation."
"Rarely has a sinister plan to destroy an arms control agreement and pave the way for war been so openly telegraphed," Parsi wrote.
The rapid culmination of these factors—which come as Trump responds destructively to crises throughout the world, such as those ravaging Venezuela, Syria, and Yemen—have prompted warnings from activists and commentators that war could be on the horizon if measures are not taken to de-escalate tensions.
"There's an urgent need to hit the reset button on U.S.-Korean policy, before one of the players hits a much more catastrophic button that could lead us into a nuclear nightmare."
—Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK"We need to step up sustained diplomacy," Peace Action said in response to the U.S.-South Korea joint missile exercise. "Firing off a bunch of missiles does nothing to address the crisis. We need negotiation, not posturing."
Writing for Common Dreams, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin argued that North Korea's missile tests, and the White House's response, are an "urgent warning" that U.S.-Korean policy "must be reset" if war is to be avoided.
"A war on the Korean Peninsula would likely draw in other nuclear armed states and major powers, including China, Russia, and Japan," Benjamin observed. "This region also has the largest militaries and economies in the world, the world's busiest commercial ports, and half the world's population."
With "the specter of nuclear war" looming, "the rational alternative policy is one of de-escalation and engagement," Benjamin concluded.
"Time has proven that coercion doesn't work," Benjamin wrote. "There's an urgent need to hit the reset button on U.S.-Korean policy, before one of the players hits a much more catastrophic button that could lead us into a nuclear nightmare."