Column: Tomorrow is another August 6

John F. Kennedy, then president of the United States, spoke with pride as he called the new treaty “a victory for mankind.” He was describing the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) that was signed by the United States, the former Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom 55 years ago today.

Although limited to the atmosphere, outer space, and under water, it was the first international treaty to place prohibitions on nuclear testing and surely helped restrain the escalating arms race that took place during the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock, which represents, conceptually, how close the world is to a global catastrophe, was set back 12 minutes, indicating that the possibility of a nuclear crisis had been eased to some degree.

However, loopholes in the treaty are growing larger perhaps because of the fact that the treaty was made by a trio of nuclear weapon states. Nuclear testing has continued underground and the nuclear powers justify this by saying that underground nuclear tests are not prohibited by the PTBT. In fact, the number of nuclear tests has increased, falling far short of the goal of ending nuclear testing and eliminating nuclear arms.

Half a century has now passed without much progress made on nuclear disarmament. Seeking to create a breakthrough in this situation, a determined grassroots movement arose which led to the establishment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. No doubt the nuclear weapon states are opposed to this treaty because it contains no loopholes. Tomorrow marks the first August 6 since the new treaty was opened for signatures last fall.

Mr. Kennedy agreed to the idea of creating a hotline between the United States and the Soviet Union so that dialogue could help prevent their conflict from intensifying. Even without looking at U.S.-North Korean relations, it is evident that dialogue can prevent confrontation from heating up. It is dialogue that can lead us to a world that is free of nuclear weapons and war, the greater goal that the A-bombed city has long called for.

(Originally published on August 5, 2018)