Start North Korean talks with nuclear test ban

Start North Korean talks with nuclear test ban
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Diplomacy is our best route toward resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons arsenal. War is unthinkable on the Korean peninsula, with staggering casualty estimates should fighting break out. 

A recent Congressional Research Service report estimates that "between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting." Up to 25 million people in both South and North Korea would be impacted by the conflict. 
 

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Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Court rules against Trump administration on transgender military ban MORE warns a Korean conflict today "would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes." With war also comes food shortages, displacement and illness that will claim even more lives. 



If a new Korean conflict involved nuclear weapons these casualty estimates would be even much worse. We need to turn to diplomacy to prevent this humanitarian catastrophe.

President Trump recently indicated his willingness to make a deal with North Korea. This would be a welcome change from the tough talk that has been thrown about on both sides. 
 
Trump, back in September, even threatened to totally destroy North Korea. That kind of rhetoric won't solve this crisis. Peace talks can. It’s time for them to begin. 

We should open dialogue with North Korea on ending nuclear weapons tests. The United States, North Korea and China should each ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions. 
 
The United States has pursued a global ban on nuclear testing since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Eisenhower and his successor John F. Kennedy managed to get a limited test ban with the Soviet Union during the most tense years of the Cold War. But underground tests continued. Now we need to go a step further and end all types of nuke tests by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. 

The treaty is especially crucial now with the escalating North Korean nuclear development. North Korea's six nuclear tests, including the massive hydrogen blast back in September, have allowed them to advance their weapons program.
 
We need North Korea to stop its nuclear testing, the cost of which robs precious food from its starving citizens. Over 70 percent of North Korea’s population lives in hunger. 
 
If the United States, North Korea and China ratified the treaty together this would stop those nuclear tests. The United States can easily ratify the treaty as we have not tested nuclear weapons for decades, and have no need to.

Computer technology from the Stockpile Stewardship program maintains our nuclear arsenal. A U.S. return to nuclear testing would be absurd especially considering the tensions such blasts always cause. 

U.S. ratification of the treaty is long overdue and should happen at once. The president should ask the Senate to ratify the treaty. China will follow the U.S. lead in ratification and this will be important for getting its neighbor and ally North Korea to join.
 
The treaty has a monitoring system to ensure no nation cheats the treaty. It includes detection stations in China, not too far from North Korea itself. A monitoring station could also be installed inside North Korea as a first step toward a larger verification regime to disarm nukes. 

The U.S., China and North Korea could also participate in on-site inspection exercises for the treaty, which would enhance confidence for more agreements. 

None of this will be easy of course, but we must get busy on this diplomacy and building cooperation. Remaining on a war footing is an extremely dangerous situation that could become deadly for millions within a matter of hours.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty offers us a chance to open vital dialogue with North Korea. We should take this bridge to peace. 

William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace” and “Ending World Hunger.” His writings have been published by the NY Times, History News Network, Huffington Post, and in Spectrum, the official magazine of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.