What’s the story?
Tension has risen among global superpowers over the issue of the nuclear ‘deterrent’, after North Korea continued their programme of missile testing in an apparent attempt to develop inter-continental nuclear missiles.
The most closed and unpredictable regime on earth – North Korea – continues to invest heavily in the development of nuclear weapons, making it one of the greatest threats to global safety. In April, newly-elected US President Donald Trump received one of his first major international diplomatic challenges when the North Korean army tested a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The test was apparently timed to coincide with the first meeting between Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Mr Trump immediately dispatched a US aircraft carrier to the region, which the administration in Pyongyang has subsequently threatened to ‘sink with a single strike’. There are now growing fears that the two countries could soon become embroiled in a conflict, and one which has the potential to draw in global superpowers on opposing sides.
In a perhaps-surprising show of political acumen, Mr Trump then summoned the entire US senate to the White House to be briefed about the escalating situation. And being careful to use non-military language, the President told a meeting of UN ambassadors: “The status quo in North Korea is unacceptable and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs. North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve.”
What that actually means in practice is still unknown, and may yet be defined by Pyongyang’s belligerent insistence on continued missile testing. The good news is that China and the United States may just find themselves allied in a new way; the more worrying thought is that North Korea’s entirely unpredictable government might be prepared to do the unthinkable in response.
What have others been saying?
The BBC have analysed the most positive and negative versions of the US-North Korea scenario, and ask how Mr Trump might ‘do a deal’ with Pyongyang.
Tom Phillips, writing for The Guardian in Beijing, says China has scolded North Korea for its nuclear programme, but also expressed concern at President Trump’s handling of the region.
Ray Cavanaugh says – in a fascinating feature for Christian Today that North Korea’s capital once contained so many Christians that it was known as ‘The Jerusalem of the East.’
#1 – WAR AND DEFENCE
It’s clear that the Bible is not anti-war, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has talked openly about how under certain conditions, there is such a thing as ‘Just War’. In Psalm 144 v 1, David calls God ‘my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.’ Yet Jesus also blesses peacemakers in Matthew 5, and tells his friends to love their enemies. However the Bible also often talks about defending those who are under threat, and in certain circumstances, God seems to back military intervention. The important thing then is to ensure both that war is the only option, and that crucially we are in the right in any conflict. Liberation from genuine threat is an acceptable reason for battle, oil interests are not.
#2 – DIPLOMACY
The situation involving North Korea desperately requires wise political heads – and so far that’s not something with which Donald Trump’s name has been synonymous. So some Biblical advice on the subject of diplomacy: Proverbs 18 v 13 suggests it’s important to listen before speaking, while chapter 15 v 1 of the same book says that ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ Similarly Proverbs 29 v 11 says ‘a fool loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.’ And Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5 v 14 urges the church to always behave diplomatically: ‘admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak...’ but perhaps most significantly, ‘be patient with everyone.’ A key to a peaceful resolution to this difficult political moment surely relies on patience.
Points for prayer
- Pray for tensions around the world to de-escalate, particularly between global superpowers the US, Russia and China.
- Pray for the leaders in North Korea, that they might act wisely and justly, despite their previous behaviour.
- Pray for US President Trump, that he would act with calm and sober judgement, and pursue peace above all.
- Pray for the population, many of whom are Christians, in South Korea that they would not live under a shadow of fear because of activity in the North.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.