The World Council of Churches (WCC) is gravely concerned at the test of another nuclear device on the Korean peninsula this week and at responses which deepen, rather than address, the long-standing tensions in the region. 

The nuclear test in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a destabilizing action in a fragile region. So far, the main responses risk tipping the region into greater crisis. The current situation demonstrates an urgent need for the members of the Six-Party Talks, the six governments most responsible for peace and human security in Northeast Asia, to return to their own earlier path of negotiations and confidence-building.

Hostility from all sides and an increased reliance on military threats are precisely the opposite of what is needed. The governments directly involved – the United States, China, Japan and Russia in addition to South Korea and North Korea – have all been down this road of confrontation and crisis before. Initiatives taken a few years ago for engagement and bridge-building as a path to peace and inter-Korean cooperation, especially economic cooperation, gave much hope. Policies developed to thaw the tension between the North and the South and to reach new levels of trust instead of provocation, isolation, and sanctions were signs of hope.

However, those initiatives were derailed due to various reasons. The tensions mounting these days in North East Asia again warrant finding a way to reach the goal of peace. The new governments in all the six parties should take new initiatives to turn the page in building peace in the region. The need of the hour is to move away from what churches there have called a continual state of confrontation imposed by a narrow concept of “security”.

Our hope is that steps will be taken toward renewed inter-Korean engagement, direct contacts between the parties, multilateral negotiations and the redress of unresolved grievances. We also call for signs of recognition that nuclear weapons in anyone’s hands are both a symptom of insecurity and a catalyst for instability.

For decades, churches have explored and pioneered different forms of engagement in the Korean Peninsula. In October this year, the WCC will hold its worldwide Assembly in Busan, in the Republic of Korea. The theme of the event is also a prayer, “God of Life, lead us to justice and peace”. It is a fervent prayer and a God-given hope for the people of the Korean peninsula as well as for their neighbours.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary