“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.”
Revelation 16:16, NRSV
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA calls for an immediate cessation of hostile acts and rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Steps must be taken immediately to avoid the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear war. Increased tension and destabilizing actions and rhetoric by both sides make such a war more likely.
In the past months, we have seen aggressions by both the United States and North Korea. In May the United States deployed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. This was seen as a destabilizing move by China and other neighbors and a threat by North Korea (see previous NCCCUSA and NCCK letter to President Trump on this matter). Critics point out that THAAD is incapable of countering North Korean missiles with their low-angle trajectory; thus, this so-called defensive system is being used in an aggressive manner.
At the same time, North Korea’s testing of missile technology is well known. The nation’s development of a miniaturized nuclear weapon brings destabilization unseen since the end of the Cold War, and its apparent new capacity to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles is of great concern.
Recent comments by the leaders of the United States and North Korea threatening hostilities are beyond alarming. Such threats, of “fire and fury…the likes of which the world has never seen” by President Donald J. Trump, and “all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland” by spokespersons of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, only serve to bring our countries, and the world, to the brink of war. We therefore urgently call upon both leaders to tone down their similar and mutually inflammatory rhetoric.
Further, the movement of US military assets to the region, including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, places the world on the brink of war. Threats by North Korea regarding an attack on Guam place the US and its allies in a precarious position, bringing the world closer to the possibility that a quick and devastating nuclear exchange will take place.
Threats and bluster will not help this situation but are likely only to provoke hostilities. Indeed, if this rhetoric were to become a reality, it would only mean the horrifying exchange of nuclear weapons. This would not only threaten US and North Korean civilians, soldiers, and territories; nuclear and conventional war would be a complete disaster for the people of South Korea, Japan, and other countries in Asia and the Pacific.
It is therefore essential that bilateral dialogue take place, that aggressive language be discarded, and that paths to peace be pursued. We will continue to urge our government to tone down its rhetoric and to utilize diplomacy and work with the many partners, both governmental and nongovernmental, who stand ready to assist both the United States and North Korea to de-escalate this crisis.
The National Council of Churches USA is praying fervently and will continue to pray for peace. We stand in solidarity with the National Council of Churches of Korea (South Korea), the Korean Christian Federation (North Korea), and all others who are committed to a nonviolent resolution of this conflict.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Matthew 5:9, NRSV
The World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches are calling their member churches to observe, on August 13, a “Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.”