CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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A jittery Guam prays for peace

AGANA (SE): People in Guam began organising prayer gatherings and vigils for peace in the light of a threat from the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, to launch a nuclear warhead, which in all probability would be aimed at the tiny unincorporated territory of the United States of America (US), before August 15.
 
The deep concern of the approximately 162,000 people in Guam has lead the archbishop of Agaña, Archbishop Michael Byrnes, to launch an appeal both to the president of its own government, Donald Trump, as well as to South Korea to back off from making military threats and not to tinker with military aggression against North Korea.
 
Archbishop Byrnes said that although people are living with this constant awareness, they are not as unnerved as some others may imagine.
 
“I think the people of Guam live with this awareness that we’re vulnerable in the Pacific. This is not the first time we have been subject to some sort of threat or the first time that we’ve experienced war. The memory of World War II is very much alive, year after year, after year,” he said.
 
Specifically, Archbishop Byrnes said that the people are praying for a measured and prudent response from leaders in Washington, Pyongyang, Tokyo and Seoul.
 
“Consider what you are doing. Consider the importance of your words. See if what you are saying would actually contribute to peace. Conflict, especially military conflict, is by nature destructive,” Archbishop Byrnes said in making an open statement addressed to the leaders of the nations involved.
 
“If we engage that, if the importance of our words were to lead to that, then we’re not seeking peace. We’re not seeking the common good. It is for our common good, both the US and North Korea, as well as the whole world really, that we not engage in military conflict in this issue,” the archbishop continued.
 
But China is a key player in this standoff as well, as it also has a lot to lose if there is any kind of military action. Western countries have imposed sanctions on North Korea in an attempt to cause it to implode, but this is something that China cannot afford.
 
As a middle income country, it needs stability in the region to continue to prosper and build its economy further. Any catastrophe in North Korea would doubtless see huge numbers of refugees surge across its border.
 
China also derives considerable income from a prosperous North Korea, so while the west can usurp the moral high ground cost free, China has to play a more subtle game, as a breakdown would also leave it more vulnerable to US aggression.
 
However, Ramesh Thakur, from the Australian National University, notes that the biggest threat to the US is probably itself.
 
“Nothing in North Korea’s history indicates its leadership is suicidal. Conversely, Donald Trump’s career to date does not inspire confidence in the quality of his decision-making. On nuclear policy he is positively terrifying in proving with each new tweet how ignorant, reckless and what a threat to world peace he is,” he says.
 
He also notes that on August. 15, the president of South Korean, Moon Jae-in, warned publicly that any action against the North would require his consent and he renewed calls for dialogue with the North.
 
“But the frightening reality is that Trump would not face any domestic checks on his untrammeled authority to use nuclear weapons,” Thakur says.
 
Japan and South Korea have managed to live for years with the reality of vulnerability to North Korea’s nukes. There is no reason why the US cannot learn to do the same.
 
Archbishop Byrnes may do well to add Beijing and specifically the White House to his prayer list in expressing the aspirations of his people in Guam for a peaceful existence.

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