Risk of Nuclear Arms Use Highest Since Cuban Crisis, Moniz Says

  • Former U.S Energy Secretary urges collaboration with China
  • Moniz speaks in Bloomberg interview in Cernobbio, Italy

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, commenting on North Korea’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb, said the risk of nuclear weapon use in the world is greater than in a “very, very long time,’ arguably in more than a half century.

In an interview with Bloomberg at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy, Moniz argued against the use of economic sanctions on North Korea, calling instead for more efforts to build up collaboration with China.

Ernest Moniz

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“I think that the risk of a nuclear weapon being used somewhere in the world today is higher than it has been in a very, very long time, arguably going back to the Cuban missile crisis” of 1962, said Moniz. He is co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit organization working to prevent attacks with weapons of mass destruction, and himself a nuclear physicist.

North Korea said it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb with “unprecedentedly big power” on Sunday that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, in its first nuclear test under U.S. President Donald Trump’s watch.

“The international community including China has responded recently with additional economic sanctions, personally I don’t believe that sanctions have ever solved the problem,” Moniz said. “They have had some success, as with Iran, I would say in bringing the parties to the table for discussion. But you are not going to solve the problem through economic sanctions.”

Moniz urged a change of tack in collaboration with China. “I don’t think that the discussions adequately looked at China’s national security needs in the context of Korea, not to mention South Korea, Japan, so I think the discussions around North Korea have been far too narrow, focusing on nuclear weapons, when the real issue is what are the overall security requirements of North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan,” he said.

The real question, Moniz added, is whether North Korea’s tests “represent progress in issues such as the militarization of nuclear weapons, in order to be deliverable by long-range missiles for example.”

“The general view remains that they are some time away from being able to master the entire integrated system,” Moniz said. “To my knowledge, there is no evidence of success at this stage in the re-entry vehicle for a long-range ballistic missile.”

— With assistance by Chiara Albanese, Lorenzo Totaro, and Flavia Rotondi

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