In 1939, I didnt hear war coming. Now its thundering approach cant be ignored | Harry Leslie Smith

Author Harry Leslie Smith remembers the prelude to the second world war and there are worrying echoes now

A chill of remembrance has come over me during this August month. It feels as if the 2017 summer breeze is being scattered by the winds of war blowing from across our world towards Britain, just like they were in 1939.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia eviscerates Yemen with the same ferocity as Mussolini did to Ethiopia when I was child in 1935. The hypocrisy of Britains government and elite class ensures that innocent blood still flows in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Theresa Mays government insists that peace can only be achieved through the proliferation of weapons of war in conflict zones. Venezuela teeters towards anarchy and foreign intervention while in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte protected by his alliance with Britain and the US murders the vulnerable for the crime of trying to escape their poverty through drug addiction.

Because I am old, now 94, I recognise these omens of doom. Chilling signs are everywhere, perhaps the biggest being that the US allows itself to be led by Donald Trump, a man deficient in honour, wisdom and just simple human kindness. It is as foolish for Americans to believe that their generals will save them from Trump as it was for liberal Germans to believe the military would protect the nation from Hitlers excesses.

Britain also has nothing to be proud of. Since the Iraq war our country has been on a downward decline, as successive governments have eroded democracy and social justice, and savaged the welfare state with austerity, leading us into the cul de sac of Brexit. Like Trump, Brexit cannot be undone by liberal sanctimony it can only be altered if the neoliberal economic model is smashed, as if it were a statue of a dictator, by a liberated people.

After years of Tory government, Britain is less equipped to change the course of history for the good than we were under Neville Chamberlain, when Nazism was appeased in the 1930s. In fact, no nation in Europe or North America has anything to crow about. Each is rife with inequality, massive corporate tax avoidance which is just legitimised corruption and a neoliberalism that has eroded societies.

Summer should be comforting but it isnt this year. Looking at the young today, when I watch them in their leisure; I catch a fearful resemblance with the faces of the young from my generation in the summer of 1939. When I am out in town, I listen to their laughter, I watch them enjoying a pint or wooing one another, and I am afraid for them.

This August resembles too much that of 1939; the last summer of peace until 1945. Then aged 16 and still wet behind the ears, Id go to pictures with my mates and wed laugh at the newsreels of Hitler and other fascist monsters that lived beyond what we thought was our reach. Little did we know in that August 1939, life without peace, without carnage, without air raids, without the blitz, could be measured in days. I did not hear the thundering approach of war, but as an old man I hear it now for my grandchildrens generation. I hope I am wrong. But I am petrified for them.

Harry Leslie Smiths latest book Dont Let My Past Be Your Future is published by Constable & Robinson on 14 September

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North Korea nuclear ambition lives in the gap between US and China so close it | Scott Snyder

Kim Jong-uns latest test shows the need for international action to reduce instability in north-east Asia and work towards transformation in Pyongyang

The direction of North Koreas nuclear program has been clear for more than a decade, since it first tested a nuclear device in October 2006. But the pace has quickened, with two nuclear tests and tests of several missile platforms that will reduce warning time and extend North Koreas capability to credibly deliver a nuclear weapon. The North Koreans have insisted that that they are a permanent nuclear state and have signalled that the US is their ultimate target, threatening nuclear strikes on the mainland.

The Obama administrations primary response, termed strategic patience, has strengthened deterrence and has led to a series of United Nations sanctions resolutions designed to increase international pressure. The American goal has been to change Kim Jong-uns strategic calculus by showing him that having nuclear weapons is detrimental to his regimes survival.

But economic sanctions have transferred almost all the external leverage on North Korea to China, at the same time that Sino-US strategic mistrust has been growing over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea and Chinas unilateral construction in the South China Sea. And Kim Jong-uns motivations for pursuing nuclear weapons increasingly have been tied to his own domestic legitimacy. Simultaneous nuclear and economic development are his two main strategic goals.

The rapid adoption of an even tougher UN security council resolution against North Korea following its fifth test is an immediate way to signal that the international community is firmly opposed to North Koreas continued nuclear development. More effective Chinese implementation of already agreed-upon UN sanctions is also essential. But these measures alone will still be insufficient to turn Kim Jong-un back to denuclearization unless China is willing to signal that, despite its core interest in stability, it is willing to put the North Korean regimes survival at risk through even more stringent application of economic pressure, in concert with the US, South Korea and the international community.

In addition, because North Korea thrives in the gap created by Sino-US strategic mistrust and the most dangerous threat to the Kim regimes legitimacy comes from South Korea, the most effective way of conveying to Kim Jong-un that his regimes survival depends on denuclearization would be through coordination of a trilateral strategy among the US, China, and South Korea.

North Korea says further sanctions are laughable

The strategy would involve a coordinated diplomatic ultimatum backed by concrete and coordinated actions that send a clear signal to Kim Jong-un that all three countries are willing to share intelligence with each other with the goal of establishing a replacement leadership in North Korea that is willing to denuclearize. Since Chinas primary goal is to avoid instability on the Korean peninsula and a nuclear North Koreas threatening behavior has become the primary source of instability in north-east Asia, all three countries know well that the only peaceful pathway to long-term stability in the region is for Kim Jong-un to change his mind and pursue denuclearization.

Such an approach is a tall order given growing levels of mistrust between the US and China, but North Korea has always represented the best chance to build a tangible track record of regional security cooperation between Washington and Beijing. Such a strategy would create an opportunity to avoid the immeasurable costs of a second Korean war and lay the ground work for controlled regime transformation through economic development backed by international assistance, at the sacrifice of Kim Jong-uns nuclear aspirations.

Rejection of such an ultimatum would serve to confirm the possibility that under Kim Jong-un there is no peaceful pathway to denuclearization and that the only road to lasting stability in north-east Asia involves regime change. But it would also reveal that collective management of near-term costs are an inevitable down payment that may in fact help increase the prospect of long-term stability.

  • Scott Snyder is a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-editor of North Korea In Transition: Politics, Economics, Security

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North Korea demands recognition as legitimate nuclear state

Pyongyang spokesman says threat of further sanctions is laughable and country will work to increase its nuclear force

North Korea has demanded the US recognise it as a legitimate nuclear weapons state following its fifth and largest atomic test, adding that threats of further sanctions against the country were laughable.

The dictatorship set off its most powerful nuclear explosion to date on Friday, saying it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile and ratcheting up a challenge to rivals and the UN.

Obama is trying hard to deny the DPRKs [North Koreas] strategic position as a legitimate nuclear weapons state but it is as foolish an act as trying to eclipse the sun with a palm, said a foreign ministry spokesman quoted by the official KCNA news agency.

The spokesman defended the test, which has been condemned worldwide, as a necessary response to what he termed a US nuclear threat. The country would work to increase its nuclear force in quality and in quantity, his statement said.

The group of Obamas running around and talking about meaningless sanctions until today is highly laughable, when their strategic patience policy is completely worn out and they are close to packing up to move out, the statement reportedly added.

As weve made clear, measures to strengthen the national nuclear power in quality and quantity will continue to protect our dignity and right to live from augmented threats of nuclear war from the United States.

The US special representative for North Korea policy, Sung Kim, addresses the media in Tokyo on Sunday. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

The UN security council denounced North Koreas decision to carry out the test and said it would begin work immediately on a resolution. The US, Britain and France pushed for the 15-member body to impose new sanctions.

Obama said after speaking by phone with the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Friday that they had agreed to work with the security council and other powers to vigorously enforce existing measures and to take additional significant steps, including new sanctions.

We will be working very closely in the security council and beyond to come up with the strongest possible measure against North Koreas latest actions, said the US special representative for North Korea policy, Sung Kim, on Sunday.

In addition to action in the security council, both the US and Japan, together with the Republic of Korea, will be looking at unilateral measures, as well as bilateral measures, as well as possible trilateral cooperation, he said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

South Koreas top nuclear envoy also spoke to his Chinese counterpart late on Saturday by telephone and emphasised the need for fresh countermeasures including a new UN security council resolution, the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.

The latest test showed North Koreas nuclear capability was expanding fast and that the countrys leader, Kim Jong-un, was unwilling to alter course, South Korea said on Saturday.

Another KCNA report on Sunday said North Koreans were delighted by the nuclear test. The enemies can no longer deny the strategic position of our country as a nuclear weapons state, Jong Won-sop, a teacher at the University of National Economy, was quoted as saying.

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Israel brings fresh charges against nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu

Former nuclear technician who revealed details of Israels nuclear programme is accused of breaching restraining orders

Israeli prosecutors charged nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on Sunday with violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term.

Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, some of which he has violated in recent years, the justice ministry said.

According to the charge sheet, Vanunu in 2013 met two US nationals in Jerusalem without having permission to do so.

He is also accused of moving to a different flat in his apartment building in 2014 and failing to inform police.

And in 2015, he granted an interview to Channel 2 television, in which he relayed to the interviewer classified information that was by cut out by censors, according to the indictment served at Jerusalem magistrates court.

The former nuclear technician was jailed in 1986 for disclosing the inner workings of Israels Dimona nuclear plant to Britains Sunday Times newspaper.

He spent more than 10 years of his sentence in solitary confinement.

In the 2015 interview, Vanunu said he no longer had any secrets to spill and just wanted to join his new bride in Norway, theology professor Kristin Joachimsen whom he married at a Lutheran church in Jerusalem in May that year.

He has been barred from emigrating on the grounds that he still poses a threat to national security.

Vanunu, 61, converted to Christianity shortly before being snatched by Mossad agents in Rome and smuggled to Israel.

In 2010 he was jailed for 11 weeks after breaking the terms of his release by meeting a foreigner, a prison official said.

Israel is the Middle Easts sole if undeclared nuclear power, refusing to confirm or deny that it has such weapons.

It has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or to allow international surveillance of the Dimona plant in the Negev desert of southern Israel.

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North Korea will not use nuclear weapons first, says Kim Jong-un

The countrys dictator tells the first party congress in 36 years that he is willing to normalise relations with hostile states

North Koreas leader, Kim Jong -un, has said his country will not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is infringed on by others with nuclear arms, and that it is willing to normalise ties with hostile states, state media reported.

The north would faithfully fulfil its obligation for nuclear non-proliferation and strive to end nuclear buildup in the world, Kim said in a report to a congress of its ruling Workers party (WPK) which opened on Friday, the KCNA news agency said.

The first congress in 36 years began with much fanfare amid anticipation by the South Korean government and experts that the young leader would try to use it to further consolidate power in the state he took over in 2011 after his fathers sudden death.

As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes, KCNA quoted Kim as saying. And it will faithfully fulfil its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearisation.

The WPK and the DPRK government will improve and normalise the relations with those countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK and are friendly towards it, though they had been hostile toward it in the past.

Kim also called for improved ties with the rival south by erasing misunderstanding and mistrust, although he had made similar proposals in the past which led to talks by government officials that made little progress.

The North was ready to improve and normalize ties with countries hostile to it if they respected its sovereignty and approach it in a friendly manner, Kim said.

He also announced a five-year plan starting this year to develop the Norths dismal economy and identified improving the countrys power supply and increasing its agricultural and light-manufacturing production as the critical parts of the program, the KCNA said.

Analysts have anticipated Kim would use the congress to propose talks with rivals to exploit what he considers to be increased leverage as a nuclear power.

North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and followed with a satellite launch in February that was seen by outside governments as a banned test for long-range missile technology, earning worldwide condemnation and tougher UN sanctions.

The North responded to the punitive measures, and also the annual US-South Korean military drills in March and April, by firing a series of missiles and artillery into the sea. It also claimed advancements in developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and combined them with threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul.

Analysts said that the Norths belligerent stance might have been intended at rallying North Korean people around Kim ahead of the congress and also promote military accomplishments to the domestic audience to make up for the lack of tangible economic achievements to present at the party meeting.

South Korea has taken a hard-line approach to North Korea following its nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, shutting down a jointly-run factory park in a North Korean border town that had been the last remaining symbol of cooperation between the rivals and slapping Pyongyang with its own economic sanctions.

Seoul has also been in talks with Washington on deploying a sophisticated US missile defense system in South Korea.

North Korea had spent the past months resisting talks with the South and threatening attacks against it, but Kim spoke with a different tone at the conference. He said fundamentally improving inter-Korean relations was an urgent matter for his government and also called for the South to hold hands with the North as a companion for unification, the KCNA said.

However, Kim stressed that the South must first employ practical measures to improve ties and throw out laws and institutional systems that have hampered them. He also said that the United States should no longer be involved with matters in the Korean peninsula, and that if enemy forces ignite the fire of war, the North was ready to mercilessly punish the aggressors and accomplish the historical feat of unification.

South Koreas foreign ministry said ahead of the Norths ruling party congress in Pyongyang that the priority of any future talks with the North would be its denuclearization.

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