The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is profoundly saddened by the news that North Korea has carried out its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. As longtime activists against the use of nuclear weapons, we urge South Korea, the United States, Japan and others to respond with intensified diplomatic efforts to address this crisis and its underlying causes.

Since mere days after the first nuclear bomb was dropped in 1945, AFSC has worked ceaselessly for the elimination of nuclear weapons, which are inherently genocidal. Developing, stockpiling and making use of these weapons takes a catastrophic toll—in human and fiscal costs—on individual nations and on the world.

Nuclear weapons deplete countries’ vital resources for human development, resources needed for education, agriculture, health, infrastructure and environmental protection. Nuclear arsenals also feed an endless cycle of mistrust and hostility, as advances in any nation’s nuclear weapons program only spur proliferation by others.

Since 1997, AFSC has worked with and in North Korea on agricultural and economic issues. We know from our own experience that Americans and North Koreans can communicate and work together productively, from a basis of mutual respect.

The cycle of hostility in the Korean peninsula has gone on for over 60 years, with the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea locked in a war mentality. Nuclear weapons tests by North Korea and war games by the U.S. and South Korea only feed this tragic and dangerous cycle. Like all previous U.S. administrations during these decades, the Obama Administration has missed numerous opportunities to explore constructive diplomacy on the Korean peninsula.

To break this cycle, reduce the unthinkable danger of nuclear war in northeast Asia, and achieve peace on the Korean peninsula, AFSC continues to urge that:

  • All parties involved rely on diplomacy, not military threats. Diplomacy can and should be pursued at all levels: inter-Korean, via the Six Party talks, and bilaterally.

  • All parties resist further provocations and military build-up. North Korea should suspend its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. should cease its nuclear weapons modernization, eliminate its first-strike doctrine, and move to fulfill its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. South Korea and the U.S. should cancel annual war games that include live fire drills and mock invasions of the north.

  • All parties address humanitarian concerns in North Korea by building up trade and exchange programs that forge relationships and nurture peaceful change.

2013 marks 60 years since an armistice ended direct fighting with a ceasefire on the Korean peninsula. Let it also be the year all parties involved find the courage to stop the cycle of military threats and start building new paths to peace.