Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). We have just read that the hands of the imaginary “Doomsday Clock” of the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” have been advanced from one hundred seconds to midnight to only 90 seconds: According to the scientists involved, the end of the world has never been this close. The reason is an existence-threatening mix of the Ukraine war including Putin’s threat of the atomic bomb, the climate crisis and a pandemic. When I visited London for the first time in 1969, my path naturally led me to the world-famous “Speaker’s Corner” at the northern corner of Hyde Park, where – as a visible expression of British democracy – every politically motivated person (and every nutcase) was allowed to express his or her concerns without hindrance. At the time, I noticed a self-painted sign reading “The End is Nigh”, held out by an incessant doomsday prophet with a doomsday expression. I photographed the typically English quirky scene for the classmates who had stayed at home and didn’t give it a second thought.
In the meantime, not only English cranks but apparently also respected American scientists are coming up with such doomsday scenarios. Scholars argue about how realistic they are. During the Cold War, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, we all lived under the sword of nuclear Damocles; the much-cited “balance of terror”, the MAD doctrine (“mutual assured destruction”) may have saved us from the worst back then. Well, this is still the case today – under the condition of rational thinking and acting players. At least with Putin, one is not so sure (and I wouldn’t put my hand in the fire for Biden either). One inevitably thinks of the great, hitherto unrivalled doomsday parody “Dr. Strangelove” from 1964.
North Korea is hardly very rational and rather on the verge of (nuclear) madness. The regime of dictator Kim Jong Un, in whose country a famine is apparently currently taking place, is – largely unnoticed by the world, as it is in the shadow of the Ukraine war – incessantly testing new nuclear weapons systems: ballistic nuclear missiles fired from submarines or mounted on railway trains, long-range cruise missiles and multiple hypersonic missiles. There are indications that North Korea is preparing its seventh nuclear test, possibly to demonstrate its new generation of tactical nuclear weapons to the world. North Korea has a long tradition of nuclear weaponization, having conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Kim’s game with fire could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region: In South Korea, demands for nuclear armament are increasing – something that was previously unthinkable. China could accelerate its arms efforts, as could the traditionally pacifist Japan. North Korea is a ticking time bomb.
The above contribution by Dr. Charles E. Ritterband was rendered into English by Christoph Merten.