Nobel peace laureate group tells US, North Korea to negotiate

OSLO (Reuters) - A survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and the leader of the group that won this year's Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday urged the United States and North Korea to tone down their rhetoric and negotiate together to avoid a nuclear strike.

Tensions have risen markedly in recent months over North Korea's development, in defiance of repeated rounds of U.N. sanctions, of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States.

A missile test last week prompted a U.S. warning that North Korea's leadership would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out. The Pentagon has mounted repeated shows of force after North Korean tests.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize by a Nobel committee that cited the spread of nuclear weapons by countries like North Korea and the growing risk of an atomic war.

RELATED: Countdown to a standoff -- A timeline of tension with North Korea

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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea
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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea

Jan. 6, 2016:

After four years in power, Kim Jong Un says his country can produce a hydrogen bomb, the first step toward a nuclear weapon that could target the United States. The nation tests a device, but Western experts are not convinced it is a genuine hydrogen bomb.

Feb. 7, 2016:

North Korea sends up a satellite. The United States calls this a disguised test of an engine powerful enough to launch an ICBM.

March 9, 2016:

North Korea claims it can miniaturize a nuclear device to fit onto a missile.

June 23, 2016:

North Korea says it has successfully tested an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), with a range of 2,000 to 3,400 miles. Kim Jong Un claims the country can now attack "Americans in the Pacific operation theater," including the territory of Guam.

Sept. 9, 2016:

North Korea conducts its fifth and largest nuclear test on the anniversary of the country's founding. It says it has mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.

April 15, 2017:

North Korea reveals a new ICBM design, displaying the missiles at a military parade to mark the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung. Within three months, the missiles are tested.

July 4, 2017:

North Korea tests an ICBM for the first time, saying it can launch a missile that can reach the continental United States. The missile, Hwasong-14, is tested again three weeks later, this time in a night launch.

Aug. 8, 2017:

North Korea's army threatens to fire missiles towards Guam in an "enveloping fire." The message comes hours after President Donald Trump warns Pyongyang that it will be "met with fire and fury" if North Korea does not stop threatening the United States.

Aug. 23, 2017:

North Korea publishes photographs of Kim beside a diagram of what appears to be a new ICBM. Weapons experts say it will be more powerful than the missiles tested by Pyongyang in July, and could have Washington and New York within range.

Aug 29, 2017:

North Korea fires an intermediate range missile over northern Japan, prompting warnings to residents to take cover. The missile falls into the Pacific Ocean, but sharply raises tensions in the region.

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Setsuko Thurlow, an 85-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and Beatrice Fihn, ICAN's executive director, will receive the prize together on Sunday at Oslo City Hall in front of King Harald and Queen Sonja.

"No human being should suffer what we suffered," Thurlow, who was 13 at the time of the attack and is now an ICAN campaigner, told reporters on Saturday.

"I deeply and strongly urge the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. never to use nuclear weapons ... Negotiate.

"A diplomatic solution is the only solution."

 

"URGENT THREAT"

ICAN's Fihn said that the risk of a nuclear war had increased over the past year.

"There is an urgent threat right now," she told reporters.

"I would very strongly urge the leaders (of North Korea and the U.S.) to back down from their very dangerous rhetoric. Stop threatening to use weapons of mass destruction. Engage in a diplomatic solution."

ICAN is a coalition of grassroots non-governmental groups in more than 100 nations that began in Australia.

It has campaigned for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July.

It needs to be ratified by 50 states to come into force. So far only three have done so: the Holy See, Thailand and Guyana.

The treaty is not signed by - and would not apply to - any of the states that already have nuclear arms, which include the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel is also widely assumed to have nuclear weapons, although it neither confirms nor denies it.

The U.S., Britain and France are sending second-rank diplomats to the award ceremony, which Fihn said was "some kind of protest".

 

(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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