Analysis: Nobel Says to Korea Nuke Players: We are Watching

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Reuters)
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Reuters)
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Analysis: Nobel Says to Korea Nuke Players: We are Watching

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Reuters)
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Reuters)

They couldn't award it to Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump. That much was certain.

But the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons opened itself to a clear interpretation across Asia: When it comes to the nuclear-saturated war of words on the Korean Peninsula, attention must be paid and treaties must be signed. And it must be done in a preventative way, at top speed, before something happens that can't be undone, said an Associated Press report.

Looming in the background of the award announcement Friday was the sometimes scalding, sometimes tepid, never silent geopolitical scuffle this year between the young leader of the third-generation Pyongyang regime and the always voluble president of the United States.

Even the Nobel committee's language keyed in on that. It sounded like a plaintive cry to push parties to the negotiating table — to fix something that's already cracked before it's completely, irreversibly shattered.

The head of the group listed an assortment of the world's nuclear nations when she spoke after the win. But it was easy to find significance in the two she mentioned before all others — North Korea and the United States.

And this was the immediate assessment from a Nobel historian: "The panel wants to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations." The prize, Oeivind Stenersen suggested, was also "coded support" of the Iran nuclear deal.

This year's Geneva-based winner, known as ICAN, was cited "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons."

From the vantage point of the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding countries, where people shudder weekly at volleys of intemperate words and missile or bomb tests, such a treaty seems a distant dream. And few of the key players seem anywhere near a Nobel Peace Prize, said the AP.

North Korea just conducted its sixth and by far largest nuclear test, moving closer to its goal of mounting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile. It has repeatedly threatened to obliterate the United States from the map.

Such bellicose language from the North is common. It has spent years issuing over-the-top dispatches through its propaganda apparatus promising to destroy the United States.

In recent months, however, Pyongyang's invective has been matched almost blow by blow for the first time by equally aggressive language from Washington under the Trump administration, or at least Trump himself. The US president has shown no hesitation in cutting through the niceties of diplomatic lingo to excoriate the North and threaten to wipe it out of existence.

He has dubbed Kim "Little Rocket Man" and said his regime may not be long for this world. The US, of course, has one of the world's largest nuclear arsenals, even after significant reductions since the Cold War. It remains the only nation on the planet to use nuclear weapons during a war.

In the past four weeks alone, Trump has used words like these, in a recent tweet: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

And Kim, who bestowed upon Trump the rarely used insult "dotard" and pronounced him senile, has used words like these:

"Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy (North Korea), we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history."

Public posturing, sure. But not exactly language that points the way toward common ground, either.
The tension in word and deed between Washington and Pyongyang has faded slightly in recent days as the in-the-moment news cycle marches forward, but history shows that to be temporary. Another early-morning missile test, another intemperate remark or worse will put it right back on center stage.

The awarding of the $1.1 million prize to ICAN helps that happen, too, though even the group's executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said she "worried it was a prank at first" when she got the call from the Nobel committee.

Against this backdrop — and in Northeast Asia, a region that remains the only place where nuclear weapons were used against a civilian population during a war — the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in this manner implies one key point.

The influential body, which often uses the prize to set the agenda of where the light gets shone, is saying to Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, among others: We've got our eye on you, and the world needs to look harder, too.



Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war cabinet Monday, a move that consolidates his influence over the Israel-Hamas war and likely diminishes the odds of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Netanyahu announced the step days after his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, withdrew from the three-member war cabinet. Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as a more moderate voice.

Major war policies will now be solely approved by Netanyahu's security cabinet — a larger body that is dominated by hard-liners who oppose the US-backed ceasefire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

Netanyahu is expected to consult on some decisions with close allies in ad-hoc meetings, said an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

These closed-door meetings could blunt some of the influence of the hard-liners. But Netanyahu himself has shown little enthusiasm for the ceasefire plan and his reliance on the full security cabinet could give him cover to prolong a decision.

Here’s key background about the war cabinet, and what disbanding it means for ceasefire prospects:

Why did Gantz join and then quit the war cabinet? The war cabinet was formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel when Gantz, an opposition party leader, joined with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a show of unity.

At the time, Gantz demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

But Gantz left the cabinet earlier this month after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza.

He said he was fed up with a lack of progress bringing home the dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He accused Netanyahu of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. He called on Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas rule in Gaza.

When Netanyahu did not express support for the plan, Gantz announced his departure. He said that “fateful strategic decisions” in the cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

How will Israel's wartime policies likely be changed? The disbanding of the war cabinet only further distances Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Months of ceasefire talks have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders. Both Israel and Hamas have been reluctant to fully endorse a US-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort of the decimated territory.

Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security cabinet, some of whom oppose ceasefire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Gantz's departure, Israel's ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war cabinet. Monday's move could help keep Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. Netanyahu's critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government's failures on Oct. 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister's popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”