The threat of an arms race is real and growing. The news of recent days has highlighted the dangers
How late is it now? On Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce the time on its Doomsday Clock. Last year, the bulletin moved the hands forwards 30 seconds, to reach two minutes to midnight: the closest to catastrophe in six and a half decades. Since then, the immediate peril encapsulated in Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” to North Korea has receded. But Mr Trump should take no credit for pressing pause on a crisis largely of his own making. His actions have exacerbated existing problems on the Korean peninsula, and elsewhere.
As a candidate, Mr Trump is said to have asked why the US could not use nuclear weapons. So it should be no surprise he has proved reckless in office. Last week, his administration announced it would begin its pull-out from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty next month, and Mr Trump called for billions of dollars of new spending on missile defences. Arms control experts have warned that the missile defence review, and Mr Trump’s rhetoric in particular, risk provoking an arms race, encouraging Russia and China, both of which are potential and actual destabilisers already, to increase their own capabilities.