The following is by Helen Caldicott, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute:
It is difficult to underestimate the problems associated with North Korea's recent nuclear weapons test. Following a small atomic explosion of less than 1 kiloton -- the Hiroshima bomb was 13 kilotons -- the U.S. administration [has encouraged] economic sanctions against a desperately poor country where millions of people are malnourished and that will further ostracize a paranoid regime, while the rest of the world looks on with horror as the nuclear arms race threatens to spiral out of control.
While lateral proliferation is indeed an incredibly serious problem as ever-more countries prepare to enter the portals of the nuclear club, one consistent outstanding nuclear threat that continues to endanger most planetary species is ignored by the international community: In fact, the real "rogue" nations that continue to hold the world at nuclear ransom are Russia and the United States.
Of the 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, the United States and Russia possess 96 per cent of them. Of these, Russia aims most of its 8,200 strategic nuclear warheads at U.S. and Canadian targets, while the U.S. aims most of its 7,000 offensive strategic hydrogen bombs on Russian missile silos and command centers.
Each of these thermonuclear warheads has roughly 20 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to a report on nuclear weapons by the National Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental group.