"It's not acceptable to threaten to kill innocent civilians. It's not a security strategy. If you continue to use nuclear weapons, they will be used. And we are very ill-prepared for dealing with consequences. If threats continue, eventually, the weapons will be used. We are not going to be lucky forever," Fihn said.
In December 2017, ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts "to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons" and to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. This happened amid a growing threat of WMD use as the situation on the Korean peninsula became extremely tense in 2017, when Pyongyang continued to pursue its nuclear and missile programs despite warnings of the international community.
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Nuclear States Cannot Be Good or Bad
Speaking about the North Korean nuclear program, Fihn noted that there was no point in speaking about good or bad countries with nuclear weapons and insisted that all the nuclear arms must be destroyed.
"North Korea has nuclear weapons, whether or not we like it. We do not recognize that there are good or bad nuclear states. There are some states with nuclear weapons. Those are weapons of mass destruction, they should not have them. Having security based on threatening to indiscriminately slaughter civilians is not sustainable, it is not what we should be doing. They should all get rid of them. There are no legitimate or illegitimate nuclear arms states, it's all the same," she said.
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The ICAN executive director called for settling the North Korean nuclear issue through negotiations but added that it was impossible to speak about non-proliferation without speaking about getting rid of nuclear weapons by countries such as Russia and the United States.
In November 2017, North Korea tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile, which according to Pyongyang, would have been capable of hitting any part of the US mainland. As a response measure, the UN Security Council introduced multiple sanctions against Pyongyang in order to impede the development of its nuclear program. Tensions are also exacerbated as the United States has amassed significant military assets in close proximity of North Korea.
In June 2017, China and Russia initiated a roadmap for the settlement of the North Korean crisis, the so-called double freeze plan, which provides for the simultaneous cessation of North Korea's nuclear activity and the US-South Korean military exercises.
"It's really urgent to engage in negotiations to reduce tensions and reduce risks, but at the same time we are not going to be able to address proliferation concerns unless we address the existing nuclear weapons. If countries like Russia, the United States are arguing that we need nuclear weapons for security, then of course other countries will think the same," Fihn said.
She called the North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea a good signal but pointed out that easing tensions had never been enough to solve conflicts.
On January 9, Pyongyang and Seoul reached an agreement on the participation of North Korean athletes in the Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang due to take place from February 9 to February 25. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) later announced that the unified Olympic team of the two Korean states will take part in women's ice hockey, while athletes from North Korea will compete in figure skating, short track and skiing.
Nuclear States' Attempts to Teach Others Hypocritical
Fihn called the Iranian nuclear deal a positive but temporary measure as it does not lead to the creation of a worldwide regime without nuclear weapons.
"Iran deal was a very positive step, it was a diplomatic solution, but again, it's just a temporary fix. I think it will be very dangerous to undermine it, but we cannot prevent these proliferation situations unless we address the underlying issue of some countries finding it acceptable to have nuclear weapons," she said.
Fihn added that the world should see a problem not in Iran but in nine nuclear powers: Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, which does not recognize itself as a nuclear power.
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In July 2015, the European Union, Iran and the P5+1 group of nations — the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom plus Germany — signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. The agreement stipulates a gradual lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran in exchange for Tehran maintaining the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Tehran’s compliance with the deal in nine reports.
Nuclear Thinking May Not Be Basics for Security Strategy
The ICAN executive director pointed out that the leaders of nuclear powers should drastically change their approach to the security thinking, admitting that nuclear weapons cannot be regarded as a stabilizing factor.
"That's what we hope to achieve with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We are campaigning for it and trying to influence politicians and decision-makers in different countries," Fihn said.
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The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted on July 7, 2017, at a UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. It contains a set of prohibitions, including an obligation not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. So far, the TPNW has been signed by 50 states, and ratified only by three — Guyana, the Holy See and Thailand.
She pointed out that the treaty would enter into force after being ratified by at least 50 states.
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"We hope to reach that by some time in 2019," the ICAN executive director said.
Fihn added that the risk of a nuclear war is high right now as one can hear many threats of using weapons of mass destruction.
"We are actually just counting down the days until nuclear weapons are being used. Unless we do something about it. We have to stop ignoring this issue. It's like with climate change. If we keep ignoring it, we are all going to suffer. Something has to be done before," she said in conclusion.
Earlier in January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow had no plans to join the TPNW, however, stressed that Russia shared a common interest in building a nuclear-weapon-free world but not using the methods, on which the treaty is based.
According to the minister, Russia considers the extension of the moratorium on any nuclear explosions, along with the completion of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification the issues of utmost importance.
In September 2017, Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said that the TPNW was contrary to Russia’s national interests and Moscow's vision of how to move toward nuclear disarmament.