UN Calls for Nuclear Abolition Treaty; Tokyo and Seoul Call for Nuclear First-Strike

August 22nd, 2016 - by admin

Susi Snyder / Pax for Peace & ICAN & The Asahi Shimbun – 2016-08-22 00:49:09

Special to Environmentalist Against War

A Nuclear Ban Is Coming
Susi Snyder / Pax for PeaceÓ

THE NETHERLANDS (August 20, 2016) — “The convening by the General Assembly of a conference in 2017 open to all states, international organisations, and civil society, to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons leading towards their total elimination.”

That phrase was heard repeatedly today at the session of the Open Ended Working Group. Repeated most regional groups- CELAC, Africa Group, ASEAN and the Pacific Island states (that’s about 101 for those who are counting), the message is clear: the majority want negotiations to begin in 2017.

The second draft of the Chairs report was released Monday afternoon, and this was the first session of the OEWG, which will conclude its work this week. Speaker after speaker repeated the desire for a negotiating conference next year.

No matter what the outcome document eventually says, the momentum for negotiations is there. More discussions will continue, and action is needed in the coming months to turn this momentum into action at the UN General Assembly- and negotiations next year.

Stay tuned- the ban is coming!
Susi Snyder (Snyder@paxforpeace.nl)

Majority of UN Members Declare Intention
To Negotiate Ban on Nuclear Weapons in 2017

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapon (ICAN)

GENEVA (August 19, 2016) — United Nations disarmament talks concluded in Geneva today with the overwhelming majority of nations signaling their intention to launch negotiations in 2017 for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

One hundred and seven nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, together with several in Europe, united behind a proposal to convene a conference next year to outlaw nuclear weapons.

A small handful of nations argued that nuclear weapons are essential for their security and therefore should not be prohibited. However, these opponents failed to block the majority and prevent negotiations from proceeding.

The Geneva talks began in February and continued in May and August as part of a special UN working group established last year to advance nuclear disarmament negotiations, which have long been stalled at the UN.

The group today adopted its final report by vote. The report recommends that a conference be held next year to negotiate “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited under international law, despite their inhumane and indiscriminate nature. The proposed ban would address this legal anomaly.

“There can be no doubt that a majority of UN members intend to pursue negotiations next year on a treaty banning nuclear weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“This is a significant moment in the seven-decade-long global struggle to rid the world of the worst weapons of mass destruction,” she said. “The UN working group achieved a breakthrough today.”

“We expect that, based on the recommendations of the working group, the UN General Assembly will adopt a resolution this autumn to establish the mandate for negotiations on a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017.”

UN Talks Recommend Negotiations of Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty
International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

GENEVA (August 19, 2016) — In a dramatic final day, the groundbreaking UN talks on nuclear disarmament concluded by making a clear recommendation to start negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Known as the “Open-Ended Working Group” (OEWG), the talks have taken place in February, May and August of this year and have outlined a number of elements that should be included in a new legally binding instrument, which prohibits nuclear weapons.

The majority support for the ban treaty was clearly underlined by joint statements delivered by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific as well as statements from several European states.

Resistance continued to come throughout the working group from a small group of states who continued to argue that nuclear weapons are essential to their national security. Despite threatening to block a report, which contained a recommendation for a ban treaty, these governments did not have the leverage to thwart the successful outcome of the group.

After long deliberations, it seemed that States were going to agree to a compromised report, which reflected the views of both sides of the ban treaty issue. However, after this agreement had seemingly been secured behind closed doors, Australia made a last-second turnaround and announced that it was objecting to the draft of the report and called for a vote.

In spite of the opposition from Australia and several other pro-nuclear weapon states, the majority was able to carry the day. On that basis, the working group was able to recommend the start of negotiations on a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

This breakthrough is result of the new global discourse on nuclear weapons. Bringing together governments, academia and civil society, a series of three conferences have uncovered new evidence about the devastating humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the risks of their use, whether accidental or intentional.

The momentum generated by the “humanitarian initiative” has now culminated with the international community on the verge of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited under international law, despite their inhumane and indiscriminate nature.

A ban would not only make it illegal for nations to use or possess nuclear weapons; it would also help pave the way to their complete elimination. Nations committed to reaching the goal of abolition have shown that they are ready to start negotiations next year.

It is now up to the October meeting of the UN General Assembly First Committee to bring forward this process by issuing a mandate to start the negotiating process.

Japan, South Korea Oppose
Obama’s Push for ‘No First Use’ Nuke Pledge

The Asahi Shimbun

TOKYO (August 19, 2016) — Japan and South Korea have expressed alarm over a potential landmark declaration by vital ally United States of a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy, in light of repeated nuclear and missile tests by North Korea.

But scores of former top government officials of Japan, Australia and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region are endorsing President Barack Obama’s drive to pledge that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly passed on his concerns about the possible policy change to the US side.

Japan has relied on the US nuclear umbrella as a key component of the nation’s postwar security policy. So, the Japanese Foreign Ministry was stunned by US media reports that Washington is weighing a potential declaration of a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy.

“What is the US intention by moving toward weakening its nuclear deterrence when North Korea is firing missiles toward Japan,” a senior ministry official asked, referring to missile tests by the reclusive country.

The Japanese government has assumed that it could significantly reduce the chances of a North Korean attack on Japan with biological, chemical or conventional weapons as long as it remains under the US nuclear umbrella. But the switch to a “no first use” policy by the United States could send the “wrong message” to Pyongyang, according to a Japanese government official.

“North Korea could interpret this as that it will not be met with retaliation by nuclear weapons as long as it uses conventional weapons when it attacks,” the official said. “It will likely heighten risks in national security.”

In March, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry did not rule out the possibility of becoming the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. “In the event of a conflict, it does not mean that the conflict would involve just conventional weapons,” the ministry said.

South Korea, too, has conveyed its strong concerns to the United States about Obama’s push, according to diplomatic sources in Seoul and Washington. It also fears that the possible shift could further fuel calls growing in South Korea for nuclear armament.

But there are also former government officials who embrace the “no first use” policy, including former foreign ministers of Japan and Australia — two nations that have built their defense policy on the premise of the US nuclear deterrent.

Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Japanese foreign minister, joined former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and 39 other former Cabinet members of countries in the Asia-Pacific region, releasing a statement under their names on Aug. 16. Some of these signatories served key posts in their respective nation’s militaries and many are well-versed in nuclear deterrence.

They urge Japan and other US allies to endorse a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy in the statement.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Nobuyasu Abe, former UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, said a “no first use” declaration by the United States would be a positive step.

“Even if the United States pledged a ‘no first use’ policy, would it induce North Korea to attack with conventional weapons by taking it at face value?” he said. “If North Korea harbored even a faint sense of doubt, it could contribute to deterrence.”

Leaders of Japanese ruling and opposition parties also voiced their support for the possible shift in US nuclear weapons policy. “I am watching with anticipation what Obama will do,” Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, a junior coalition partner with Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, said Aug. 18.

The same day, Katsuya Okada, president of the main opposition Democratic Party, called on the Japanese government to collaborate with the US president. “If (the ‘no first use’ policy) represents Obama’s determination to move a step forward to his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, what the Japanese government should do is to endorse it.”

China, meanwhile, has not made a clear response to the potential declaration. Beijing has consistently told other countries that its nuclear weapons policy is not to use them first. But many specialists on China-US relations remain skeptical that the United States will actually make the historic pledge.

(This article was compiled from reports by Hajimu Takeda, Yoshihiro Makino in Seoul and Mitsusada Enyo in Beijing.)

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