Japan Devastated by US Failure to Secure Nuke Ban Treaty
May 24, 2015
Kyodo News Service & Mainichi & Associated Press
Japan's A-bomb survivors were devastated as the US blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the UN secretary-general to convene a Middle East conference to set an agenda on banning nuclear weapons in the volatile region. Washington objected to a provision that called for Israel to meet with its neighbors with the goal of establishing a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Middle East.
UN Disarmament Talks Flop over Nuke-free Zone Plan for Middle East
Kyodo News Service
NEW YORK (May 23, 2015) -- A four-week UN review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ended Friday without adopting a consensus document, with negotiators failing to narrow differences over a proposal to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone.
The failure to produce an outline for actions for the next five years at the meeting will likely raise concerns that efforts toward a world free of nuclear arms will lose momentum. The outcome also disappointed atomic bomb survivors who hoped to see progress on the issue in the 70th anniversary year of the US bombings of Japan.
The conference president, Taous Feroukhi, admitted a lack of consensus at a plenary meeting that was held after hours of delay. Citing "diverging expectations of state parties for a progressive outcome," the Algerian ambassador said "it would be impossible for any single consensual document to possibly meet the highest aspirations of all parties."
With the current meeting -- held once every five years -- not the first to close without adopting a final document, the conference's effectiveness in promoting its agenda of disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy may be thrown into question.
At the plenary meeting, the proposal for a Middle East zone, which would involve Israel -- an undeclared but acknowledged nuclear power -- was raised by a number of speakers.
Rose Gotemoeller, the US undersecretary for arms control and security policy, rejected a plan to hold a conference on establishing such a zone by March 1 next year contained in the final draft for an outcome document, with the idea having been put forward by the Russians.
The US official called it "an arbitrary deadline" and blasted Egypt and a number of other states, saying they were not willing to let go of this and other "unrealistic and unworkable conditions" in the text. Britain and Canada also criticized the conference deadline language in the final text.
Egyptian Ambassador Hisham Badr slammed the United States, saying it "blocked" an agreement on the nuclear-free zone. It is "a sad day" for the NPT, he said, pointing out how three countries, had blocked the agreement. "By blocking consensus we are depriving the world, but especially the Middle East, of even one chance of a better future, away from the horrors and the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons," he added.
Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian head of delegation, said it was a "shame that such an opportunity for dialogue had turned out to be missed, perhaps for a long time to come."
In the closing days of the conference, some observers said nuclear "haves" and "have-nots" in the NPT framework were narrowing some differences over nuclear disarmament in working out a final document. But consensus was blocked over the issue of Israel, which is not party to the treaty but attended the review meeting as an observer for the first time in 20 years.
Along with many other participants at the plenary meeting, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama expressed disappointment about the lack of a final document, saying it is "extremely regrettable that this conference was not able to adopt a consensus, a substantive document, though we seemed to have come quite near to do so."
Japan attempted to include an invitation for world leaders to visit the two atomic-bombed cities -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- in the consensus document but it was dropped in the face of opposition from China, which believed Tokyo was trying to portray itself as a war victim.
Despite the failure to come up with an agreed document, Sugiyama stressed that it did not change his country's commitment to the credibility of the NPT regime. "It is not all lost," he said, adding that Japan would be hosting a series of meetings on disarmament issues in August in Hiroshima.
The review conference has also highlighted the importance and increasing recognition by a majority of states parties to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear bombs.
"I think the support for the humanitarian approach, that will not get smaller," Austria's head of delegation Alexander Kmentt told reporters after the meeting ending. "The nuclear weapons states were at least forced to recognize that on those issues they cannot force their hand because the vast majority of countries have a clear message to tell."
Meanwhile, Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of ICAN, a nongovernmental organization, pointed out how the removal of references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki visits was regrettable.
"The 70th anniversary is very important to highlight the suffering that happens if a nuclear bomb detonates and it is not a power politics issue or an attempt to rewrite history, we just want to make sure that the world knows what a nuclear bomb does when used," she noted.
Frustration has been growing among non-nuclear states that have been calling for a framework for banning nuclear weapons, an idea shunned by nuclear powers. Now that no consensus has been attained, it may spur calls for a treaty to outlaw destructive weapons.
In Japan, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui welcomed the spread of global awareness over the need to create a legal framework toward banning nuclear weapons, while Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue expressed his "strong disappointment" at the outcome.
Toshiyuki Mimaki, a 73-year-old atomic bomb survivor who traveled to New York for events related to the NPT conference, said, "I wanted to see (NPT members show) the path toward nuclear weapons abolition while I am alive, but it seems difficult in this situation."
NPT review conferences have been held since 1975. The 2005 meeting also failed to produce a substantive consensus document. The treaty counts roughly 190 signatories.
US Rejects Nuclear Disarmament Document over Israel Concerns
Mainichi & Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (May 23, 2015) -- The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbors to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.
The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the UN secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbors agree on an agenda.
Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.
Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.
That has alarmed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm. The United States and Russia hold more than 90 percent of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.
Amid a growing movement that stresses the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Austria announced that 107 states have now signed a pledge calling for legal measures to ban and eliminate them.
The US comments Friday came after a top State Department official was dispatched to Israel this week for intense talks, as Israel protested the idea of being forced into a conference with its Arab neighbors without prior agreement on an agenda.
Israel had been furious when the US at the treaty review conference five years ago signed off on a document that called for talks on a Middle East nuclear-free zone by 2012. Those talks never took place.
The language on the final document rejected Friday was "incompatible with our long-standing policies," said Rose Gottemoeller, the US under secretary of state for arms control and international security.
She named Egypt as being one of the countries "not willing to let go of these unrealistic and unworkable conditions."
Egypt later said it was extremely disappointed and warned, "This will have consequences in front of the Arab world and public opinion."
Iran, speaking for a group of more than 100 mostly developing countries, said it was surprised to see the US, Britain and Canada willing to block the entire document in defense of a country that it said has endangered the region by not agreeing to safeguards for its nuclear program.
Israel has been a fierce critic of the current efforts of world powers to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes only.
Gottemoeller also pointed out that the 2010 mandate to hold a conference on a Middle East nuclear-free zone has now effectively expired. The head of the Russian delegation, Mikhail Ulyanov, noted the setback, saying it was "a shame that an opportunity for dialogue has to be missed, perhaps for a long time to come."
Hibakusha Encouraged by 107 Nations'
Support to Establish a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons
TOKYO (May 23, 2015) -- Survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima have expressed disappointment at the failure of the NPT review conference to reach consensus.
Survivor Toshiyuki Mimaki said the outcome was worse than he could have imagined, and was a step back from the previous conference 5 years ago. He said ignoring the opinions of the countries that do not possess nuclear weapons puts the very existence of the NPT at risk.
Mimaki was exposed to radiation at the age of 3, when his mother took him to Hiroshima City to look for his father.
Another survivor, Kunihiko Sakuma, says he's happy that during the review conference 107 countries backed a proposal to establish a treaty to restrict nuclear arms.
He says that is a step toward the abolition of nuclear arms. He says it indicates that the international community is increasing its support for a view held by survivors that nuclear weapons cannot be abolished without a treaty banning them.
Sakuma visited New York late last month and submitted to the United Nations signatures of 6.33 million people calling for a treaty to ban nuclear arms.
Sakuma was a baby when he was exposed to radiation at his home, 3 kilometers from ground zero.
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