Commission Spreads Tainted Joy


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Taro Ichikawa
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

TOKYO (IDN) - Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd had reason to rejoice when they received and launched the report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), calling for a cut of more than 90 percent in the world’s nuclear arsenals by 2025. [JAPANESE]


Sponsored by both governments, the Commission -- co-chaired by Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Australian and Japanese foreign ministers -- had finished its much awaited report five months ahead of the landmark conference on review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) next May in New York.

But the two prime ministers' joy was adulterated by a barrage of criticism of the report by civil society organisations from Japan, Australia and other parts of the world. The report was written by a 15-member panel headed by Evans and Kawaguchi, and represents consensus achieved in the Commission.

The significance of the 332-page document titled ‘Eliminating Nuclear Threats - A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers' lies in the fact that twenty years after the end of the Cold War there are at least 23,000 nuclear warheads with a combined blast capacity equivalent to 150,000 Hiroshima bombs. U.S. and Russia together have over 22,000, and France, Britain, China, India, Pakistan and Israel around 1,000 between them.

Nearly half of all warheads are still operationally deployed, and the U.S. and Russia each have over 2,000 weapons on dangerously high alert, ready to be launched immediately -- within a decision window of just 4-8 minutes for each president -- in the event of perceived attack. The command and control systems of the Cold War years were repeatedly strained by mistakes and false alarms.

With this in view, Hatoyama said the report -- released Dec 15 in Tokyo -- was “a guidebook that will lead the world to peace is now complete, and this is really wonderful”. Rudd called it “an important framework for discussions and debate on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament in what will be a critical year in 2010.”

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reviewed every five years, has been severely strained, the report says. The last review conference in 2005 was an “unrelieved disaster” with backsliding on disarmament commitments by key players such as the U.S. then president George W Bush, it adds. At the same time, nuclear states India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have not ratified the non-proliferation treaty.

While welcoming the report, in a joint statement, Japanese, Australian and other NGOs say it "falls well short of our expectations" because "the pace of the action plan for nuclear disarmament laid out in the report is far too slow". Rather than adding to the global momentum for nuclear abolition, there is a danger that it could in fact act as a brake, they warn.

The signatories of statement include Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, who presides over the 'Mayors for Peace', and his counterpart from Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue. The two cities are the only in the world to have suffered from nuclear holocaust.

Other signatories include Nobel laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Australia Chair, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff.


The biggest reason for their disappointment is that the report fails to draw a practical path to nuclear abolition as an urgent and achievable goal. The report aims for a “minimization point” by 2025, when there should be fewer than 2,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Beyond that, no process or timetable for moving to zero is presented.

"There is a risk that such an agenda might have the effect not of advancing the goal shared by the Commission of a world free of nuclear weapons, but of being used to perpetuate a world where fewer nuclear weapons are maintained indefinitely."

The statement points out that the Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) have in their testimony and in personal witness to the ICNND last October in Hiroshima, appealed that such a tragedy must never be repeated anywhere on earth. They proclaim that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity and that the human race cannot co-exist with nuclear weapons.

Scientists warn of the global environmental destruction and consequences if even a tiny fraction of existing nuclear weapons are ever used again. Recent international developments demonstrate that as long as some countries possess nuclear weapons, or endorse their value, other countries will seek to acquire them.

For this reason, civil society has been demanding a comprehensive approach towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. Mayors throughout the world have proposed that nuclear weapons be eliminated by 2020. The Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are calling for the consecration of a world without nuclear weapons in that year.

"Anyone who seriously listens to these voices can only conclude that the action plan laid out in this report lacks an awareness of the urgency, or a sense of the crisis we face," says the joint statement.

The ICNND report suggests that a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) will be necessary in order to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. The civil society organisations give the Commission credit for this recognition. However, the report relegates the drafting of such a NWC to sometime around 2025.

"Such a timetable is far too slow and complacent. The fact is that a model NWC drafted by NGOs over a decade ago has already been submitted to the United Nations by the governments of Malaysia and Costa Rica and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called for UN Member States to seriously consider such a convention. This year a multiparty committee of the Australian Parliament unanimously recommended that the Australian Government support a NWC. What is required is for governments of every country, in cooperation with civil society, to begin working for a NWC now," the joint statement says.


The signatories warmly welcome that the report calls for the de-legitimization of nuclear weapons and recommends that the role of nuclear weapons in security policies be limited. ICNND recommends that, while aiming for a “no first use” nuclear posture, all nuclear-armed states should declare that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is the deterrence of nuclear attack.

The civil society organisations find it "significant" that a commission led by Australia and Japan, both of which rely on extended nuclear deterrence (the so-called nuclear umbrella), made such a recommendation. In particular, it was reported that during the Commission’s deliberations, the Japanese participants resisted such a limitation on the role of nuclear weapons.

They will therefore be "carefully watching the actions taken by the Japanese government on this issue". In their view it is "totally unacceptable for government officials in non-nuclear weapon parties to the NPT to resist disarmament by the nuclear weapons states and threaten or imply that they might acquire nuclear weapons if the nuclear umbrella is dismantled in favour of non-nuclear deterrence and defence.

In a separate six-page response, ICAN Australia gets tougher. Although ICNND is intended to be independent, a well-connected enterprise sponsored by the Australian and Japanese governments, both U.S. allies, should really be more explicit on their role, it says.

Says ICAN: In recent months it has been confirmed that the foreign affairs establishment in Japan for decades had a secret agreement to turn a blind eye to US nuclear weapons entering Japan, contrary to Japan’s stated policy.

More recently Japanese officials have been actively opposing President Obama’s nuclear disarmament agenda. It has become public that the Commission has also struggled with similarly recalcitrant Japanese influences opposing the U.S. moving to a policy of nuclear no first use. "This is deeply regrettable and troubling from the country which has suffered nuclear attacks on two of its cities."

"In Australia this year’s Defence White Paper runs completely counter to our government’s stated commitment to nuclear disarmament by affirming Australia’s reliance on U.S. nuclear deterrence out to 2030 and beyond. And Australia's exports of uranium continue to nuclear armed states, with inadequate safeguards on its enrichment and no restrictions on reprocessing of spent reactor fuel derived from it," notes ICAN.

It adds: Extended deterrence does not need to be nuclear. A new Japanese government, with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada supporting nuclear no first use, and Prime Minister Hatoyama speaking in support of the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, provides an excellent opportunity for a joint Australian-Japanese initiative actively supporting President Obama’s disarmament agenda and a U.S. no first use commitment.

ICAN Australia says: "Both (Australia and Japan) countries should walk the talk by making it clear that they want to transform their alliance relationship with the U.S. to one that excludes use of nuclear weapons. This would be the most powerful action our two governments could take towards supporting President Obama and a world free of nuclear weapons. It would be influential globally, including for NATO."


The ICNND report refers to the threat of nuclear terrorism and the risks associated with peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, the civil society organisations find the specific measures proposed for controlling materials and technology that can be diverted to nuclear weapons, including uranium and plutonium, "inadequate".

The report was released just as COP 15 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was being held in Copenhagen. "At a time when the world’s energy policies are at a turning point due to global warming, much stronger measures are called for to deal with the risk of nuclear proliferation associated with nuclear energy."

ICAN Australia Chair, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff said: "The Commission’s brazen promotion of nuclear power sits uneasily with its recognition of the need to control the inherently dual-use processes of uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium. It is contradictory for the Commission to promote nuclear power, exacerbating proliferation dangers, without adequately addressing the current failures of the non-proliferation regime and demonstrating how they can be fixed."

ICAN Australia’s position is that achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons would be much easier and quicker in a world in which nuclear power was being phased out. However while nuclear power is used, the industry needs a major overhaul so that uranium enrichment only occurs under strict international supervision, and reprocessing of spent reactor fuel to extract plutonium ceases.

ICAN believes that reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies - preparing and working for a world without nuclear weapons – is the responsibility of all countries, not only the nuclear-armed states. Allies of nuclear armed states bear particular responsibilities.


Pre-empting expected criticism, the two ICNND co-chairs however say that when they were assigned the task of leading this Commission in July 2008, they saw its task as being primarily to energize a high-level international debate -- "to try to reverse the sleepwalk into which international nuclear policy had largely fallen since the burst of arms control energy that accompanied and immediately followed the end of the Cold War".

In particular they saw their task "to try to ensure that there would be no repetition" at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference scheduled for May 2010 of the failure of its predecessor in 2005, and the World Summit of that year, to agree on anything at all.

There had been the beginnings of a new debate with the publication of the Shultz-Perry-Kissinger-Nunn “gang of four” article in January 2007, arguing from a hard-headed realist perspective that nuclear weapons had outlived any usefulness they might have had, but in mid-2008 global policymakers were still not focusing.

By the beginning of 2009, however, things had changed. Newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama launched a series of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and security initiatives -- to which President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, in particular, was immediately responsive -- and nuclear issues were squarely back on the global agenda. (IDN-InDepthNews/19.12.09)

Copyright © 2009 IDN-InDepthNews Service

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