The Momentum Builds Up


Nuclear Abolition News | VOICES of the South on Globalization

"We are committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on April 1 in London.

Though they did not mention any deadline, the two leaders' joint statement was significant. Not only because Russia and the United States possess about 95 percent of nuclear weapons, but also because the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1991 is the last of its kind and expires end of this year.

In a major policy speech in Prague on April 5, Obama spelt out the steps necessary to achieve a nuclear free world. These include: strategic U.S. arms reductions together with Russia in the course of this year: strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the U.S.; engagement with Iran and others as well as offers of cooperation aimed at dissuading them from taking an undesirable course of action.

However, the very day President Obama delivered that speech, North Korea, launched a missile – in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, thus posing a serious challenge to East Asian regional peace and stability. Japan expressed great concern. "North Korea's nuclear development, coupled with its missile development, is posing a serious threat not only to East Asia but to the entire international community," Japan's foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone said.

Having suffered nuclear catastrophes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan knows the horror of nuclear devastation from its own experience. Realizing a world free of nuclear weapons is therefore Japan's long-cherished hope. To that end, Japan has been actively engaging in nuclear disarmament diplomacy.

Consistent with its approach, Japan urged nuclear powers April 27 to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons as a step toward a nuclear free world. In a speech entitled 'Conditions towards Zero - 11 Benchmarks for Global Nuclear Disarmament', Foreign Minister Nakasone put forward an 11-point initiative for promoting global nuclear disarmament.

Japan plans to propose these benchmarks at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and foster a favourable environment for a successful conclusion of this Conference. Meanwhile, the foreign minister hopes that the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, which is co-chaired by former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, will draw up a set of realistic, action-oriented proposals that will guide all countries toward a world free of nuclear weapons: The commission's final meeting is scheduled to be held in Hiroshima this autumn.

"In order to realise a world free of nuclear weapons, it is necessary that while nuclear weapons-holding states engage in nuclear disarmament, the entire international community adopts and complies with universal norms for disarmament and non-proliferation," Nakasone said. He pleaded for restrictions on ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. - Ramesh Jaura