Inter Press ServiceNuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons – Inter Press Service News and Views from the Global South Mon, 22 Jan 2018 17:32:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “The World Has Gone in Reverse” Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:06:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future. Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat […]

The post “The World Has Gone in Reverse” appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the General Assembly on his priorities for 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future.

Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the rise in nationalism and xenophobia.

“In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse,” said Guterres to the General Assembly.

“At the beginning of 2018, we must recognize the many ways in which the international
community is failing and falling short.”

Among the major concerns is the ongoing and heightened nuclear tensions.

Guterres noted that there are small signs of hope, including North Korea’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympics as well as the reopening of inter-Korean communication channels.

“War is avoidable—what I’m worried is that I’m not yet sure peace is guaranteed, and that is why we are so strongly engaged,” he said.

Despite UN sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to surrender the country’s development and stockpile of nuclear missiles.

During a meeting in Canada, United States’ officials warned of military action if the Northeast Asian nation does not negotiate.

“It is time to talk, but they have to take the step to say they want to talk,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told foreign ministers.

A recently released nuclear strategy also outlines the U.S. administration’s proposal to expand its nuclear arsenal in response to Russian and Chinese military threats which may only sustain global tensions.

Guterres has also pinpointed migration and refugee protection as priorities for the year.

Though arrivals have dropped, refugees and migrants from Honduras to Myanmar still embark on dangerous journeys in search of economic opportunity or even just safety. However, they are still often met with hostility.

“We need to have mutual respect with all people in the world. In particular, migration is a positive aspect—the respect for migrants and diversity is a fundamental pillar of the UN and it will be a fundamental pillar of the actions of the Secretary-General,” Guterres said.

The UN Global Compact for Migration is set to be adopted later this year after months of negotiations. The U.S. however has since withdrawn from the compact and is seemingly increasingly abandoning its commitments to migrants and refugees.

Most recently, U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly made offensive comments about immigrants from Caribbean and African nations.

The African Group of UN Ambassadors issued a statement condemning the “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic remarks” and demanded an apology.

UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville echoed similar sentiments, stating: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Guterres expressed particular concern about U.S. cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which has served more than five million registered refugees for almost 70 years.

“UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population…those services are extremely important not only for the wellbeing of these populations—and there is a serious humanitarian concern here—but also it is an important factor of stability,” he said.

Just a day after the Secretary-General’s briefing, the U.S. administration announced that it will cut over half of its planned funding to the agency.

Former UN Undersecretary-General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland urged the government to reconsider its decision.”

“Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politicization of humanitarian aid,” he said in a tweet.

In light of the range of challenges, Guterres called for bold leadership in the world.

“We need less hatred, more dialogue, and deeper international cooperation. With unity in 2018, we can make this pivotal year that sets the world on a better course,” he concluded.

The post “The World Has Gone in Reverse” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 1
Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of US Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:27:11 +0000 Thalif Deen When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers. So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, […]

The post Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of US appeared first on Inter Press Service.


'Rafale B', French Air Force combat jets.

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers.

So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, the government in Islamabad was one step ahead: it had already built a vibrant military relationship with China and also turned to UK, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy for its arms supplies.

In the Middle East, some of the longstanding US allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Kuwait, are known not to depend too heavily on American weapons systems—and their frontline fighter planes include not only F-15s and F-16s (US-supplied) but also Rafale and Mirage combat jets (France), the Typhoon (a UK/France/Italy joint venture) and Tornado and Jaguars (UK), all of them in multi-billion dollar arms deals.

The primary reason for multiple sources is to ensure uninterrupted arms supplies if any one of the suppliers, usually the US, withholds military aid – as it did in the 1990s when Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment which called for a certification that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons. (It did)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest data for 2012-2016, the US accounted for about a third of the entire global market in major conventional weapons.

SIPRI reports that Pakistan has received significant quantities of weapons from both the United States and China in recent years. Deliveries from China in the last several years reportedly include combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other naval vessels.

US deliveries have included armored personnel carriers and systems to modernize US F-16s that were previously supplied to the Pakistani military.

Derek Bisaccio, Middle East/ Africa & Eurasia Analyst at Forecast International Inc., a US-based defense research company, told IPS the two primary arms suppliers to Pakistan are the United States and China.

American arms agreements with Pakistan, he said, have totaled between $5-6 billion since 2001; much of this stems from the sale of F-16 fighter planes.

“Although Chinese arms sales to Pakistan are more difficult to put a dollar figure to– owing to a lack of transparency on both sides– it is expected that Chinese arms sales have eclipsed American arms sales on an annual basis in recent years as Pakistan and China have deepened their military-technical cooperation,” he noted.

In the past decade, China has sold naval patrol vessels, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Pakistan. The two have partnered on projects like the JF-17 fighter jet, assembled and manufactured locally by the Pakistanis.

Other arms suppliers include Ukraine, with whom Pakistan has partnered on its fleet of battle tanks, and Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have negotiated in the past few years over Pakistan’s possible purchase of attack helicopters and corvettes. Pakistan has purchased airborne early warning & control aircraft from Sweden and may well acquire more in the coming years, Bisaccio said.

In the past, Pakistan has contracted the United Kingdom, France and Italy for some of its purchases; many naval vessels and aircraft operated by Pakistan are French-origin, he added.

According to a report in the Washington Times last week, China is planning to build a military base in Pakistan, which would be its second overseas military base, after Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The naval installation will be erected in a key strategic location: the Pakistani town of Jiwani, a port near the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman and near the Straits of Hormuz, which resides at one of the six proposed economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Times said.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS: “The Trump administration’s decision to halt military aid to Pakistan is long overdue. Pakistan’s human rights record is deplorable, as documented in annual reports from the State Department.”

However, that decision was not justified on human rights grounds, she noted. Instead, the administration argues that the Pakistani government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“This argument that Pakistan is harboring terrorists is not new. The US-Pakistani relationship frequently features policy cycles that include critical statements by US officials, attempts to reduce or halt aid, and an eventual return to the status quo,” said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

“Ironically, the Trump decision to put a hold on military assistance to Pakistan comes at the same time as Reuters reports that the administration is planning to be even more aggressive in pursuing global arms sales. Embassy staffs are apparently going to be asked to promote US arms sales more actively to their host governments. This is reminiscent of similar moves during the Reagan administration.”

She also pointed out that advocates of arms sales often argue that countries can find other suppliers if the US government refuses a sale.

“Yet by avoiding selling sophisticated US weapons to unstable regimes, we may significantly reduce the risk that members of our armed forces will end up fighting our own weapons. And in the end, the US government needs to set ethical standards for arms sales, not merely economic ones.”

Reacting to the US aid cuts, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was quoted as saying: “We do not have any alliance” with the US. “This is not how allies behave.”

Trump said on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit” and accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

But Islamabad may still retaliate by closing down US supply routes to Afghanistan which goes through Pakistan. Currently, there are over 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bisaccio of Forecast International Inc told IPS that due to decades of partnership, the Pakistani military has a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment, either provided directly from the U.S. or a third party, in its force structures, either in active use or in storage.

Much of the Army’s aviation wing is composed of Western-supplied aircraft, with a lot of American systems.

Asked if the Pakistani military can survive if the US suspends military aid– and halts maintenance, servicing and spares to US-made equipment—Bisaccio said it can certainly survive, but in some areas of the military such moves to end cooperation would be painful.

He said the suspension of maintenance, servicing, and the provision of spare parts– should the U.S. decide to enact such a move– would be particularly problematic for the Pakistani F-16 fleet.

Pakistan has already encountered difficulty acquiring new F-16s, as the U.S. Congress blocked Pakistan from using foreign military financing to purchase eight jets in 2016. Inability to acquire maintenance or armaments would impact fleet readiness, especially over time as the F-16s face attrition. Posturing against rival India would suffer as a result, he added.

Moreover, the ability of the Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations could be impacted should Pakistan not be able to obtain servicing for the Army’s aviation assets, especially the AH-1 attack helicopters.

“Pakistan, in recognition that reliance on one supplier could create vulnerability, has over the years diversified its supplier base and worked to build up its own defense industry, which does have the effect of lessening its military dependence on the U.S,” Bisaccio pointed out.

The dispute with President Trump, he pointed out, is a symptom of the longer-running tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but, in Pakistan’s view, the latest row with the Trump administration provides further validation for this policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times in September 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated that his country would like to purchase F-16s from the U.S., but could seek alternatives from France or China if need be.

Pakistan’s missile deterrent against India is a key element of the country’s national security and Pakistan was able to develop its missile program without American assistance.

“The gradual fraying of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan has occurred amid a deepening of relations between China and Pakistan. Their joint cooperation on a range of matters, including military-technical issues, will help blunt the impact of the U.S. cutting off aid to Pakistan.”

The volume of security assistance provided to Pakistan from China is unknown but is likely to increase moving forward, offsetting to some extent the temporary or permanent loss of American assistance, he added.

The post Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of US appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Power Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

The post The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at

The post The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 2
The Journey to Oslo Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:14:33 +0000 Christian Ciobanu Christian Ciobanu is the senior associate, Global Security Institute.

The post The Journey to Oslo appeared first on Inter Press Service.


ICAN Meeting with the President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen.
(From left to Right) President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen, Ms Beatrice Fihn (ICAN), Ms. Grethe Östern (Norwegian People’s Aid), Mr Akira Kawasaki (Peace Boat), and Ms Susi Snyder (PAX). Credit: Christian Ciobanu

By Christian Ciobanu
OSLO, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

On December 10 in Oslo, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN started as a grassroots campaign in 2007. Its aim was to shift the paradigm of discussion about nuclear weapons from security and deterrence to the environmental and humanitarian effects of nuclear explosions. As the prize demonstrates, ICAN has succeeded brilliantly. But, as ICAN acknowledges, this is still only the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

A key development was the holding of three governmental conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Norway, Mexico, and Austria. At every turn, the nuclear weapon states and their allies would claim the humanitarian narrative was reckless and dangerous. IAN remained unwavering in its message: Nuclear weapons must be banned.

By the conference in Mexico, held in early 2014, ICAN was calling for the commencement of negotiations on establishing an international legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons. After all, land mines, chemicals and biological weapons were banned through their respective instruments, and then global norms were established against their use.

The negotiations for the ban treaty concluded in July 2017. 122 states voted to adopt the treaty. It opened for signature on September 20 and more than 50 states have signed it. It will enter into force when ratified by 50 states, probably in the next one to three years.

At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, the Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen praised ICAN and condemned the use and threat of nuclear weapons on humanitarian, moral and legal grounds.

Speaking at the ceremony, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn stated that it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons.

But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.

She further asserted “It’s an affront to democracy to be ruled by these weapons. But they are just weapons. They are just tools. And just as they were created by geopolitical context, they can just as easily be destroyed by placing them in a humanitarian context.”

Fihn further addressed the nuclear umbrella states, including Norway, in her closing remarks. She stated:

To the nations who believe they are sheltered under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, will you be complicit in your own destruction and the destruction of others in your name?

To all nations: choose the end of nuclear weapons over the end of us!

This is the choice that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents. Join this Treaty.

Following Fihn’s speech, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, recounted her harrowing survival of the atomic blast that annihilated her school. She heard a voice in the distance, which told her to keep pushing towards the light.

She explained that “Our light now is the ban treaty. To all in this hall and all listening around the world, I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! See the light? Crawl towards it.”

Indeed, the new light and hope is the ban treaty. This treaty must enter into force and it is time for all nations to sign it. All responsible leaders will sign this treaty and history will judge harshly those who reject it as highlighted.

Since humanity now has the choice to either accept nuclear annihilation or ban nuclear weapons, it is vital for all states to sign and ratify the treaty. For the time being, it seems unlikely that nuclear-armed states will join the treaty. As to nuclear umbrella states, the situation is fluid. Such states, including Norway, boycotted the negotiations, with the exception of the Netherlands. In fact, in late March, the Secretary of State of Norway, Marit Berger Røsland, mentioned that “Norway and our allies have an aim for a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as others have nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

However, the Norwegian parliament is set to take a vote on convening an inquiry in which parliamentarians, with the engagement of civil society, will examine the consequences of signing and not signing the ban treaty. Furthermore, both the Prime Minister, President, and Chair of the Committee on Defense and Security met with representatives of the ICAN in Parliament.

At the press event with the President of Norway, Ms. Grethe Östern, Head of the Norwegian People’s Aid’s Nuclear Disarmament Project, said that it is absolutely vital for the Norwegian parliament to engage in discussions about the utility and the risks related to nuclear deterrence.

Building upon Östern’s statement, Ms. Susi Snyder of ICAN and Pax explained that parliaments in Switzerland, Sweden, and Italy have passed resolutions in which they have instructed their respective governments to explore the ratification of the ban treaty. Snyder concluded her remarks by stating that the parliamentarians will have to think about the consequences of not joining the treaty. They must think about the following question: Are you willing to then be complicit in using nuclear weapons?

We now have the choice to live a world free of nuclear weapons. It is time for the people everywhere to discuss this momentous choice.

Thank you ICAN, for changing the status quo in the nuclear disarmament field.

The post The Journey to Oslo appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:31:35 +0000 Thalif Deen The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins. The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in […]

The post Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.


An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Credit: US Government

By Thalif Deen

The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins.

The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in Kiribati.

The so-called “Pacific Proving Grounds”, which included the Marshall Islands and a few others on the Pacific Ocean, was the site of US nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.

France tested its weapons on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, with French naval vessels clashing with Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigners.

The United Kingdom, along with the US, conducted several nuclear tests in and around Kiribati in the late 1950s. But the islanders were not evacuated exposing them to radiation from the blasts.

All of these tests, which left behind environmental hazards and radioactive waste, came to an inglorious end – or so it seems. But the nuclear nightmares over the Pacific continue to linger on.

According to the London Guardian, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2.0 billion in personal injury and land damage claims arising from the nuclear tests, but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

After 67 tests, US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958. But in a 2012 report, UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

And a projected sea-level rise, triggered by climate change, is threatening to unearth the radioactive waste and spill it into the high seas.

According to two researchers, Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands, for nearly four decades, in order to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, “all without informed consent.”

All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation.

Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility.

“Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease”, Johnston and Abraham wrote.

Bob Rigg, a former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and ex-chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS: “It is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about the entire Pacific region, which is both vast and diverse”.

But US attention, he pointed out, was focused in particular on Micronesia, which includes most of the islands bitterly fought over in the latter years of World War II.

“The US wields disproportionate influence over this sub-region, where most of its 1,054 nuclear tests were conducted,” he added.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Rigg, can be defined as the first example of US nuclear testing, given that a principal motive for both attacks was to facilitate large-scale research into the effects of nuclear weapons on living human beings, a subject which was a closed book even to the world’s leading nuclear scientists at the time.

As soon as the war ended, he said, “the US hastened to establish political control over a number of strategically important islands forming an “island chain” in the Pacific – a chain of US military and political influence cementing US control of major trade routes, while also enables it to contain the growing power and influence of Communist China.”

Ironically enough, the US island chain has something in common with China’s South China Sea outposts which today draw the ire of the US, he added.

Robert Alvarez, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Strategic International Studies, told IPS that three major international conferences—in Oslo, Mexico City, and Vienna— focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons, and on establishing a new international legal instrument that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits—including one in US federal courts and the other with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason, he pointed out.

The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshalls lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament, he noted.

In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in May 2015, Alvarez said the damage did not end with nuclear testing.

In the 1960s, islands of the Enewetak Atoll were stripped of topsoil and used for explosive crater experiments, to see how US missile silos would hold up to enemy missiles.

And in October 1968, the US Navy conducted a biological warfare experiment in which Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a virulent bacterium, was released over the Enewetak Atoll from fighter aircraft.

“The pathogen proved to be harmful to experimental animals over a 1,500 square mile area. Since the late 1950s, the Kwajalein Atoll and lagoon have served as an anti-ballistic missile launch site for testing against possible missile attacks,” he noted.

Nearly every US intercontinental ballistic missile was test fired at Kwajalein. Now home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the $4 billion US Air Force complex on Kwajalein is considered a key strategic asset for anti-ballistic missile testing, military space projects, and intelligence gathering, wrote Alvarez, who was also a Senior Professional Staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where he conducted an investigation into the conduct of the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the Marshall Islands.

Rigg told IPS Truman had no qualms about bombing Japan and seizing control of several Micronesian Islands where America’s many subsequent nuclear tests could be conducted. Indigenous populations were frequently marginalised, displaced, and impoverished.

Traditional ways of living, cultivating food and eating were frequently replaced within one generation with a barbarised version of US consumer culture. The key operational assumption was that Pacific Islanders represented an inferior culture which, in the patronising words of one US scientist, at least had more in common with civilised westerners than laboratory mice, he said.

“Like the Japanese, Pacific Islanders were viewed through the prism of mainstream US racism. The example of Rongelap Island, which was seriously affected by fallout from the huge Castle Bravo test, is perhaps most instructive.”

When the islanders repeatedly lobbied for permission to return to their home, said Rigg, the US Atomic Energy Commission declared it safe for re-habitation, with US scientists privately noting that “the habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

As a major environmental polluter, he argued, the US contributes to global warming which disproportionately affects many small Pacific Island states whose highest point is in some cases just a couple of metres above sea level.

“Such islands are also acutely vulnerable to the climate change-induced violent storms which increasingly inflict massive destruction on both vegetation and homes. As many of these islands are desperately poor there is all too often no money to rebuild infrastructure and homes, with more than 95% of damaged buildings being uninsured.”

Trump’s America First policy has already produced a 30% cut in State Department funding which will dramatically curtail expenditure on Pacific islands which are not part of the militarised US island chain. Australia abjectly proclaims that it is “joined at the hip” with the US, slavishly following in the wake of Uncle Sam in all things, Rigg said.

“Fortunately, there is one small ray of hope: New Zealand has just elected a new Labour Government which is signalling its willingness to adopt innovative approaches to political problem-solving, including in the region.”

The new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, he pointed out, has already signalled her government’s willingness to view Pacific Islanders fleeing their submerged islands as refugees. At present Australia’s immigration policies exclude such “environmental refugees.”

This New Zealand initiative could eventually necessitate the re-negotiation of the UN Convention on Refugees, to accommodate a new category of environmental refugees, he added.

In the words of a recent report to a congressional committee, even before the election of Trump, the US had pursued a “policy of benign neglect towards the South Pacific nations.

“Too often have we relied on Australia and New Zealand to determine what US policy should be in the region.” If this was true before Trump, it will be doubly true now.”

Possibly with at least some support from New Zealand, Pacific Island states will have to continue to seek political support from outside their region, as recently, when Fiji and Germany jointly hosted the November meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.

The elevation of Fiji to this prominent role reveals that, in the complete absence of support from both Trump’s US and Malcolm Turnbull’s Australia, there is a heartening emerging international awareness of the extent to which the very existence of some Pacific Island states is already under threat from climate change, he noted.

“But words must be backed up by large quantities of hard cash, without which some small Pacific Island states will undoubtedly go under.”

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The writer can be contacted at

The post Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
First Use of Nuclear Weapons Would be Counterproductive Fri, 01 Dec 2017 11:11:26 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The post First Use of Nuclear Weapons Would be Counterproductive appeared first on Inter Press Service.


U.S. Air Force airmen install a cable raceway on an intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on February 3, 2014. Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/RELEASED)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Over the past year, cavalier and reckless statements from President Donald Trump about nuclear weapons and his threat to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea have heightened fears about Cold War-era policies and procedures that put the authority to launch nuclear weapons in his hands alone.

Partially in response, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for the first time since 1976, held a hearing on the “executive’s authority to use nuclear weapons.” The Nov. 14 hearing should be just the start of a process that leads to changes that reduce the risk of nuclear miscalculation and establishes that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet/Russian nuclear arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms reduction agreements. Yet, each side still deploys 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons as permitted by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is far more than required to deter a nuclear attack.

Each maintains a significant portion of its land- and sea-based forces on a prompt-launch posture to guard against a “disarming” first strike. The resulting launch procedures would, in some scenarios, give the president only minutes to decide whether to avenge such an attack with hundreds of nuclear-armed missiles.

These policies increase the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. In the nuclear age, there have been several incidents in which false signals of an attack have prompted U.S. and Russian officials to consider, in the dead of the night and under the pressure of time, launching nuclear weapons in retaliation.

Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person and requiring launch decisions to be made in minutes, and without congressional authorization, is undemocratic and dangerous. No reliable safeguards are in place to prevent an impulsive and irrational decision by Trump to use nuclear weapons.

Days after the Senate hearing, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, tried to assuage congressional concerns, saying he would push back against a nuclear strike order from the president if it were “illegal.” That is cold comfort given the general acknowledged that, if the president insists, “we’ll work out a legal option.”

Rather than accept such empty assurances, Congress should demand and the Pentagon should provide more information on U.S. nuclear employment strategy, including targeting data, attack options, damage expectancy requirements, and estimated civilian casualties; and it should publicly review the legal rationale for these plans, which are currently not shared with members of Congress.

Despite the dangers, defenders of the status quo argue that altering the current system, including forgoing the first-use option, would undermine the credibility of deterrence and somehow encourage aggressors.

In reality, the current “launch under attack” policy is unnecessary because U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, particularly the submarine-based weapons, and remaining nuclear forces would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Eliminating the requirement to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles under attack would increase the time available for the president and other civilian and military advisers to more soberly weigh the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation for a warning of an attack against the United States or its allies.

Furthermore, given the conventional military superiority of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat.

Nuclear weapons are not necessary to deter or respond to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical or biological weapons attack or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with Russia or North Korea, the first use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would likely trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal nuclear exchange.

As Vice President Joseph Biden said in remarks delivered in January 2017, “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense.”

Given the indiscriminate, widespread, and long-term consequences of nuclear weapons, it is also hard to envision a nuclear first use scenario that is “legal” despite Pentagon claims that current nuclear weapons employment options meet the principles of “distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations” as required by the Law of War.

The Senate’s recent hearing on nuclear weapons use policy must not be its last. It is past time to move away from outdated and dangerous, prompt-launch nuclear procedures. The fate of millions of people should not depend on the good judgment of one person, no matter who he or she may be.

The post First Use of Nuclear Weapons Would be Counterproductive appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Trump, Korea, the Ban, & Where Hope Lies Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:32:32 +0000 Joseph Gerson Dr. Joseph Gerson* is Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Co-Convener of the Peace and Planet International Network

The post Trump, Korea, the Ban, & Where Hope Lies appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Dr. Joseph Gerson* is Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace and Economic Security Program, Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Co-Convener of the Peace and Planet International Network

By Dr. Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

There is much to celebrate in the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award this year’s prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

If the chilling threats of nuclear war being tossed around by Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un weren’t enough to raise concerns about nuclear weapons, press reports of ICAN being awarded the Prize have reminded people that the threat of nuclear war didn’t end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that there remains hope for a nuclear weapons-free future.

While the negotiation of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty has raised hopes around the world, Donald Trump (it is painful to refer to him as president) and his “madman” approach to North Korea give lie to the myth that the P-5’s nuclear arsenals are in “safe hands.”

With his denunciation of diplomacy, and simulated nuclear bomber attacks and tweets asserting that North Korea understands only one thing, Trump has returned humanity to the brink of nuclear catastrophe on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The ten months since Trump’s inauguration have almost inured us to surprise, but this week midst Trumpian chaos we learned that in July Trump urged a ten-fold increase in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and that this may have been the outrage that led Secretary of State Tillerson to describe his boss as a “f…..g moron.”

The reality of the “moron” having his finger on the nuclear trigger is indeed sobering and is the reason legislation has been introduced in Congress to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear war on his own authority.

Time dulls memory and sensibilities. Recall that a year ago Trump didn’t know what the nuclear triad was and suggested that Japan and South Korea should become nuclear powers. He asked why we can’t use nuclear weapons and threatened to use them against “terrorists” (likely including Kim Jung-un. He has also said “I can’t take anything off the table.”

In his first conversation with Vladimir Putin, before labeling the New START treaty a “bad deal”, he had to ask his advisors what it was. Since then, he has pledged to “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, called for a nuclear arms race, and launched a Nuclear Policy Review targeted against Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, while Congressional forces press for deployment of land-based nuclear armed cruise missiles in Europe that would sink the INF Treaty.

Compounding these dangers Trump humiliated his Secretary of State’s efforts to pursue diplomacy with North Korea, even when the “Freeze for Freeze” option provides the obvious path back from the nuclear brink. With its B-1 bomber simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, increased tempo of U.S. so-called “freedom of navigation” naval exercises in the South China, as well as others in Black and Baltic Seas, Trump and the Pentagon have increased the danger that unintended incidents or miscalculations could escalate beyond control.

Midst it all, we have the Ban Treaty. As we see with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Treaty further stigmatizes nuclear weapons as it seeks to outlaw their use, threatened use, development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons, or their transfer and deployment.

The Treaty’s greatest potential appears to be in Europe. I hope that I am wrong, but my fear is that, like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Ban Treaty will give us one more agreement that the nuclear powers refuse to respect.

Two trains are running in opposite directions. One, with the support of most of the world’s governments and international civil society, is racing toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The other, with the additional fuel of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and Trump at the helm in Washington, is burning unimaginable fortunes as it speeds toward nuclear Armageddon.

In addition to further stigmatizing nuclear weapons, the Treaty’s most important contributions may be reminding people around the world of the imperative of nuclear weapons abolition, and the encouragement it gives to people and governments who are working for nuclear disarmament.

That said, the Treaty will be recognized as international law by only those states that sign and ratify it. All the nuclear powers boycotted the ban treaty negotiations. The US, UK, France, and Russia denounced it, falsely claiming that nuclear deterrence kept the peace for 70 years. (Ask the Vietnamese, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Congolese and so many others about that!) Led by the US, each of the nuclear powers is upgrading and/or expanding its nuclear arsenal. With NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, its nuclear weapons, and with the West’s conventional, high-tech and space weapons superiority, Moscow is “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal.

With increased Japanese and South Korean anxieties resulting from Pyongyang’s nuclear threats and growing doubts about reliability of the U.S, “nuclear umbrella,” there are mounting calls from sectors of their elites for their governments to become nuclear powers. We thus could be entering an era of nuclear weapons proliferation, not abolition.

Our future depends on how people and governments respond, and it dictates a global division of labor among nuclear weapons abolitionists. States that negotiated the ban treaty obviously must sign and ratify it as quickly as possible. And, they can do more.

As Professor Zia Mian reminds us, Article 12 requires states parties to make their treaty commitments “part of their political engagement with the nuclear weapon states.” They can dispatch delegations to encourage others to join the treaty, and they can initiate sanctions and boycotts to pressure the nuclear powers.

But winning nuclear weapons abolition still requires building mass movements within the nuclear weapons and “umbrella” states. These nations and our disarmament movements still lie at the crux of the struggle.

The Ban Treaty certainly reinforces popular understanding of the righteousness of Jeremy Corbyn’s and our movements’ commitments to a nuclear weapons free world. Imagine the global reverberations of Britain, led by Prime Minister Corbyn, deciding not to fund Trident replacement. And, across the channel, if just one or two NATO or other umbrella states are led by their people reject the strictures of their nuclear alliances, they could begin to unravel world’s nuclear architecture and unleash a global disarmament dynamic.

For those of us in the world’s nuclear weapons states, the imperative of resistance remains. This includes doing all that we can to prevent war with North Korea and steadfast education about the human costs, preparations for, and dangers of nuclear war that can be brought on by miscalculation and accident, as well as intentionally. We need to highlight the deceit and deficiencies of “deterrence,” and teach about the forces that led to and won the ban treaty.

But good ideas and truth rarely prevail on their own. Frederick Douglass, the 19th century U.S. anti-slavery abolitionist, was right: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

More recently, on the eve of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon advised that governments alone will not deliver us into a nuclear weapons-free world. We can only reach that promised land with massive popular pressure from below, from international civil society.

For the moment, our best near-term hope may lie in Jeremy Corbyn and the possible Scottish succession from what was once Great Britain. Corbyn has said he will not push the nuclear button, and he has long opposed nuclear weapons and understands the need to invest in social uplift.

The loss of the Faslane on the Scottish coast could leave London without a nuclear weapons base. What the British movement does will thus be critical for human survival and to our struggles in the other nuclear weapons and umbrella states.

ICAN is not the first advocate of a nuclear weapons-free world to receive Nobel Peace Laureate. It was proceeded by the Quaker American Friends Service Committee which protested the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within days of the nuclear attacks; by Joseph Rotblat, the only Manhattan Project senior scientist who resigned because of his moral considerations, and by Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA who denounced nuclear double standards.

Years ago, speaking in Hiroshima, Robblat cut to the quick when he said that humanity faces a stark choice. We can either eliminate nuclear weapons, or we will see their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will tolerate what it experiences as an unjust hierarchy of power, in this case nuclear terror.

*Dr. Joseph Gerson is author of Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World, and With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination.

The post Trump, Korea, the Ban, & Where Hope Lies appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Will EU & US Part Ways on Iran Nuclear Deal? Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:57:18 +0000 Tarja Cronber and Tytti Erasto Dr Tarja Cronberg is a Distinguished Associate Fellow at The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) & Dr Tytti Erästö is a Researcher in SIPRI's Programme on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

The post Will EU & US Part Ways on Iran Nuclear Deal? appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Dr Tarja Cronberg is a Distinguished Associate Fellow at The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) & Dr Tytti Erästö is a Researcher in SIPRI's Programme on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

By Tarja Cronber and Tytti Erästö
STOCKHOLM, Oct 11 2017 (IPS)

The Iran nuclear deal has demonstrated that diplomacy can triumph in nuclear non-proliferation: dialogue, rather than military action, can convince states to forgo pursuing nuclear weapons. The European Union has long played an instrumental role in the multilateral diplomacy that produced the historic deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Busher nuclear power plant in Iran. Credit: IAEA/Paolo Contri

In 2003, the EU took the lead in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, largely as an attempt to prevent an Iraq-style US military action in Iran. The Obama administration’s subsequent efforts at diplomacy were likewise driven by the concern that the nuclear crisis might escalate to war. The deal—brokered in 2015 with Iran by the P5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) and the EU—solved the nuclear dispute and seemed to effectively put an end to such concerns.

However, since the election of Donald Trump as US president, this key foreign policy success has been under threat. Contrary to all evidence and EU positions, the US president still thinks the nuclear deal is ‘the worst deal ever’. This week, he is expected to issue a formal declaration that the JCPOA is no longer in the interest of US national security. What does this mean for the future of the deal and the transatlantic relationship?

The deal is working, but the United States questions its merits

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed that Iran is in compliance with the provisions of the nuclear deal—most recently in August 2017. As a result of the deal, Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities and number of centrifuges remain limited, its stockpile of enriched uranium has been transported to Russia, and the heavy water reactor in Arak has been modified. Furthermore, Iran is under the most extensive nuclear inspection regime in the world: in addition to implementing the IAEA Additional Protocol, it has also agreed to additional inspections including potential IAEA access to suspected undeclared nuclear facilities and military sites.

In the USA, however, Republicans have been critical of the deal all along. Reflecting the deep-seated US–Iranian enmity, an enmity shared by Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Republicans tend to view Iran as an enemy to be isolated and sanctioned, rather than a state with which to partner and cooperate. Trump’s seemingly irrational dismissal of the JCPOA must be understood against this background.

Since his election campaign, Trump has remained consistent in his opposition to the Iran deal. Personally, he has said that the Iranians are ‘not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement’. However, there are divisions among senior administration officials on the issue.

Both US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford have called for continued US adherence to the deal. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that Iran is in ‘technical’ compliance, he has also said that Iran is ‘clearly in default of’ the expectation that the JCPOA would also have helped address other issues, such as Iran’s regional activities and continued missile testing.

The EU, in contrast, has been united in its support for the JCPOA. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini has repeatedly stressed that the deal is delivering and will be implemented as agreed. Europeans also stress that the deal was limited to addressing the nuclear dispute and should not be confused with other issues.

As a seeming middle way, the Trump administration has raised the idea of renegotiating the JCPOA, or parts of it, and has lobbied for this alternative in private meetings with Europeans. However, Iran has rejected such suggestions. According to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, ‘It was complicated enough to reach this deal already, and it would be impossible to reach another deal’.

Europeans do not seem to have warmed up to suggestions for renegotiation either. For example, Peter Wittig, Germany’s Ambassador to the USA, recently said that he saw no practical way of renegotiating the deal and did not regard it possible to do so.

What if Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance?

According to the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the president has to certify every 90 days that Iran ‘is verifiably and fully implementing the JCPOA’. As part of this process, the president must also assess whether adhering to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the USA.

Trump has certified the deal twice, but reluctantly and under pressure to do so by his aides. As the next certification deadline of October 15 draws near, reports from Washington, DC, suggest with increasing certainty that Trump will decertify the deal, based on the argument that it is not in the interest of US national security.

Decertification would be a major blow to the deal. In addition to showing a complete lack of appreciation for Iran’s actual compliance and other JCPOA partners’ views, the president’s decision to decertify would open the door for the US Congress to reimpose the unilateral US sanctions that were lifted as part of the JCPOA. Congress would have 60 days to decide on the reimposition of those sanctions against Iran.

However, decertification does not necessarily mean that the USA is walking out of the deal. The White House seems to be gambling that Trump’s decertification—which would allow him to maintain consistency with his previous anti Iran line—would be offset by a congressional decision to waive nuclear related sanctions.

This way the USA could not be accused of breaching its own commitments under the JCPOA, the deal could be preserved and a conflict with European partners could be avoided. As part of the effort to influence the Congress, the administration is expected to push for tough non-nuclear sanctions legislation, notably by targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Even if this strategy plays out as planned, the JCPOA would still face an uncertain future. In Iran, Trump’s decertification, coupled with new non-nuclear sanctions and potential new calls for additional inspections of Iranian military sites would be viewed as provocations requiring a response.

The comment by IRGC Head Mohammad Ali Jafari on the US plans to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization illustrates the problem. If the USA is ‘considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group’, he said, ‘then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American Army to be like Islamic State all around the world, particularly in the Middle East’.

More US sanctions and tensions in the region would also negatively impact international trade with Iran. Despite the lifting of sanctions, international banks and firms have been wary of entering into financial relations with Iran out of fear of being penalized as a result. This has contributed to one of the main Iranian grievances about the JCPOA, namely that sanctions relief—a key concession made to Iran under the deal—has not led to the expected recovery of the Iranian economy.

Thus, the mere talk of reimposing old US sanctions or drafting new ones is creating political tensions and economic uncertainty. This could undermine domestic support for the JCPOA in Iran and empower hardliners, who have promoted themselves by attacking the moderate policies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

What can Europeans do if the US Congress reimposes sanctions?

The problem with the Trump administration’s reported strategy is that there is no guarantee that Congress will ultimately be convinced by any White House appeals to not reimpose nuclear sanctions. A congressional decision to reimpose US nuclear sanctions could be potentially fatal to the JCPOA. It would also put Europe in a very difficult position, both politically and economically.

Because the US sanctions are mainly extraterritorial, they would not hit Iran directly, but instead target third parties dealing with Iran. In principle, the EU could provide its banks and companies legal protection against the US Department of the Treasury. As several observers have suggested, this could be done by including the US sanctions in the 1996 blocking statute (Council Regulation EC 2271/96) that shields European companies ‘against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom.’ Additionally, it has been suggested that the EU could explore offshore dollar-clearing facilities to substitute US-based financial transactions with Iran. One potential partner in such an effort could be China, which has both extensive trade relations with Iran and the economic base necessary for creating alternative financial networks.

It is unclear whether the EU would ultimately find the political will and unity to enter into an economic confrontation with the USA. Recent statements by EU officials, however, suggest that it might be ready for this. When asked how Europe would react to US sanctions being reimposed on Iran, EU ambassador to the USA David O’Sullivan said that he had ‘no doubt’ that the ‘European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies’.

The Secretary General of the European External Action Service, Helga Schmid, for her part, stated last week that the EU ‘will do everything to make sure it [the JCPOA] stays’. As one concrete example, Schmid referred to the European Commission’s proposal to allow the future operation of the European Investment Bank in Iran. In addition, credit agencies in Austria, Denmark and Italy have stepped in to provide export guarantees to Iran.

If faced with a situation where US sanctions interfere with legitimate trade with Iran, European choices might prove crucial for the JCPOA. As the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said, in such a case, ‘the only way Iran would be persuaded to continue to observe the limits on its civil nuclear programme would be if the other signatories … all remained committed to its terms and defy any subsequent US sanctions.’

Potential ‘snap back’ of UN sanctions

The reimposition of unilateral US sanctions would be a breach of the JCPOA. However, the USA could also (mis)use the JCPOA’s Joint Commission dispute resolution mechanism to legally reinstate all previous UN sanctions against Iran. This possibility has, thus far, been overlooked by most observers, as it is an unintended consequence of the formulation of Article 37 of the JCPOA—originally meant to prevent any party from protecting Iran if it breached its commitments.

The Commission, which is chaired by the EU and consists of Iran and the six world powers that negotiated the deal, reviews the implementation of the JCPOA. The parties have agreed that, if no agreement is reached regarding claims of non-performance with the JCPOA, the complaining party may take the issue to the UN Security Council. In such a case, the Security Council is to vote on a resolution to continue the lifting of the sanctions.

Due to its veto power in the Security Council, the USA could thus, at least in theory, block the resolution, and alone cause all previous UN sanctions against Iran to ‘snap back’. Such an action would oblige all UN members to abide by the previous sanctions resolutions issued by the Security Council. Although this would not bring back the harshest sanctions against Iran’s oil industry and the Central Bank, it is hard to imagine how the EU and the rest of the JCPOA partners could continue JCPOA implementation in such a context.

The EU’s high stakes in preserving the JCPOA

Due to its international economic and political leverage, the USA has several tools at its disposal to undermine and potentially kill the JCPOA. If the deal collapses, this could create a crisis far worse than the one before 2015. In the absence of even the rudimentary trust that agreements are honoured, diplomacy between Iran and the USA would be effectively ruled out. In effect, military action would likely return to the USA’s portfolio of policy options for dealing with Iran.

Disagreements over the JCPOA are already straining the transatlantic relationship. If the US Congress decides to walk away from the deal, the EU has the means to push back, at least when it comes to extraterritorial sanctions. However, given the depth of the political, economic and military ties between the EU and the USA, it is an open question whether the EU would eventually muster the political will and unity needed to confront the USA economically.

At the same time, going along with a policy that is almost universally condemned as illegitimate would question the EU’s foreign policy independence as well as its reliability as a serious international actor committed to existing agreements.

It is to be hoped that the US Congress will continue to stick to the Iran deal. But even if it does, this does not mean that the JCPOA is safe. The deal will continue to be affected by the overall US–Iranian relationship, and it remains precarious even if it survives for now.

In the meantime, the EU must do everything that it can to preserve the historic non-proliferation achievement. The stakes are more than political and economic. At its heart, the issue is one of international security. The demise of the JCPOA would lead to nothing less than the recreation of the Iran nuclear crisis, bringing back not only the risk of proliferation, but also the prospect of a new disastrous war in the Middle East.

The post Will EU & US Part Ways on Iran Nuclear Deal? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty a Significant Milestone Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:55:19 +0000 Jonathan Granoff Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

The post Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty a Significant Milestone appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Jonathan Granoff is President of the Global Security Institute

By Jonathan Granoff
NEW YORK, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Presently, the entire world is hostage to a nuclear crisis expressed in the language of war and destruction by the leaders of North Korea and the United States We can look over the abyss and the reality of the consequence of the uses of nuclear weapons strikes fear and terror in the hearts of any sane person.

Master of Ceremonies Jonathan Granoff

There is no alternative to international coordinated diplomacy. We believe a broad perspective is valuable now to deal with this crisis and prevent others from arising in the future

In a speech, titled “Global Nuclear Disarmament A Practical Necessity, a Moral Imperative then United Nations,” High Representative Sergio Duarte reminded us that even before Hiroshima, on 11 June 1945, fifteen days before the UN Charter was signed, Manhattan Project scientists issued the “Franck Report, which stated with prescience: “Unless an effective international control of nuclear explosives is instituted, a race of nuclear armaments is certain to ensue following the first revelation of our possession of nuclear weapons to the world.”

Appropriately, the first UN General Assembly resolution, focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Last week, a step was taken at the United Nations to fulfill that vision of a nuclear weapons free world.

Since September 20, 2017, 53 nations have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, popularly known as the Ban Treaty. It will enter into force after it is ratified by 50 states. UN Secretary General Guterres opened the signing of what he referred to as a “milestone” worthy of celebration.

The Treaty prohibits developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling and deploying nuclear weapons, transferring or receiving them from others, using or threatening to use them, or allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories of signatories, and assisting, encouraging, or inducing any of these prohibited acts.

The Treaty requires each signatory state to develop “legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress” these prohibited activities.

Criticism has been made that the Treaty is not supported by the nine states with nuclear weapons. Critics from nuclear weapons states argue that the Treaty does not address the threat of North Korea, undermines the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and will not advance nuclear disarmament.

The Treaty exemplifies an effort to establish a universal formal legal prohibition to end the incoherence of the states with nuclear weapons asking others to do as we say, not as we do.

Nothing stimulates nuclear proliferation so much as strong states and coalitions such as NATO claiming they need these weapons for their security while claiming they create dangers for the world when others have them. There are no good hands for such horrible arms.

We agree with the Nobel Peace Laureates who joined former South Korean President and Nobel Laureate Kim Dae Jung and stated in the Gwanju Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates: If we are to have stability, we must have justice. This means the same rules apply to all. Where this principle is violated disaster is risked.

In this regard we point to the failure of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their bargain contained in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to negotiate the universal elimination of nuclear weapons. To pursue a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula or Middle East or South Asia, without credible commitment to universal nuclear disarmament is akin to a parent trying to persuade his teenagers not to smoke while puffing on a cigar.

There are steps available to make progress in this area and they include: (a) Completing a treaty with full verification mechanisms cutting off further production of highly enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes. (b) Universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, now ratified by 176 nations. (d) Taking the arsenals of Russia and the US off of hair trigger, launch on warning high alert. d. Legally confirmed pledges by all states with nuclear weapons never to use them first. (e) Making cuts in the US and Russia’s arsenal irreversible and verifiable.

The NPT requires the US, China, Russia, UK, and France to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. Each of these states are either modernizing their nuclear arsenals and/or expanding them rather than fulfilling their legal obligations to negotiate their elimination.

It is time they began to fulfill their disarmament duties by either joining the Ban Treaty and addressing its limitations of verification and other technical issues or move forward in the arduous process of negotiating a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention to their liking. Sitting on the sidelines and offering no better way forward is inadequate.

The Treaty, in its preamble, highlights, “the ethical imperative” to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. The Treaty is designed, in its intent and substance, to stimulate, support, and advance humanity’s quest for the security of a nuclear free world. Obviously, more work is needed. Rather than only criticize that the Treaty does not do everything at once, critics should get to work on moving forward.

The Treaty states “that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular international humanitarian law.” The Treaty deftly highlights prohibitions on the use of nuclear weapons that apply to all states now, including those with the weapons.

Existing international humanitarian law (law of war) limits the use of force in armed conflict, compels distinctions between civilians and combatants, sets forth requirements that force be proportionate to specific military objectives, prohibits weapons of a nature to that causes superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and provides rules for the protection of the natural environment. The Treaty further emphasizes “that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”

The Treaty makes clear that even today should North Korea bomb Tokyo with a nuclear weapon, should a conflict take place, that it would be illegal and indeed criminal. This scope of the existing illegality of such uses of the weapon applies to all states, including those that have not signed on to the Treaty.

The Ban Treaty presents a challenge to the nuclear weapons states to help make humanity great by joining in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. GSI was honored to participate in the Treaty negotiations along with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and hundreds of other passionate civil society advocates who for decades have laid the groundwork for this step forward.

The post Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty a Significant Milestone appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangerous Mon, 25 Sep 2017 15:40:49 +0000 Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs John Burroughs is Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
– President Donald Trump, speech at United Nations, 19 September 2017

The post Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangerous appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Security Council meeting: Maintenance of international peace and security. Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also deplorable is the response of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on 23 September at the United Nations.

He said that North Korean nuclear forces are “a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion,” referred to “our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland,” and called Trump “mentally deranged”.

Instead of exchanging threats and insults, the two governments should agree on a non-aggression pact as a step toward finally concluding a peace treaty formally ending the 1950s Korean War and permanently denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. and North Korean threats are wrong as a matter of morality and common sense. They are also contrary to bedrock requirements of international law. Both countries, by engaging in a cycle of threats and military posturing, violate prohibitions on the threat of force to resolve disputes and on threats to use force outside the bounds of the law of armed conflict.

Trump’s threats carry more weight because the armed forces of the United States, backed by an immense nuclear arsenal, could accomplish the destruction of North Korea in short order.

A threat of total destruction negates the fundamental principle that the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited:
• Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must be necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate military objectives, and must not be indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits threatening an adversary that there will be no survivors or conducting hostilities on that basis. The Nuremberg Tribunal found the Nazi concept of “total war” to be unlawful because it runs contrary to all the rules of warfare and the moral principles underlying them, creating a climate in which “rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment” and “everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.”
• Conducting a war with the intention of destroying an entire country would contravene the Genocide Convention, which prohibits killing “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ….”
• Limits on the conduct of warfare apply to both aggressor and defender states. Thus Trump’s statement that total destruction would be inflicted in defense of the United States and its allies is no justification. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine permitting preventive war, carried out in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, means that Trump’s reference to “defense” does not necessarily rule out U.S. military action in the absence of a North Korean attack or imminent attack.
• While the United States likely would not use nuclear weapons first in the Korean setting, it remains true that Trump’s references to “fire and fury” and “total destruction” raise the specter of U.S. nuclear use. North Korea has explicitly warned of use of its nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the law of armed conflict, as the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes. Threats of use of nuclear weapons are likewise unlawful. The illegal character of the threat or use of nuclear weapons is especially egregious where the express intent is to “totally destroy” an adversary, a purpose that from the outset rules out limiting use of force to the proportionate and necessary.

U.S. and North Korean threats of war are also unlawful because military action of any kind is not justified. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force except in self-defense against an armed attack or subject to UN Security Council authorization:
• Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force as a matter of self-defense only in response to an armed attack. No armed attack by either side has occurred or is imminent.
• The Security Council is addressing the matter and has not authorized use of force. Its resolution 2375 of 11 September 2017 imposing further sanctions on North Korea was adopted pursuant to UN Charter Article 41, which provides for measures not involving the use of force. There is no indication whatever in that and preceding resolutions of an authorization of use of force. Moreover, the resolution emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with North Korea. That approach is mandated by the UN Charter, whose Article 2(3) requires all members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

It is urgent that diplomatic overtures replace threats.
In the nuclear age, the first principle of diplomacy should be that adversaries talk to each other to the maximum possible extent, and in moments of crisis directly and unconditionally. We learned during the Cold War that even when the prospects for any tangible progress seem dim, negotiations between nuclear-armed adversaries have other positive results. They allow the military and political leaderships of the adversaries to better understand each other’s intentions, and their fears, and build broader channels of communication.

Accordingly, the United States should declare itself ready and willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea, and a commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for such talks. To facilitate negotiations, the United States and South Korea should immediately cease large-scale military exercises in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate by freezing its nuclear-related testing activities.

The immediate aim of negotiations should be a non-aggression pact, as a step toward a comprehensive peace treaty bringing permanent closure to the Korean War and providing for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean peninsula.

Success in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will be much more likely if the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states also engage, as they are obligated to do, in negotiations for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The post Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangerous appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis Wed, 06 Sep 2017 22:34:55 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

The post Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

By Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s 5.9 to 6.3 magnitude nuclear test explosion September 3 marks a new and more dangerous era in East Asia.

Daryl G. Kimball

The explosion, which produced a yield likely in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent, strongly suggests that North Korea has indeed successfully tested a compact but high-yield nuclear device that can be launched on intermediate- or intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.

Still more tests are likely and necessary for North Korea to confirm the reliability of the system, but after more than two decades of effort, North Korea has a dangerous nuclear strike capability that can hold key targets outside of its region at risk. This capability has been reached since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile pursuits Aug. 8.

The inability of the international community to slow and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits is the result of missteps and miscalculations by many actors, including the previous two U.S. administrations—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—as well as previous Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean governments.

Unfortunately, since taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have failed to competently execute their own stated policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” with North Korea. Trump has greatly exacerbated the risks through irresponsible taunts and threats of U.S. military force that only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and have spurred Kim Jong-un to accelerate his nuclear program.

The crisis has now reached a very dangerous phase in which the risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high. Trump and his advisers need to curb his impulse to threaten military action, which only increases this risk.

A saner and more effective approach is to work with China, Russia, and other UN Security Council members to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

All sides need to immediately work to de-escalate the situation.
• The United States needs to consult with and reassure our Asian allies, particularly South Korea and Japan that the United States, and potentially China and Russia, will come to their defense if North Korea commits aggression against them.
• As the United States engages in joint military exercise with South Korean and Japanese forces, U.S. forces must avoid operations that suggest the Washington is planning or initiating a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, which could trigger miscalculation on the part of Pyongyang.
• Proposals to reintroduce U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea are counterproductive and would only heighten tensions and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict.
• The United States must work with the world community to signal that international pressure—though existing UN-mandated sanctions on North Korean activities and trade that can support its illicit nuclear and missile activities—will continue so long as North Korea fails to exercise restraint. Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important.
• Sanctions designed to limit North Korea’s oil imports should now be considered. While such measures can help change North Korea’s cost-benefit calculations in a negotiation about the value of their nuclear program, it is naive to think that sanctions alone, or bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack, can compel North Korea to change course.
• The United States must consistently and proactively communicate our interest in negotiations with North Korea aimed at halting further nuclear tests and intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile tests and eventually to verifiably denuclearize the Korean peninsula, even if that goal may no longer be realistically achievable with the Kim regime in power.
• Washington must also be willing to do more than to simply say it is “open to talks,” but must be willing to take the steps that might help achieve actual results. This should include possible modification of U.S. military exercises and maneuvers in ways that do not diminish deterrence and military readiness, such as replacing command post exercises with seminars that serve the same training purpose, dialing down the strategic messaging of exercises, spreading out field training exercises to smaller levels, and moving exercises away from the demilitarized zone on the border.
• This latest North Korean nuclear test once again underscores the importance of universalizing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Unless there is a more serious, more coordinated, and sustained diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

The post Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramp Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:40:29 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association

The post Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramp appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream –

By Daryl G. Kimball

Just six months into the administration of President Donald Trump, the war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea have escalated, and a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis is more difficult than ever to achieve.

Both leaders need to immediately work to descalate the situation and direct their diplomats to engage in an adult conversation designed to resolve tensions

On Jan. 1, North Korea’s authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un vowed to “continue to build up” his country’s nuclear forces “as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on [sic] nuclear threat and blackmail.” Kim also warned that North Korea was making preparations to flight-test a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Two days later, Trump could not resist laying down a “red line” on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

Pyongyang has responded to the U.S. statements and military exercises on North Korea’s doorstep with its own, even more bellicose rhetoric. Following press reports that a U.S. carrier strike group was being sent toward the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations warned April 17 that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that his country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

After an inter-agency review, Trump and his team announced a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to try to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program. So far, the approach has been all “pressure” and no “engagement,” with U.S. officials calling for North Korea to agree to take concrete steps to show its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In response, North Korean has accelerated its pace of ballistic missile tests, including flight tests of missiles in July with ICBM capabilities. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Aug. 5 the toughest UN Security Council sanctions yet imposed on North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency lashed out Aug. 8, warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation in response to the UN actions.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Trump’s attempt to play the role of nuclear “madman” is as dangerous, foolish, and counterproductive as North Korea’s frequent hyperbolic threats against the United States.

Trump’s latest statement is a blatant threat of nuclear force that will not compel Kim to shift course. In fact, repeated threats of U.S. military force only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and it may lead Kim to try to accelerate his nuclear program.

That should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. “atomic diplomacy” has consistently failed to achieve results. The historical record shows that U.S. nuclear threats during the Korean War and later against China and the Soviet Union, as well as Nixon’s “madman” strategy against North Vietnam, failed to bend adversaries to U.S. goals.

With respect to North Korea in particular, the threat of pre-emptive U.S. military action is not credible, in large part because the risks are extremely high.

North Korea has the capacity to devastate the metropolis of Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants, by launching a massive artillery barrage and hundreds of conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, if hostilities begin, there is the prospect that North Korea could use some of its remaining nuclear weapons, which could kill millions in South Korea and Japan.

U.S. intelligence sources believe North Korea has already developed a warhead design small enough and light enough for delivery by an ICBM. North Korea’s may have a supply of fissile material for up to 25 nuclear weapons, but its fissile production capacity is likely growing and it may be ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion, which would further advance ability to develop a reliable missile-deliverable warhead.

Trump and his advisers need to curb the impulse to threaten military action, which only increases the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. A saner and more effective approach is to work with China to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important. Such measures can help increase the leverage necessary for a diplomatic solution. But it is naive that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

Unless there is a diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

The post Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramp appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What? Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:12:36 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers. More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member […]

The post Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Credit: UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers.

More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons after months of talks.

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons…the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and the president of the UN conference which negotiated the treaty.

After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Elayne Whyte Gómez. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Nuclear Disarmament Program Manager for the civil society organization PAX Susi Snyder similarly highlighted the importance of the occasion to IPS, stating: “People have been working for decades on the issue, myself included, and to have a moment that you know, to the very tips of your toes, that history is being made? That’s a moment to feel all the feelings.”

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads globally, more than 90 percent of which belong to the United States and Russia.

Unlike the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which allowed five countries to possess such arms, the new instrument is an explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use, threat of use, possession, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons.

It also for the first time includes obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing and use as well as environmental remediation of areas contaminated a result of nuclear weapon activities.

“This normative treaty highlights the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons—it is a huge achievement especially for the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Arms Control Association’s (ACA) Researcher Alicia Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

Reference to such consequences can be seen throughout the treaty, including the deep concern “about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and the persistent risk to humanity posed by the “continued existence of nuclear weapons.”

Though the awareness of nuclear weapons’ devastating humanitarian ramifications is certainly not new, both Snyder and Sanders-Zakre noted that states still legitimize nuclear weapons in their security approaches.

“Some states negotiating the treaty would say that by having a security doctrine of nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons states legitimize nuclear weapons and distract from their humanitarian consequences…which are often not in the forefront of the security stage,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The new treaty aims to strip nuclear weapons of their prestige by making them unacceptable under international law.

Not Without a Fight

The world’s nine nuclear-armed states as well as the majority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) members boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands which voted against the document.

Among the most vocal critics is the United States who, since the beginning of the talks, said that the process was not “realistic,” especially in the wake of rising tensions between the North American nation and North Korea.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?” asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

In a joint statement, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France announced that they do not ever intend to sign, ratify, or become party to the treaty.

“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security,” they stated, reiterating their continued commitment to the NPT.

Snyder told IPS that it was not surprising that such nations did not participate due to a desire to retain the political power associated with nuclear weapons. However, she criticised the joint move as it may be in violation of the NPT.

Article 6 of the NPT, which the majority of member States have signed, states that each party must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Snyder noted that negotiations were considered by the majority to be an “effective measure” in the pursuit of disarmament.

“While this prohibition is not the final effort to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world, it is certainly a key element of a world without nuclear weapons. It was an absence that is embarrassing for the nuclear armed states, demonstrating their commitment to inhumane weapons over humanity,” she continued.

However, nuclear-armed nations would argue that they are not violating the NPT as they do not consider that the prohibition will result in the elimination of nuclear weapons and is thus not an “effective measure,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The treaty reflects a growing divide between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on visions of disarmament.

Between a Nuke and a Hard Place?

Additional frustrations have arisen concerning the treaty’s prohibition on the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on territories as it puts many NATO members in nuclear sharing agreements in a sticky situation.

Five nations, including Germany and Turkey, currently host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. In order for NATO members to join, they will have to reverse or withdraw from their obligations.

“One the one hand, the treaty seeks to be universal to include many members. But at the same time, it is a prohibition treaty and having a member of a prohibition treaty that has nuclear weapons on their soil would be contradictory,” Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

But can a nuclear ban treaty be successful without such nations?

Snyder and Sanders-Zakre say yes.

“The treaty sets a norm, and the nuclear armed states have a history of following norms even when they don’t sign up to the treaties behind them,” said Snyder, referencing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which, despite not being ratified by all nations and not entering into force, has set a norm in which nuclear testing is condemned.

“That norm will grow from this treaty as well, and will likely result in ongoing substantive condemnation of the activities of the nuclear armed states that are not disarmament,” Snyder continued.

Sanders-Zakre noted that there might be some obstacles in the way before the treaty’s entry into force, including potential lobbying by nuclear weapon states to dissuade others from ratifying the instrument or a general decrease in political momentum.

But, with or without the nuclear weapon states, the treaty will mark a significant normative step towards disarmament if all 122 states which negotiated the instrument sign and ratify.

“My hope is that this treaty will be the first step towards more productive disarmament dialogue, and that it will serve as a wake-up call to nuclear weapon states that have not seriously been pursuing disarmament negotiations for quite some time,” Sanders-Zakre said.

Snyder similarly described the historic occasion as the first step of many, stating: “This treaty will help towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—it’s not the last thing that will get them out of the world forever, but it helps by reaffirming the complete illegitimacy of such inhumane weapons and offers a pathway for elimination.”

The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be open for signature by member states on 20 September, marking the beginning of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. It will enter into legal force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Earlier this year, atomic scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, reflecting a fear that the world is closer to a nuclear disaster than it has been since 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.

The post Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 2
A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:22:46 +0000 Ambassador Sergio Duarte The author is a Brazilian Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The post A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream –

By Ambassador Sergio Duarte
NEW YORK, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

As previously announced, the President of the United Nations Conference for the negotiation of a Convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, Costa Rican Ambassador Elayne Whyte-Gómez, unveiled last 22 May the draft elaborated after the first part of those negotiations in March.

The text will now be debated at the Conference between June 17 and July 7 and the general expectation is that the final result will be adopted by consensus. The new Convention will then be opened to the signature of States.

Resolution no. 1 of the General Assembly of the United Nations, adopted in January 1946, had decided the establishment of a Commission charged with making specific proposals for the “elimination atomic weapons from national arsenals”.

The lack of concrete results over the 72 years of existence of the United Nations increased the frustration of the majority of the international community and finally led a group of countries to propose last October, for the first time in the history of the Organization, the negotiation of such a Convention.

Ambassador Sergio Duarte

Ambassador Sergio Duarte

The importance of the humanitarian considerations that are at the root of the international movement favoring the elimination of nuclear armament is highlighted in the Preamble of the draft. The first few paragraphs recognize the “catastrophic consequences” and implications of any use of nuclear weapons.

This concern had already been expressed unanimously by the States party of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the 2010 Review Conference of that instrument.

Next, the draft Preamble mentions the suffering of the victims of nuclear detonations, including those affected by tests carried out by the States that acquired such arms. Another important paragraph declares that the use of atomic weapons is contrary to the norms of International law, especially the principles and rules of humanitarian law which stem from custom, the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.

The draft Convention states the decision of the States Party to the Convention to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the United Nations and to act with a view to achieving further effective measures of nuclear disarmament and to facilitate the elimination of such weapons and the means of their delivery.

Special emphasis is given to the 8 July 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion, negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”. This obligation is also expressed in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons but up to now the possessors of nuclear weapons have not shown much interest in promoting such negotiations.

The draft Preamble goes on to reaffirm the “crucial importance” of the NPT, of the Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty (CTBT) and of the instruments that establish zones free of nuclear weapons.

Such expressions make abundantly clear that the Convention does not aim at disrupting the existing non-proliferation regime or at undermining its foundations but rather to reinforce it in order to promote the realization of longstanding objectives shared by the international community as a whole.

Articles 1 and 2 of the draft formulate clearly and objectively the basic obligations to be assumed by signatory States. The development, production, manufacture, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices are among the banned activities.

The use of nuclear weapons is also prohibited, as well as the transfer of such weapons or devices to any recipient, besides their stationing, installation and deployment. The draft expressly reaffirms the provisions of the CTBT by prohibiting tests of nuclear weapons and any other nuclear explosions.

States Party to the Convention would commit themselves to formally declare whether they have manufactured or possessed nuclear weapons, or acquired them by any means after the date of 5 December 2001. The reasons for the choice of that date do not seem very clear.

The obligation to present such declarations is based on the precedent of the Chemical Weapons Convention but unlike the latter, however, the draft does not contain the obligation to destroy the weapons or devices that may appear in the declarations. In this sense, the Convention is not strictu sensu a “disarmament” treaty, but rather a means to reach that objective.

Article 3 deals with the safeguards to prevent diversion of nuclear energy used in peaceful applications to nuclear weapons or explosive devices as detailed in the Annex to the Convention. It is important to ensure that such safeguards are applied in conformity with the Statutes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The elimination, mentioned in Article 4, before the entry into force of the Convention, of nuclear weapons manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired would entail the obligation to cooperate with the IAEA in the verification of the completeness of the stocks of materials and nuclear installations.

This provision presupposes that the process of elimination of nuclear weapons must precede the entry into force of the Convention for each State Party. Article 5 introduces the possibility of presentation and consideration of proposals of complementary measures of nuclear disarmament, including the elimination, under verification, of remaining nuclear weapons.

States that possessed or hosted before 5 December 2001 that come to adhere to the Convention may avail themselves of this provision in order to propose such measures, to be examined by the biennial Meetings of the Parties established by Article 9.

In this way, the Convention would be permanently open to the inclusion of new Parties that wish to eliminate their nuclear armament and next accede to the instrument as they see fit. That would be a way to ensure that all Parties to the Convention have the same rights and obligations, thus avoiding an undesirable discriminatory character among them.

The remaining provisions of the draft are quite clear and should not raise much controversy. Article 6 follows the humanitarian inspiration of the Convention. According to Article 9, States not parties to the Convention may participate in Meetings and Review Conferences.

Their prerogatives and limitations in exercising that right should be clearly spelled out. An innovative provision in Article 13 promotes the universality of the Convention by calling upon its parties to “encourage” other States to ratify, accept, approve of accede to it.

Some of the possessors of nuclear armament and their allies have expressed in different ways their opposition to the negotiation of the Convention and contend that it will weaken the international non-proliferation regime. Article 19 attempts at responding to these concerns by affirming explicitly that the Convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the Parties under the NPT.

Mainstream media in the central countries in general has paid little or no attention to the process of negotiation of the Convention, although specialized publications have been examining the implications of the adoption of an instrument of this kind. World public opinion and civil society organizations, particularly in the former States and their allies, have an important role to play in ensuring the success of the Convention and its ability to become a universal, legally binding instrument of codification of the repudiation of nuclear weapons.

There is considerable expectation for the continuation of the negotiations among the many States and international organizations that participated in the first phase of the work of the Conference, last May. It is important that the final text is simple and objective and at the same time be inclusive and able to obtain widespread acceptance.

After 72 years since the start of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and 47 years since the entry into force of the NPT, the continued existence of nuclear weapons and the frightening prospect of the use still haunt mankind. We must not miss the historic opportunity to establish a legal norm on the prohibition of such weapons.

*Ambassador Sergio Duarte’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 June 2017: TMS: A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

The post A Bold Step toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
At UN, Rex Tillerson, Top US Diplomat, Delivers Stark Warnings to North Korea Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:42:27 +0000 Barbara Crossette Speaking to the United Nations Security Council at a meeting on North Korea held at the foreign-minister level, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked member countries to join the United States in a strong campaign to enhance pressures on the Kim Jong-un regime, whose rapidly developing nuclear and missile programs have reached dangerous levels. The […]

The post At UN, Rex Tillerson, Top US Diplomat, Delivers Stark Warnings to North Korea appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, right, who presided over the UN Security Council session on North Korea’s nuclear threats, with Yun Byung-se, his South Korean counterpart, April 28, 2017. Tillerson demanded that all UN member states must abide by UN sanctions on North Korea. Credit: RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

By Barbara Crossette

Speaking to the United Nations Security Council at a meeting on North Korea held at the foreign-minister level, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked member countries to join the United States in a strong campaign to enhance pressures on the Kim Jong-un regime, whose rapidly developing nuclear and missile programs have reached dangerous levels.

The high-level diplomatic session took place on April 28, the final day of the American presidency of the Security Council, a monthly rotating position. The atmosphere signaled that the US was back and needed partners after months of disparaging the UN and insulting various UN member countries.

All 15 Council members read statements at the session, in addition to South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se. North Korean diplomats did not participate in the Council session. But as if to underline the menacing if predictable behavior of the regime, it fired a missile, which apparently failed, not long after the Council’s meeting ended.

The tone of Tillerson’s address to the Council was much more measured than the freewheeling style of Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said on her first day in the job that she would “take names” and later threatened to use her high heels for kicking those who opposed American policies. (The heels reference was used when she was governor of South Carolina, referring to labor organizers.)

She also compared the UN with the South Carolina state legislature for its clubbiness when she was governor, yet she promoted a fellow state governor to become head of the UN’s World Food Program. PassBlue obtained the letter she wrote to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Haley had promised to “fix” things at the UN as well. “I like to fix things,” she told the US Senate Foreign Relations committee at her confirmation hearing in January.

Hints that a new approach by the US toward world politics may be forming, perhaps led by Tillerson, followed a week of extraordinary chaos in an already chaotic White House. President Donald Trump, still lacking a coherent foreign policy of his own, flailed around for a single domestic success he could advertise on his 100th day in office.

He tried and failed again to get a new national health care bill and threw out an ill-considered American tax-reform outline that ran into a buzzsaw of criticism from experts who called it a gift to the rich.

The week of chaos began on April 24 with a White House lunch for all Security Council ambassadors and their spouses, in which the idea of a presidential “we need you” surfaced and praise for the UN Secretary-General Guterres was made by Trump, according to a diplomat at the meeting. Tillerson was not present at the lunch, but Haley sat at the president’s side.

Curiously, Trump tried to make a joke about her tenure in New York, thanking her for her “outstanding leadership” and then asking Council members: “Does everybody like Nikki? Because if you don’t she can easily be replaced. No, we won’t do that. I promise.”

Still, Trump inadvertently raised suspicions about whether Haley will be reined in by Tillerson, who is slowly but surely reorganizing his department and takes a cautious approach to his diplomacy so far. Reports soon emerged that Haley may be required to have her public statements pre-approved by the State Department, but whether she agrees remains to be seen.

Four days later, on April 28, Tillerson’s message in the Security Council session on North Korea was about partnership, stressing not only American fears — the stock rhetoric of the Trump White House — but also the anxieties of Asian nations and the wider world. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it,” Tillerson said to a chamber full of UN ambassadors, whom he thanked for their presence. “I urge this Council to act before North Korea does.”

Tillerson’s demand for action — beginning “today,” he said — included familiar complaints from Washington; for example, doing a better job of enforcing UN resolutions aimed at bringing North Korea to a nuclear stand-down. He called for new financial sanctions on anyone, individual or country, who is supporting or abetting North Korea in its nuclear and missile development — thus defying the sanctions regime, the strictest set imposed by the UN on a member country. No higher-level sanctions on, say, digital activities that violate UN penalties, were mentioned.

He also asked all 193 UN member nations to “suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea,” saying that the regime of Kim Jong-un was exploiting its diplomatic openings and privileges to fund its technology programs, particularly for its military. And he emphasized the importance of imposing bans on North Korean imports, especially coal. He called for suspending the guest-worker program that bring laborers into various countries who can become agents of the Kim Jong-un regime.

He singled out China. “We must all do our share, but with China accounting for 90 percent of North Korean trade, China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important,” Tillerson said. “The US and China have held productive exchanges on this issue, and we look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done.”

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, in his address to the Council, refused to accept that it was up to his country alone to solve the North Korea problem. “The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” he said. China has preferred to deal with the North Korea issue in multination talks, although these have gained little ground in the past.

The Chinese minister told the media before the Council session that his country’s priorities are denuclearization of North Korea, upholding the nonproliferation regime there, peace talks and not to allow “chaos or war to break out on the peninsula.”

Tillerson repeated the long-held position that “all options” were on the table in dealing with North Korea, as Vice President Mike Pence repeated throughout his trip to Northeast Asia.

“Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary,” Tillerson said. But he did not repeat Trump’s recent offhand remark that he would meet with Kim Jong-un if the situation required it. Nor did he refer to the cyberwarfare powers that the US has at its disposal, which Washington does not confirm or deny have been used to abort or destroy North Korean missiles after their launchings.

Russia, for its part, emphasized the toll that sanctions took on ordinary North Koreans and said that although Russia was united in condemning in North Korea’s missile launchings, the government won’t give up its nuclear program as long as it feels threatened by US naval exercises in the region.

Speaking to the Council first, Guterres of the UN described North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile firings in recent years as “clear violations of Security Council resolutions.”

He pointed out that these actions have violated numerous international agreements, including maritime law and aviation regulations.

Moreover, Guterres said, “The International Atomic Energy Agency remains unable to access the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to verify the status of its nuclear program,” though it does have sophisticated satellite monitoring in place.

“The DPRK is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in this century,” Guterres noted. “We must assume that, with each test or launch. The DPRK continues to make technological advances in its pursuit of a military nuclear capability. . . . The onus is on the DPRK to comply with its international obligations. At the same time, the international community must also step up its efforts to manage and reduce tensions.”

In his concluding remarks, speaking as the US representative and not the Council presiding officer, Tillerson re-emphasized the crucial importance of a truly international effort beyond the calls for more negotiations.

“We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea,” he said. “We will not reward their violations of past resolutions. We will not reward their bad behavior with talks. We will only engage in talks with North Korea when they exhibit a good-faith commitment to abiding by the Security Council resolutions and their past promises to end their nuclear programs.

“And that is why we must have full and complete compliance by every country to the resolutions that have been enacted by this body in the past — no relaxation in the vigorous implementation of sanctions. . . . Any failure to take action diminishes your vote for these resolutions of the past, and diminishes your vote for future resolutions, and it devalues your seat at this Council. We must have full, complete compliance by all members of the Council.”

Leaving the Council after the hourslong session and skirting the media throng outside the chamber, Tillerson walked with Haley to the US mission to the UN across the street, where Council members were treated to lunch.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

The post At UN, Rex Tillerson, Top US Diplomat, Delivers Stark Warnings to North Korea appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear States Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:21:57 +0000 Joan Russow Dr Joan Russow is Co-ordinator, Global Compliance Research Project

The post Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear States appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Credit: UN photo

By Joan Russow
VICTORIA, BC, Canada, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations continues its negotiations in June for an international treaty against nuclear weapons, there must be a treaty that should cover every single aspect of the devastating weapons — and leading eventually to their total elimination from the world’s military arsenals.

As envisaged, the treaty should not only prohibit stockpiling; use and threat of use, and planning for use of nuclear weapons but also the deployment; transfer, acquisition, and stationing; development and production of these weapons—along with testing; transit and transshipment; and financing, assistance, encouragement, and inducement and an obligation for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a framework to achieve it.(WILPH, Reaching Critical Will).

As Eva Walder, the Swedish representative to the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, declared: “Sweden’s position is clear. The only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again is their total elimination.”

Through the current negotiations, there is the global opportunity to speak truth to power, to save the world from the scourge of war and to prevent and remove the threats to peace.

The US has stated that the treaty to ban nuclear weapons would be ineffective, with adverse consequences for security and would hinder the implementation of Article VI of the US constitution on international treaties.

It is, rather, NATO`s nuclear policy which contravenes Article VI, as well as some of the Thirteen Steps Towards Nuclear Disarmament, and has consequences for common security:

1) nuclear weapons must be maintained indefinitely
2) We will improve their use and accuracy (modernize them)
3) We can use them first.
4) We can target non-nuclear weapon states
5) We can threaten to use them
6) We can keep them in Europe, as they are now doing
7) We can launch some on 15 minutes warning.
8) We say “they are essential for peace
(Murray Thompson, Canadian for a Nuclear Weapons Convention)

In October 17 2016, prior to the vote of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Nuclear Weapons, the US circulated a “non-paper“, to NATO and its allies on potential negative impacts of starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty and wrote,“ for the allies, participating in the OEWG , we strongly urge you to vote no on any vote at the UN First Committee on starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.“

Subsequently, in the October 27 2016 meeting of the OEWG, the US Intervention appeared to work. Only the Netherlands did not vote no. On December 23, 2016.the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a significant resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was adopted by a large majority, with 113 UN member states voting in favour, 35 voting against and 13 abstaining. Support came from every continent, except Australia, and represented the range of legal systems. It thus fulfilled the criteria for a peremptory norm.

The US appears, however, to have provided a script for the US allies voting on the nuclear ban treaty; most of them gave the reason for voting against the resolution as being, “the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and they have refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”. Perhaps “security” needs to be redefined not distorted by the US weapons industry.

The late Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, affirmed “True security exists when all are secure, through “common security” (Palme Commission (Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security) 1982)

The aforementioned October 17 2016 letter to the NATO and the script for allies at the UNGA, continues the practice of the US “influencing“ votes through financial incentives, threats, or intimidation (FITI),

For example, in 1990, only two countries on the UNSC opposed the passage of US Resolution 678, and when Yemen cast one of these votes, the U.S. Ambassador threatened him: “that will be the most expensive vote you ever cast,” and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Yemen.

In 2003, several UNSC non-permanent members who opposed the US` proposed intervention in Iraq, suddenly came out with a US script supporting the invasion of Iraq. In addition, in 2003, the US sent a letter, described as an ultimatum, to all the members of the UNGA pressing them to not support the call for an emergency session of the UNGA to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

The data, based on UNGA voting patterns, provided in the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) document of participants in the March negotiations, indicates that there were 138 “supportive” states, one “not supportive” state (Japan), and 13 “not clear” states

The ICAN data on voting patterns of participants who did not attend the March negotiations indicate 14 were “supportive, five were “not clear”, 27 NATO states were “not supportive,” along with the other non-NATO nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and other US allies from NATO along with Japan, and South Korea,

If the 14 supportive states attend the upcoming June 15– July 7 meeting, there will be around 143 “supportive` states” (70% of the 193 member states of the United Nations). This would be the case, provided the US does not threaten or offer financial incentives and persuade them to claim “that the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and has refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”`.

If there is a positive vote in the UNGA, the US and the four other permanent members will try to block decision through taking any UNGA decision to the UNSC. With the current composition of the UNSC, the nuclear powers will be able to get “not supportive” votes from only three non-permanent members: Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

This is assuming that Bolivia Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal. Sweden, and Uruguay will not be coerced into renouncing their former supportive positions for a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If the required number of nine votes does not oppose the treaty, the UNSC would fail to make a decision. Then there is a precedent in the 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution” and the decision could pass back to the UNGA.

In the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, there is a call to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”…

In 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday clock to two and one half minutes to midnight because of the threats arising both from nuclear weapons and climate change. The funds thus saved from ending the production of nuclear weapons could be transferred to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The post Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear States appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:19:36 +0000 Sergio Duarte Sergio Duarte is a Brazilian Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS). Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS).

The post A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream –

By Sergio Duarte

The nine possessors of nuclear weapons and most of their allies chose to ignore the negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

This unprecedented initiative resulted from a proposal by South Africa, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico and Nigeria and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2016 by an overwhelming majority.

The first Session, from 27 to 31 March, ended on an optimistic tone. There was wide convergence of views on the core prohibitions relating to stockpiling, use, deployment, acquisition, development and production of nuclear weapons.

Sergio Duarte

Sergio Duarte

Other questions such as verification of compliance, clauses for accession by nuclear-armed and other States, timelines for elimination of stockpiles and the relationship of the new instrument with existing treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), among others, will be further discussed during the second Session, from June 15 to July 7, when the President of the Conference will introduce her draft. The future instrument may soon be opened to the signature of States.

It is clear that these negotiations will not bring about a sudden shift in the mindsets of the nine governments that threaten the rest of the world with the willingness to use the most cruel, indiscriminate and destructive weapon ever invented.

It is undeniable, however, that even at this early stage public opinion in many countries have begun to pay attention to the potential impact of a prohibition treaty through press articles and analyses in specialized publications.

The mantra “a world free of nuclear weapons” has become the stated and uncontroverted objective of the community of nations.

Opponents of a ban argue that such an agreement would impede or at least render more difficult efforts for reductions of atomic arsenals under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and that a treaty to which the current nuclear powers choose not to adhere would not bring about any tangible results in reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons.

They consider that negotiating a prohibition is “premature” and even counterproductive as it risks unraveling the disarmament architecture put together over the past decades.

Supporters, for their part, contend that a ban treaty would establish a clear legal standard rejecting nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds and would enable States to formalize such a rejection besides enhancing the stigma against those weapons.

They add that it would reaffirm their unacceptability and incompatibility with universally recognized principles of international law and would re-state and strengthen commitments assumed under other treaties. It would enhance, not detract from such commitments.

They hope that it will set into motion a trend toward further specific agreements on nuclear disarmament.

In fact, one of the major challenges for the universality and full effectiveness of a ban treaty is precisely how to design a mechanism that will ensure the possibility, in a second stage, of adherence of States currently under the “umbrella” of nuclear-armed powers and ultimately the adherence of the latter themselves.

Before we can hail a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons as a worthwhile accomplishment or dismiss it as futile, the two sets of arguments must be checked against the results that the treaty may bring about in the short, medium and long run.

If the ban proves at least to be a positive ingredient to infuse life and energy into the moribund multilateral disarmament machinery or to create viable alternative, but not conflicting paths we may consider it useful and justifiable. If not, it will simply fall into oblivion or at best remain as a monument to human fallibility.

The push for negotiations on a nuclear arms ban treaty grew out of years of mounting frustration over the lack of progress in efforts under the NPT regime.

Whether or not parties to that instrument, possessors of nuclear weapons have displayed little or no inclination to fulfill the commitment enshrined in its Article VI, which requires all its Parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.

Possessors are currently engaged in a new round of the nuclear arms race as they seek to enhance the destructive power, accuracy and range of their weapons. As a result, confidence in their real motives and intentions waned in recent years.

In the recent past, a new and powerful force helped to propel forward the drive to finalize a treaty banning nuclear weapons and brought this matter to the forefront of the preoccupations of a large majority of States.

The collective conscience of humankind has increasingly taken to heart the unanimous concern expressed at the 2010 Review Conference of Parties to the NPT over the catastrophic consequences of nuclear detonations as well as the conclusions of three international Conferences held in 2013 and 2014 on such consequences.

In 2015 a large majority of States supported the humanitarian pledge to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate” nuclear armament. Civil society organizations contributed studies and discussion forums that helped shape specific, realistic proposals.

The thrust of the movement to ban nuclear weapons is not directed against any State in particular, but against the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons themselves and their disastrous effects on populations and the environment.

The movement does not advocate unilateral disarmament but rather good faith compliance with treaty commitments and with imperatives dictated by humanitarian international law and the universal principles of civilized behavior.

Accordingly, it does not discriminate against “good” or “bad” possessors, whether these are States or non-State actors. No country should be allowed to possess the means to annihilate whole populations and render the planet uninhabitable under the pretense that this would somehow protect their own security.

In his vote in the legal suit brought last year before the International Court of Justice by the Marshall Islands against the nine countries possessing nuclear weapons Judge Cançado Trindade stated: “A world with arsenals of nuclear weapons, like ours, is bound to destroy its past, dangerously threatens the present, and has no future at all. Nuclear weapons pave the way into nothingness”.

It is time for mankind as a whole to act decisively in defense of its own survival.

This article originally appeared Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 April 2017: TMS: A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making.

The post A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 2
A Transformational Moment in Nuclear & International Affairs? Mon, 03 Apr 2017 06:21:12 +0000 John Burroughs John Burroughs is Executive Director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy & Director of UN Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.

The post A Transformational Moment in Nuclear & International Affairs? appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Credit: UN Photo

By John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Apr 3 2017 (IPS)

Is a paradigm shift now underway on nuclear weapons at the United Nations? That was the question posed as about 130 nations gathered this past week to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. The treaty would prohibit development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, but would not contain detailed provisions relating to verified dismantlement of nuclear arsenals and governance of a world free of nuclear arms.

This is the first multilateral negotiation on nuclear weapons since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted in 1996. It is also the first ever such negotiation relating to the global elimination of nuclear arms, despite the fact that the first UN General Assembly resolution, in 1946, called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

The hope of the nations leading the negotiations, including Costa Rica, whose ambassador, Elayne Whyte, is president of the negotiating conference, is that the second session, to be held from June 15 to July 7, will succeed in adopting a treaty. The idea is to strike while the iron is hot.

What makes the initiative at first hard to grasp is that it involves countries whose acquisition of nuclear weapons is already barred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and by regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

The nuclear-armed states (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel) are not participating, nor are almost all states in military alliances with the United States. The aim, nonetheless, is to set a global standard stigmatizing nuclear arms and laying the foundation for their universal and permanent elimination.

The initiative grew out of three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear explosions organized by the governments of Norway, Austria, and Mexico, in 2013 and 2014. The straightforward message is that the consequences of use of nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable and also incompatible with international humanitarian law barring the use of weapons causing unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate harm.

Therefore, nuclear weapons should be explicitly prohibited by treaty, as have other weapons including biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions. The initiative also builds upon the regional nuclear weapon free zone treaties, to which most of the negotiating states belong.

The Trump Administration has carried forward the Obama Administration’s policy of opposing the negotiations. An alarming related development is that Christopher Ford, a former US Special Representative for Nonproliferation now serving on the National Security Council, has stated that the administration is reviewing “whether or not the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is in fact a realistic objective, especially in the near to medium term.” Ford, a lawyer, knows very well that the United States is legally bound by Article VI of the NPT to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

A common objection made by U.S. allies is that a nuclear ban treaty will undermine the NPT. Participating states reply: How? We are negotiating an effective measure relating to nuclear disarmament as Article VI requires of all NPT states parties.

The first week of negotiations revealed a broad convergence in favor of a relatively simple prohibition treaty. Only a few countries advocated negotiation in this forum of a comprehensive convention addressing all aspects of nuclear disarmament. Many other countries see negotiation of a comprehensive convention as a step to be taken later, when at least some nuclear-armed states are ready to participate.

There remain significant issues to be resolved concerning the provisions of a prohibition treaty, including issues relating to threat of use of nuclear arms and to testing. My organization, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), advocates for inclusion of a prohibition of threat of use.

In our view, that would confirm and specify existing international law and, as Chile and South Africa also said, help to delegitimize nuclear deterrence. An opposing view is that the illegality of threat of use would be implicit in the prohibitions of possession and use and is already adequately covered by the UN Charter.

IALANA also calls for the treaty to prohibit design and testing of nuclear weapons, capturing a whole suite of activities from computer simulations to explosive testing. The treaty will help set the template for future disarmament agreements, and therefore should be reasonably comprehensive.

Many governments support the inclusion of a prohibition of at least testing. Some governments maintain, however, that it is captured by the prohibition of development and note that explosive testing is banned by the yet to enter into force CTBT.

A knotty issue is how to handle possible later participation in the treaty by nuclear-armed states. The basic options are to require that they denuclearize prior to joining the treaty, or to provide that they may join the treaty if they have accepted a time-bound obligation verifiably to eliminate their arsenal. Participation by nuclear-armed states in a ban treaty in the near term is entirely theoretical, and may not happen even when they do decide to eliminate their arsenals. Still, negotiators want to make it clear that all states are welcome and encouraged to join the treaty.

The initiative and the negotiations have been marked by close cooperation between governments and civil society, notably the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Civil society was given ample opportunity to comment throughout the first week.

Such cooperation has never before occurred in the nuclear sphere. Also noteworthy is that the negotiations are taking place in a UN process over the opposition of the permanent five members of the Security Council, perhaps a harbinger of democratization of the United Nations.

Diplomats and civil society organizations involved in the negotiations are clearly energized, even passionate, and determined to work constructively. If all goes well, members of a ban treaty, working together with civil society, will become a potent collective actor that will transform nuclear and international affairs for the better.

The post A Transformational Moment in Nuclear & International Affairs? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 3
Trump, the Banks and the Bomb Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:59:40 +0000 Baher Kamal When pro-nuclear disarmament organisations last October cheered the United Nations decision to start in 2017 negotiations on a global treaty banning these weapons, they probably did not expect that shortly after the US would elect Republican businessman Donald Trump as their 45th president. Much less that he would rush to advocate for increasing the US […]

The post Trump, the Banks and the Bomb appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jan 7 2017 (IPS)

When pro-nuclear disarmament organisations last October cheered the United Nations decision to start in 2017 negotiations on a global treaty banning these weapons, they probably did not expect that shortly after the US would elect Republican businessman Donald Trump as their 45th president. Much less that he would rush to advocate for increasing the US nuclear power.

The United Nations on Oct. 27, 2016 adopted a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, putting an end to two decades of paralysis in world nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, 38 against it and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March 2017, which will be open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July this year.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a “fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.”

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

European Parliament’s Resolution

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour, 124 against, 74 abstentions– inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in the 2017 year’s negotiations, ICAN noted.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts, the anti-nuke campaign chief warned.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s [Oct. 27, 2016] vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament.”

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

ICAN also recalls that nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. “Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernisation of their nuclear forces.”

Other pro-nuclear disarmament organisations also welcomed the UN resolution. They included PAX, a partnership between IKV (Interchurch Peace Council) and Pax Christi; Soka Gakai International (SGI), a community-based Buddhist organisation that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life; and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), just to mention a few.

US Must Greatly Strengthen, Expand Its Nuclear Capability – Trump

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.  Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Wikipedia

The global ani-nuke movment, however, soon saw its joy being frustrated by the US president-elect Donald Trump, who in a tweet on Dec. 22, 2016, wrote:

Donald J. Trump Verified account ‏@realDonaldTrump : “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

Trump’s announcement, if materialised, would imply one of the most insourmountable hardles facing the world anti-nuclear movement.

Is Your Bank Funding Nuclear Bombs?

Meanwhile, the international campaign to prevent private banks and financial companies from funding the production and modernisation of nuclear weapons has achieved a further step forward.

“Governments have decided to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban treaty in 2017, and now is the time for banks, pension funds and insurance companies to get ready and end financial relations with companies involved in nuclear weapons,” says Susi Snyder from PAX and author of a the Hall of Fame report.

“Around 400 private banks, pension funds and insurance companies continue to fund –with their clients’ money– the production of nuclear weapons.”

According to this study, 18 banks, controlling over 1.7 trillion Euros, are ready not to collaborate in the funding of atomic weapons, with policies that strictly prohibit any investment of any type in any kind of nuclear weapon-producing company.

These 18 banks are profiled in the Hall of Fame of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb 2016 edition, which was issued on Dec. 7, 2016. These Hall of Fame institutions are based in Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The report also shows there are another 36 financial institutions with policies that specifically name nuclear weapons as a concern, and limit investment in some ways.

“Even though these policies have loopholes, they still demonstrate there is a stigma associated with investments in nuclear weapons. PAX calls on these institutions to strengthen their policies and Don’t Bank on the Bomb offers tailored recommendations for each financial institute in the Runners-Up.”

Investments are not neutral, warns the report. “Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Institutions imposing limitations on investing in nuclear weapons producers are responding to the growing stigma against these weapons, designed to kill indiscriminately.”

All of the nuclear-armed countries are modernising their nuclear weapon arsenals, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb details how 27 private companies are producing key components to make nuclear weapons as well as the 390 banks, insurance companies and pension funds that still invest in nuclear weapon-producing companies, the report adds.

“As a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is to be negotiated in 2017, states should include a prohibition on financing to provide an added incentive for the financial industry to exclude nuclear weapon associated companies from their investment universe, and raise the economic cost of nuclear weapons deployment, stockpiling and modernisation.”

Some Striking Facts about Nukes

The International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons summarises the most striking facts about this weapon of mass destruction:

Which countries have nuclear weapons and how many?

What are their effects on health and the environment?

Who supports a global ban on nuclear weapons?

What are the most significant events of the nuclear age?

The post Trump, the Banks and the Bomb appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0
Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Council Wed, 29 Jun 2016 01:27:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden were elected on Tuesday to serve on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent members, while Italy and Netherlands have split the remaining contested seat. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) met to choose five new non-permanent members who will serve a two-year term starting January 2017 alongside the 15-member council. […]

The post Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Council appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden were elected on Tuesday to serve on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent members, while Italy and Netherlands have split the remaining contested seat.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) met to choose five new non-permanent members who will serve a two-year term starting January 2017 alongside the 15-member council.

As the UN’s most powerful body, the UNSC is responsible for international peace and security matters from imposing sanctions to brokering peace deals to overseeing the world’s 16 peacekeeping missions.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom expressed how “happy” and “proud” Sweden is to be joining the UN’s top decision-making body.

“We will do now what we promised to do,” she told press. Among its priorities, Sweden has pledged to focus on conflict prevention and resolution.

“With 40 conflict and 11 full-blown wars, it is a very very worrisome world that we have to take into account,” Wallstrom stated.

Despite its location in Northern Europe,  Sweden has not been untouched by recent conflicts, including the ongoing civil war in Syria. With a population of 9.5 million, the Scandinavian country took in over 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The government has since imposed tougher restrictions on asylum seekers including a decrease in permanent residence permits and limited family reunification authorisations.

Ethiopia has also highlighted its position in promoting regional and continental peace and security. The country is the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers and is actively involved in mediating conflicts in Africa, most recently in South Sudan. It has also long struggled with its own clashes, including a crackdown on political dissent.

The Sub-Saharan African country has also promised to work towards UNSC reforms.

During the 70th Session of the UNGA in September 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn remarked that he was “proud” that Ethiopia is one of the UN’s founding members, but stressed the need to reform and establish a permanent seat for Africa in the council.

“Comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, particularly that of the Security Council, is indeed imperative to reflect current geo-political realities and to make the UN more broadly representative, legitimate and effective,” he told delegates.

“We seize this occasion to, once again, echo Africa’s call to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council,” Dessalegn continued.

Ethiopia has been a non-permanent member of the UNSC on two previous occasions, in 1967/1968 and 1989/1990.

It will also be the third time that Bolivia will have a non-permanent SC seat. Bolivia campaigned unopposed with the backing of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“Bolivia is a country that has basic principles…one of those principles is, without a doubt, anti-imperialism,” the Bolivian delegation said following their election, adding that they will continue implementing these principles as a member of the UNSC.

Since the election of Evo Morales, its first indigenous leader, the South American country has largely focused on social reforms and indigenous rights. Most recently, Morales has been reportedly implicated in a political scandal that is threatening journalists and press freedom.

Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to be a member of the UNSC after beating Thailand for the seat.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said that he was “very happy” and their selection was a “privilege.” He also reiterated the country’s priority focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan relinquished its nuclear weapons and has been actively advocating for non-proliferation around the world.

“We have a lot to offer to the world and we believe that it is time to attract attention to the need of development in our part of the world,” Idrissov stated.

However, Human Rights Watch has scrutinized the Central Asian nation’s human rights record, including restrictions on freedom of expression.

Netherlands and Italy were up for the last Western European seat on the UNSC, but after four rounds of voting, they were deadlocked with each country receiving 95 votes while needing 127 to win.

Following deliberations, Italian and Dutch foreign ministers announced that they would split the seat, with Italy in the UNSC in 2017 and the Netherlands in 2018.

Since May, the six countries have been campaigning for council seats by participating in the first-ever election debates in the UN’s 70-year history.

The debates were a part of a new effort to increase transparency in the institution.

The new non-permanent members will work alongside the five veto-wielding permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Following their controversial exit from the European Union, known as “Brexit”, the UK may face an uncertain future in the UNSC as the prospects of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK loom.

The post Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Council appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]> 0