By Jamshed Baruah
VIENNA (IDN) – While nuclear weapons have not been deployed since 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nearly 15,000 pieces of such instruments of mass destruction still exist, posing risks too great to be ignored. In view of this menacing reality, Mayors for Peace are warning that the danger of nuclear proliferation remains real, as seen in the case of continuing nuclear tests by North Korea.
Addressing the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference from May 2-12 in Vienna, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui expressed concern on behalf of the Mayors for Peace representing more than 7,200 member cities around the world, that nuclear-weapon states and their allies continued to stress the relevance of nuclear deterrence. He voiced strong support for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), especially its Article VI obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith.
Mayor Matsui told the conference that there is a fundamental flaw in any security system that is dependent on nuclear weapons of utmost inhumanity. “Such a system will offer no real solution to the security challenges the global community is facing today. Even if it appears to present short-term solutions, they would be nothing more than a temporary fix based on the fragile foundation of the threats actually to use this most inhumane of all weapons of mass destruction.”
Over time, the international community will increasingly reject these repugnant and inhumane weapons and the doctrine that justifies their possession and use, he told the conference on May 3.
“It is already widely recognized that such weapons could invite more complex dangers of nuclear proliferation. We must also recognize that the very existence of nuclear weapons itself poses risks of use each day, as a result of miscalculation, malfunctions or accidents, if not by intent. Nuclear terrorism is also a real risk we cannot ignore.”
He strongly urged the policymakers of the world, trusting their keen sense of responsibility to provide reliable security to the people. “We say, stop relying on nuclear deterrence that is based on mutual distrust and threats. We ask them to seek to create a new security framework that can foster mutual respect and a shared sense of our common humanity.”
Such an effort, of course, requires a long-term and global perspective, “However, we would like to recommend once again that these leaders take initiative and start with immediate steps now by implementing their nuclear disarmament obligation in good faith. We trust that with such a decisive leadership, we can build together a more reliable and long lasting security system away from nuclear deterrence.”
Mayors for Peace support the start of negotiations this year of a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. “Unfortunately, the negotiations have begun without the presence of nuclear-armed states and those under their umbrellas. These nuclear weapons dependent states should, however, understand why civil society and so many non- nuclear-weapons states are supporting negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons,” the Hiroshima Mayor said.
As reflected in the recent global discourse on this issue, the great majority of non-nuclear- weapons states that are not dependent upon nuclear deterrence are keenly aware of the risks of nuclear weapons and catastrophic inhumane consequences of their use, whether intentional or not, argued Mayor Matsui.
Those states are now also squarely facing the reality that anyone could become a victim of nuclear detonations. This is why so many non-nuclear-weapons states are leading the negotiations. The first session was held March 27-31 and the second is scheduled for June 15-July 7 at the UN in New York.
The non-nuclear-weapons states are leading the talks “not only on the basis of the Article VI obligation of the NPT, but also because of their legitimate right to participate in such negotiations as potential victims of such weapons’ use,” he added.
The Mayors for Peace hope that the legal instrument produced through these negotiations will be also open to the participation of states currently dependent on nuclear deterrence. They have also made specific proposals to ensure that the treaty achieves universal membership. They have done this because if the new treaty does not allow future participation of nuclear dependent states, it may not establish effective legal prohibition of nuclear weapons that will lead to their total elimination.
“We sincerely hope that the treaty will develop into a verifiable and comprehensive legal framework in the future; one that will indiscriminately bind all States, including the nuclear-weapon states,” said the Hiroshima Mayor, adding: “We strongly recommend that the nuclear-armed states and their allies participate in the next round of negotiations in June and July. Even if they cannot do so now, we ask them at least to make further efforts to take concrete steps to fulfil their nuclear disarmament obligations.”
Addressing another critical issue, Mayor Matsui said, while each and all the Parties to the NPT share the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world, “unfortunately, all the concrete steps for nuclear disarmament have been stagnating for a long time and have failed to yield any significant results – such as bringing the CTBT into force, concluding an FMCT, and substantially reducing the nuclear stockpiles of the U.S. and Russia, which still account for more than 90 per cent of the world’s stockpile.”
CTBT is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which is almost universal but has yet to become law. 183 countries have signed the Treaty, of which 164 have also ratified it, including three of the nuclear weapon States: Britain, France and Russia. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force.
Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT. The last Annex 2 State to ratify the Treaty was Indonesia on 6 February 2012.
FMCT, the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, is a proposed international treaty to prohibit the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. The treaty has not been negotiated and its terms remain to be defined.
The Mayors for Peace therefore called on nuclear-armed states to “try harder” to achieve substantial progress by introducing new and innovative steps to break this stagnation. “And in this context they may find their participation in the negotiation of the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons could well be a viable option.”
The Hiroshima Mayor reminded the nuclear-weapons states that taking concrete steps to reduce risks and to eliminate the atomic arsenal is an integral part of NPT Article VI obligations as have been agreed upon in the past NPT review conferences. “Any failure to implement such basic obligations will only cause further destabilization throughout the global community,” he declared. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 May 2017]
Photo: Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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