NPT review conference urged to seek ‘non-first use’ of nuclear weapons – IDN-InDepthNews


By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS (IDN) — When academics, anti-nuclear peace activists and civil society organizations (CSOs) gathered at the United Nations on August 4 to discuss the growing threats of nuclear war around the world , one of the underlying themes was captured in the title: “Avoiding Nuclear War: What Short-Term Steps Can Be Taken?”

The discussion included a call for the world’s five major nuclear powers – the UK, US, France, Russia and China, all permanent members of the UN Security Council – to commit to not not use nuclear weapons first.

The other four nuclear powers – India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – were to follow suit.

Professor Alexander Harang, International Peace and Understanding, Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said that since March this year he has devoted most of his time to addressing the need for “no first use” policies.

“It’s an old theme, but the times we live in have made No First Use more relevant than ever,” he said.

“As we have heard from almost every state throughout this week of general debate here at the NPT Review Conference, we live in dangerous times. The threshold for the actual use of nuclear weapons has been dramatically lowered over the past few months.”

“If we fail to effectively address this problem, all our other peace and disarmament efforts risk being in vain,” he warned.

Professor Harang also pointed out that the declaration of “no first use” policies by nuclear-weapon states could also prove to be the most effective way to restore confidence in the United Nations disarmament machinery. united and to relaunch multilateral disarmament.

“We also need to understand No First Use as something that is actually possible to agree on in the times we live in. It is something achievable. And those are the main reasons why we need to focus on No First Use right now,” he said. .

The “side event”, which took place on August 4 on the sidelines of the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is due to end on August 26, was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UN, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Arms Control Association, Strategic Risk Council, Institute of World Economy and Politics and International Project for peace and understanding.

The tone was set by SGI Chairman Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, who in a statement ahead of the conference called on the five major nuclear weapon states to declare that they will never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict: the principle of “No first use”.

“Today, the risk of nuclear weapons being used is at its highest level since the Cold War,” he said.

A passionate campaigner for nuclear abolition for more than 60 years, he urged the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China to give substance to a joint declaration made by their leaders on January 3, 2022, that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”, declaring policies of “No First Use”.

Adopting a “No First Use” policy can significantly improve the global security climate, he argued.

To cite one example, he pointed out, when China and India engaged in border clashes in June 2020, which claimed dozens of lives, their permanent “no first use” commitments helped contain tensions and slowed the escalation.

As more states embrace this “no first use” principle, the norm that nuclear weapons are weapons that should never be used will be further reinforced, reducing the incentive build up nuclear arsenals, he noted.

Furthermore, it could help disrupt vicious cycles of nuclear proliferation in which increased nuclear threats prompt more states to seek their own nuclear weapons, said Dr Ikeda, whose organization represents a diverse Buddhist community of 12 million people that promotes peace, culture and education, and is also an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations.

The positive reactions generated by the adoption of “No First Use” would not be limited to the field of security either. Defusing the system of interlocking nuclear threats that have exacerbated global tensions and divisions would free up resources currently spent on nuclear competition so they can be used to protect the lives, livelihoods and dignity of all against threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

“I urge all states parties to seize the opportunity of this NPT Review Conference to include in the outcome document commitments to a policy of no first resort by nuclear-weapon states. , the support for this principle by all States Parties and the extension of negative security assurances to all non-nuclear-weapon States, thus promoting the transition to a new security paradigm.

Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri. IDN-INPS Multimedia Director

At a press conference in Hiroshima on August 6, UN Secretary-General António Guterres continued on the same theme when he told reporters that countries with nuclear weapons “must commit not to use these weapons first, because if no one is the first to use them, there would simply be no nuclear confrontation”.

Especially today, he said, as nuclear risk rises again around the world.

“When stocks are upgraded. And when nearly 13,000 of these doomsday weapons still exist. The lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are clear.”

Nuclear weapons have no place on our planet, he said: “It is time to lift the cloud of nuclear annihilation, once and for all. It is time to proliferate peace”.

In his opening address, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, Ambassador Magzhan Ilyassov, said that the world continues to be as precarious today as it was in 1945, due to the threat of nuclear weapons, the deadliest of all scourges, to prevent which the United Nations was founded 77 years ago.

However, this fear persists, despite the relentless efforts of the United Nations and the international community to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“The turmoil and devastation of the past two and a half years, seen in every country across the economic spectrum, should therefore not be further compounded by nuclear war or pollution of any kind,” he noted.

“Peace, disarmament, justice, sustainable development and environmental protection are the prerequisites for the survival and well-being of mankind,” the Ambassador said.

Despite the difficulties encountered by the NPT, it remains one of the cornerstones of the international security architecture and of the global non-proliferation regime.

The Tenth Review Conference of the NPT comes at an opportune time “and compels us to take a crucial decision for human security and progress in order to avoid plunging into unforeseen disasters”.

Kazakhstan will continue to work with others to seek a speedy and safe recovery to ensure lasting stability and security for all. This is a long-standing goal that he has always defended since his independence by advocating an international effort to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, Ambassador Ilyassov said.

“We are well aware that as long as there is a place in the world for nuclear weapons, there is simply no absolute guarantee that they will not be used. We are now reopening diplomacy, and its potential must be used to the maximum during this conference.

We hope that we will soon manage to break the deadlock and see a bright and hopeful new horizon for humanity,” he said.

Christine Parthemore, chief executive of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), said the potential for nuclear confrontation was growing.

“There are many factors driving this problem: geopolitical tensions are rising, we lack momentum to shape future arms control measures, the world is grappling with the effects of the climate crisis and the pandemic. , and countless pressures”.

It is important not to neglect another factor, that is to say that several countries with nuclear weapons have or plan to increase the importance of nuclear abilities that can lower the threshold for using these weapons, capabilities that increase the chance of miscalculations, or both, she added.

This includes nuclear weapons which some would characterize as low yield and sub-strategic. This also includes countries with dual-capability systems that can carry both nuclear and conventional payloads and which can be difficult to differentiate in a crisis.

“I started to see an increased focus on these kinds of capabilities during my time at the Pentagon, and that leads to the development of a lot of our work in CSR, where we worked with many countries and d ‘others to explore steps to reduce the risks that nuclear weapons will be used and will bring nuclear-weapon states back to paths of restraint, accountability and progress towards NPT commitments,’ Parthemore said.

“We recommend that nuclear-weapon countries consider any measure that shows progress towards the following 3 goals:

1) Interrupt the examination of new and novel nuclear weapons capabilities that are not part of the current landscape

2) Avoid actions that introduce even more ambiguity into an already complex security environment, and begin to reduce that ambiguity, and

3) Avoid and reduce entanglement between conventional and nuclear forces

There are many forms that such measures could take, and many of these have been explored in the work of my organization, other NGOs, UNIDIR and others.”

Examples could include:

  • Agreements to avoid the pursuit of dual-capability weapon systems that could carry conventional and nuclear payloads – either specific weapons or broader classes, such as cruise missiles
  • A nuclear-focused successor to the INF Treaty, as many nations have expressed an interest in retaining only conventional intermediate-range ground-launched systems
  • Moratoriums or agreements not to deploy specific types of nuclear capabilities in specific regions or not to deploy them at all.

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, also participated in the discussion. The moderator was Anna Ikeda, SGI. [IDN-InDepthNews — 07 August 2022]

Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri. IDN-INPS Multimedia Director

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

This article was produced as part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in consultative status with ECOSOC on 07 August 2022.

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