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Kazakhstan Aims at a Global Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) - Both Japan and Kazakhstan have suffered from nuclear weapons: Japan through the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and Kazakhstan through the fallout from 456 nuclear test explosions conducted at the Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet nuclear test site near what is now the village of Semey.

The two countries are therefore committed to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons – for example through entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) – and consider it a main goal of humanity in the 21st century. This was reaffirmed during the first session of the UN conference to negotiate a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty, from March 27 to 31 at the UN headquarters in New York. The second session is scheduled for June 15 through July 7. [P Extra]

Addressing the Conference on March 27, Ambassador-at-Large of the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan Yerbolat Sembayev recalled President Nursultan Nazarbayev's plea that the international community's collective ambition should be to have the world completely free from nuclear weapons by the 100th anniversary of the UN.

In this context, Sembayev drew attention to the Manifesto “The world. 21st century”, proposed by President Nazarbayev at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. This document and its program “21st Century: A world without wars” warns against lethargy and indifference.

The international community has, of course, taken steps to nuclear disarmament, Ambassador Sembayev said. Many UNGA resolutions call for a nuclear weapons-free world. One of these is the Universal Declaration on a nuclear weapons-free world initiated by Kazakhstan. It was supported by a majority of UN member states and was an important step towards a legally binding international instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Kazakhstan, as a leading advocate of this important global cause, also strongly supported the final document of the open-ended Working group on nuclear disarmament and the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/71/258 on the convening of UN Conference

The convening was made possible mainly due to the process begun by the Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo (March 4-5, 2013), Nayarit (February 13-14, 2014) and Vienna (December 8-9, 2014).

As a country that continues to experience the consequences of nuclear explosions, Kazakhstan strongly believes that in the UN Conference document on the prohibition of nuclear weapons the principle of responsibility for the humanitarian consequences of their use would be taken into account.

Kazakhstan also hopes that, along with all the elements around the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the draft document would have provisions for some form of verification of their possession by countries. Kazakhstan has consistently supported the de-legitimization of nuclear weapons and repeatedly called for complete nuclear disarmament.

"We regard the future Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty as an interim measure in this process," Ambassador Sembayev said, adding that Kazakhstan advocates the launch of negotiations for concluding the Comprehensive Nuclear Weapon Convention with the provisions on the irreversible and verifiable liquidation of nuclear weapons within a specific timeframe.

Furthermore, it believes the Comprehensive Convention would only be considered at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), involving all concerned states. "We consider that, despite its existing difficulties, this forum has a huge potential and can make a significant contribution to the disarmament process."

At the same time, the global de-legitimization process should not be stopped due to the forced inactivity of the Conference on Disarmament because of its existing procedural contradictions, Ambassador Sembayev added.

"We believe the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains a cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime. We hope that a new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will supplement and strengthen the NPT, filling its existing gaps."

Kazakhstan was the leading mover in the Semipalatinsk treaty, which established a nuclear-free weapons zone in Central Asia. Today 116 States, the majority of UN members, are parties to nuclear weapon-free zones, which cover most of the territory of our planet.

"The purpose of (the) Conference should be to accelerate the transition of these zones from the regional to the global level, freeing our world from fear of nuclear threat," the Kazakh envoy said.

Ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa of Japan and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva said, Japan has a mission, as the only country, which has experienced the devastation of the war-time use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to raise awareness on the reality of atomic bombings and clear recognition of its humanitarian consequences across borders and generations.

He added, a ban treaty, if it does not lead to an actual reduction of a single nuclear warhead, would be of little significance. "In fact, efforts to make such a treaty without the involvement of nuclear-weapon states will only deepen the schism and division not only between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, but also among non-nuclear-weapon states, which will further divide the international community."

Subsequently, the common goal of reaching a world free of nuclear weapons would be pushed away. "Even if such a ban treaty is agreed upon, we don't think that it would lead to the solution of real security issues, such as the threat by North Korea. This is why we voted against the UN General Assembly resolution 711258 last year."

From discussions and considerations so far, the Japanese envoy said, it had become clear that the ban treaty concept was unable to obtain understanding and involvement of nuclear-weapon states. Furthermore, negotiation had not been formulated to pursue nuclear disarmament measures that would actually lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons, in cooperation with the nuclear weapon states.

"Regrettably, given the  present circumstances, we must say that it would be difficult for Japan to participate in this Conference in a constructive manner and in good faith," Ambassador Takamizawa added.

What is essential, he stressed, is to pursue practical and effective measures with the engagement of both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, as Japan has consistently maintained.

"As we sincerely aspire to see a world free of nuclear weapons, we will continue to pursue realistic and effective disarmament measures, and will work to create a security environment conducive to the elimination of nuclear weapons."

In closing, the Japanese envoy said, Japan will continue to place great value on constructive dialogue and cooperation within the international community. "To advance effective and inclusive efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, we will demonstrate our initiatives, such as providing a venue for interactive exchanges of views among countries that hold varied approaches on nuclear disarmament."

Both Kazakhstan and Japan appear to be aiming at a global nuclear-weapon-free zone, which would be a logical consequence of a nuclear ban treaty if achieved – perhaps in a distant future – with the participation of nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 March 2017]

Photo credit: ICAN

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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