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Despite 'Fire and Fury' Milestones Toward A Nuclear-Weapons-Free World

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Considering the "fire and fury" characterizing the heated exchanges between the U.S. and North Korea, July 7 appears to be light years ago. That was the day when 122 member states of the United Nations voted to adopt a legally binding global Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that may eventually lead towards their total elimination.

The Treaty that opens for signature on September 20, was adopted four weeks ahead of the 72nd anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945 – giving cause for hope, as Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said in the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, that "all the efforts of the hibakusha over the years" would finally take shape.

But going by the refusal of nine nuclear-weapons states to pave the way for abandoning reliance on nuclear deterrence, an unknown period of time would have to elapse before universal prohibition of nuclear weapons becomes a reality.

And yet July 7 is a milestone in efforts to achieving global nuclear disarmament, one of the oldest goals of the United Nations since it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. One such milestone is also the resolution 64/35 unanimously adopted by the 64th session of the General Assembly on December 2, 2009, declaring August 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

The resolution calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

It was initiated by Kazakhstan, together with a large number of sponsors and cosponsors with a view to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on August 29, 1991.

The Day is meant to galvanize the United Nations, Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, youth networks and the media to inform, educate and advocate the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests as a valuable step towards achieving a safer world.

Banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone – is the objective of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It opened for signature on September 24, 1996. Since then, the Treaty has reached near-universality.

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. Together with Japan, Kazakhstan has been campaigning for entry into force of the treaty-

The CTBT is the last barrier on the way to develop nuclear weapons.  It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs. When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing. The Treaty also helps prevent human suffering and environmental damages caused by nuclear testing.

2010 marked the inaugural commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Each year, since then, the day has been observed by coordinating various activities throughout the world, such as symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications, lectures in academic institutions, media broadcasts and other initiatives. 

Since the establishment of the International Day against Nuclear Tests, many bilateral and multilateral governmental level developments as well as broad movements in civil society have helped to advance the cause of banning nuclear tests.

Moreover, “convinced that nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons are the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of nuclear weapons,” the General Assembly designated September 26 as the “International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons", which is devoted to furthering the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, through the mobilization of international efforts.

First proposed in October 2013, the resolution (A/RES/ 68/32) was a follow-up to the high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament held on September 26, 2013 in the UN General Assembly. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which was observed for the first time in September 2014, has together with other events and actions, fostered a global environment with more optimistic prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Civil society organizations including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and faith communities such as the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) have been in the vanguard creating awareness of the pressing need for a world free of nuclear weapons.

SGI plans to hold a youth summit early September for the renunciation of war. The gathering will be held in Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture, where second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda issued the declaration calling for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. This summit bring together youth representatives from many regions, including young people from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa in Japan.

On September 8, 1957, Josei Toda stated before a gathering of 50,000 that nuclear weapons were an absolute evil and a fundamental threat to the right of the world’s people to existence. In doing so he was declaring that their use was impermissible – for any reason, under any circumstance.

Among countries that have been relentlessly active for helping usher in a world without war and without nuclear weapons is the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan that closed on August 29, 1991 the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site it inherited from the Soviet Union after its collapse.

 A tribute to its diplomatic and political commitment for a nuclear-weapons-free world is its election as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. Marking the beginning of Kazakhstan's two-year term, Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov presented to the Security Council on January 10 the policy address by President Nursultan Nazarbayev: 'Kazakhstan's Concept Vision on Sustaining Global Partnership for Secure, Just and Prosperous World'.

Foreign Minister Abdrakhmanov said that, as stated in President Nazarbayevv's Manifesto 'The World. The 21st Century' on March 31, 2016, Kazakhstan attaches importance to joint efforts and cooperation to strengthen international peace and security and has set itself the goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons by the UN's 100th anniversary, as well as eliminating the threat of wars and conflicts while ensuring the strong connection between peace, security and development.

“Kazakhstan will work in a balanced and unbiased manner on the Council's entire agenda keeping in mind the paramount importance of maintaining and strengthening peace and security," Abdrakhmanov quoted President Nazarbayev, who stressed that Astana intends “to work on an equal basis with all Security Council Members to promote compromise and consensus to strengthen international peace and security."

In this regard, the address identified Kazakhstan's priorities as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. These include building a nuclear-weapon-free world, eliminating the threat of a global war, promoting peace in Afghanistan, creating a regional peace zone in Central Asia and the Global Antiterrorist Coalition (network) under the auspices of the United Nations, fostering peace in Africa, promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the strong connection between peace, security and development, adapting the United Nations to the needs of the 21st century and holding regular Security Council meetings at the level of Heads of State and Government in order to strengthen the collective political will to address global challenges.

The Security Council's Open Debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace was joined by Secretary-General António Guterres, the foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers of Ethiopia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine as well as Permanent Representatives of China, Russia, the United States to the United Nations and other UN Member States attended the meeting in New York.

As a further step towards recognition of Kazakhstan's commitment to non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will open a Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Kazakhstan on August 27-28. The IAEA LEU Bank, operated by Kazakhstan, will host a reserve of LEU, the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel, and act as a supplier of last resort for Member States in case they cannot obtain LEU on the global commercial market.

From August 25 to 29, 2017 Kazakhstan will also host the 62nd Pugwash Conference on Science & World Affairs, titled “Confronting New Nuclear Dangers”. Last year, the Central Asian republic hosted an international conference of parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) organized the gathering on August 28-29, 2016. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 August 2017]

Photo: Monument at the atomic bomb hypocenter in Nagasaki. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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