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Japan and Kazakhstan Campaign for Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

By Ramesh Jaura

VIENNA | TOKYO (IDN) - As the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) prepares to convene a ministerial meeting in June, Kazakhstan and Japan have reaffirmed their commitment to intensify their efforts toward entry into force of the Treaty. [P43] ARABIC | HINDI | ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | NORWEGIAN | PERSIAN | PORTUGUESE | TURKISH

During the first week of the symposium ‘Science and Diplomacy for Peace and Security’ from January 25 to February 4, representatives of the two countries in Vienna assured that they would set forth their efforts initiated by their respective foreign ministers in September 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrissov co-chaired the 9th Ministerial-level Conference on Facilitating the Entry into force of the Treaty on September 29, 2015.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Miniser Shinzo Abe of Japan reiterated in a statement issued on October 27, 2015 in Astana the reasons behind their commitment to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) becoming a law.

“As countries which experienced and are fully aware of the threat of nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan and Japan share the moral authority and responsibility to raise the awareness of the people throughout the world about the humanitarian catastrophes nuclear weapons have brought about. With this special mission in mind, Kazakhstan and Japan are determined to work together closely pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons,” a joint statement said.

While the heads of two countries committed to a world free of nuclear weapons are undertaking necessary political steps, eminent Buddhist philosopher and peace-builder Daisaku Ikeda has expressed his fervent support for entry into force of the CTBT that has been in limbo for 20 years.

In his annual peace proposal, titled ‘Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace’, Ikeda who is president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, urges “the remaining eight states to ratify the CTBT as soon as possible in order to enhance its effectiveness and ensure that nuclear weapons are never again tested on our planet”.

The eight countries include China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S., which have signed the Treaty, and North Korea, India and Pakistan that have until now refused to put their signature on the CTBT.

Altogether 183 member states of the United Nations have signed the Treaty and 164 have ratified. But it will enter into force only when 44 countries complete their ratification procedures.

“We must of course accelerate efforts toward nuclear disarmament and abolition. At the same time, we must further develop the kind of activities that have grown from the CTBT in order to build momentum toward a world that gives highest priority to humanitarian objectives,” says the Tokyo-based SGI’s president in the proposal issued on January 26.

As the humanitarian impact and the limited military effectiveness of nuclear weapons have become more apparent, so has the fact that they are essentially unusable, says the SGI president. “Having reached the limits of military competition, we can now see signs of the emergence of a new mode of international competition, one centered around mutual striving toward humanitarian objectives.”

One example of this, adds Ikeda, can be found in the various contributions made by the International Monitoring System (IMS), which was established with the adoption of the CTBT in 1996. The CTBT has yet to enter into force, but the IMS, launched by the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to detect any nuclear explosion worldwide, is already in operation, notes Ikeda.

The IMS is an important pillar of a unique and comprehensive verification regime to make sure that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. The IMS will, when complete, consist of 337 facilities worldwide to monitor the planet for signs of nuclear explosions. Around 90 percent of the facilities are already up and running.

The SGI president lauds the IMS: “Its core function was again demonstrated in the rapid detection of the seismic waves and radiation from the recent (January 6) North Korean nuclear test. In addition, the global IMS network has been used to gather data about natural disasters and the impact of climate change.”

He adds: “Examples of this include: providing information on undersea earthquakes to tsunami early-warning centers; real- time surveillance of volcanic eruptions to enable civil aviation authorities to issue timely warnings; and tracking large-scale weather events and the collapse of ice shelves. The system has been compared to a giant Earth stethoscope.” 

Ikeda agrees with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that even before entering into force, the CTBT is saving lives. “Indeed the Treaty and its verification regime, originally designed to restrain the nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation, have become essential humanitarian safeguards, protecting the lives of large numbers of people,” says the Buddhist philosopher, author and peace-builder.

As CTBTO experts explained to IDN in Vienna, the global monitoring stations send gigabytes of data to the International Data Centre (IDC) at the CTBTO's headquarters in Vienna. The data are processed and distributed to the CTBTO's Member States in both raw and analyzed form.

Before taking up the post as the CTBTO’s Executive Secretary in August 2013, Lassina Zerbo served as the IDC Director. He has been instrumental in cementing the CTBTO’s position as the world’s centre of excellence for nuclear test-ban verification, as well as in driving forward efforts towards the entry into force and universalization of the CTBT.

Ikeda also offers proposals for the new Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) set up by the UN General Assembly to address concrete legal measures toward prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Group is preparing substantive sessions to work on the legal measures and norms to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. It will also make recommendations on interim nuclear risk-reduction measures.

85 countries and some civil society organizations participated in an informal session of the OEWG on January 28.  Ambassador Thani Thongphakdi of Thailand was named as the OEWG Chair, and a provisional OEWG agenda was distributed.

It envisages (a) concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons; and (b) recommendations on other measures that could contribute to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, including but not limited to:

Transparency measures related to the risks associated with existing nuclear weapons; measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of accidental, mistaken, unauthorized or intentional nuclear weapon detonations; and additional measures to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of and interrelationship between the wide range of humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear detonation.

According to UNFOLD ZERO, support for the OEWG is also growing in parliaments and amongst civil society globally. UNFOLD ZERO is a new platform for United Nations focused initiatives and actions for the achievement of a nuclear weapons free world.

Mayors for Peace, an organization of over 6,800 cities, has sent an open letter to the OEWG urging all States – especially those possessing nuclear weapons and their umbrella states – to engage in constructive deliberations in the OEWG in order to pave the way for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project have sent a Memo to Governments Participating in the OEWG highlighting the humanitarian and security imperative to immediately reduce nuclear risks and to take concurrent steps to prohibit and eliminate the weapons. The memo explores various options to abolish nuclear weapons, including a nuclear weapons convention, ban treaty and/or a 'building blocks' approach.

According to the Memo, it is possible that no one, single, approach will do the trick, and that momentum built up by one approach may facilitate progress   with another, different approach.

Ikeda also cites hopeful developments, including the fact that over 120 states have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge, a commitment to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons,” and growing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons from civil society. He highlights efforts involving faith-based organizations and youth that the SGI has supported, including the International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition held in Hiroshima in August 2015.

Note: This is the third in a series of four articles flagged ‘CTBTO: Acronym of the Year’. The first titled ‘Banning The Bomb With Science And Diplomacy’ was published on January 20. The second headlined Nuclear-Test-Ban Debate Focuses on Iran and North Korea’ was published on 31 January. [IDN-InDepthNews – 1 February 2016]

Photo: Panel discussion on Roles, Responsibilities and Challenges Maintaining the IMS Verification System | Credit: CTBTO

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