A Bridge to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative

An Address to
"A Dialogue on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons:Hiroshima's message for the 21st Century"

Sponsored by Asahi Shimbun, Hiroshima City,Hiroshima Peace Cultural Foundation,
Supported by Hiroshima Home Television

Hiroshima, August 5, 1999

It is an honour to be invited to speak in Japan. I come here in aspiritof humility and solidarity with all who want to rid the world of "theultimate evil" -- the description given nuclear weapons by the formerPresident of the International Court of Justice. I pay tribute, first ofall, to the people of Japan, who have in the past suffered the outrages ofwar as no other people on Earth. The memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki mustforever burn in the minds and hearts of humankind, always inspiring us withthe courage to go on relentlessly in our work of obtaining a global ban onthe production, deployment and use of nuclear weapons anywhere in theworld. I have immense respect for the role Japan has played in the pasthalf-century in building the conditions for a lasting peace.

On the eve of the new Millennium, one wants to express hope andconfidencethat a nuclear weapons-free world could be achieved early in the 21stcentury. But the route to a nuclear weapon-free world is cluttered withobstacles. Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the five originalnuclear weapon states -- the United States (U.S.), Russia, China, Franceand the United Kingdom (U.K.) -- are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.There are 5,000 nuclear weapons on alert status. NATO, reaffirming thatits nuclear weapons are "essential," has retained an option to use themfirst, expanded eastwards, and used military force in the Balkans withoutU.N. Security Council consent. This situation and severe domesticmilitary, political and economic pressures have convinced Russia to mirrorNATO's nuclear posture.

In 1998, India and Pakistan showed that the non-proliferation regimewasunravelling by becoming overt nuclear weapon states, following the exampleof the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Progress onnuclear weapons reduction agreements between the U.S. and Russia hasstalled. Constructive proposals by non-nuclear weapon states in theConference on Disarmament are blocked by the NATO nuclear weapon statesand/or India and Pakistan. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is nowherenear entering into force. As a result, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)is in jeopardy.

Moreover, the U.S. Congress has enshrined in national securitypolicy theintention to field a national ballistic missile defence system; thePentagon has budgeted $10.5-billion over the next six years to create aworkable system. Not only is the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty now underthreat, the whole non-proliferation regime is under siege.

It is even more dismaying to note the nuclear weapon states'argumentationthat they will need a nuclear deterrent well into the 21st century. Theymaintain that they need nuclear weapons as a hedge against unexpectedreversals in relations with other states that currently possess nuclearweapons. This leads them to prepare long-term plans to develop futurenuclear weapons, delivery systems, and the supporting infrastructure.

Alarmed by the deepening crisis, a worldwide movement to eliminatenuclearweapons is underway and gaining strength. This combines responsiblecitizen organizations and individuals, including formerly pro-nuclearadvocates, respected authorities and governments.

The 1995 indefinite extension of the NPT is a cornerstone inbuilding anew and long sought-after security architecture for the world. Theextension underscored that all 187 NPT signatories have a role to play inridding the world of nuclear weapons. A new fusion of strength bylike-minded governments and the advanced wave of civil society could createenormous world pressure that the NWS would not be able to ignore.

In July 1996, the International Court of Justice provided a legalimperative by deciding unanimously that nations must conclude negotiationsto eliminate all nuclear weapons. Since them, religious leaders fromnumerous traditions have declared nuclear weapons immoral. Aninternational group of former generals and admirals has announced thatnuclear weapons have no military value and are too dangerous to keep.

Movement forward is essential to preserve the integrity of the NPT.Justthe expressed willingness of the NWS to engage in negotiations would upliftthe world mood. It would keep open the window of opportunity to build abetter system for world security than relying on nuclear deterrence:"Systematic" progress on nuclear elimination that can be measured will keepthe world community from splitting apart on this pivotal issue. No otherissue is as divisive or complex; that is why many want to avoid it. But itmust be faced now, for meaningful progress on other disarmament issues isnot possible while a nuclear stalemate persists.

The world community needs a bridge to take us from the presentimpasse tothe vision of a nuclear weapon-free world. Such a bridge has been built byeight courageous states determined to act for humanity and the planet.

On June 9, 1998, the Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland,Mexico,New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa and Sweden launched a Joint Declarationcalled "Towards A Nuclear Weapon-Free World: The Need For A New Agenda."Known as the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), they criticized both the nuclearweapon states and the three nuclear weapon-capable states of India, Israeland Pakistan, and called on them all to agree to start work immediately onthe practical steps and negotiations required for getting rid of theirnuclear arsenals.

This historic development posed a serious challenge to the NWS,which theycould not ignore. For these states have forsworn nuclear weapons, haveexcellent records on security related issues, and are friends of the NWS.The NAC proposals represent sober steps to gradually move from theinstability of a discriminatory non-proliferation regime to a world freefrom the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The NAC, reduced to seven with the loss of Slovenia followingWestern NWSpressure, introduced a resolution in the 1998 U.N. General Assemblyincorporating its agenda. The resolution was adopted by 114 votes to 18with 38 abstentions. The "No" voters included all the nuclear weaponstates except China (which abstained) and India, Israel and Pakistan.Among the abstainers were all the non-nuclear NATO states except Turkey,signaling an unprecedented call for rethinking in NATO.

Avoiding polarizing alliances of north or south, the NAC proposalsaregenerating enthusiasm as a viable route to preserve and strengthen thenon-proliferation regime. At the recent NPT PrepComm III, the NACpresentation was broadened by an additional 37 states that co-sponsor NAC'sproposals. NAC called for the pursuit of the START process, the "seamlessintegration" into the process by the other NWS, de-alerting, reduction ofreliance on tactical nuclear weapons, and legally-binding Negative SecurityAssurances.

A second major development, the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), isstrengthening the NAC bridge. Founded in March, 1998, the MPI is acarefully focused and coordinated campaign by a network of internationalcitizen organizations drawn from every continent. MPI serves to encouragemiddle power nations to focus on helping the leaders of the NWS to breakfree from their cold war mindset, commit themselves to immediate practicalsteps to reduce nuclear dangers, and commence negotiations required for theelimination of nuclear weapons. In particular, MPI supports a no first-usepolicy, de-alerting and comprehensive negotiations leading to elimination.

Leading co-sponsors of the MPI campaign include: Two Nobel PeacePrizewinners, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War(IPPNW); International Peace Bureau (IPB); and the Nuclear Age PeaceFoundation; the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms;the State of the World Forum; Parliamentarians for Global Action; theInternational Network of Engineers and Scientists; and Women'sInternational League for Peace and Freedom. An International SteeringCommittee manages the campaign, and MPI operations centre is located in theCambridge, Massachusetts headquarters of the IPPNW.

MPI considers it a priority to ensure that the NPT survives beyonditsApril 2000 Review Conference as an instrument for true nuclear disarmament. It is therefore working with other citizen organizations to support theNAC's efforts towards this objective.

MPI is acting on the growing evidence that public opinion, even intheU.S. and U.K., overwhelmingly wants rapid progress in negotiating a NuclearWeapons Convention. With chemical and biological weapons banned byenforceable global treaties, the legal case against nuclear weapons is seenas self-evident. That is why MPI favours debate on a model Nuclear WeaponsConvention -- now a U.N. document -- drafted by experts in the anti-nuclearmovement. This offers the final road map to elimination.

While remaining independent of the NAC, MPI helps NAC in thefollowing ways.

It is with the greatest respect that I invite the Government andpeople ofJapan to give serious consideration to supporting the NAC goals, which willbe expressed once more in the U.N. resolution this fall. The NAC bridgeneeds the commitment and participation of such an influential country asJapan. MPI wishes to work with the Japanese authorities and people. ForJapan truly understands what is at stake in the elimination of nuclearweapons.

MPI's campaign is centred around the heart of the issue: theassault onhumanity that nuclear weapons represent. Humanity provides our commonbond. The NAC deserves and needs the degree of support from the public andmedia given to the anti-personnel landmines campaign, which focused ontheir inhumanity. As the World Court reminded us, only nuclear weapons candestroy all civilization and the entire ecosystem of the planet.Highlighting the need for urgency, MPI plans to raise the visibility ofthat fact and the indiscriminate cruelty of nuclear weapons. Theircontinued existence represents humanity's greatest single moral, legal andpolitical challenge.