My perspectives regarding TPNW, Part 2—Thomas Hajnoczi, 65, former Disarmament Department director, Austrian Foreign Affairs Ministry

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

Do away with nuclear deterrence as cornerstone of human security by promoting nuclear disarmament

The importance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will enter into force on January 22, has to do with the fact that the elimination of nuclear weapons would be impossible without prohibition. The same also holds true for biological and chemical weapons in that treaties first brought about prohibition and then, later, elimination. Prohibition is essential for maintaining a world without nuclear weapons.

More and more countries will join the TPNW as time goes on. During last year’s United Nations General Assembly, 130 states voted for the resolution that urged nations to join the treaty. The TPNW is also supported by citizens in nuclear-weapon states. Many cities such as Washington D.C., and Paris have asked their governments to join the treaty. It is obvious that the treaty has the effect of applying political pressure toward the goal of nuclear disarmament.

Austria, a permanently neutral country, led the effort to establish the TPNW. It also made appeals to other countries to include the word “hibakusha” in the treaty’s preamble
Our country has historically been aware of the danger of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, Austria was situated between Western and Eastern military alliances. Historians have found in archives plans to drop nuclear weapons on Austria by the then Soviet Union. The United States had plans to drop a nuclear weapon right at the border of Hungary, which would have also had disastrous effects on Austrians.

Austria was severely affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union. We were advised to keep young children at home. Milk and mushrooms were contaminated by the release of radioactive materials. The dangerous nature of radiation from nuclear weapons is the same.

We do not believe that nuclear weapons can bring security. But we do know they greatly threaten human security, as everyone can understand by looking at the example of Hiroshima. The hibakusha have suffered tremendously, providing living proof that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. I have been driven upon hearing their testimonies and message.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which consists of 30 European and North American countries, opposes the TPNW, arguing that security requires nuclear deterrence. The organization also claims that the treaty would undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The entire concept of our being protected by nuclear weapons does not make sense to us, especially in the current climate. One report put out by a research institute claims that cyberattacks on nuclear facilities make nuclear deterrence unreliable. We have seen many serious incidents over the past few years. And there remain the possibility of mistakes and technical breakdowns that could lead to detonation. The only guarantee available is that nuclear weapons will not be used is their elimination.

The TPNW was adopted with the understanding that the NPT provides the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and will strengthen that structure. Under Article VI of the NPT, each of the parties is obliged to pursue negotiations toward nuclear disarmament. The NPT states parties are committed to the goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, nuclear weapon states continuing to modernize their nuclear weapons is a clear violation of Article VI of the NPT. For full observance of Article VI, nuclear weapons must be banned.

The policy of nuclear deterrence is the reason for the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament. It is crucial that we do away with our so-called nuclear addiction. The TPNW clearly delegitimizes nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence and aims to make it harder for states to rely on nuclear weapons within their defense strategies.

The first meeting of the States Parties will be held in Austria. The Japanese national government’s response will attract attention
Japan’s national government must make this decision for itself, but I imagine that Japan hopes to participate in the meeting as an observer. Non-nuclear-weapon states must take a clear position against nuclear weapons if they are serious about making an impact on nuclear disarmament. It is impossible to be a credible voice for nuclear disarmament when such countries are working to rely on nuclear weapons in their security strategy platforms.

Thomas Hajnoczi
Born in 1955. Began working for Austria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978. Attended the United Nations conference to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons held at UN headquarters in 2017 as a representative of Austria. Played a key role in the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Assumed the post of executive advisor to the Mayors for Peace organization, for which Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui serves as chair, on January 1, 2021.

(Originally published on January 20, 2021)