Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Challenges of the NPT, Part 2

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor/Senior Staff Writer

Key lies in materializing President Obama’s vision

On May 13, at the high point of discussions at the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, Shigeko Sasamori, 76, who experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, appeared at U.N. headquarters in New York, the site of the gathering. “I fell and hurt my back,” she said. “But I’m okay now.”

Ms. Sasamori lives in a suburb of Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States. Members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who learned that she was in New York to meet acquaintances invited her to the U.N. When Ms. Sasamori arrived at the venue, she was met by ten representatives of NGOs attending the PrepCom. She then related her experience of the bombing when she was 13 years old and said that human beings must never repeat such a tragedy.

Ms. Sasamori has steadily appealed for peace in the United States, the nation which dropped the atomic bombs, by sharing her A-bomb account and offering support for the A-bomb exhibitions that are sponsored by the City of Hiroshima and being held in the U.S. nationwide. These efforts now undoubtedly lend support to U.S. President Barack Obama’s vision of “a world without nuclear weapons.”

It was Mr. Obama’s policy that helped spirit the PrepCom discussions.

On May 5, the second day of the PrepCom, U.S. representative Rose Gottemoeller spoke to the gathering and shared Mr. Obama’s ambitious vision for nuclear disarmament, which includes negotiations for a new nuclear disarmament treaty between the U.S. and Russia and U.S. efforts to seek an early ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). She called on the NPT member nations to engage in constructive discussion by focusing on cooperation and consensus.

Many nations welcomed the superpower’s positive attitude toward nuclear disarmament and its dialogue-oriented posture. The PrepCom began in a friendly air and the U.S. did not toughen its stance during the session.

U.N. diplomatic sources pointed out, “The U.S. showed great flexibility this time, which led us to believe that the nation is now set to make important concessions. Its attitude demonstrated that the U.S. is ready to meet the expectations of the international community.”

At one point, though, Ms. Gottemoeller was forced to defend the fact that details of Mr. Obama’s vision are still forthcoming. She asked the other member nations to wait until next year as these concrete details are still taking shape.

The U.S. will update its “Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)” this year, a general guideline of its nuclear strategy, for the first time in eight years. The focus of the update is on how specific the NPR will be about nuclear disarmament, given the nation’s deep-rooted belief in nuclear deterrence at home, as well as the uncertainty involving ratification of the CTBT by the Senate.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has given tacit approval to Israel’s de facto possession of nuclear weapons and concluded the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement with India, another de facto nuclear weapon state. With an eye on the situation in Afghanistan, it has also provided support to the de facto nuclear weapon state of Pakistan. In view of the U.S. response to North Korea, which proceeded with a nuclear test, and Iran, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons, it would be difficult to argue that the U.S. has maintained a consistent stance on nuclear proliferation.

The U.S., under its “Manhattan Project,” secretly advanced the development of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The name of the project is believed to be derived from the Manhattan district of New York, where the buildings of U.N. headquarters now stand. The NPT Review Conference will be held at a U.N. headquarters building in May 2010. How will the international community contend with the problem of the nuclear arms race, which began last century, and finally put an end to it? The key lies in how Mr. Obama’s vision will materialize over the next year.

(Originally published on May 29, 2009)

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Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Challenges of the NPT, Part 1 (May 31, 2009)