U.N. Chief Seeks to Break Disarmament "Inertia"

(Sep. 24) -U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, shown yesterday, today urged a meeting of top diplomats from around the world to end an impasse at international disarmament talks (Michael Nagle/Getty Images).
(Sep. 24) -U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, shown yesterday, today urged a meeting of top diplomats from around the world to end an impasse at international disarmament talks (Michael Nagle/Getty Images).

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today pressed a gathering of top foreign officials from U.N. member nations to create new momentum for negotiations at the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland (see GSN, Sept. 20).

"Disarmament and nonproliferation are essential across the board, not simply for international peace and security," said Ban, who urged meeting attendees to end the "long inertia" at the conference.

The 65-nation body in 2009 broke a deadlock that had lasted for more than 10 years, agreeing to a work plan that addressed four issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cutoff pact, the prohibition of space-based weapons, and an agreement by nuclear-armed states not to use their strategic weapons against nations that do not possess such armaments. Pakistan initially endorsed the plan, but later withdrew its consent and demanded further consideration of the program.

Pakistan has called for a fissile material cutoff treaty to also mandate reductions in existing nuclear-weapon fuel stockpiles as a means of addressing the larger bomb material stockpile and weapon production capability wielded by India, Islamabad's neighboring rival.

"It presents us with a clear and present danger," said Zamir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the conference.

A new group of 10 countries opposed to nuclear armaments joined Ban in demanding progress at the disarmament body.

Talks at the conference must "be pursued with vigor and determination," the coalition, led by Japan and Australia, said in a statement (Charles Hanley, Associated Press I/Google News, Sept. 24). The group's other members are Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the Press Trust of India reported (Press Trust of India/Zee News, Sept. 23).

Twenty-four Cabinet-level foreign officials yesterday demanded ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by holdout countries, AP reported (see GSN, July 27).

The United Nations adopted the treaty in 1996. The pact, however, must be approved by nine final "Annex 2" nations before it can enter into force as a global ban on nuclear testing.The holdouts, which participated in negotiations on the pact while operating nuclear power or research reactors, are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

"I believe the national security interests of the United States are enhanced by ratification of the CTBT," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who presided over a meeting for advancing the pact (Charles Hanley, Associated Press II/Google News, Sept. 23).

"Until we have universal adherence to a legally binding global norm against nuclear testing, there is no guarantee that nuclear tests will not recur," Ban told delegates at the gathering.

“We can no longer wait for the perfect international environment before taking advantage of existing – and potentially short-lived -- opportunities,” he said. “Be courageous. Take the initiative. Be the first mover” (U.N. release, Sept. 23).

September 24, 2010
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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today pressed a gathering of top foreign officials from U.N. member nations to create new momentum for negotiations at the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland (see GSN, Sept. 20).