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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Toward 2015 — calling for a Nuclear Weapons Convention


Special to The Japan Times

As a preparatory meeting for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference opens in Vienna on April 30, regional tensions are building — in the Middle East with Iran's nuclear development and in Northeast Asia with North Korea's attempt to launch a long-range rocket.

More than 40 years after the NPT entered into force in 1970, the proliferation of nuclear weapons has yet to cease. In light of this reality, I believe that, ultimately, the only viable solution is to return to the original vision stated in the preamble of the NPT: "... the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery."

So long as nuclear weapons continue to exist, so will the temptation to threaten others with overwhelming military force. This generates a vicious cycle in which threat gives rise to insecurity, encouraging further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The destabilizing impact on our world has been incalculable. The cycle cannot be completely severed unless all countries move away from national security doctrines dependent on nuclear capability.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission led by Hans Blix stated in 2006 that it "rejects the suggestion that nuclear weapons in the hands of some pose no threat, while in the hands of others they place the world in mortal jeopardy." I completely agree. Nuclear weapons in any hands represent a "Sword of Damocles," an absolute evil that threatens people's right to live. It is an urgent task to categorically prohibit them.

The final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference provides an important foundation as the international community sets out to tackle this task, as it clearly states that there can be no exception with regard to compliance with international law:

"The Conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law."

Taking this agreement as a critical opening, we must with all haste begin the work of outlawing nuclear weapons by means of a legally binding treaty. When the representatives of governments and NGOs gather in Vienna, the full application of international law to nuclear weapons should be part of the agenda, as should ways forward toward a "Nuclear Weapons Convention" (NWC) to comprehensively ban these weapons.

Organizations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union with 162 member states, Mayors for Peace with over 5,200 member cities and the InterAction Council of former heads of state and government are now officially calling for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. A resolution calling for such a Convention has been submitted to the U.N. General Assembly every year since 1996, an initiative led by Malaysia. The momentum is growing, and last year 130 countries endorsed it.

Efforts are needed to initiate a cascade of support toward the realization of an NWC. I am convinced that, in addition to the spirit of international humanitarian law, the perspectives and motivations of human rights and sustainability should be enlisted to focus and bring to bear the attention and will of the world's people — young people above all — toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. This is because a focus on human rights and sustainability makes clear the unacceptable burden placed on both present and future generations by the maintenance of security policies based on nuclear weapons.

One way to jump-start the difficult process of negotiating an NWC would be to present it as a basic treaty — one that establishes the legal framework for a world without nuclear weapons — alongside a set of associated protocols. The basic treaty would allow signatory states to clearly commit to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons in light of the imperatives of international humanitarian law, human rights and sustainability, and to pledge to refrain from any action that would run counter to the achievement of this goal.

The key point of this proposal is to establish a framework within which all countries can work toward this shared global enterprise of humanity in conditions of physical and psychological security.

This would provide a road map for a structural transition from mutual threat to mutual assurance. Even if the protocols moving the treaty to the next stage of implementation are not ratified immediately, we could move away from the situation that prevails today, marked by a severe lack of transparency and the threat of virtually unrestrained proliferation. In its place would be established a nuclear weapons moratorium based on a clear overall forward vision and legal norm.

It is vital to begin as soon as possible. NGOs and forward-looking governments should establish a group — an "Action Group for a Nuclear Weapons Convention" — to begin to tackle this task.

I have for some time urged that a nuclear abolition summit to mark the effective end of the nuclear era be convened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 70th anniversary of the bombings of those cities, with the participation of national leaders and representatives of global civil society. And I have stressed that the 2015 NPT Review Conference provides a good opportunity for such a summit.

I am convinced that organizing such a meeting at the sites of the actual atomic bombings would spark renewal of the pledge of all participants to achieve a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. It would help solidify and make irreversible momentum toward that goal.

We should work toward the release — or better yet, the signing — of an agreed-upon draft of the basic framework treaty for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons at that meeting.

The SGI will continue to make every effort to generate a powerful momentum toward this end, collaborating with Mayors for Peace, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and other like-minded groups.

Japan learned from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the tragedy wrought by nuclear weapons must never be repeated and that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist. In order to give this knowledge and commitment enduring form as a treaty definitively outlawing nuclear weapons, I urge Japan to take the initiative in generating constructive deliberations at the Vienna preparatory conference for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and to act as a driving force toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and founder of Soka University and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. His 2012 Peace Proposal can be found at www.sgi.org.


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