Atomic bombs may become obsolete, if recent developments are anything to go by. It has been a long time without much good news on this front (the U.S. infamously withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001) but suddenly, through a lot of diplomatic efforts, including by Japan, there is hope for progress.
American and Russian negotiators reached an "agreement in principle" on the first nuclear-arms-reduction treaty in nearly two decades, administration and arms-control officials said on February 3, according to The Wall Street Journal:
Then, the Paris-based conference called Global Zero concluded their conference in Paris with strong support for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. A large number of senior Japanese politicians and diplomats are voicing their support for this effort, together with statesmen and -women including Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Hans Blix, Mary Robinson, and Gro Harlem Brundtland. Full list of signatories here.
The deal would bring the ceiling for deployed nuclear weapons down to between 1,500 and 1,675 per side, from the 2,200 agreed to in 1991, but nuclear-delivery systems would fall more sharply, to between 700 and 800 each from the current limit of 1,600. In fact, both sides have already reduced their nuclear-armed bombers, submarines and missiles to below 1,000.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the agreement is a milestone, the first arms-control treaty to not only set goals on warhead deployments but also to establish strict limits, with verification measures to hold each side to those limits.
In December 2008 in Paris—in response to the growing threats of proliferation and nuclear terrorism—100 leaders from around the world launched Global Zero. They announced a plan for the phased, verified elimination of nuclear weapons, starting with deep reductions in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, to be followed by multilateral negotiations among all nuclear powers for an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons—global zero. The growing group includes former heads of state, former foreign ministers, former defense ministers, former national security advisors, and more than 20 former top military commanders.
Presidents Obama's and Medvedev's commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons - matched by growing support from governments around the world—represents an historic opportunity to stop proliferation and end the nuclear threat once and for all by setting the world on the course to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Global Zero is working on three fronts to achieve this goal: 1) developing a step-by-step plan for the elimination of nuclear weapons based on the Paris conference framework; 2) conducting track-two diplomacy to build support among key governments; and 3) generating broad-based worldwide public support through media and online communications and grassroots organizing.
Today, February 5, NHK World notes:
Experts on nuclear disarmament have proposed that Russia and the United States dramatically cut the number of nuclear weapons and called for boosting the movement for nuclear nonproliferation. A 3-day conference organized by the group "Global Zero" concluded in Paris on Thursday with about 200 experts and former high-ranking officials from all over the world in attendance. A declaration crafted by the conference says both Russia and the United States must reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,000 respectively and other nuclear powers must not seek additional nuclear deployments.
You can sign the Global Zero Declaration here, and help spread the word. I can think of no better way to start the new year - and the decade - than to have such a strong push for nuclear disarmament.
However, let's also remember that U.S. president Obama has just approved an increase in funding of some $ 5 billion, or more than 13 percent, for the National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. They will get $11.2 billion from tax payers if the increase is approved by Congress. The Washington Post has more:
In addition, the budget request provides for a 10.4 percent increase, to $1.6 billion, in funds for additional work in science and technology to enhance confidence in the annual certification of the nuclear stockpile. An additional $2 billion would go to the long-term program to upgrade weapons-complex facilities, including a new plutonium facility for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a uranium manufacturing plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
In September 2009, the UN Security Council Summit adopted a resolution aimed at achieving "a world without nuclear weapons." In this resolution a provision was included which urges all nations to embrace an additional protocol developed by the IAEA for strengthening its inspection system. A strong appeal on the part of Japan was reportedly behind the move.
In the words of peace activist Kazumi Mizumoto at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, "this does not mean that Japan can simply sit idle and wait for nuclear weapons to be eliminated. If Japan desires a non-nuclear policy, the government must pursue a path of security that does not rely on nuclear arms."
For another approach, here is the proposal of Regina Hagen, currently visiting Japan:
Many proposals have been made how to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. Ususally, such plans suggest individual measures -- the so-called incremental approach with steps such as entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, conclusion of a Fissile Materials (Cutoff) Treaty, further US-Russian reductions of strategic nuclear weapons, no-first-use doctrines, lowering of the alert status of nuclear arsenals, etc. -- as steps towards nuclear abolition.
A different approach has been taken in the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, which was drafted by three international non-governmental organizations (IALANA, INESAP, and IPPNW) in 1997 and updated in 2007. The model treaty suggests an incremental-comprehensive framework that outlines a framework of measures that would be implemented in five phases over fifteen years. The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention has been introduced to the UN by Costa Rica and Malaysia (A/62/650) and was referred to by the UN General-Secretary when he suggested that as a measure leading to nuclear disarmament states “could consider negotiating a nuclear-weapons convention, backed by a strong system of verification, as has long been proposed at the United Nations” (Ban Ki-moon, October 24, 2008).
In her talk, Regina Hagen explained the main provisions of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention and described the advantages of such an approach as compared to the current nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. Regina Hagen, Michio Kaku, Agneta Norberg, Robert Anderson, Bruce Gagnon and a lot of other good people at the board of the Global Network are thinking deeply about these issues. Do listen.