On 7 July 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was approved by 122 Member States of the United Nations. The Treaty will be open for signature – the first step toward ratification – on 20 September at the U.N.
Immediately after the positive vote, the delegations of the USA, the United Kingdom, and France issued a joint press statement saying,
“The initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment… This treaty offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that made nuclear deterrence necessary.”
We have to thank the collective forces of the US, UK, and French diplomatic corps, their intelligence services and assorted think tanks for informing us that there is still work to do. Those of us who were working for the Treaty had a dim feeling that the Treaty was not the end of the road but nevertheless an important step on the road toward a cosmopolitan, humanist world society. We are now reminded of the existence of North Korea and other security challenges. Perhaps it is useful to look at the possibilities of confidence-building measures and negotiations in good faith in some tension areas related to nuclear-weapon States.
We are asked to think about Korea and we should, given the amount of saber-rattling that has gone on of late. The Association of World Citizens has been pushing for a number of years (with no visible results) the transformation of the Korean Armistice Agreement into a Korean Peace Treaty, especially as a confidence-building measure to recognize the legitimacy of the two Korean States even if at some later date there are efforts for a con-federation or some other form of reunification. With nuclear-weapon States of the USA, Russia and China all concerned, we could expect a host of creative ideas of confidence-building measures and offers of hosting negotiations. For the moment on the part of governments we have secret diplomacy secretly carried out. There have been a few non-governmental “Track II” efforts but none on the scale of the need to reduce tensions.
While in Asia, we also have the somewhat lightly frozen conflict between the nuclear-weapon States of India and Pakistan, a conflict that heats up occasionally and then freezes over again. Nuclear weapons in Pakistan, a politically unstable State, with insurgencies on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, does worry some. While there have been Track II efforts among Indians and Pakistanis, the divisions seem deep and would merit more attention.
Moving to what the Indians call “Western Asia”, we have the relations of nuclear-weapon Israel with the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab States. The tensions have gone on so long that they have become “one of the facts of international life”, and confidence-building measures have been few. Over the years, there have been a good number of Track II efforts carried out by NGOs and academic institutions. There have been times when I thought that progress was being made, but there has been no permanent breakthrough.
The one happy note in looking at policies of nuclear-weapon States is that nuclear war between France and England is unlikely. There was the 100-Year War and periodic tensions since, but it is the one area with nuclear-weapon States which we can safely leave aside.
Thus we can turn our attention to the tensions among the nuclear-armed Russian Federation, NATO and Ukraine. Again, the Association of World Citizens has been suggesting (with no visible results) a federal system for Ukraine rather than the creation of two separate republics in eastern Ukraine, an improvement over fighting, troop movement, NATO troop reinforcements etc. For the moment confidence-building measures are few.
We end by again thanking the U.N. Missions of the US, France and the UK for reminding us that there are security challenges. We disagree that these challenges require deterrence with nuclear weapons. Rather, we think that confidence-building measures linked to creative negotiations is the best step forward. Thus we work for the rapid ratification by the 50 States needed for the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty to come into force and at the same time organize for the conflict-resolution efforts still needed.
is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.