Threat of Nuclear Weapons too easily dismissed - Minister Noel Treacy
Keynote Address by Mr Noel Treacy T.D. Minister for European Affairs
'International Peace & Global Security: The Challenge of Nuclear Disarmament',
Pax Christi Ireland, 27 March 2007
I would like to begin by thanking Pax Christi, for the invitation to be with you all here, today.
For nearly 50 years, Pax Christi has made a significant contribution to important issues, concerning Peace and Security. These have included Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Middle East Peace Process.
More recently, it has become involved in issues related to disarmament and non-proliferation. These include the spread of small arms and light weapons, Children in armed conflict, and the threat of Weapons of mass destruction. It was particularly involved in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines during the 1990's, and is now playing an active part, in the efforts to bring the problem of Cluster munitions use, to International attention. This is also an issue of considerable importance to our Government here and we are centrally involved in current International efforts, to address this urgent issue.
I would like to commend Pax Christi Ireland, and in particular Mr. Tony D'Costa, its General Secretary, for the valuable role that your Organisation has played in promoting these issues, which are central to the maintenance of International Peace and Security.
I am particularly pleased to participate in honouring Senator Douglas Roche, O.C. of Canada, who will receive today, a Pax Christi Peace Prize for his distinguished Service and passionate commitment to the cause of Nuclear disarmament.
Senator Roche who has done trojan work in this field and like myself has a West of Ireland heritage. Senator Roche's great-grandfather Michael Roche and his wife Ann Keenan emigrated from the West of Ireland, in 1842 and sailed to Canada. Ireland's loss, Canada's gain and today we are proud to honour a distinguished Irish-Canadian.
Our Government recognises the extremely valuable work in which Senator Roche has been engaged for over 30 years and we salute his enormously important contribution, to achieving our common goal of a Nuclear Weapons free World.
I am also here today, to speak to you all, on the challenge of Nuclear disarmament, a challenge which has confronted the International Community for more than sixty years. It is a challenge that Ireland, has sought to address since we first joined the United Nations, in the 1950's.
In 1958, the late Frank Aiken, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, first introduced a Proposal in the UN General Assembly, that would lead directly to the negotiation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) a decade later. Since our Signature of the NPT back in 1968, Ireland's highest priority in the area of Disarmament and Non-proliferation has been support for efforts to strengthen the Treaty and to ensure full respect for all of its provisions. The NPT today remains the cornerstone of the Nuclear non-proliferation regime. And we are proud of our history of association with it and the leadership given at that time, by one of our founding fathers, Frank Aiken.
The NPT, in particular Article 6 of the Treaty, contains the only multilateral legally binding commitment, from the Nuclear weapon-States to Nuclear disarmament. For Ireland, this is of particular importance, not just in itself, but also because we view Disarmament and Non-proliferation, as mutually reinforcing processes, requiring irreversible progress on both fronts.
It is almost twenty years since the Cold War ended, and with it, the spectre of imminent Global Nuclear catastrophe; a threat that seemed to define the International arena, for much of the latter half of the 20th Century. In the time since then Nuclear Weapon stockpiles have been reduced, delivery systems and Warheads have been dismantled and destroyed, and the Nuclear Powers have ceased targeting their missiles, at one another. The shadow of Nuclear Weapons over the fate of humanity has shortened somewhat. But it has not gone away yet. Indeed, in more recent years, Nuclear Weapons would appear to be regaining their former prominence, and in some quarters, even desirability.
Despite this. the concerns of World leaders, and of Civil Society today, seem to turn on, what are seen as more immediate dangers: International Terrorism; Climate Change and Global Warming; the nexus of small arms proliferation and newly established or developing States. Such threats manifest themselves on a daily basis, throughout the World and are more recognisable in terms of their effects, on the everyday lives of ordinary People.
The threat posed by the existence of Nuclear Weapons, on the other hand, are too easily dismissed. Nuclear disarmament no longer seems to have a hold on Society's imagination. It lacks immediacy, and this is, essentially, the first challenge of Nuclear disarmament: generating Awareness of the gravity of the Nuclear dangers, that we all face and creating a new consensus, on how to tackle this threat.
In 1998, Ireland, together with six other Countries, decided on a new Initiative as the years, immediately following the end of the Cold war, failed to provide the Nuclear Peace dividend, for which we had all hoped. A new Agenda - a new momentum - was urgently needed, if the disarmament obligations, enshrined in the NPT were ever to be fully implemented. The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) was established with this specific aim in mind.
The Strategy was clear. In the first instance a renewed commitment from the Nuclear weapon-States was required. Once achieved, the hope was that this would then transform the way, in which the Nuclear Powers viewed the role of Nuclear Weapons, in their security apparatus. A genuine commitment would be followed by serious negotiation, premised on that commitment. Nuclear force reductions, it was thought, would take on a very different complexion, if they were pursued from the perspective of a commitment, to eliminate them totally.
Seven years ago, in 2000, at the NPT Review Conference, the New Agenda successfully negotiated a commitment from the Nuclear Weapon-States to 13 Practical Steps, for the systematic and progressive disarmament of their Nuclear Weapons. An unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their Nuclear arsenals had been given and a framework to deliver it, had been agreed at last.
It is now seven years since that Agreement was made, and there have, regrettably, been few advances in the implementation of these 13 Steps sinceIndeed, it is a matter of concern and deep disappointment that some of the Nuclear Weapon-States, now seem to call this Agreement into question and appear to wish to resile from their internationally given commitments.
If the Nuclear-Weapon States continue to treat Nuclear Weapons, as a security enhancer, there is a real danger that other States will start pondering whether they should do the same. As New Agenda Ministers have stated, recent developments show, that this has already happened. And we all know the dangers for the global World if we continue down this path.
Such a scenario would be in direct contradiction with the purpose and objectives of the NPT itself. An increase in the number of States possessing Nuclear Weapons, can only serve to exacerbate already existing Regional tensions, further undermine the goal of Nuclear disarmament, and ultimately increase the likelihood of Nuclear Weapons use. This is absolutely unacceptable to us.
The unequivocal undertaking on the part of the Nuclear weapon-States to accomplish the total elimination of their Nuclear arsenals, retains its validity and legitimacy. The path to its fufilment lies in creating an environment favourable to the actual pursuit of this Objective. And this brings me, to the second challenge of Nuclear disarmament: improving the atmosphere of mistrust, currently pervading the International Security System, so as to create space for Nuclear disarmament to occur.
As Mikhail Gorbachev said recently, commenting on the imperative of Nuclear
disarmament: "the key to success is reciprocity of Obligations and Actions". It is, in a word, Cooperation; this is how Trust is established.
Building Trust through Cooperation, is not an easy task, and certainly, we have seen in the recent past, how a weakening of Cooperation can undermine relations. A failure to include reciprocal verification Measures, in the Moscow Treaty, on Strategic Offensive reductions, between the USA and Russia, is but one example.
And of course, it is not just a lack of Cooperation that breeds mistrust.
The emergence of new Military doctrines emphasising the importance of Nuclear Weapons, plans to modernise Nuclear Forces, and Policies, broadening the scope of potential use, cannot instil a great deal of confidence, in the intentions of Others.
At the NPT Review Conference in 2000, the Nuclear-Weapon States declared that none of their Nuclear Weapons were targeted at any Country. This was a welcome development. A mutual change in the operational readiness of deployed Nuclear Weapons can serve to build confidence, between the Nuclear Powers and reduce the threat of Nuclear Weapons use, Intentional or accidental. It also builds Trust between former Adversaries.
While this can never substitute for irreversible reductions in these deadly Weapons, it is essential that the Nuclear-Weapon States continue in this vein. The launch-on-warning Option, should be removed from Security doctrines and reciprocal steps to take Nuclear Weapons off hair-trigger alert, should be urgently agreed. The continuation of the Cold War-era 'high alert' Status, surely makes little sense in today's Security environment, and only serves to exacerbate the dangers already posed by the existence of these Weapons.
Honouring one's commitments is of vital importance, in any relationship. In 1996, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, negotiated the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would prohibit the testing of any Nuclear Weapons, by anyone, anywhere. Today, 11 years on, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has yet to come into force. The importance of this Treaty was underscored, as recently as October of last year, when North Korea announced that it had tested a Nuclear explosive device. The remaining two Nuclear Weapon-States, who have yet to ratify the CTBT, must initiate the necessary steps domestically, in accordance with their initial commitment to do so and as a show of good faith, to the International Community. The recent expert Opinions of prominent figures, such as Dr Hans Blix and Mr Henry Kissinger reaffirm this.
Increased transparency is another Measure, that could promote Trust between the Nuclear weapon-States. If mutual disarmament Measures are to be successful, they will have to be conducted, as a series of phased transparent, verifiable and irreversible Reductions. These phased Reductions will permit Nuclear-Weapon States to satisfy themselves, at each stage of the process, that further movements can be made safely and securely, and will also demonstrate to the wider International Community, the extent of the implementation of Disarmament commitments.
Therefore, in the interest of greater Trust and Cooperation, and as a baseline for future Disarmament efforts, the Nuclear-Weapon States, should be pressed to publish their aggregate holdings of Nuclear Weapons, on active and reserve Status, and do so in a uniform, and consistent and transparent manner.
Improving the current atmosphere, building Trust and Cooperation, will move us closer, towards the third challenge of Nuclear disarmament: that is, the actual implementation of disarmament Measures, in a systematic and progressive way, leading to their total elimination in the future.
We have the 13 Practical Steps to guide us; but this is essentially a framework. In the implementation of these Steps, new Treaties will have to be negotiated and agreed. I am thinking here, in the first instance, of the necessity of a Treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material, for Nuclear Weapons. Deeper reductions in Strategic Nuclear Weapons are also overdue, reductions that must be transparent, verifiable and irreversible, as I said earlier. The very way that we think about Security, will have to be transformed, radically so, if we are to be successful in our efforts.
It is always essential to keep the final Objective in mind. But our focus must also be, on where Progress is possible. Preparations are already underway for the next NPT Review Conference in 2010, with the convening of the first Preparatory Committee Meeting in Vienna, at the end of next month. The New Agenda Coalition has begun its consultations. Our Objective is simple: a successful outcome to the 2010 Review Conference; an outcome that strengthens the NPT, including the Disarmament Commitments. We will spare no effort in working to achieve this Objective.
There is, of course, a fourth challenge, which lies behind much of what I have said today. It is the challenge of NPT universality, the challenge of integrating those three Countries, who have not yet signed the NPT, into the Treaty's Disarmament Obligations. There is today, no commitment by these States, two of whom openly possess Nuclear Weapons, to eliminate their Nuclear arsenals. They are bound neither to Article 6 of the NPT, nor the unequivocal undertaking to implement it, explicitly made back in 2000.
In meeting all of the challenges, which I have just outlined and in securing the progress that we all believe to be necessary, we need one quality above all else; Leadership. This too is a challenge. And this challenge falls to everyone: to Civil Society, as well as to the World's Governments, to People in positions of influence and to the Public at large. I am conscious that many in this room, not least our honouree today, Senator Douglas Roche, have taken up this challenge and are already very active, in this area. . The recent Report of the Weapons on Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Dr Hans Blix , with its detailed and well-reasoned Recommendations, is a further call to urgent action. This is a call to which we must all respond, if we are truly to rid the World of the most destructive and indiscriminate Weapons, ever to be devised by mankind.
Ireland will continue to work assiduously with like minded States, throughout the World to fulfil the necessary goals, contained in the Agreed practical Steps, in order to bring Peace, Safety and Security on a sustained basis, to the wider World, as quickly as possible.