New Straits Times - - World -

They say the threat of nu­clear disas­ter is grow­ing thanks to mount­ing ten­sions fanned by North Korea's nu­clear weapons pro­gramme and an un­pre­dictable ad­min­is­tra­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

Sup­port­ers point to suc­cess­ful grass­roots move­ments that led to the pro­hi­bi­tion of land­mines in 1997 and clus­ter mu­ni­tions in 2008.

“I ex­pect that this will take a long time, let’s not be naive,” Swedish For­eign Min­is­ter Mar­got Wall­strom said at the UN last week.

No progress has been made on nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment in re­cent years de­spite com­mit­ments made by the ma­jor nu­clear pow­ers to work to­ward dis­ar­ma­ment un­der the 1968 Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT), said Beatrice Fihn, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons, an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of NGOs.

Then-US pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced a drive in 2009 to re­duce the role of nu­clear weapons and even­tu­ally elim­i­nate them.

But, his ad­min­is­tra­tion strongly en­cour­aged North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion al­lies to vote against this year’s UN ne­go­ti­a­tions, say­ing a ban would ob­struct co­op­er­a­tion to re­spond to nu­clear threats from ad­ver­saries.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened a nu­clear arms race in a tweet shortly be­fore he took of­fice in Jan­uary, say­ing “we will out­match them at ev­ery pass and out­last them all”.

Even with the ma­jor nu­clear pow­ers boy­cotting the de­bate, a treaty would oblige them to re­visit their poli­cies sooner or later — even if, like Rus­sia and the US, they are mod­ernising their nu­clear weapons arse­nal.

“Even if ma­jor (nu­clear weapon) pro­duc­ers don’t sign it, they have a big im­pact,” Fihn said of global treaties.

“Look at Rus­sia deny­ing us­ing clus­ter bombs in Syria. Why? They did not sign (the clus­ter mu­ni­tion ban), but they know it’s bad.” AFP

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