Submission from MEDACT
1. MEDACT is a UK charity of health professionals
concerned with the health effects of nuclear weapons, conflict,
poverty and the environment. It is the UK affiliate of International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW: Nobel Peace
Prize 1985). Medact has a history of advocating against nuclear
weapons on the basis of their devastating consequences for health
and well-being, and the threat they pose to world peace.
2. The British Government's non-proliferation
approach, as set out in the National Security Strategy 2008 (NSS).
2.1 We commend the British government for its
stated commitment to supporting the NPT, pressing for early entry
into force of the CTBT, seeking agreement to start negotiations
for an FMCT, and for leading the international technical research
into the verification of nuclear disarmament.
2.2 The NSS opposes all proliferation; however
it is difficult to argue that Britain is committed to non-proliferation
when it is renewing the Trident Missile System. If nuclear weapons
are promoted as being important to our security, it is very hard
to argue that others should not to seek to obtain them, particularly
when Britain is perceived as not taking steps towards serious
nuclear disarmament itself.
2.3 The marked deterioration in relations between
Russia and the US, combined with their continued reliance upon
high-alert launch-ready postures for one third of their strategic
nuclear arsenals, does nothing to improve the odds of avoiding
an accidental nuclear exchange (as the numbers of incidents over
the past 30 years have demonstrated).
Given the decreasing stability, increasing acrimony
and distrust of that relationship, the need to institute measures
to avoid catastrophic misunderstanding is greater than ever. The
unwillingness of some NWS to admit that they maintain their nuclear
weapons on high alert status does little to decrease the current
levels of mistrust.
2.4 The urgency of taking real steps towards
the implementation by NWS of Article VI obligations, and of sending
a strong signal that it is being implemented is greater than ever.
3.0 The effectiveness of the current rules-based
international system in curbing current weapons proliferation.
3.1 The rules-based system for the control of
nuclear weapons proliferation is under severe strain. The nuclear
weapon states are turning once again to nuclear armsfinding
new targets, framing new policies and strategies, and building
new weapons and delivery systems.
3.2 The United States has withdrawn from disarmament
treaties and adopted the policies and rhetoric of pre-emptive
use of military force, including nuclear weapons. The NPT, which
is the cornerstone of global security, is severely threatened.
The non-signatories India, Pakistan and Israel are de facto
nuclear weapon states. North Korea has withdrawn from the Treaty
and has developed nuclear capability. In an increasingly anarchic
nuclear-armed world, other states are developing civil nuclear
power programmes with the potential of developing nuclear weapons
capability. The recent decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group
to grant India exemption from NSG rules and receive nuclear fuel
and technology from the USeven though it is not a signatory
to the NPT and refuses to allow IAEA inspectionssignals
to other countries that there are advantages in not being a member
of the NPT.
3.3 Additionally, and as raised in the NSS, there
is the possibility of nuclear weapons, related materials and technology
being acquired by terrorists and the dangers of nuclear terrorism.
4.0 The potential merit of forthcoming diplomatic
initiatives on non-proliferation, for instance the 2010 NPT
4.1 Recent signs of a shift in thinking among
past and present leaders have generated guarded optimism about
the elimination of nuclear weapons. In January 2007, US "cold
warriors" Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry
and Sam Nunn called for a world free of nuclear weapons.
4.2 In June 2007, our former Foreign Secretary,
Margaret Beckett, challenged the nuclear paradigm and also called
for a world free of nuclear weapons. A few weeks ago, the Australian
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, echoed the same sentiments and committed
Australia to creative middle power diplomacy by appointing an
International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
In the United States, both presidential candidatesSenators
Barack Obama and John McCainhave expressed support for
further disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
4.3 On June 30th 2008 Hurd, Owen, Rifkind
and Robertson published a letter in The Times advocating
for a dramatic reduction in nuclear weapons and calling for support
of the campaign in the US for a non-nuclear world. Of the nuclear
weapon states, China supports the commencement of negotiations
leading to a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
4.4 At the 2000 review conference of the
Nuclear NPT, Malaysia and Costa Rica introduced a working paper
calling for the implementation of NPT obligations through the
commencement of negotiations, culminating in a Nuclear Weapons
Convention. In December 2007, the same two countries submitted
an updated version of the 1997 Model Nuclear Weapons Convention,
which has since been adopted as an official document of the United
Nations (UN Doc A/62/650).
4.5 A resolution on "Operational Readiness
of Nuclear Weapons" is being presented to First Committee
of UNGA by Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden and Switzerland.
4.6 The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee
is proposing to submit a recommendation to the EU Council of Ministers
on the future of the NPT.
5.0 The role of arms control and disarmament,
including nuclear disarmament, in non-proliferation efforts.
5.1 Given the political dynamics of the NPT,
it can be argued that a focus on negotiating a Nuclear Weapons
Convention would strengthen compliance with all NPT obligations,
including Article VI. The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention includes
specific disarmament steps agreed in the final documents of the
NPT Review Conferences in 1995 and 2000, and expands on additional
elements, such as a verification regime, that would be required
to achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world.
5.2 Such negotiations would require unequivocal
political commitment and investment of resources for engendering
trust, transforming political mindsets, and developing mechanisms,
procedures and regimes for nuclear abolition. Some argue that
NWS might not be prepared to join such negotiations and that negotiations
would have little value unless all NWS participated. But there
are a range of scenarios which could pave the way.
5.3 Firstly, some NWS might be prepared to participate,
while reducing their reliance on nuclear weapons at the same time
and achieving security through other means. North Korea would
be an example. Other NWS might agree to join negotiations on the
understanding that the final treaty would not enter into force
unless ratified by all the NWS. China, India and Pakistan could
take such a position.
5.4 Secondly, the commencement of negotiations
would stimulate the development of some of the measures required
for the implementation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, such as
compliance and verification. This happened with negotiations for
a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, when the development of a global
monitoring and verification system helped build confidence in
a verifiable CTBT.
5.5 Thirdly, the commencement of negotiations
would strengthen the global norm against nuclear weapons, highlight
their illegality under international humanitarian law, and put
considerable pressure on the NWS to join. Under the Ottawa process,
the actual commencement of negotiations on banning landmines created
sufficient momentum and pressure on a number of governments to
abandon their possession of landmines and sign the Landmine Ban
Treaty. This was also true of the Oslo process which initiated
negotiations on a cluster munitions treaty.
6.1 Britain should cooperate in a series of preparatory
meetings with other like-minded governments, such as Australia
and the New Agenda Coalition countries. These meetings would provide
a forum for examining the political, legal, technical and institutional
requirements for abolition, and could lead to wider multilateral
negotiations, culminating in a framework of agreements that would
make up a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
6.2 Britain should support the Resolution on
"Operational Readiness of Nuclear Weapons" being
submitted to the First Committee of UNGA by Chile, Malaysia, Nigeria,
Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
6.3 Britain should vigorously oppose the decision
of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to exempt India from its guidelines
and allow the US to supply India with nuclear fuel and nuclear
technologyeven though India is not a signatory of the NPT
and has not agreed to permit IAEA inspections.
6.4 Britain should take a decisive step to realising
its obligations under Article VI by reversing its decision to
renew the Trident Nuclear Weapons System.
6.5 If Britain is serious about the NPT, we should
be making an 80% rather than a 20% reduction in the number of
warheads, and be working towards the reduction of ballistic missiles.
24 September 2008