PRESS CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY BY MAYORS FOR PEACE, PARLIAMENTARY NETWORK FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
23 May 2005
The community of nations might be reluctant to challenge the United States, but it could not afford not to take issue with the United States’ reluctance to lead the way on nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons elimination, United States Congressman Dennis Kucinich said today at Headquarters at a joint press conference by Mayors for Peace and the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament.
Asked whether it was reluctance or active intent on the part of the United States to avoid its NPT obligations, Mr. Kucinich said, “both”. The best you could say about it was that it was reluctance. The less favourable interpretation was that it was an active effort to undermine the Treaty itself. Look at the story of the International Criminal Court. Nations were threatened with reprisals if they participated. Look at the attempt to appoint John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. Everything was being done with a heavy hand and an insistence that the United States should set the rules for the rest of the world, he said.
Joining the Congressman days before the conclusion on Friday of the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), were: Alyn Ware, Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament; Judith Mbula Behemuka, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations; and Aaron Tovish of Mayors for Peace.
Holding up what he called three simple visual aids to describe how the NPT review was going, the Congressman said the first model of the NPT Conference showed that it had “topped out”, meaning that when there was no consensus at the top, the process collapsed. That model did not reflect the aspirations of the world’s people for nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons. The second model represented a flow from the grass roots up to inform the people at the top that a different reality existed, one which insisted on nuclear disarmament and nuclear abolition.
The world was gradually moving to one in which non-governmental organizations and citizens would have a powerful influence, he said. He was seeing at the Conference an emerging consciousness that reflected the insistence on the planet’s survival, that only a dedication towards nuclear disarmament and a move towards nuclear abolition could sustain the planet. The advancing tide globally was towards humanity and the United Nations, itself, but the NPT session had not reflected that. Instead, it had reflected a kind of regressiveness, a lack of awareness of the urgency of the moment.
Mr. Tovish of the Mayors for Peace said that most of the journalists who had followed the NPT Conference had found it excruciating. One of the key elements in 1995 for extending the Treaty beyond the first 25 years of its operation was that the review process had to operate more effectively and more systematically. In 2000, there was reason to believe that the process was working. Then along came a country, one in particular with a few helpers on its heels, basically saying “forget 2000. We’re not interested in it. It’s not relevant. The only relevant thing was 9/11 and the possible nuclear overtones to that”, he said.
Why meet in 2005 if everything agreed would be swept away in 2010? he asked. Those countries had basically gutted the review process. He had seen a valiant effort by the majority of countries not to allow that to happen, but the Conference was ruled by procedures requiring consensus, and all it took was for two countries to disagree -– and there was plenty of disagreement between the United States and Iran –- to negate the hopes of the vast majority of States. Hopefully, the unfinished work of the Conference could be transferred to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, but that had likewise been stymied by procedural rules, and “not a lick of work” had been done there for five years.
Clearly, he stressed, a way must be found to move forward on a democratic basis, which did not require consensus across the board on all issues. He referred to the vision of the Mayors of Peace, as illuminated when its president addressed the NPT Conference in the General Assembly Hall on 4 May. He had talked about that democratic deficit and the need to build a movement that could sustain and revitalize the democratic process of the United Nations and its Members.
Referring to copies of a statement signed by the Mayors and circulated at the Press Conference, he said the group had called for the start of negotiations culminating in the comprehensive abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons and the international control of nuclear materials to prevent clandestine bomb-making. If a small number of States continued to prevent such negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament and the NPT Conferences, then governments should be encouraged to find an alternative track to nuclear disarmament, similar to what was done with the landmines convention, the statement said.
With the NPT Conference ending in five days, a correspondent asked what could be done at this point to avoid a deadlock. Mr. Tovish pointed to efforts under way in the United States Congress to challenge the basis upon which the Administration had entered into the discussions. It would be great if the President listened to a bipartisan voice coming from the Congress on that point. If the United States were to take a significantly more flexible and positive approach, respecting the results of 2000, that unified pressure on Iran would sort out the final disagreements. “I’m not holding my breath because I don’t see any sign of that yet, and it’s getting awfully late and the behaviour up until now has been egregious”, he said.
With regard to the United States Congress, Mr. Ware added the hope that bipartisan resolution “133” could be adopted by the Congress this week, but he was not sure if that was possible. It was a balanced text, which looked at the balanced agreement of the NPT on non-proliferation and disarmament. If the Administration took such an approach, that would help to overcome the deadlock. Failing that, he would like to see States, supported by mayors and parliamentarians, pick up on other opportunities, which did not require the agreement of all States parties to the NPT.
One such example had been steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in Europe, such as that which had recently been adopted in Belgium, he noted. There was a draft resolution in the Dutch parliament along the lines of eliminating nuclear weapons in Europe, which had received the support of a number of parties, although it had not been adopted. Several NPT States parties had tabled working papers at the current review, which looked at possible progress to be taken by States. He hoped, however, that agreement could be reached at the review, not only on substance, but also on strengthening the NPT process, such as the Canadian proposal to convene annual meetings.
Congressmen Kucinich, replying to another question, recalled adoption of the Space Act by the United States in 1958, which stated that space should be used for peaceful purposes only. Yet, a recent story indicated that the United States was preparing to advance on the United States space capability, by putting offensive and defensive weapons in space, which went against that 50-year-old policy. This particular Administration had a singular penchant for unilateralism, which had infected the NPT process.
One could safely predict that, by week’s end, however, the Administration’s representatives here at the United Nations would bemoan the fact that there was no consensus arising from the NPT review process, he added. He urged the media to inspect the role that the Administration had played in attempting to “wreck” the review process. It was not sufficient for the United States to pin the lack of consensus on Iran or North Korea, when its Administration had set in motion a series of policies that had been a disincentive for non-nuclear-weapon States in any programme of nuclear non-proliferation.
He encouraged journalists to look at the entire range of activities of the last few years, including withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, refusal to participate in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and in talks to conclude a treaty dealing with fissile materials, as well as the enunciation of a first-strike doctrine and of a willingness to use nuclear weapons and build new ones.
The United States had withdrawn from the entire architecture of international agreements, he went on. It was standing away from, not only the NPT, but also the essence of the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the small arms Treaty, the Landmines Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the Climate Change Treaty, and so forth. What more did anyone need to realize that the United States Administration was about unilateralism? That kind of conduct flew in the face of the emerging global consensus. The attack on Iraq, itself, had represented the unilateralism and the illusory nature of proceeding on a policy apart from the world community.
So, he said, when leaders from the Bush Administration came before the world community at the end of the week to say they were sorry they had not been possible to put together an agreement because of North Korea and Iran -- they should look at themselves, first. By invoking an axis of evil and attacking Iraq -- in that atmosphere of coercion, how could the United States expect a convergence among the nine nuclear-weapon States? The media should do more than just be a mouthpiece for the Administration, he stressed.
He said he thought the media was becoming a “bit wiser” about the Administration in the context of the war in Iraq. He appealed to the media, when the Americans pointed a finger at Iran and North Korea at the end of the week, not to separate that from the policies that had shaped the climate of the review. Citing expenditures of $420 billion per year for the military budget and $200 billion for the war in Iraq, while 45 million Americans were without health insurance and their basic needs were not being met, schools and bridges were falling apart, and every city in the country was under some kind of financial stress, he said that was because the Government was “arming itself to the teeth”, shifting priorities, giving tax cuts to the wealthiest, and so forth.
The policies of the Administration were aimed at creating fragmentation as a way of gaining more power, he said. The United Nations was about cohesion. So, ways needed to be found to strengthen cohesion and coherence. When he looked at the Administration’s polices, it was as if no one believed in cause and effect. Not understanding cause and effect at the NPT review bordered on insanity. He appealed to the media to provide a sane explanation of the Administration’s policies, which had brought about the stalemate in the review process.
Asked if he was saying that the United States was trying to sabotage the NPT review because the Administration did not want to recognize any promises made before it took office, the Congressman said that the whole NPT review process was about building and, if one took away those building blocks, they just wiped away the entire Conference. The people in the Administration were very smart, but they had not used their intelligence to create unity in the world. As the ranking Democrat on the Congressional subcommittee with jurisdiction over international security and international relations, he could take issue with the Administration’s approach.
It was difficult for people around the world to understand why anyone would study something if they did not intend to use it, he replied to a question about “mini-nukes”. Once there was that level of research, the possibilities of use became inherent in the act of studying it. The spirit of the NPT said there should be no plans to use nuclear weapons, yet his Government was still planning nuclear weapons.
There was nothing in the United Nations Charter that gave any nation the right to a first strike, he said to the second part of that question. Every nation had the right to defend itself, but a first strike was immoral and against international law and the United Nations Charter. Even just talk about a first strike raised questions that should be referred to The Hague. Our humanity required we challenge the notion of first strike. “We can’t tell the rest of the world to get rid of its nuclear weapons while simultaneously building them ourselves”, he said.
He also replied to a question about his support of a Cabinet-level department of peace, saying that now had the support of 60 members of the House of Representatives and of organizations country-wide. The idea was to work to create a culture of peace in American society and to work to make non-violence an organizing principle in society.
Replying to another question, Mr. Ware recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which had unanimously agreed that there was an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. Nothing had been said that made that dependent on progress in conventional disarmament, or on the international security situation. The Court had been quite clear on that obligation. Later, its President had said that the decision had reflected that the obligation towards nuclear disarmament had achieved customary status.
Mr. Tovish added that the 2000 consensus text of the NPT review had also clearly stated that there was no connection between nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons disarmament. It had stated an unequivocal undertaking by nuclear-weapon States for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals, and that statement had not been qualified by any other steps. It was very perturbing to countries that had felt that that issue had been clarified in 2000 and earlier, in 1995, to basically be told they had to go back to the drawing board.
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