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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

From atom test ground zero, Ban hails momentum towards nuclear weapons-free world

6 April 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today flew to a former ground zero of atom bomb testing in a highly symbolic gesture to plead for a nuclear weapons-free world on the eve of this week’s United States-Russian summit to sign a new nuclear arsenal reduction treaty.

In Kazakhstan on the last leg of a five-nation Central Asian tour, Mr. Ban travelled by helicopter to the remote former Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, where he welcomed President Barack Obama’s new policy on restricting the US use of nuclear weapons as an important initiative towards a nuclear-free world.

“I cannot think of a more fitting – even poignant – place to hear this news,” he said from the site that had witnessed so many tests of such enormously devastating power.

On Thursday in Prague in the Czech Republic, Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to sign a new treaty in which they will pledge to slash their nuclear arsenals by a third.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban hailed Mr. Obama’s new nuclear policy as a “reaffirmation of his commitment towards a nuclear-free world.”

Taken together with the treaty with Russia, “the release of this new Nuclear Posture Review is a timely initiative in that direction,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General hopes that this will help keep the recent positive momentum in the lead up to the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit and the Review Conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT Review Conference).

“The Secretary-General looks forward to the leadership of the United States in cooperation with other nuclear-weapon States, on further reducing and eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security policies, which would contribute to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

This May’s review conference of the 40-year-old NPT – they are held every five years – will seek to further its full implementation and its universality. Mr. Ban has characterized the 2005 review as “disappointing.” Amid widely diverging views on nuclear arms and their spread, it ended without any substantive agreement being reached.

In 2008, he put forward a five-point action plan to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament, beginning with a call for the parties to the NPT to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament, either through a new convention or through a series of mutually reinforcing instruments backed by a credible system of verification.

It is based on the following key principles: disarmament must enhance security; be reliably verified; be rooted in legal obligations; be visible to the public; and anticipate emerging dangers from other weapons.

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