Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government is wrong to boycott UN conference on banning nuclear weapons

Australia should help ban the bomb, 25 Mar 17, The footage is mesmerising as much as it is terrifying. Enormous explosions, wild enough to blow the clouds away, a churning blast wave across the earth as a giant mushroom of dust and smoke slowly rises above. This display of the destructive power of nuclear weapons – seen in newly declassified film of early atomic tests from 1945 and 1962, and now released online – should be seen as a stark warning. Such weapons must never again be used in anger.

The only true guarantee to save humanity from its own destructive ability is to completely rid the world of nuclear weapons stockpiles. Much as we have become inured to the danger over the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the heightened tension of the Cold War, there is no managing this risk. Too many atomic bombs remain ready to fire at a moment’s notice; there are too many chances for human error that would see a catastrophic mistake.

At a time when the temperament of many leaders is rightly questioned, this should be the time to redouble efforts for nuclear disarmament, rather than trust the luck of the last 70 years will hold.

In that spirit, on Monday, negotiations will commence in New York for a new treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons – not regulate, but ban the bomb outright. More than 120 countries have pledged to participate. Regrettably, however, Australia is not among them.

The Turnbull government has decided to stand apart from the negotiations believing  that the proposed treaty is not “practical”.

The declared nuclear-armed powers, the US, Russia, France, Britain and China, have refused to participate,  nor will the rogue nuclear states, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, who have developed atomic weapons in the face of international law.

But a proposed ban on nuclear weapons offers the chance for the rest of the world to declare, forthrightly, that it has tired of living under the ever-present threat of annihilation.

Australia’s boycott sends a poor signal about this nation’s commitment to disarmament, especially as a crucial player in the nuclear industry as a supplier of uranium. Such a treaty would carry moral force, to pressure the nuclear-armed powers to fulfil the obligations of what the government presumably does see as a practical agreement, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The genius of that document was to strike a grand bargain between the nuclear-armed countries and the rest of the world; forgo the pursuit of the bomb, and in turn, the nuclear powers agreed to eliminate their own over time. For nations such as Australia, this swayed a decision not to pursue an independent nuclear weapon capacity.

The non-proliferation treaty has been extraordinarily successful, in that no signatory (other than North Korea, who withdrew as a party to the treaty) has developed a nuclear weapon. But the pledge by the nuclear powers to work towards disarmament has been fitful at best and at worst cynical, as the trend appears to be the opposite.

Under the guise of a modernisation program, the United States is actually increasing the destructive yield of its nuclear arsenal, while Donald Trump complains about past disarmament deals with Russia. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has belligerently pushed the flight path of Russia’s strategic bombers closer to European nations in blatant provocation.

The conundrum to solve has always been one of trust. How can anyone be sure that a country would truly surrender its nuclear weapons, and who will have the faith to move first? Australian defence planners may feel a need to rely on the nuclear arsenal of its US ally for deterrence, but that deterrence is only required as long as nuclear weapons exist.

March 27, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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