PNND Update 16
1. Doomsday Clock – Closer to Midnight
Stephen Hawking, one of the eminent scientists involved in moving the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight
On January 17 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hands of their Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. The Clock indicates, in the view of eminent scientists, how close we are to a catastrophe that could destroy civilization. It now stands at 5 minutes to midnight.
The move was made because of the growing risks from climate change and a growing threat from nuclear weapons including North Korea joining the nuclear club, Iran possibly on its way to doing so, an increased readiness by existing nuclear weapon powers to use nuclear weapons, and an increased propensity to use military force to deal with nuclear proliferation issues.
Mathematician Stephen Hawking, at the press conference announcing the Doomsday Clock change, noted; "As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effect, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.”
On 23 January Dai Davies, Member of the UK House of Commons, introduced Early Day Motion 712 noting the Doomsday Clock change, supporting “the statement by British Nobel laureate Professor Stephen Hawking, of the University of Cambridge, made at the ceremony at the Royal Society marking the resetting of the Doomsday Clock's closeness to atomic Armageddon, that in respect of the stewardship of the global atomic arsenals `but for good luck, we would all be dead';” and concluding that “the retention of British nuclear weapons of mass destruction further exacerbates the global security problem.”
See Doomsday Clock Moves Two Minutes Closer To Midnight
2. Bundestag (German Parliament) adopts resolution on nuclear weapons deployed in Europe
Uta Zapf - PNND Council Member and Chair on the Bundestag Sub-Committee on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
On 10 November 2006 the Bundestag (German Parliament) adopted Resolution 16/3296 in preparation for the NATO leaders November 28-29 Riga summit. The resolution, which was introduced by the governing Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, included recommendations on a number of topics including nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Specifically it called on the government to support:
“…new arms control initiatives, in addition to efforts undertaken during the previous years, to effectively prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this context, new impulses on the part of NATO to reduce sub-strategic weapons in Europe would be sensible. This would also be an important impulse to the strengthening of the international nonproliferation regime."
This is the first time the Bundestag has adopted a resolution specifically calling on NATO to reduce sub-strategic weapons in Europe. However, the Bundestag voted down a stronger resolution, introduced by the socialist left party, which called on the government to move NATO to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons and end nuclear sharing practices.
3.Belgium Senate adopts strong nuclear disarmament resolutions
On 9 November 2006 the Belgian Senate adopted Resolution 3 - 1683/1 in preparation for the NATO leaders November 28-29 Riga summit. The resolution, which was supported by all political parties, calls on the Belgian government to initiate action in NATO to review strategic doctrines concerning nuclear weapons, and to facilitate the gradual withdrawal of the American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe as fulfillment of Article 6 of the NPT.
On 21st December 2006 the Belgian Senate adopted Resolution S. 3-1969 calling on the Belgian government to use its position as a member of the UN Security Council from 2007-2008 to promote nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The resolution included a recommendation that the Security Council establish a working group which would review and make recommendations on action to prevent nuclear proliferation and ensure that the Nuclear Weapon States implement their disarmament obligations. The resolution also questioned the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and the recent nuclear cooperation agreement between the US and India.
4. US Hawks join Moderates in call for nuclear abolition
US conservative leaders George Schultz (Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan) and Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State under Richard Nixon) this month joined moderates William Perry (Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton) and Sam Nunn (Former Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee) in a call to end nuclear deterrence and pave the way for a nuclear weapons free world.
In A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, published by the Wall Street Journal on January 4, the four men announced their view “Nuclear weapons were essential to maintaining international security during the Cold War because they were a means of deterrence,” but that “reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.”
The four noted that “Nuclear weapons today present tremendous dangers, but also an historic opportunity. US leadership will be required to take the world to the next stage -- to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.”
They also affirmed that “Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America's moral heritage.”
On 31 January 2007, PNND member David Chaytor tabled Early Day Motion 798 in the UK House of Commons which:
“welcomes the statement by Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry and George Schultz on the urgency of the need for a new global initiative to build a framework for a world free of the nuclear threat; agrees with their analysis that the end of the Cold War has rendered irrelevant the concept of mutually assured destruction;…welcomes their proposals for a US led international programme of nuclear stockpile reduction and other non-proliferation measures; … and recommends that, pending the development of such an initiative, any decision on the renewal of the Trident fleet of nuclear submarines should be deferred.” (See 9. UK renewal of Trident – Action in UK and Scottish Parliaments)
5. Parliamentary actions to implement nuclear disarmament calls by Kofi Annan and Nobel Peace Laureates
In November 2006 Nobel Peace Laureates at a Summit in Rome released a powerful declaration and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a major policy speech at Princeton University calling on the world community to act now to abolish nuclear weapons in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe (See PNND Update 15).
Subsequently a number of parliaments have acted in support of these statements. The Australian Senate on December 7 adopted Resolution SJ No. 126 13 welcoming the two statements and calling “on the nuclear-weapon states to further reduce the operational status of nuclear systems” and “take further steps and effective measures towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, with a view to achieving a peaceful and safe world free of nuclear weapons.”
6.United States Congress Update
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives receiving the Senator Alan Cranston Peace Award. She appears with Pierce Brosnan (formerly "James Bond") , Kim Cranston, and PNND Council Member Jonathan Granoff.
PNND and the Global Security Institute (PNND’s parent organization) are pleased to report that a number of US Congress members with whom we have worked closely in the past few years have assumed key positions in the new US Congress.
Nancy Pelosi, to whom GSI awarded the Senator Alan Cranston Peace Prize in 2003, has become the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Ellen Tauscher is the new Chair of the Strategic Forces Sub-Committee of the House Armed Services Committee. John Spratt is the new Chair of the House Budget Committee. Carl Levin is the new Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Reps Tauscher and Spratt and Senator Levine have worked with us in the past to build US congressional support for the NPT and for the recognition and implementation of United States disarmament obligations under the treaty (See for example, Nonproliferation Treaty Enhancement Resolution – House version, Senate version)
Ed Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Chris Shays (Republican, Connecticut) continue to co-chair the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, which provides a nonpartisan congressional forum for the discussion of nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the post-Cold War world.
PNND is most active in the US Congress through our partner the Bipartisan Security Group (BSG), a group of Republican and Democratic experts and former US diplomats and government officials. On September 26, 2006, BSG Chairman Ambassador Thomas Graham and GSI President Jonathan Granoff testified at a United States Congressional Hearing on Weapons of Mass Destruction: Current Nuclear Proliferation Challenges, which was convened by the US House of Representatives Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations (unofficial transcript, Testimony by PNND Council Member Mr. Granoff).
7. Chinese Anti-Satellite Missile Test highlights Space Weaponisation Programs
On January 11, 2007 the Chinese government tested an Anti-Satellite ballistic missile (ASAT), destroying an obsolete Chinese weather satellite and sparking international concern about the potential weaponisation of space.
Although orbiting satellites are already used for a range of military purposes including surveillance and targeting, no country has yet deployed weapons in space, or sub-space weapons for destroying satellites. The Chinese test highlights the research and development that is underway on such systems. However, China is by no means the first or only country undertaking such research and development.
In 1985, the United States conducted a similar anti-satellite missile test using an ASM-135 kinetic ballistic missile which successfully destroyed a US Military satellite. In October 1997 the US Military tested its ground based Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) against an orbiting US Satellite in a simulation to ascertain the effectiveness of lasers in anti-satellite (ASAT) warfare (see US Laser Weapon Test.) In addition, the Ballistic Missile Defense system currently being developed and deployed by the US has weapons systems which could easily be used for anti-satellite purposes.
An F-15 Eagle launches the ASM-135 missile during the final test which destroyed a scientific satellite
While the Outer Space Treaty (1967) prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in space, there is no specific prohibition of conventional weapons deployment or use in space – a situation which has prompted calls at the United Nations for the negotiation of further agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space.
Most UN Member States, including China and Russia, have supported this through various actions including the adoption of a United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. The United States is the only regular opponent of this resolution with Israel generally abstaining.
The US position is that: “… there is no arms race in outer space, and no prospect of an arms race in space. Thus, there is no arms control problems for the international community to address...the existing multilateral outer space arms control regime deals adequately with the non-weaponisation of space.” However, US plans for militarization of space have become known through a number of developments including US Space Command’s Vision 2020 plan and President Bush’s August 2006 order which asserts America's right to develop and deploy weapons to ‘deny adversaries access to space for hostile purposes.’
PNND Member US Congressman Dennis Kucinich has submitted a draft US Space Preservation Act to the US House of Representatives. The draft act, which has gathered 35 cosponsors, would prohibit space-based weapons and the use of weapons to destroy or damage objects in space – such as satellites. The Institute for Cooperation in Space has drafted a Model UN Space Preservation Treaty with similar provisions.
Legislative action against the militarisation of space has also been taken at a local government level. The municipalities of Berkeley, California and Vancouver have adopted local legislation endorsing the Model Space Preservation Treaty. Further parliamentary initiatives at a national level, modeled on the US Space Preservation Act may facilitate progress toward an international agreement preventing an arms race in space.
8. PNND program in the Middle East
PNND is starting a program in the Middle East following visits to Egypt and Israel by PNND Global Coordinator Alyn Ware and the appointment of PNND personnel in both countries. We welcome Itay Eisenger as PNND Outreach Coordinator in Israel, Nermin Ali Abd el-Ghany el-Galy as PNND Outreach Coordinator in Egypt, and Tal Rogoff as PNND Assistant Coordinator for Israel (based at head office in New Zealand).
A number of developments relating to nuclear fuel cycle programs and nuclear weapons have increased tensions in the region and have raised concerns internationally about nuclear proliferation, armed conflict over nuclear programs and even the possible use of nuclear weapons.
Increasing concern about Iran’s uranium enrichment program and its failure to adhere to UN Security Council resolution 1696 calling on Iran to cease such activities, resulted in the adoption on December 23 of additional measures under UN Security Council resolution 1737, including sanctions. Iran responded by saying that their initial freeze on uranium enrichment was just “a temporary stop-gap measure to allow time to find a real solution” and that Iran was not required to accept such an "unlawful demand."
In December, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an interview on German TV, said that “Iran is aspiring to have nuclear weapons, like America, like France, like Israel and Russia” thus admitting that his country possesses nuclear weapons, something never done previously by an Israeli official (See Olmert admits Israel has nuclear weapons, Telegraph, December 13, 2006). This provoked a stream of condemnation from neighbouring Arab States, and a call from Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abed al-Rahman al-Atiyah for sanctions to be made against Israel. Many of the Arab States viewed Olmert’s statement as an attempt by Israel to legitimize a previously undeclared policy of nuclear possession and deterrence. There was also considerable reaction from within Israel moving Olmert to later remark that he was misunderstood, and that Israel's official policy remains "that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East."
Then on January 7th 2007 plans were leaked to London’s Sunday Star Times which outlined a possible low-yield nuclear attack by Israel against Iranian enrichment facilities (see Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran, Sunday Star Times, Jan 7). The government denied there were specific plans for a nuclear attack, and the general feeling in Israel is that it is most unlikely that the government would authorize such an attack. However, the option of attacking Iran with conventional weapons has been openly discussed by parliamentarians, academics and media pundits in Israel. In a debate with Qatari students in Doha on January 30 Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres argued that “Iran must be dealt with by either regime change or military action.” However, he also noted that “Israel doesn’t intend to use military action,” inferring that Israel would rather the United States lead any action against Iran.
Meanwhile, concern about nuclear proliferation in the region was heightened when six Gulf States - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE and Saudi Arabia - announced in November that they were planning on developing nuclear energy programs (See Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear, The Times, November 4, 2007). Jordan made a similar announcement in January (See King Abdullah to Haaretz: Jordan aims to develop nuclear power, Haaretz, January 20, 2007). These Arab States reportedly share some of Israel’s concerns about the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
PNND in collaboration with its partner organizations the Middle Powers Initiative and the Palestine-Israel Journal, plans to bring parliamentarians, academics and policy makers from the key countries in the region together in informal nonpartisan settings to explore proposals for reducing tension about nuclear activities, building confidence between the countries, preventing further proliferation and working towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone. We will report on progress in subsequent PNND Updates.
More information on Middle East Proliferation concerns is available on the PNND website>>
9. UK renewal of Trident – Action in UK and Scottish Parliaments
- UK House of Commons
During January 2007, the UK House of Commons Defence Committee held a series of hearings to discuss the government’s White Paper on the Future of UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. The White Paper notes that the UK’s nuclear-armed Vanguard-class (Trident) submarines will become obsolete and need to be retired from about 2020 onwards. It reaffirms the government’s commitment to the possession of nuclear weapons beyond that date and thus calls for a decision in the immediate future on the production of replacement submarines.
The majority of petitioners to the Defence Committee disagreed with the need to commit to replacement submarines now – some arguing that mere replacement would only take five years and so the decision does not need to be made immediately. Others argued that the UK is required under the Nonproliferation Treaty to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons and that by 2020 the UK should have made considerable progress towards such a goal thus removing any requirement for new nuclear-weapons delivery vehicles.
The Defence Committee will report back to the House of Commons prior to a decision being made in the House later this year. In the meantime, UK parliamentarians are divided on the issue. On 29 November 2006 Liam Fox MP tabled Early Day Motion 361 endorsed by 96 other members, arguing that “the United Kingdom should continue to possess a strategic nuclear deterrent as long as other countries have nuclear weapons” and supporting the replacement of the “Trident system with a successor generation of the nuclear deterrent.” Opposition to Trident renewal has been expressed in Early Day Motion 798 and Early Day Motion 219. The most prevalent sentiment of EDMs on this issue is that more consultation should take place before a decision is made (See EDM 579, EDM 327, EDM 323 and EDM 239).
HMS Vanguard test fires a Trident D5 missile in October 2005
- Scottish Parliament
On 29 November 2006, PNND member Chris Ballance hosted a major United Nations Association debate in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the UK government's White Paper on the renewal of Britain's nuclear missile system. The conference included expert presentations from Lord David Hannay (Chair of the United Nations Association – UK, and a former UK Ambassador to the UN), Michael Moore MP (Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesman), Dr Ali Ansari (Reader in History, University of St Andrews) and Chris Ballance MSP (Scottish Green Party; Convener of the Cross-Party Group for a Culture of Peace).
Majority opinion in the Scottish Parliament appears to be against Trident renewal despite (or possibly because of) the home-basing of Trident at the Scottish port of Faslane.
Chris Balance summed up this sentiment: "Trident is illegal, immoral and completely irresponsible in the modern world. The argument that we need Trident as the 'ultimate defence' is pathetic - it is the ultimate bad example to set to the rest of the world as well as being a total waste of money. I want Scotland to be world-renowned for its peaceful intentions and commitment to nonviolence - not as a country aiding and abetting the use of weapons of mass destruction."
"As the former US Secretary for Defence and President of the World Bank Robert McNamara, stated that there was a 50:50 chance of America being nuked by accident in the next ten years due ‘to electronic frailty and human error’ so such odds must also apply to the nuking of Faslane where Britain’s nuclear subs dock – and thus Glasgow. This is the world in which we live. Scotland’s and global security necessitates that the world complies with the Non Proliferation Treaty and reduces nuclear – and all arms."
Noting the concern that only 3 months consultation on the Trident renewal question has been provided for by the UK government, Chris Ballance argued that even this was farcical as “both Blair and Brown have announced their position before the consultation has even started.”
10. North Korea Update
In PNND Update 14, we reported on North Korea’s nuclear test, prospects for the Six Party Talks, and a parliamentary statement opposing nuclear testing and encouraging a successful conclusion to the talks including the possibility of establishing a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the region. The statement, and list of over 100 endorsing legislators from more than 20 parliaments, was sent to all Missions of the United Nations and to the chief negotiators of the Six Party Talks.
Since then progress has been made, but it is still too early to determine whether the talks will ultimately succeed. The US has shown flexibility by entering into bilateral meetings with the DPRK. The DPRK, through envoy Kim Gye-gwan, has reportedly offered to halt their nuclear weapons activities and allow IAEA ‘monitoring’ in exchange for actions by the United States such as financial and energy aid, a commitment by the US to unfreeze $24 million in the Macau based Banco Delta-Asia, removal of the DPRK from the ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list, and/or the transformation of the 1953 armistice agreement which ended the Korean War into a peace treaty.
US envoy Christopher Hill responded positively to at least the latter demand but played down the meetings saying there were ‘discussions’, not ‘negotiations’; “the negotiation would take place in the Six-Party Talks”. Even so, it appears that the US has begun discussions in Beijing over the possibility of unfreezing some of the DPRK accounts, supported in this by Russia and South Korea.
PNND will report further following the current phase of Six Party Talks which has just begun.
More information on proliferation issues in North Korea is available from the PNND website>>