U.N. Disarmament Gathering Highlights Nuclear Tensions

Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
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Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 26, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

Ex­perts mon­it­or­ing a U.N. gath­er­ing that con­vened Thursday to dis­cuss atom­ic-weapons elim­in­a­tion said they ex­pec­ted the event to re­veal ten­sions that have long di­vided nuc­le­ar-armed na­tions from much of the world.

None of the five coun­tries with re­cog­nized nuc­le­ar ar­sen­als ori­gin­ally sup­por­ted con­ven­ing the one-day High-level Meet­ing on Nuc­le­ar Dis­arm­a­ment in New York. An in­de­pend­ent U.N. think tank, though, has held out hope that Thursday’s for­um could fo­cus new at­ten­tion on in­ter­na­tion­al ini­ti­at­ives to elim­in­ate nuc­le­ar arms, and pos­sibly build mo­mentum be­hind ef­forts to re­vive the Con­fer­ence on Dis­arm­a­ment — the world’s only per­man­ent dis­arm­a­ment for­um — from polit­ic­al stas­is.

“In sub­stance, every­body’s aware that noth­ing much will hap­pen” at the event, said Marc Fin­aud, a seni­or res­id­ent fel­low with the U.N. In­sti­tute for Dis­arm­a­ment Re­search. The meet­ing is “not a frame­work for ne­go­ti­ation,” and would con­sist largely of “a series of mono­logues” by dip­lo­mats and spokespeople for non­gov­ern­ment­al groups, he said in a Tues­day tele­phone in­ter­view.

Brit­ish dip­lo­mat Guy Pol­lard last year voiced puz­zle­ment over how the planned gath­er­ing could ad­vance the goals of 3-year-old “road map” backed by sig­nat­or­ies to the Nuc­le­ar Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty. That pact only re­cog­nizes the nuc­le­ar ar­sen­als of the United King­dom and four oth­er coun­tries: China, France, Rus­sia, and the United States.

The “P-5” na­tions made plans to at­tend, though, when an out­cry en­sued over their de­cision to boy­cott nuc­le­ar-ab­ol­i­tion work­ing-group talks held over the sum­mer, Fin­aud said.

“The P-5 ac­tu­ally real­ized that maybe it was not a good policy to be ab­sent from the room” after see­ing “frus­tra­tion” mount over their de­cision earli­er this year, ac­cord­ing to Fin­aud, who was sched­uled to speak at a side dis­cus­sion on mak­ing the most of Thursday’s main meet­ing.

U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon opened Thursday’s meet­ing with a plea for non­pro­lif­er­a­tion-treaty hol­d­outs to sign onto the pact. In­dia, Pakistan and North Korea have nuc­le­ar-weapons pro­grams out­side the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion re­gime, and join­ing un­der its cur­rent lan­guage would re­quire them to give up those arms. The same could ap­ply to Is­rael, a non-sig­nat­ory that has neither con­firmed nor denied pos­sess­ing an atom­ic ar­sen­al.

The U.N. chief also urged Ir­an to an­swer long-stand­ing ques­tions about its nuc­le­ar pro­gram. Ir­a­ni­an ne­go­ti­at­ors are due on Fri­day to join new talks aimed at clear­ing the way for in­ter­na­tion­al in­vest­ig­at­ors to ex­am­ine wheth­er Tehran once took sci­entif­ic steps tied to nuc­le­ar-arms de­vel­op­ment.

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