U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues closes in Niigata, Japan

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

The twenty-first United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues being held in Niigata was brought to a close after three days of discussions wrapped up with the closing session on August 28. About 90 participants, including government officials and experts in the field, have confirmed their intention to continue efforts to build momentum for the success of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to be held in New York next May.

Marianne Hanson, director of the Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia, spoke of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, reporting, “We have not found a measure that would be decisive in thwarting the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea. A call was made for China to play a more persuasive role while maintaining the framework of the six-party talks.”

As for the prospects of the NPT Review Conference, Nobumasa Akiyama, associate professor at Hitotsubashi University, pointed out that certain countries are concerned that restrictions may be placed on the peaceful use of nuclear energy as efforts are made to prevent nuclear proliferation. He concluded by saying, “We cannot be 100% optimistic, but the important thing is our determination to overcome differences.”

The United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues is organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific. It has taken place annually in Japan and the venue for next year’s conference has not yet been decided.

(Originally published on August 29, 2009)

Comment: Positive discussions indicate participants' determination
by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

The twenty-first United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues was held in Niigata with comparatively little time left before the NPT Review Conference, convened every five years, opens next spring. Throughout the gathering, the determination of the interested parties for the success of the NPT Review Conference was palpable while numerous challenges with regard to the Review Conference have again been recognized.

Hannelore Hoppe, director and deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations, which organized the event in Japan, summed up the meeting at a press conference. “The discussions reflected the participants’ desire to make progress in nuclear disarmament as well as non-proliferation,” Ms. Hoppe said.

The theme set by the United Nations for the Niigata conference was “Renewed Determination and Action Toward a Nuclear Weapon-Free World.” The inspiration for this theme came from the growing global consensus that has, since U.S. President Barack Obama advocated “a world without nuclear weapons,” viewed the final goal not merely in terms of nuclear disarmament but in the total elimination of nuclear arms.

Libran N. Cabactulan, a Philippine diplomat and president-elect of the 2010 Review Conference, also took part in the meeting. He explained that he came to Japan to gather information in preparation for the NPT Review Conference.

The discussions, with an eye on the NPT, drew renewed attention to a range of challenges.

The three pillars of the NPT are disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, concerns over the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as nuclear terrorism will increase as the use of nuclear energy grows. On another front, the Non-Aligned Countries are expressing stronger frustration over the possible restriction of the peaceful use of nuclear energy due to expanded efforts being made to prevent proliferation. It was such conflicts of interest that produced failure at the previous NPT Review Conference in 2005.

Many participants, therefore, cited “political will” and “leadership” as essential elements for the success of next year’s NPT Review Conference. It can be said that the most significant accomplishment of the Niigata conference was that the participants reconfirmed the importance of overcoming competing interests among nations.

(Originally published on August 29, 2009)

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