Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Chapter 7, Part 4

Chapter 7: Making a fresh start
Part 4: Influencing the United States

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

U.S. solidarity on vision of "nuclear-free world"

Four "Cold War warriors" were watching from the public gallery. They were former senior U.S. officials who together issued opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal in 2007 and 2008, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

On September 24, a state-level meeting of the UN Security Council was held. The Security Council adopted a resolution that was endorsed unanimously by the member countries, including five nuclear powers, pledging to pursue a "nuclear-free world."

Careful preparations for the resolution

After the resolution was adopted, U.S. President Barack Obama, who presided over the meeting, looked up at the gallery where the four "warriors" were sitting. "In my own country," he said, "it has brought together Democrats and Republican leaders like George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, who are with us here today." Mr. Obama sought to stress the solidarity growing in the United States with regard to eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.

Steve Andreasen of The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a private organization established by Mr. Nunn and others, spoke for the four: "They're very pleased because the world now shares the vision they articulated and the steps toward realizing it."

Mr. Andreasen was engaged in the negotiations for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia under the Clinton administration. Currently he provides support to the four "warriors" in their work, coordinating their ideas and activities. "I was very busy until the UN Security Council meeting," he said. His words suggest that the Mr. Obama and the four experienced former officials worked together closely in making careful preparations for the meeting.

In his address to the UN General Assembly, the president put forward his view that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking a world without them is first among the "four pillars" that he believes are fundamental to the future that he wants for the world's children. Mr. Obama also clearly stated his wish to strengthen the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), as he did in Prague last April.

Calling to maintain nuclear capability

The nuclear policy of the Obama administration is dramatically different from that of the Bush administration, which was pursuing "usable nuclear weapons." However, the Obama administration is also faced with a pressing matter. This matter involves how much the administration can limit the role of nuclear weapons in its defense strategy as outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a long-term policy that must be completed as early as the end of December.

At his office in downtown Washington, Joseph Cirincione, 59, president of the Ploughshares Fund and an expert on nuclear strategy, said with some frustration: "The demands of an ally might discourage this effort."

The ally here is Japan. As the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack, Japan has appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons to the world while nevertheless calling on the United States to maintain its nuclear capability and the possibility of the first-use of these weapons. Furthermore, it is still not clear whether the Hatoyama administration is willing to rectify this contradictory policy.

"Prime Minister Hatoyama's speech at the UN was strong, but without a clearer and more concrete message, his voice will not be heard in the United States," said Mr. Cirincione. Japan, the A-bombed nation, has the capacity to influence the United States, the nuclear superpower, in advancing further toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on October 7, 2009)

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