By Jamshed Baruah
NEW YORK | ULAANBAATAR (IDN) – While unanimously agreeing on tougher sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in response to the country's sixth and most powerful nuclear test early September, the UN Security Council called for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.
By pleading for the multilateral negotiations involving China, DPRK, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the United States, the 15-member Council expressed its "commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula". [P 19] ARABIC | GERMAN | ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSON PDF｜MALAY | THAI
The issue also drew the focus of the 'International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament Issues: Global and Regional Aspects' on August 31-September 1 some 10,150 kilometres away in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, bordered by China to its south and the Russian Federation to it north.
The conference was organised by the Mongolian non-governmental organization, the 'Blue Banner', chaired by Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, former Permanent Representative of his country to the United Nations. It marked the 25th anniversary of Mongolia’s initiative to turn its territory into a single-State nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ).
Mindful of the lessons of the Cold War period, speaking during the general debate at the UN General Assembly in September 1992, Mongolia’s President Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat declared the country a NWFZ and pledged to have that status internationally guaranteed.
The proposal’s aim was to declare clearly to the world that Mongolia did not have nuclear weapons on its territory and that henceforth it would be nuclear-weapon free so that, unlike during the Cold War, no country near or far would be allowed to place such weapons on its territory, and that it would work to acquire security assurances from the five NWS (nuclear weapon states) – China, the Russia Federation (then the Soviet Union), the United States, Britain and France who are also the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council.
Mongolia's drive for international recognition of its status yielded fruit in Resolution 53/77 D, which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 4, 1998 that welcomed Mongolia's goal, and put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
On February 28, 2000, the Mongolian Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Enkhsaikhan presented a letter outlining the Mongolian de-nuclearization law, which was then circulated as A/55/56 S/2000/160 – thus completing the international recognition of Mongolia's nuclear-weapons-free status.
The Ulaanbaatar conference adopted a statement describing the SS-NWFZ move an important national measure to ensure Mongolia's security. "It is also a novel international measure to fill a possible grey area in the emerging nuclear-weapon-free world," the statement noted.
Today Mongolia enjoys international recognition and support for its active policy of promoting its nuclear-weapon-free status that strengthens peace and regional stability through political and diplomatic means, through persistent dialogue and negotiations on the basis of sovereign equality of states, mutual respect and working jointly for a common cause, the statement added.
The five nuclear-weapon states (P5) – China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France, who are also permanent members of the Security Council – in fact made a joint declaration in 2012, committing themselves to respect Mongolia’s status and not to contribute to any act that would violate it.
"This pledge implies that none of the P5 would try to use Mongolia’s territory for their nuclear-weapons systems including for communication, surveillance, intelligence gathering, training of weapons and other purposes," the statement stressed.
The participants – from not only Northeast Asia but also from the United States and Europe – expressed their support for Mongolia’s policy of making its nuclear-weapon-free status an organic part of the East Asian security architecture as well as for its readiness to share its experience in promoting the goal of establishing a Northeast Asian NWFZ.
The conference was open to the public, which enabled also political science students of Ritsumeikan University of Japan to attend, especially the session on the role of individual states in nuclear disarmament process. Since Japan enjoys the U.S. 'nuclear umbrella', it stayed away from negotiations leading to the UN adopting on July 7 the Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.
The statement noted: "Mongolia has demonstrated that efforts of every state are important in promoting the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. Its example serves as a source of inspiration for other states not only to address issues of common concern though dialogue and innovative approaches, but also for states that due to their geographical location or for political reasons cannot be part of traditional (regional) NWFZs."
Enkhsaikhan said the conference was purported "to encourage effective strategies to move jointly towards the common goal of achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world".
These included the adoption the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty, its possible impact on nuclear disarmament negotiations, what should be the next logical and practical steps and the important role of non-nuclear-weapon states. "There was an interesting discussion about the possible impact of Iranian and North Korean cases on the NPT, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the non-proliferation regime in general," noted Enkhsaikhan.
On the regional level, the participants shared their views on how to address the North Korean nuclear weapon issue. Many participants underlined the need to proceed to direct unconditional negotiations between the U.S. with the DPRK with a view to de-escalating the tensions and ruling out the use of force or the threat of the use of force.
Aware of the relations between the parties to the Six-Party Talks, some conference participants proposed that it might be worthwhile to try a new format in Ulaanbaatar with the participation of Mongolia as a small state with active foreign policy and experience in addressing nuclear security issues. A suggestion was even made that perhaps Mongolia could play some positive role under current conditions.
The statement adopted by the conference underlined the importance of the role of Mongolia by pointing out that though the Cold War has ended more than two decades ago, the peace dividend has been short of the high expectations.
As the statement pointed out, continuous modernization of nuclear weapons systems is alarming the international community. The number of nuclear-weapon states has almost doubled. Development of newer types of nuclear weapons and more advanced conventional weapons is blurring the difference between not only these two, but also between strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The possibility of “adjusting” nuclear weapons to variable yields and thus lowering of the threshold of their use makes these weapons more “useable”. "In these circumstances the only effective guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and to ensure 'no more hibakusha' is their complete elimination," the statement stressed.
It added: The existence of nuclear weapons, and their detonation, whether intentional, accidental or otherwise, threatens humankind, will gravely affect global health, food security, and the world climate. The nuclear weapon states have a direct and ultimate responsibility of eliminating their arsenals.
However, pending their elimination the non-nuclear-weapon states also have an important role to play, as demonstrated by the adoption of the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in July, the conference participants said.
"Establishment of NWFZs are effective regional measures for nuclear disarmament. By prohibiting nuclear weapons in the regions concerned they go beyond the NPT commitments to promote peace and stability and thus contribute to greater regional confidence and stability," the Ulaanbaatar conference statement added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 September 2017]
Photo credit: The Blue Banner
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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