Nuclear war is a genuine threat, so why have non-proliferation efforts stalled?

Special Experts believe the risk of nuclear war is closer than ever, with the infamous Doomsday Clock — a prediction on when mushroom clouds will rise over the world’s cities — being set to 100 seconds to midnight. (AFP)
Experts believe the risk of nuclear war is closer than ever, with the infamous Doomsday Clock — a prediction on when mushroom clouds will rise over the world’s cities — being set to 100 seconds to midnight. (AFP)
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Updated 11 January 2022

Nuclear war is a genuine threat, so why have non-proliferation efforts stalled?

Experts believe the risk of nuclear war is closer than ever, with the infamous Doomsday Clock — a prediction on when mushroom clouds will rise over the world’s cities — being set to 100 seconds to midnight. (AFP)
  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons committed states to reduce their arsenals with the goal of eliminating them
  • The P5 group of nations released a joint statement on Jan. 3 affirming  “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”

NEW YORK CITY: Although the world is understandably preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and regional conflicts, it would be wrong to assume that the threat of nuclear war had vanished. In fact, the probability of nuclear annihilation remains perilously high.

At the beginning of the year, the pandemic claimed yet another casualty — the 10th Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 4.

The postponement of the meeting until August went largely unreported at the time because, it would appear, the perceived threat posed by nuclear weapons had lost its urgency in recent decades.

However, the development came as tensions escalated between Western countries and Russia over Ukraine as well as between the US and China over Taiwan.

The non-proliferation treaty, or NPT, which forms the foundation of the non-proliferation regime, was signed in 1968 and came into force in 1970. It is the single most important instrument that the 191 states-parties have to prevent further proliferation and lead the world toward total disarmament.

The bargain that underpins the NPT is very simple: The nuclear states under the treaty commit to reduce their nuclear arsenals with the ultimate goal of eliminating them, and the non-nuclear states adhere to their commitments enshrined in the treaty to not acquire nuclear weapons.

Not everyone has adhered to this. India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea are not signatories, while Iran, although an NPT signatory, is nevertheless enriching uranium and is locked in a battle with the West over its nuclear program.

It is the second time the 10th RevCon has been rescheduled due to the pandemic. The 2020 conference, which would have coincided with the NPT’s 50th anniversary, was also delayed, scuttling hopes of getting the non-proliferation regime back on track and breathing new life into the arms control and disarmament process.




Iran, although an NPT signatory, is nevertheless enriching uranium and is locked in a battle with the West over its nuclear program. (AFP/File Photo)

The three pillars of the NPT — non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear technologies — have seen varying degrees of success.

While the non-nuclear states kept their end of the bargain and adhered to the treaty, bar a couple of exceptions, the nuclear states have been less faithful. They have not fulfilled their obligations, as stipulated by article six of the NPT, to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This has led to tensions and placed a strain on the whole non-proliferation regime.

Looking for an alternative, the non-nuclear states pushed for a process in the UN General Assembly, which culminated in the adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on July 7, 2017, coming into force on Jan. 22, 2021.

However, the conference’s postponement could not have come at a worse time, as anxiety over the fraying of the architecture of arms control is mounting.

Experts believe the risk of nuclear war is greater than ever. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set its Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight — the closest the timepiece has been to symbolic doom in its more than 70 years of its existence.

FASTFACTS

* With 191 signatories, the NPT is the world’s most widely ratified nuclear arms control agreement.

* The NPT Review Conference was supposed to start on Jan. 4 at the UN HQ.

* Review conferences, to take stock of compliance and commit to further steps, are supposed to happen every 5 years.

* The postponed 10th Review Conference was initially scheduled to start in April 2020.

A speech by former US Senator Sam Nunn, an authority on nuclear weapons, on the 50th anniversary of the NPT in 2020 described the danger in stark terms.

“We are moving into an era of enhanced nuclear risk,” he said, as a result of the “stalled progress on North Korea, the uncertain future of the Iran agreement and their nuclear program, the continued failure to bring the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty into force, and the understandable frustration by the non-nuclear states about the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.”

Today, even as the pandemic rages, nuclear states have continued to modernize and upgrade their arsenals. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the world’s nine nuclear states spent $72.6 billion on modernizing their arsenals in 2020 — up $1.4 billion on 2019 spending. In doing so, many of these states have violated the NPT.

The Stockholm International Peace Institute has estimated that the world’s nuclear states collectively possessed approximately 13,080 nuclear weapons as of January 2021. That figure represented a small decrease on the 13,400 estimate of 2020.

However, this has been offset by the increase in the number of nuclear weapons deployed with operational forces, from 3,720 in 2020 to 3,825 in 2021. Of these, around 2,000 were “kept in a state of high operational alert,” the institute said in its 2021 report.

All of this has occurred in the absence of a credible arms control process because of growing tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine, and America and China over Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Indo-Pacific.

Although they were disappointed by the conference postponement, the non-nuclear states were heartened on Jan. 3 when the US, Russia, China, France, and the UK, a group of powers known as the P5, put out a joint statement claiming they “consider the avoidance of war between nuclear-weapon states and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.

“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”




More than one million people gathered on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang 11 January 2003, to hear political leaders hail North Korea's dramatic decision to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). (AFP/File Photo)

They also committed to “maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorized or unintended use of nuclear weapons.”

Perhaps most importantly, they reaffirmed their commitment “to our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, including our Article VI obligations to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said he was “encouraged” by the commitments voiced by the nuclear states “to pursue measures to prevent nuclear war,” with the added caveat that “the only way to eliminate all nuclear risks is to eliminate all nuclear weapons.”

Non-proliferation groups and experts also applauded the joint statement, but want to see the nuclear powers take genuine, concrete action.




US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the UN 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in 2010. (AFP/File Photo)

From the standpoint of Arab countries, there was also an important element missing from the joint statement, which failed to mention the 1995 NPT resolution introduced by the US, the UK, and Russia agreeing in support of the principle of a Middle East region free from all weapons of mass destruction.

It had been hoped that the 10th RevCon would provide an opportunity to acknowledge the progress made in this regard. The first Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction took place at the UN headquarters in New York in 2019, chaired by Jordan, and again in 2021, chaired by Kuwait.

Israel, the only state in the Middle East thought to possess nuclear weapons, did not attend any of the sessions, nor did the US, despite being one of the main sponsors of the 1995 resolution.

Supporters of arms control therefore have little choice but to wait until August to see whether the P5 will back up their words with action and deliver a “meaningful outcome” that will preserve the integrity of the NPT.


Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square
Updated 15 August 2022

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square
  • The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year

MINNEAPOLIS: One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier.
Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south Minneapolis that was renamed to remember Floyd’s death. One man died at the hospital, and the other man’s condition wasn’t immediately available.
No arrests were reported immediately.
A week before Sunday’s shooting, Mohamed Omar, 29, died after he was shot in the area early on Aug. 7. Parten said the police department would likely increase patrols in the area after the two shootings, which both took place near the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year. Floyd, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked protests nationwide and forced America to confront racial injustice.


Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother
Updated 15 August 2022

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother
  • Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide

BERWICK, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania state police say a man who was upset about an argument with his mother drove through a crowd at a fundraiser for victims of a recent deadly house fire, killing one person at the event and injuring 17 others, then returned home and beat his mother to death.
Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide.
Police allege in a criminal complaint that Sura Reyes said he argued with his mother at their Nescopeck home Saturday evening and while driving through nearby Berwick was “extremely frustrated” and was “tired of fighting with his mother, including about money, and wanted to be done with it.”
At the time, police said, a crowd of about 75 people, including adults and small children, had gathered in a blocked-off parking lot in Berwick outside the Intoxicology Department bar, which was holding an all-day fundraising event to benefit victims of the Aug. 5 blaze in Nescopeck that killed seven adults and three children.
Police say Sura Reyes told them he drove past the gathering, then turned around and headed back to the bar “to drive through the crowd of people.” Investigators asked how fast he drove into the crowd and Sura Reyes replied “speeding up.”
“Video surveillance gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police corroborates Sura Reyes’s statement that he sped up into the crowd purposefully,” according to the criminal complaint.
Geisinger Medical Center said it received 15 patients after the crash, and five remained in critical condition while three were listed in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson said Sunday morning. Seven patients had been treated at hospitals and released.
Trooper Anthony Petroski III told reporters late Saturday that Sura Reyes was not currently a suspect in the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.
“This is a complete tragedy in a community where there’s already been tragedy,” Petroski said.
Shortly after the crash was reported, troopers were called about a man “physically assaulting” a woman less than two miles away in Nescopeck. Troopers arrived to find local police had arrested Sura Reyes and a woman was dead.
Luzerne County Coroner Francis Hacken confirmed Sunday that the victim, Rosa D. Reyes, 56, of Nescopeck, was the mother of Sura Reyes and had died of multiple traumatic injuries after being hit by a vehicle and assaulted with a hammer.
In the criminal complaint, police say Sura Reyes told investigators he saw his mother in the street upon returning home and struck her with his vehicle, then hit her with a hammer several times.
Sura Reyes was denied bail and remained in Columbia County prison pending an Aug. 29 preliminary hearing. News outlets reported that he said “Sorry” in response to reporters’ questions as he was taken from Shickshinny police station. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer to comment on his behalf.
The first funerals for victims of the fire were held Friday, and more were scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
The bar called the events an “absolute tragedy” and said on its Facebook page that they will be closed until further notice and would like privacy “while we grieve add try to process the events that occurred.”


US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering
Updated 15 August 2022

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering
  • The visit follows US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip that has led China to fire missiles around Taiwan in anger
  • A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so

TAIPEI/WASHINGTON: A delegation of US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a two-day trip during which they will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, the second high-level group to visit while there are military tensions between the self-ruled island and China.
Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted military drills around the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in early August.
China has long claimed sovereignty over the island. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claims and says the island’s people should decide its future.
The de facto US embassy in Taipei said the delegation is being led by Senator Ed Markey, who is being accompanied by four House lawmakers on what it described as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.
Taiwan’s presidential office said the group would meet Tsai on Monday morning.
“Especially at a time when China is raising tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the region with military exercises, Markey leading a delegation to visit Taiwan once again demonstrates the United States Congress’ firm support for Taiwan,” it said in a statement.
Markey chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee. The co-leaders of the visit are Representative John Garamendi of the congressional Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group and Representative Don Beyer, a spokesperson for Markey said.
China’s embassy in Washington said on Sunday that “members of the US Congress should act in consistence with the US government’s one-China policy” and argued the latest congressional visit “once again proves that the US does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Straits and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, adding that such visits were in accordance with the United States’ long-standing one-China policy.
Under that policy, the United States has official diplomatic relations with Beijing, and not Taiwan. However, Washington does not take a position on whether Beijing has sovereignty over Taiwan, and is bound under US law to provide Taiwan with means to defend itself.
Markey’s office said the lawmakers in Taiwan “will reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, US-China Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances, and will encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

’SHARED INTERESTS’
The group will meet “with elected leaders and members of the private sector to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic cooperation, including investments in semiconductors,” Markey’s office said.
The delegation made a prior stop in South Korea, where Markey met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry published pictures of four lawmakers being met at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport having arrived on a US air force transport jet, while Markey arrived at the Taoyuan international airport.
“The delegation will meet with senior Taiwan leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, global supply chains, climate change, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the de facto USembassy said.
While China’s drills around Taiwan have abated, it is still carrying out military activities.
Eleven Chinese military aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line or entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Sunday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said. Thirteen planes crossed the strait on Saturday, the ministry said.
US officials have said Beijing “overreacted” to Pelosi’s visit and used it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

 


PM urges national dialogue as Pakistan celebrates 75 years of independence

PM urges national dialogue as Pakistan celebrates 75 years of independence
Updated 14 August 2022

PM urges national dialogue as Pakistan celebrates 75 years of independence

PM urges national dialogue as Pakistan celebrates 75 years of independence
  • Pakistan is facing surging inflation, increasing debts and dwindling foreign reserves
  • PM Sharif said country needs ‘sincere struggle’ toward national reforms

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for national dialogue on Sunday as Pakistan marked its 75th year of independence amid a deepening political crisis and a struggling economy. 

The South Asian nation, which gained independence when the British left and split the subcontinent into the two states of India and Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947, marked its diamond jubilee with gun salutes in the capital and festive rallies across the country. 

But celebrations this year took place against the backdrop of surging inflation, increasing debts and fast-depleting foreign reserves. Inflation reached 24.9 percent last month, driven mainly by rising food and energy costs, as the Pakistani rupee hit an all-time low against the US dollar. 

Pakistan is also mired in a political crisis, with former Prime Minister Imran Khan leading a campaign against the new coalition government led by Sharif after losing a confidence vote in April that Khan alleged was part of a US-backed conspiracy to oust him from power. 

“We need to have a national dialogue so that the mistakes of the past can be clearly identified,” Sharif said during a flag-hoisting ceremony in Islamabad. 

“We need to start a sincere struggle to reform [Pakistan’s] state of affairs.” 

The premier said that the national dialogue can commence through the “charter of economy,” as he envisioned Pakistan’s future as an economic powerhouse. 

“If we can become a nuclear power, why can’t we become an economic power?” 

Sharif also said in a statement that nothing is more dangerous than internal division, disruption and chaos. 

Pakistan’s political leadership must devise a plan to resolve its complex issues, Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Broadcasting Mohammed Shahbaz Babar told Arab News.

“We will have to sit together to work out a comprehensive plan to move forward,” he said.

“All political parties and other relevant stakeholders should understand the gravity of issues Pakistan is faced with and come up with viable solutions.” 

Babar also said the coalition government could reach out to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in the coming weeks. 

PTI Vice President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said his party was open to discussions with the government if some conditions are met, such as announcing dates for the next general elections. Khan and members of his party have been demanding new elections since he was dismissed in April. 

“We need freely, fairly and justly held elections,” Hussain said.

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Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol

Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol
Updated 14 August 2022

Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol

Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol
  • Police said the man was identified as Richard A. York III of Delaware
  • Added that the man then fired several gunshots into the air along East Capitol Street

WASHINGTON D.C.: A 29-year-old Delaware man died in an apparent suicide early on Sunday after crashing his car into a barricade near the US Capitol and firing shots into the air, police said.
While the man was getting out of the crashed car, it became engulfed in flames just after 4 a.m. (0800 GMT) at East Capitol Street and Second Street, US Capitol Police said.
Police said the man was identified as Richard A. York III of Delaware. “It is still not clear why he chose to drive to the Capitol Complex,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
Earlier, police said “it does not appear the man was targeting any members of Congress, who are on recess, and it does not appear officers fired their weapons.”
Police said the man then fired several gunshots into the air along East Capitol Street. As police responded and approached, the man shot himself, police said. No one was else injured.
The death is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, which did not immediately identity or any details of his motives.
There are security barricades around the Capitol Complex checkpoints that are closely guarded.
In April 2021, 25-year-old motorist Noah Green rammed a car into US Capitol police and brandished a knife, killing one officer and injuring another and forcing the Capitol complex to lock down. Police shot and killed Green.