Rudd push for nuclear arms control
December 12, 2009
BEFORE tackling climate change in Copenhagen, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will travel to Tokyo next week to add Australia’s voice to the push to avert a different type of global calamity – the threat of nuclear Armageddon.
Mr Rudd will launch the report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an expert panel sponsored by Australia and Japan to chart ideas to contain and eventually abolish nuclear arms.
Mr Rudd handed a copy of the final report to US President Barack Obama last week when the two leaders met in Washington. Other nations are being briefed on the commission’s findings over coming days.
Chaired by two former foreign ministers – Australia’s Gareth Evans and Japan’s Yoriko Kawaguchi – the commission has wrapped up 18 months of international meetings, with hopes for the final report to have a major impact on next year’s review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Fears over the spread of nuclear weapons are high on the global agenda after North Korea tested an atomic bomb in recent years and concern that Iran – and possibly Burma – might also be pursuing nuclear arms.
Mr Obama delivered what was regarded as a landmark speech in Prague earlier this year, pledging to kick-start a new round of talks with Russia to reduce their nuclear stockpiles.
”If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable,” Mr Obama said in April.
The US and Russia are reportedly close to a new deal on verifying further cuts to their nuclear arsenals, although negotiators missed a December 5 expiry of the previous agreement.
A study for the Australia-Japan commission on the environmental impact of nuclear war found despite a two-thirds reduction in atomic weapons since 1986, a nuclear exchange could still end human history.
”The detonation of even a tiny fraction of the global nuclear arsenal within large urban centres will cause catastrophic disruptions of the global climate,” the research paper said.
”Nuclear detonations within urban and industrial areas would ignite immense mass fires which would burn everything imaginable and create millions of tons of thick, black smoke.”
Often referred to as a ”nuclear winter”, this soot would rise into the stratosphere, blocking sunlight and reducing the natural greenhouse effect, the paper said.
”In the target areas, for the first few days after the attack, sunlight would be reduced so much that at midday it would appear as dark as a moonlit night before the war.”