US attempts to bully allies into inaction

March 18, 2015

The Norwegian Under Secretary of State, Bård Glad Pedersen, admitted on TV that Norway has been ‘demarched‘ by the United States to not sign the pledge to fill the legal gap on nuclear weapons launched by Austria at the conclusion of the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

This revelation follows a recent story by Kyodo news exposing similar pressures directed towards Japan to prevent them from supporting the pledge. According to the Japanese newspaper, a U.S. State Department official admitted that Washington will not back the pledge, citing the need to pursue “a more pragmatic approach that represents a consensus view” of the states parties to the NPT, demanding the same commitment from its allies.

This is a curious statement, which implies that article VI of the NPT does not take a pragmatic approach to nuclear disarmament. The Austrian pledge is indeed a call to all states parties to the NPT to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Liv Tørres, General Secretary of Norwegian People’s Aid, denounced this pressure on Norway as inappropriate. “Norway launched an initiative whose main focus is disarmament, and it managed to transform the way we think about nuclear weapons. It is insolent that the US is now demanding that Norway withdraws from the initiative that it helped start.”

The government has also been criticized by the three opposition parties who recently put forward an initiative that demands that the Norwegian government support the pledge and carry on playing a key role in the process to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

“This is a clear sign that the nuclear weapon states are getting more and more nervous about the growing appetite for a prohibition of nuclear weapons. They did the same with the processes that led to the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “It’s time for the non-nuclear weapon states to decide if nuclear weapons must be declared illegal and be put on the same footing of other weapons of mass destruction”.

To date, 55 states associated themselves with the pledge, considering it to be an opportunity to open a much-needed discussion on Article VI.

While the US is pressuring its allies into inaction, it offers not serious alternative to implement the NPT’s disarmament obligation.  The so-called “pragmatic” approach seems not to carry any coherent vision for the future, while seeking to block any initiative that amounts to at concrete commitments on disarmament.

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