ICAN expert newsletter - October 2019

ICAN Expert Newsletter - October 2019


TPNW Welcomed at First Committee

Experts Newsletter No. 6 (October 2019)

Dominica was the most recent state to ratify the TPNW on 18 October 2019.

The TPNW at the First Committee

Around 50 states expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in remarks to the UN General Assembly First Committee. Nearly two dozen states and ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement stated that the TPNW complements the existing nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation architecture, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and nuclear-weapon-free zones. Around 18 states called on additional states to join the TPNW and 12 states - Guatemala, Algeria, Mongolia, Jamaica, Fiji, Ghana, Ireland, Timor-Leste, Nepal, Tanzania, Myanmar and Brazil - reported on their progress towards ratification of the TPNW. 

“If you think that nuclear weapons do not affect your country, you should think again,” Ms. Maria Eugenia Villareal stated on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at the First Committee. 

“The 14,000 nuclear weapons that exist in the world today pose an acute existential threat to all of us. No nation is immune to the radioactive fallout that would transcend national borders if these weapons were ever used again. No nation is immune to the climate disruption, agricultural and economic collapse, mass human displacement and famine that would inevitably follow even a limited nuclear war.”

States will begin voting on resolutions at the First Committee on Friday, 1 November.

Missile Tests and Nuclear Wargames

As diplomats at the United Nations advocated for a nuclear weapon free world, nuclear-armed states flaunted their mass murder capabilities in a series of missile tests and nuclear wargames. 

In late September, Russia tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. With a range of 11,000 kilometres, this Topol-M missile can carry a warhead about 35 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. On 1 October, China marked its national day by parading several types of missiles prominently before the world for the first time.  One missile, the DF-41, has an estimated range of up to 15,000 kilometres and the ability to reach the continental United States in roughly 30 minutes. China also displayed the JL-2 missile, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and the hypersonic DF-17, which is designed to evade missile defence systems. On 2 October, North Korea tested a submarine-launched nuclear-capable missile, just before entering a new round of negotiations with the United States about its nuclear weapons program. Also on 2 October, the United States conducted a test of its own unarmed ICBM. 

In mid-October, Russia, Europe and the United States all kicked off nuclear wargames. Russia conducted a nuclear training exercise, “Thunder 2019,” followed by the U.S. "Global Thunder" and "Vigilant Shield 20" exercises. At the same time, NATO armed forces practised deploying nuclear-capable fighter-bombers which can deliver U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe.

It is important to recognise that nuclear-capable missiles are not tools to be tested, muscles to be flexed, or toys to be displayed on trucks – they are weapons of mass destruction. 

Two Reports Showcase TPNW Progress

A new report developed by the Norwegian People’s Aid, documents detailed and updated country-by-country positions on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The 2019 Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor highlights how 135 countries, more than two-thirds of UN member states, support the TPNW by having signed, ratified or acceded, or voted in its favor at the United Nations. The report also exposes the role of the 31 “nuclear-weapon-complicit states,” primarily in Europe, that do not possess nuclear weapons but continue to stand in the way of efforts for nuclear disarmament by endorsing or acquiescing to the use of nuclear weapons on their behalf. The Norwegian People’s Aid report provides detailed interpretations of the treaty’s prohibitions and an analysis of states’ compliance, as well as an overall assessment of nuclear threats over the past year.

The Don’t Bank on the Bomb campaign from ICAN partner PAX also recently released its latest report, showcasing the 36 financial institutions with comprehensive policies that prohibit the funding of nuclear weapons. Collectively, these banks, pension funds, and insurers keep €1.6 trillion in assets out of the nuclear weapons industry. The report notes that 14 of these institutions have joined this “Hall of Fame” in the last year, demonstrating the growing momentum behind this divestment movement.  

Nuclear Weapons and Turkey

On 4 September, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called out the two-tier nature of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime that allows some nations nuclear weapons but denies them for others. “This, I cannot accept,” he said, despite Turkey’s status as a party to the NPT. He repeated similar comments in his address to the UN General Assembly on 24 September. Now, given Turkey’s aggression into Kurdish-controlled Syria, these comments are receiving much higher levels of media attention.

The presence of about 50 U.S. nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey - an open secret President Trump seemed to recently acknowledge - complicates the current security situation. Media stories suggest that the United States is considering plans to remove the weapons from Turkey. The combination of the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey, President Erdogan’s comments, and reports that Turkey fired on U.S. troops during its advance present a uniquely dangerous and unstable geopolitical environment. 

Campaign Spotlight: Belgium

The ICAN Cities Appeal has taken off in Belgium with more than 30 cities and towns, including Brugges and Ghent, getting on board in the past few months. Nearly a dozen members of parliament from Belgium have signed ICAN’s Parliamentary Pledge and in September, 152 Belgian mayors signed an open letter calling on the Belgium government to sign the TPNW. ICAN campaigners are pushing Brussels and Antwerp to join, as the debate around the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons at Kleine Brogel base in Belgium comes under increased scrutiny by the Belgian Parliament. ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn gave testimony at the parliament’s defence committee in an October 16 session on the question of withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Belgium, where she discussed the TPNW and the need for states who are serious about the rules-based order to re-evaluate their relationships with nuclear umbrella alliances. 

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