Thursday, 16 April 2015

Trident and nuclear disarmament obligations

Letter submitted to Financial Times on 16 April
Your correspondent Tim Hare, writing as a former Director of Nuclear Policy at the Ministry of Defence (1999-2002) asserts in his letter (“Submarine-based Trident remains the optimum capability for the UK,” April 16) that opting for nuclear-tipped cruise missile over a like-for-like Trident replacement “would be a quite unsatisfactory option for the UK on a number of grounds including implications for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”

It would be, but not for the reason he suggests, as the NPT requires under article 6 that all signatories, including the five nuclear weapons states parties – comprising the UK, US, China, France and Russia – to undertake”

“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…”


Indeed, the NPT will have its quinquennial review at the United Nations in New York, from 27 April–22 May.

Papers available in the National Archives in Kew show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the British Government's minister of state for foreign affairs, addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, (the predecessor committee to the current day Conference on Disarmament) explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, telling the ministerial delegations:

"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI (on nuclear disarmament by nuclear-armed states) and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."(emphasis added)

Much more recently, US President Obama said in March: “As I stated in Prague in 2009, reinforced in Berlin in 2013, and again reaffirmed last month in my National Security Strategy, the United States seeks the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Indeed, in a Parliamentary debate (on 20 January) on the Trident nuclear weapons system, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told MPs
"we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added)
Why is the Defence Secretary determined to continue a process that will result in £100 thousand million (£100 billion) on a replacement nuclear weapons system when he has put it on the Parliamentary record as recently as January he wants to realise a world without any nuclear weapons of  mass destruction at all; and when senior British diplomatic officials will later this month be in New York negotiating such a future?

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