Australia’s regional isolation in its refusal to support new nuclear disarmament treaty

world-nuclear-weapons-freeAustralia’s earlier leadership on nuclear disarmament had diminished over the past four years.

“We know what Australia is saying ‘no’ to. It is saying ‘no’ to the humanitarian consequences pledge. Well, what is it saying ‘yes’ to?”

Australia resists new global push for nuclear disarmament, Guardian, , 16 Sept 15  Diplomatic cables reveal prospects for nuclear disarmament are ‘bleak’ as Australia becomes increasingly lonely in opposing 116-nation push for ban

Prospects for nuclear disarmament are “bleak” under the current non-proliferation treaty, Australian diplomats have conceded in cables back to Canberra, but the country will resist growing global support for a new treaty banning nuclear weapons because of a dependence on the nuclear deterrent capability of the US.

A tranche of internal government emails from within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reveals Australia’s opposition to a 116-nation push to ban nuclear weapons is leaving it increasingly isolated globally, and especially among anti-nuclear neighbours. The emails, released under freedom of information, reveal Australia is increasingly worried about an Austrian-led push for a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons.

“Like the US, Australia is worried about the Austrian pledge,” a Dfat note says.

Other cables to Canberra described the pledge as “a not-too-subtle attempt to build momentum for negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty” but also reported that “the Austrian pledge is fast becoming a galvanising focus for those pushing the ban treaty option”.

Australia says it needs the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal………

Australia has found it is particularly isolated in regional security meetings. At a meeting of Asia Pacific nations on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and prospects for a ban treaty, Australia was “the lone voice in the room on many issues”………

Prof Ramesh Thakur, director of the centre for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the Australian National University, said Australian diplomats had underestimated support for the humanitarian pledge.

“What is really clear from these cables, but not explicitly stated, is that Australian officials have been very surprised, they have been taken aback, by the strength of support for the humanitarian consequences pledge, and they are scrambling to explain that.
“Support for the humanitarian consequences pledge is making Australia’s position more difficult; it is galvanising public and political opinion, and Australia finds itself running against the domestic and international tide.”

Thakur said Australia’s earlier leadership on nuclear disarmament had diminished over the past four years.

“We know what Australia is saying ‘no’ to. It is saying ‘no’ to the humanitarian consequences pledge. Well, what is it saying ‘yes’ to?”…….

The FOI request that revealed the government correspondence was made by the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons (Ican), a coalition of NGOs from more than 95 countries, whose aim is a global ban on nuclear weapons.

Ican’s Asia-Pacific director, Tim Wright, told Guardian Australia the humanitarian pledge had developed an international momentum, and he was confident it would lead to new global negotiations towards outlawing nuclear weapons.

The Australian government’s argument that it required the protection of a foreign power’s nuclear weapons was “a long-held belief that has gone unchallenged”.

“Nuclear weapons undermine safety, they do not enhance it,” Wright said.

And a proposed ban treaty was not designed to replace the non-proliferation treaty.

“The NPT remains relevant, and will for the foreseeable future, as the only treat with a legally binding commitment towards disarmament. But we see a ban treaty as something not to replace the NPT, but as something to complement and strengthen it, like the comprehensive test ban treaty did in the 1990s.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond to inquiries about the cables from Guardian Australia.


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