OPINION> OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS
Toward a world free of nuclear weapons
By Zhai Dequan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-04 08:08

The alarming proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world greatly increases the chances of self-destruction. To realize a world without nuclear weapons, leaders and nations of the world must reach consensus.

A promising move in this direction started in the US. The Four Horsemen Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn have twice jointly written articles calling for nuclear disarmament to realize a nuclear weapon-free world. To disarm the nuclear weapon states of their nuclear weapons is an arduous mission that will certainly take a long time, probably decades.

First of all, there must a fundamental change of the mindsets of the Cold War and unilateralism. This seems, for the time being, unrealistic. But complete destruction of nuclear weapons can be achieved through re-adjustment of defense policies and strategies. Leaders of all countries should demonstrate their political will and wisdom for the cause of peace.

There is need for an international summit, presumably at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, or better still before that, to conclude legal instruments or resolutions committing ourselves, in a phased manner, to the ultimate goal of destruction of nuclear weapons.

To realize the ultimate goal, confidence-building measures must be intensified through consultation and talks. A new security approach of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and co-ordination should be adopted in international relations. The policy of peaceful co-existence should be adopted and the Cold War mentality and unilateralism discarded.

Further, the following important elements should be borne in mind:

Toward a world free of nuclear weapons

There is no absolute security for any single country. Security must be mutual and multilateral.

There is no "world savior" except for the peoples themselves. No country has the right to interfere in another country's domestic affairs.

The world is multi-colored and diversified. One color or one mode for the whole world is not only unrealistic but also not feasible. Problems in any country must be resolved only by its own people.

One of the major reasons why some countries are trying hard to go nuclear nowadays, despite the enormous costs of financial and technological resources is that their security and even survival is at stake. As a Chinese saying goes, "to stop water from boiling by scooping it up and pouring it back is not as good as pulling out the burning firewood from under the cauldron". There is dire need now for changing mindsets. Philosophy, ideology and strategy, too, need to be changed and these changes may be expressed in policy re-adjustment.

If nuclear disarmament policies are not properly re-adjusted based on clear conceptions, then disarmament can neither make a start nor reach its ultimate goal.

For justice and fairness, an authoritative UN institution (such as a Council or Commission for Nuclear Disarmament) will dispel suspicion and unilateralism. It could also be an effective tool for monitoring, supervision, verification, improved safeguards and for joint efforts to reach the ultimate goal.

The sole superpower, aware of its obligations, has taken a leading role toward realizing nuclear disarmament. The US demonstration of its will and sincerity for peace and nuclear disarmament will enable all the other countries to follow suit. It is the US that should take the initiative to approach Russia, as such a move would be more convincing and yield better results.

The nuclear weapon states should, first of all, commit to no-first-use and no-threat-to-use nuclear weapons against others, especially against countries and regions that do not have nuclear weapons.

There should be a firm commitment to: make the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty effective; reduce the strategic role of nuclear weapons as a deterrence in national security planning, de-targeting and de-alerting; reinforce non-proliferation measures; restrict ballistic missile defense efforts; reduce nuclear stockpiles; and, stop research and development of new models.

Countries with no nuclear weapons should be dissuaded from going ahead with nuclear weapon program. Such states should be given security guarantees by the nuclear weapon states and encouraged to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use.

The author is deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association

(China Daily 06/04/2009 page8)