UN's top disarmament official 'alarmed' over reports of new US nuclear posture

UN's top disarmament official 'alarmed' over reports of new US nuclear posture

Jayantha Dhanapala
Reacting with alarm to press reports of a reassessment by the Pentagon of the United States stance on the development and possible use of nuclear weapons, the senior United Nations disarmament official has warned that Washington's posture could deal a serious blow to global non-proliferation efforts.

"This is a very serious step because it indicates that even if it is a plan, or a conceptual plan, there is some thinking going on in Washington about using nuclear weapons," Jayantha Dhanapala, the UN Under Secretary-General for Disarmament, told UN Radio.

The reported assessment, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, marked a departure from the past policy of having nuclear weapons "mainly for political purposes of deterring an attack," noted Mr. Dhanapala. He stressed that the use of a nuclear weapon would stand in violation of humanitarian law, a 1996 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, and Security Council resolution 984 (1995).

The use of a nuclear weapon also "flies in the face of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," said the Under-Secretary-General, calling the contemplated change in US policy "a very major stumbling block as we begin the process of preparing for the 2005 NPT Review Conference." The first preparatory meeting for that conference will take place next month.

Asked about the implications of renewed US testing of nuclear weapons, Mr. Dhanapala said it would mark a "major setback" by encouraging other countries to discard their obligations under the Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the NPT. "We are going to get an encouragement to nuclear proliferation, rather than reducing the number of countries that have nuclear weapons," he warned.

To go back on those treaties, he said, would amount to "opening the flood gates" and "regressing in the development of the norms that we have had."