Heed Nuclear Treaty, Zuma Tells West

Cape Times (South Africa), March 27, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Heed Nuclear Treaty, Zuma Tells West


Seoul: A few hours after President Barack Obama offered to cut US nuclear weapons stockpiles and urged Russia to do the same, President Jacob Zuma reminded all countries with nuclear weapons that they had a duty to eliminate these.

Speaking in the South Korean capital during a summit on nuclear safety, Zuma said that Obama's announcement was not enough.

"In our desire to create a forum to raise awareness on nuclear security, we cannot ignore the reality that only the verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons will ultimately prevent the use of such weapons," Zuma said.

Earlier yesterday, Obama said he intended to slash more stockpiles of US nuclear warheads and would press Russia to do the same when he met its president-elect, Vladimir Putin, in May.

Speaking at a side event of the Nuclear Safety Summit, Obama did not say how many more nuclear weapons the US would propose cutting. But he said the cuts would involve tactical nuclear weapons, as well as strategic and reserve warheads.

In his response Zuma referred to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibited all countries without nuclear weapons from developing them.

In exchange for that pledge, countries with nuclear weapons were to help developing countries to build nuclear power plants.

The treaty also binds countries with nuclear weapons to eliminate them.

SA voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons in 1991.

"Only the verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons will ultimately prevent the use of such weapons," Zuma said.

Countries without nuclear weapons have long complained that nuclear powers are guilty of double standards because they insist that countries without nuclear arms should not develop them, yet they do little to uphold their side of the treaty by eliminating their nuclear stockpiles.

Obama is portraying his offer to reduce America's stockpiles as the progressive fulfilment of America's commitment to the treaty.

Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, limiting Russian and American nuclear weapons to 1 500 apiece, two years ago.

But some analysts say the reduced stockpiles represent outdated weapons and that fewer advanced weapons are needed to maintain the same military capability.

That calls into question whether the nuclear states are really committed to fulfiling the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Only the verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons will ultimately prevent the use of such weapons," Zuma said.

Despite these doubts about Western countries' commitment to eliminating atomic weapons, Obama said the US had an ethical duty to reduce its nukes.

"I believe the United States has a unique responsibility to act - indeed, we have a moral obligation," he said in a speech at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies here.

"I say this as president of the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons.

"I say it as a commander-in-chief who knows that our nuclear codes are never far from my side. Most of all, I say it as a father who wants my two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can't be instantly wiped out.

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