UN chief plans major disarmament push
The talks are to cover everything from nuclear to small arms
9 February, 2018
A brave new disarmament plan is to be launched by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres despite general scepticism on the matter, news wires reported. According to Reuters, citing unnamed officials and experts, the planned talks are to cover everything, from nuclear and cyber war to small arms, and to start despite certain US resistance to such initiatives.
With the plan, Guterres aims to forestall a new nuclear arms race and get the big powers back into negotiations after two decades of stalemate, according to a Geneva-based expert. The expert said UN Secretary-General also wants to end “state-led paralysis” in talks on cyberwarfare and robotics by getting the private sector involved, and to start talks on use of explosives in urban areas and curbing access to conventional weapons.
With nuclear tensions rising, Guterres may be uniquely placed to oil the wheels of negotiations given a 2009 UN Security Council pledge to “create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.” “If Guterres is clever he can use that to say: 'Okay what have you done in the past 10 years?'” Marc Finaud, an expert at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, said cited by Reuters.
But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the agency that nuclear disarmament was an “aspirational goal” only, and it was hard to conceive of it in the near term. “We don't believe that it's time for bold initiatives, particularly in the area of nuclear weapons,” the official said, adding Guterres should also tread carefully in new technologies such as killer robots, known as “autonomous” weapons. “I worry that the Secretary-General may be trying to treat the symptoms and not the root causes of why countries arm and rearm,” he pointed out.
Guterres' strategy, to be spearheaded by his disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu, seeks to revive talks across the spectrum despite deepening US-Russian mistrust and heightened tensions on the divided Korean peninsula. “The path to peace through disarmament does not lie waiting for the right security situation to materialise, while countries increase their military budgets and stockpiles year after year,” she said in a speech last October.
The US official said the negotiating forum was “littered” with stalled initiatives aiming to think outside the box. They include China and Russia's thrust for a treaty on weapons in space and Russia's hope for a treaty to stop Islamist militants obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Nakamitsu is expected to invite key officials, including diplomats from the United Nations' five veto-wielding powers, to a retreat near New York later this month for discussions.
Guterres hopes to unveil his initiative in Geneva at the end of February, when foreign ministers, including Sergei Lavrov of Russia, are expected at the UN Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament, before a full launch in April. Richard Lennane, head of the non-profit Geneva Disarmament Platform, said it was the right time for what appeared to be an unprecedented and ambitious move.