Save the INF; Support Other Measures to Lower the Risk of Use of Nuclear Weapons & Ban Them

Peace & Justice is supporting a protest tomorrow in Edinburgh at the Russian Consulate on Melville St (9am) and US Consulate on Regent Terrace (10:15am) in response to the announcements by the US and Russia of their intentions to withdraw from the Interrmediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (the INF). We will be joining other Scotland Internaional Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) partners in urging the parties to resume constructive dialogue and stay in the INF, and calling for them to join the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty (TPNW). Share the Event on Facebook here.

The INF was signed by Reagan and Gorbachev after huge and widespread public pressure in the 80s. The INF has reduced the risk of nuclear war in Europe since it was agreed in 1987. All of us who campaigned for the US and Russia to remove Cruise and Pershing and Russian SS missiles from central Europe breathed a huge sigh of relief when these dangerous weapons were dismantled and destroyed. The demise of this important treaty will be a huge setback and will greatly increase the risk of nuclear war, in particular in Europe.  

As an ICAN partner the Peace & Justice Centre supports the TPNW.  But that treaty will not come into force until it is ratified by 50 countries, and then it will not, at first at least, apply to the countries that do not sign it. That includes all the current nuclear armed states. And may not happen for two more years.

In the meantime Trump’s and Putin’s moves will increase the risk of nuclear war. That’s why we support a range of interim measures that will make us safer. These steps include a halt to Trident replacement and modernisation of nuclear weapons currently underway in nuclear weapons states, notably the US, which has begun a ten year programme at a cost of $1.3 Trillion. Under cover of modernisation it is upgrading several key weapons systems in ways that will destabilize the present balance of power and increase the risk of use of nuclear weapons. 

The US 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized funds for the Defense Department to develop a  ground-launched cruise missile that, if tested, would violate the treaty.  In addition, the US is actively developing a low-yield Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile, the W-76-2  that is expected to be ready to roll out in October. While this warhead would be mounted on a long range ballistic missile it would not violate the INF Treaty, but it is part of the US response to the Russian and Chinese developments of intermediate nuclear forces. This is particularly relevant to the UK as these warheads could be deployed on UK Trident submarine. 
According to Hans Kristensen, Director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, this is a 5 – 7 KT warhead that will be mounted on the Trident D-5 missiles, that is the same missile as the current W-76 -1 warhead with its 100KT yield. The Hiroshima bomb had a yield of approximately 15 KT. The danger is that, were the US to launch the low yield missile Russia would not be able to determine whether it was low yield or high yield and would need to decide within minutes whether to launch their own high yield nukes immediately. Possession of such a low yield weapon will give the US more options for use of nuclear weapons in situations in which it would not consider the use of its strategic weapons.  
Furthermore the US is adding a remotely piloted guidance system to the B61 gravity bombs that are still deployed in Europe, again increasing its mission capabilities and posing a greater threat to Russia.
A Chink in the Armour of the Nuclear Weapons Establishment: A No First Use policy
This week US Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a No First Use bill through the Defense Appropriations Committee in the Senate. Obama had wanted to do so but was talked out of it by the National Security establishment. This follows a statement she made in October that she will support “three core nuclear-security principles:” No First Use, no new nuclear weapons and more international arms control, not less. By introducing this legislation she is demonstrating her intention to follow through on her rhetoric. This means that halting the US and adversaries’ modernisation programmes will be part of the debate during the Presidential campaign, and this has not happened for a long time. With this it is now possible to imagine her or other Progressive candidates outrightly supporting the Ban Treaty.
Elimintating nuclear weapons altogether though the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW) is ultimately the only way to ensure that they are never used again. Let’s keep campaigning for it while we continue to campaign for interim measures that will make us safer, and could open up the possibility of the Nuclear Weapons States getting on board with the Ban Treay.  
Brian Larkin
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Nobel Peace Prize Medal Comes to Scottish Parliament

Scottish ICAN partners including Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre Coordinator Brian Larkin with Bill Kidd MSP holding the Nobel Peace Prize Medal

The Nobel Peace Prize medal, which was awarded to the the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2017, was displayed at Scottish Parliament on 12 June. Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre is one of five Scottish civil society groups that are among the 468 worldwide ICAN partners, who collectively share the Peace Prize. The medal was brought to a meeting of meeting of the Cross Party Group on Nuclear Disarmament by ICAN Co-Chair Dr. Rebecca Johnson. The event coincieded with the Trump – Kim summit.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, founder of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, reported on last month’s historic women’s walk into the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea and discussed the recent developments in the negotiations concerning the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the prospects that such events open.

In particular, Rebecca discussed what she believes to be essential points of the joint statement released by US President Donald Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un after their historic meeting which took place the same morning. Dr Johnson stressed that although the statement might appear as not bringing much novelty to the table, it is essential as it establishes a new development of two people working together for peace and prosperity.

In this complicated situation, there are three main issues at stake for the Koreans. Firstly, there is a desire for a peace treaty as, since the end of the war in 1953, there has only been an armistice in the region. Rebecca recalled that, during the Korean war, there had been discussion in the American administration about the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Korea.

Secondly, Kim is interested in providing prosperity to North Korea for maintaining his position. Kim, a very young leader, is seeking recognition in a region, Asia, in which there is a culture of always looking up at the elderly. To last as a leader and live he needs the support of China and possibly of Japan so that he can achieve economic prosperity.

Thirdly, the negotiations may open up a way for the Koreans to open up the society and manage a transition from oppression. In the statement released at the end of the Trump-Kim summit, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reaffirms the 27th April Declaration released after the meeting between Kim and Moon in the denuclearised zone and commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Rebecca noted that every action will need to be built on what Kim and Moon agreed on and the two leaders must continue to be the central actors in the negotiations even though the American involvement is important and the contribution of Russia and China is necessary to achieve a lasting solution. Also, it would be positive if all the countries that were at war in Korea would sign as well.

Significantly, in this meeting, none of the actors put preconditions down and during the press conference which took place after the meeting stressed the fact that “war games” in Korea would end. This is important considering that the US has around 70 bases in Korea and that, even if nukes were removed after the Cold War, there are suspicions that US ships carrying nuclear weapons visited these bases a few months ago.

Thus, Rebecca concluded, optimism is possible, and experts suggest that disarmament will not necessarily require a long time. Still, it must be kept in mind that the Trump administration positions change quite rapidly and that, while negotiations with North Korea now seem to be on a positive track the US is simultaneously withdrawing from the Nuclear Deal which had been signed with Iran.

Rebecca also discussed the importance of the ICAN Nobel Peace Prize, which belongs to everyone who has worked for Nuclear Disarmament, and of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. Still, she stressed that they will remain just a medal and a piece of paper if campaigning is not continued. The Scottish Parliament can play an essential role in the process by enacting legislation to implement the aims of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). There are steps the Scottish Government can take even within its devolved powers to confirm adherence to the Obligations listed in Article 1 of the TPNW, in particular to enact legislation confirming the Prohibitions on aiding anyone involved in the production, distribution and deployment of nuclear weapons. Such legislation would directly challenge UK basing of Trident nuclear weapons system at Faslane and the transport of nuclear weapons on Scotland’s roads.

At the same time, NGOs can get involved in actions such as petitioning for the UK government to adhere to the Treaty and talk about denuclearisation of the British Islands.

This report was compiled by Margherita Distrotti and Brian Larkin. 

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Peace & Justice Joins Call on Boris Johnson to Ban Nuclear Weapons

We’ve joined with 29 other civil society organisations in a letter to Boris Johnson calling on the UK to Sign the nuclear ban treaty. If chemical weapons are banned so must nuclear weapons be. The possession and use of nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, will be explicitly banned under international law. Thus far the UK, the US and other states that possess nuclear weapons, are  actively opposing the process to ban nuclear weapons.  

The letter has been delivered to the Foreign Secretary In advance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee which meets in Geneva from April 23rd, challenging the government to take its disarmament responsibilities seriously and in particular to participate in the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Fifty eight countries have now signed the treaty. When it is ratified by 50 countries the Ban Treaty will be the law.

The full text of the letter (with signatories) is below.

The Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP


Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to urge the UK to use the imminent Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee meeting to recognise and act upon the UK’s international obligation to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.

As you will be aware, disarmament is a fundamental pillar of the NPT regime. However, the widespread feeling that the NPT’s Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) are neglecting their disarmament obligations recently led the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to link the lack of visible progress on disarmament to the declining health of the NPT regime. Izumi Nakamitsu stated in a recent meeting at Parliament that only demonstrable progress towards nuclear weapons states’ implementing their obligation under Article 6 to negotiate in good faith towards disarmament can “ensure the long-term viability of the Treaty.”1

Little progress has been demonstrated to the international community on the steps towards disarmament agreed in the NPT’s 2000 and 2010 Action Plans. At the same time, the NWS have been taking steps to modernise their arsenals – tolerating the risks of global devastation through accident, mistake or cyber-attack – with Russia and the US also adopting more aggressive nuclear postures. For example, both states have rejected ICBM de-alerting, and have placed emphasis on ‘lower yield’ nuclear weaponsand their ‘usability’ in recent policy announcements. These represent not only a dangerous development but also a set of policies that are clearly opposed to NPT commitments. We were therefore deeply disappointed to see the UK government “welcome” the recent US Nuclear Posture Review,and we ask what steps the government will take to ensure that our close ally steps back from policies that will undermine the NPT regime.

There is clearly an urgent need for states to build common ground on disarmament. Steps should be taken by the UK to build bridges with Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS), which must include signalling unmistakable progress towards the UK’s obligation to disarm. They must also include acceptance of, and engagement with, the new realities in the international non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.

As a country whose National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review links the UK’s future security and prosperity to the health of the rules-based international system, the UK needs to ensure it acts to strengthen, not undermine, this system. Irrespective of the UK’s position, the rules-based international system now unquestionably includes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In that context we would point out that the TPNW, as is made clear in its Preamble, is firmly anchored within international humanitarian law. Consequently, the UK should announce its intention to start constructively engaging with the TPNW, including through a commitment to attend future Meetings of States Parties as an observer.

Such a participatory policy could minimise misconceptions about the TPNW and the continued importance of the NPT to states. Many UK allies will now be pursuing additional and mutually reinforcing work under the TPNW, towards common goals on non-proliferation and disarmament that are described within the NPT and other treaties.

Participation would also provide an opportunity for the UK to contribute towards these goals by offering expertise to discussions and processes on subjects such as verification, and measures to assist individuals and remediate environments affected by nuclear weapons – given our history of nuclear testing, which continues to carry a legacy of harm.

Such an approach would send an important signal to NNWS that the UK is taking seriously their legitimate concerns about the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the urgent need for disarmament, which led to the negotiation of the TPNW. Within the UK, the Scottish Government and Parliament share the views of the UN member states that adopted the TPNW. The Scottish Government and Parliament’s constructive participation in the UK’s engagement with these allies should be welcomed by the UK Government.

An additional opportunity to cooperate with states on efforts to bring about nuclear disarmament, the UN High Level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, takes place in May 2018. We urge the UK to attend this meeting at ministerial level or above and to use the opportunity to develop relations with NNWS and make progress on the UK’s disarmament obligations.

If the UK is to live up to its aspirations of a Global Britain, the UK cannot cherry-pick those forums for multilateralism that the government is most comfortable dealing with and ignore others. By adopting a policy of engagement and supporting the system as a whole, the UK can strengthen international cooperation at a time when the risks posed by nuclear weapons are considerable and arguably growing. We urge the UK to take all opportunities to work constructively towards the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Austin, Coordinator, Northern Friends Peace Board

Chris Butler, Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission), United Reformed Church

Arthur Chapman, Chair, and Brian Larkin, Coordinator Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre

Tim Devereux, Chair, Movement for the Abolition of War

Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns, United Nations Association – UK

Dr Gari Donn, Convenor, UNA Scotland and Executive Director, UN House Scotland

Janet Fenton, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Scotland

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary, Pax Christi UK

Cllr Ernie Galsworthy, Chair and Cllr David Blackburn, English Forum Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities, UK and Ireland

Robert Harrap, General Director, Soka Gakkai International – UK

Dr Stephen Herman, Director, Multifaith Committee on Shared Security, Religions for Peace (UK) Andy Hinton, Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser (International Affairs), The Methodist Church

Dr Rebecca E. Johnson, Executive Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Brian Jones, Vice Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Cymru

Bill Kidd MSP, Convenor, Scottish Parliament CPG Nuclear Disarmament

Gina Langton, 80,000 Voices

Fiona MacGregor, Hastings Against War

David Mackenzie, Trident Ploughshares in Scotland

Dr Judith McDonald, Coordinator, Medact Scotland

Anne Milne, Edinburgh Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Elizabeth Minor, Advisor, Article 36

Dr Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, Medact

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain

Oliver Robertson, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Paula Shaw, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, UK

Martin Tiller, Co-Chair, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Dave Webb, Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Dr Philip Webber, Scientists for Global Responsibility

Arthur West, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

1 UNA UK, ‘UN disarmament chief urges states to build common ground on nuclear disarmament,’ 5 February 2018

2 These weapons are in fact similar in size to those used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

3 USA: Nuclear Weapons: Written question – HL6250,

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Trump – Kim Talks: A Surprising Opportunity for Disarmament

In light of North Korea’s accelerated nuclear weapons testing and Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the past year, from his threats to rain down “Fire and Fury” to his childish claim that his “nuclear button” is bigger than Kim’s Jong-un’s, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist moved the Doomsday Clock forward to 2 ½ minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been.

Photo credit: duncan c CCBY-NC 2.6

But now a sudden unexpected twist. Trump has agreed to meet Kim. Many have welcomed the talks, expressing hope for progress on disarmament and even an end to the 60 year state of war between North and South Korea. Of course dialogue is key to resolving conflicts. And demilitarization of the Korean peninsula is desirable.

But Trump’s dramatic acceptance of Kim’s invitation is fraught with risks. Victor Cha, (NYTimes. March 9, 2018) warned “While the unpredictability of a meeting between these two unconventional leaders provides unique opportunities to end the decades-old conflict, its failure could also push the two countries to the brink of war.” Duyeon Kim (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) cautioned “The risk is that if the White House comes away from initial talks believing that Pyongyang will not abandon its nuclear weapons… it could be further convinced that it should resolve the nuclear issue by force.”

Trump sees himself as the great deal maker and may see this as his big chance to demonstrate that prowess on the world stage after a year of near nil legislative accomplishment and recent weeks of White House chaos. Flattering Trump, South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong told Trump “that his maximum-pressure policy brought us to this juncture” and that Mr Kim is “committed to denuclearisation”.  

But Trump’s rash action appears to completely lack planning and preparation. The day before Trump accepted Kim’s invitation Rex Tillerson stated that the U.S. is “a long ways from negotiations” with North Korea. It seems Trump did not consult his Secretary of State before agreeing to North Korea’s longstanding main objective, to gain the status of a meeting between its head of state and a US President. Upon taking office Tillerson dismissed numerous officials at State and has not replaced them. The US does not have in place high-level diplomats to run parallel talks, or mid level officials to assist the president. How can the US pull together a coordinated negotiating strategy when it does not even have in place an ambassador to South Korea or an Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security?  

We hope Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un succeeds, though it would set a bad precedent, demonstrating that apparent irrationality and threats to use nuclear weapons can lead to negotiations and peace. The safer course would be for Trump to use the opportunity to invite North Korea, Russia, and China, to join it in signing the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, then direct Tillerson to fill that Under Secretary of State post and get to work on the detailed work of disarming the arsenals of weapons that continue to threaten us all with armageddon.

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