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Joint article by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada , Wall Street Journal, 4. September 2010 (english)

04.09.2010 - Interview

The Moral Challenge of a Nuclear-Free World

This May, delegations from more than 180 countries gathered in New York, at the

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, to discuss how to free the

world from nuclear weapons. Despite the positive momentum that flowed from

President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech on the issue in Prague, there was

enormous pressure on the conference. With a spirit of cooperation and flexibility

from all delegates, however, the conference lived up to its expectations.

As foreign ministers, we draw two conclusions from this. First, it is remarkable

that all delegates agreed on the conference’s action plan, which includes various

new and important commitments on nuclear disarmament as well as concrete

measures to implement the 1995 Middle East Resolution, which called for a zone

free of weapons of mass destruction in the region. We should do everything

possible to implement this agreement. Our second conclusion is that the agreement

is extremely fragile. Without an intensive concerted effort, states will not honor it.

The irreconcilable views expressed throughout the conference-on such issues as the

Iranian nuclear program and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's rules for how

signatories withdraw - will not fade away.

Prior to the conference, major nuclear-weapons states took some remarkable

steps. The U.S. and Russia agreed to further cut their strategic nuclear weapons.

The U.S. also presented a new approach in its Nuclear Posture Review, published

in April, which provided strong negative security assurances (that is, assurances

that it would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states).

We welcome and support the Obama administration’s commitment to achieving a

world without nuclear weapons and strengthening nuclear security. Together with

nuclear-weapons states, including the U.S., we are ready to discuss how to reduce

the role of nuclear weapons—by, for example, committing to possess them only for

the purpose of deterring others from using them. Even if nuclear states cannot

immediately agree to abandon their nuclear weapons, they can take practical

measures to reduce clear and present risks.

It is also necessary to make the possession of nuclear weapons unattractive. North

Korea and Iran must understand that acquiring nuclear weapons in contradiction

of their nonproliferation obligations would never be tolerated and would not

elevate their status in the international community.

Like climate change, nuclear disarmament raises the question of whether mankind

can feel a sense of responsibility across national borders and generations. Nuclear

disarmament asks whether mankind can act to reduce the risks of self-destruction

posed by “God’s fire.” We should never forget how human beings and buildings

vanished in the tremendous flash of light and heat in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 65

years ago. This is a global issue that tests our sense of responsibility and morality.

Morality has recently played an important role in bringing about the success of

treaties on land mines and cluster munitions. It is thus no coincidence that the

Final Document of May’s conference cited the need for states to comply with

international humanitarian law.

Some may ask themselves why Japan and Germany are seeking to pursue nuclear

disarmament with such vigor when both countries rely on the United States for

nuclear deterrence. Our countries have long been advocates of disarmament. Since

re-emerging from total devastation in the second world war, both countries have

pursued a peaceful and stable world and the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

It is in such a shared conviction that we find a common role. And we believe that

pursuing nuclear disarmament is the path that will most reliably minimize nuclear

risks and enhance international security.

The 21st century will be about managing our planet. History will remember

favorably those countries that respond with a sense of global responsibility. Let us

set upon the realistic and responsible path towards a world without nuclear

weapons. It is a moral responsibility.

Mr. Okada is foreign minister of Japan. Mr. Westerwelle is foreign minister of

Germany.

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