Nuclear build-up in Asia causing concern

Nuclear build-up in Asia causing concern
The child of an Indian member of the Jaitapur Anuveej Prakalpvirodhi Abhiyan, the Campaign against Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project, waves a Communist party flag during a protest in Mumbai on October 21, 2013. Opposition to a proposed nuclear power station at Jaitapur, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Mumbai has hardened since the Japanese nuclear crisis, with concerns about the impact on the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen, as well as pollution and the location of the plant, which environmentalists say is in an earthquake-prone zone.

ASIA must be the focus of nuclear disarmament as the region has become increasingly dangerous due to growing proliferation, participants at a two-day nuclear security conference said.

They pointed to several sources of concern, such as China, India and Pakistan building up their nuclear arsenals, as well as Iran's and North Korea's aggressive nuclear ambitions.

A key reason for this nuclear build-up, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans noted, is the old Cold War mindset among some policymakers, who believe in acquiring more nuclear arms as a security guarantee in an uncertain environment.

He added: "Asia is particularly worth emphasising because it is only here in the world that nuclear stockpiling is increasing."

It was high time that the world pushed for disarmament, said Mr Evans, who is chancellor of the Australian National University and leads the Asia Pacific Leadership Network (APLN) on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

He cited a 1996 Canberra Commission report that said so long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them.

It added that "the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity by any state and never used accidentally or by decision defies credibility" and warned that "any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic".

The risks of such weapons being used are huge, including miscalculation, human and system error and cyber and other sabotage, said Mr Evans on Wednesday, the second day of the conference.

"It's sheer dumb luck that no nuclear catastrophe has occurred and this is not the result of statesmanship," he added.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani argued that the two leading nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, must set an example "with deeds, not words" in persuading Asian countries to disarm.

"They must show the way by reducing their nuclear weapons even more and also by demonstrating that they no longer rely on nuclear weapons," said the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and an APLN member.

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