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Pacific’s nuclear stand after US, France testing

Nuclear states have been called on to implement their disarmament obligations and join the wave of support toward creating a nuclear-free world.

Fijian Prime Minister and chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Voreqe Bainimarama delivered a joint statement of Parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and the Pacific Islands Forum to the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the UN General Assembly in New York.

It was an emotional statement as the Pacific leader recalled his father’s exposure to the testing as a naval officer.

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. The U.S. conducted 23 of these tests at Bikini Atoll, and 44 near Enewetak Atoll, but fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands.

New study on nuclear testing in French Polynesia reveals France’s ‘censorship and secrecy’. More than 400 claims have been filed against the French Government for nuclear tests on French Polynesia between 1966 and 1996. Scientists say about 110,000 people have been affected by radioactive fallout.

Prime Minister and chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Voreqe Bainimarama has called on nuclear states to implement their disarmament obligations. Picture: Fijian Government

Mr Bainimarama urged states with nuclear weapons to put forward comprehensive and transparent reports on their disarmament efforts and it must be designed to point away from any new technology that would make these weapons more effective, efficient, powerful, or easier for more parties to acquire.

“Our commitment to a Pacific that is free of nuclear weapons is defining for our region. This is a commitment that I have also made as a Prime Minister but it is also a personal commitment that I have made as a son as I have waited a lifetime for someone to take responsibility for deliberately exposing my late father, Ratu Inoke Bainimarama, and the sailors he commanded, to the testing of a nuclear bomb,” he said.

“We are deeply concerned by increases in nuclear weapons stockpiles, modernisation programmes, the development of new types of weapons, and reductions in transparency.”

“We strongly call on all nuclear-weapon States to implement their nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT and honour the commitments they have made, including those emanating from the NPT Review Conferences,” he added.

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Mr Bainimarama said the Rarotonga Treaty included a specific provision requiring parties to support the continued effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system based on the NPT and the IAEA safeguards system.

“In including this provision, we recognised the interplay between the three pillars of the NPT and the importance of each of them. Our commitment to them stands today,” he said.

“We see the Treaty of Rarotonga as a living document and a symbol of our region’s long-standing opposition to nuclear weapons.

“We stand together ready to support your efforts at this Review Conference, in support of a credible, ambitious outcome, that reflects the ongoing importance of the NPT to the peace and security of our region and the world.”

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres shared similar sentiments, calling on nations to put humanity on a new path toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

UN meeting on nuclear disarmament in New York. Nuclear states have been called on to implement their disarmament obligations and join the wave of support toward creating a nuclear-free world. Picture: Fijian Government

He said that humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.

Mr Bainimarama said that as long as the nuclear powers maintain these arsenals, no one can sleep soundly.

“Generations of Pacific Islanders have waited in vain for an apology; for health support; for reassurances that there will be no repeat of testing, for reassurances that there will be no waste disposal; and for reaffirmations that nuclear weapons will never be deployed in the Blue Pacific again,” he said.

“Mothers of deformed babies in the Marshall Islands, have waited. Families in French Polynesia who have lost loved ones too soon, have waited. We are still waiting.”

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