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Bid to inspect nuclear arsenals ‘risks path to global security’

The more ambitious countries of the Nuclear Security Summit could influence the others to cooperate ahead of the next event in 2016.

THE HAGUE // Moves to inspect military nuclear stockpiles could disrupt the path to global security because secretive states may not cooperate, experts warn.

But it is hoped that the more ambitious countries of the Nuclear Security Summit could influence the others ahead of the next gathering in 2016.

“There’s a grouping of countries like Pakistan, which is very secretive about everything dealing with its nuclear programme because they have internal threats,” said Paul Wilke, a senior research fellow at The Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

“For China, they also want to see best international standards and that’s a matter of time, but I think there’s a grouping of countries who know what they want and now we have to draw more countries into that assembly.”

John Bernhard, Denmark’s former ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the smaller, more ambitious group of states was not unusual in international affairs. “They are ready to go a little faster than the others and very often it has the consequence that most of the others will follow suit,” he said.

“So I think it’s a positive thing that some countries are a bit more ambitious now and hopefully that will influence the others who, after all, in the communique basically subscribed to the same things but are not ready for more concrete commitments.”

Mr Wilke said reaching an agreement would be “very difficult and slow”. He said: “When you start them today, it will be a miracle if you finish them in five years’ time so we have to find other solutions in the meantime.”

But the focus on nuclear military stockpiles might delay the process.

Mr Bernhard said there had been a lot of discussion about preventing the production of nuclear material for military use.

“Perhaps we should be a little less ambitious and start with an inventory where countries can say how much nuclear military material they have,” he said.

The next step should be to assess the amount of such materials in these countries, he said.

“That would be the beginning and, from there the nuclear weapon states could agree to apply higher standards to their military stocks,” he said.

“Nuclear weapon states among themselves would coordinate closely. They do at the moment, like between the US and Pakistan.”

Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Washington, said there was much these states could learn from each other. “A lot of highly enriched uranium is used, such as in nuclear submarines in the US,” he said. “But some use it and some don’t, like France and China, so there are lessons they can learn from each other.”

Shin Chang-hoon, the director of the Asan Nuclear Policy and Technology Centre, said some of the more secretive states could stop attending the summits if their military stockpiles were subjected to scrutiny.

“That’s why I am really accepting the concept of incremental approaches,” said Mr Shin.

Published: March 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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