Control Nuclear Weapons or Risk New Hiroshima: Evans

  • AUTHORBrad Norington, The Australian
  • Oct 21, 2008

Control nuclear weapons or risk new Hiroshima: Evans

Brad Norington | October 21, 2008

THE world was headed for another Hiroshima or worse because of the risk of miscalculation or accident, the head of Kevin Rudd's new Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament said yesterday.

Gareth Evans, the commission's co-chair, said inadequate controls applied to at least 16,000 atomic warheads actively deployed around the world.

And further dangers lay ahead because of the threat of lost or stolen nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

A particular risk was crude devices known as "dirty bombs" that could ravage cities and kill 100,000 people.

"If we don't get this right, we face a catastrophe on a massive scale," Mr Evans said.

The former foreign minister in the Hawke and Keating governments was speaking after the commission's first meeting yesterday in Sydney, attended by 11 of its 15 members.

The commission began discussions on an ambitious long-term goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

The Prime Minister appointed the commission in June after proposing the idea to Japan's former prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda.

The commission will make recommendations on a new anti-proliferation and disarmament treaty to be canvassed at a world conference in 2010.

Japan's former foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, who co-chairs the commission, kicked off the meeting with Mr Evans at Sydney's Intercontinental Hotel.

Other political heavyweights present included former US defence secretary William Perry, Indonesia's former foreign minister Ali Alatas, former Russian politician and nuclear arms expert Alexei Arbatov and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo.

Mr Evans said the dangers of nuclear arms had been largely overlooked as public attention was distracted by climate change and the world financial crisis.

But he said the main obstacle to disarmament remained complacency by the US and Russia, which had lost interest since the end of the Cold War.

Difficulties ahead included how to prevent nations developing nuclear weapons after India and Pakistan, claiming their own deterrent needs, had joined Israel outside the international treaty arrangements.

Mr Evans said he supported the recent downgrading of North Korea's status as a danger to nuclear proliferation.

But Mr Evans rated Iran's program for the development of nuclear weapons under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a high-risk category. "Iran is a hell of a lot different," he said.

Mr Evans, Australia's foreign minister from 1988 to 1996, is now president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.