PM Brown calls for increased global commitment to disarmament

On March 17 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered a speech before the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference at Lancaster House in London. Expanding the agenda of the upcoming G20 Summit beyond repairing the global economy, he emphasized the need to take a “broader view” and work to establish a “new global society.” Central to this proposal was for nations to cooperate in reducing nuclear arsenals.

The Prime Minister explained how the growing number of states with nuclear weapons increases the risk of proliferation to terrorist organizations. To counter this threat, he announced that the United Kingdom will embark on a ‘Road to 2010’ Plan, a reference to the upcoming 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The Plan, which he hopes to publish this summer, will include “detailed proposals on civil nuclear power, disarmament and non-proliferation, on fissile material security and the role and development of the [International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA].”

Brown said that under the NPT, all states with nuclear weapons are required to gradually reduce their arsenals: “We are not asking non-nuclear states to refrain from proliferation while nuclear weapons states amass new weapons. We are asking them not to proliferate while nuclear weapons states take steps to reduce their own arsenals in line with the [NPT]’s requirements.” He suggested the creation of regional civilian nuclear organizations, which would work in conjunction with an international body, to ensure access to civilian nuclear technology while reducing and preventing proliferation risks.

While Brown was conciliatory toward states that cooperate with the NPT, he advocated stronger measures against those who violate it, singling out Iran. He advocated for the imposition of sanctions against NPT member states who failed to cooperate with the IAEA. Such a measure would impose a much stricter regime than the one currently in place. His remarks were in line with his previous staunch criticism of Iran’s nuclear program. But the Prime Minister made clear in today’s speech, “Iran has the same absolute right to a peaceful nuclear programme – civil nuclear programme – as any other country.”

To prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear material, he said that “universally implemented international standards for the protection of fissile material” would be necessary. To this end he announced that the United Kingdom would be doubling its contribution to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund.

Brown concluded with a general call to disarmament. He urged the United States and Russia to make drastic cuts in their nuclear arsenals, and also advocated a “multilateral agenda” which would include negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty and universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Prime Minister has previously expressed support for President Obama’s plan to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. However, 10 Downing Street has refused to abandon Trident, with Brown noting in today’s address, “For future submarines our latest assessment is that we can meet this requirement with 12 – not 16 – missile tubes as are on current submarines” and added, “If it is possible to reduce the number of UK warheads further, consistent with our national deterrence and with the progress of multilateral discussions, Britain will be ready to do so.”

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