Update: U.S. Skips Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons
Disappointing, as there evidently was consideration within the Administration about going to the Mexico conference, but not all that surprising they are skipping it. We aren’t though, Alicia Godsberg, e.d. of Peace Action of NY State, is there and we look forward to her reports.
The Hill, February 13, 2014, 02:08 pm
Obama knocked for skipping nuke conference
By Julian Pecquet
The Obama administration is skipping a nuclear arms conference for the second time in a row, irritating arms-control advocates.
The U.S. and the four other original nuclear states – Russia, China, France and Britain – are all boycotting this week’s meeting in Mexico because of concerns that it could be used as a forum to push for the elimination of their stockpiles. All five also declined to send a delegation to the inaugural Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held last year in Oslo.
“The absence of the five original nuclear weapons states in Mexico will only deepen the frustration of the nonnuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of progress toward the fulfillment of the nuclear-weapon states disarmament commitments,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “Rather than dismiss or boycott conferences on the topic, the United States should actively participate and join other nations in a statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.”
Kimball said the goal of the conference was never to launch negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban, since it would never go anywhere without the participation of nuclear-armed states anyway. Rather, the purpose is to highlight the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.
The decision to skip the conference comes as the Obama administration prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his historic speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons – rhetoric that helped get him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The administration strongly denied Thursday that the president was backsliding on those goals.
“After careful consideration, the United States has decided not to attend Mexico’s February 13-14 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Our decision does not indicate any lessening support for nuclear disarmament,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told The Hill in an email.
“We continue to take very seriously the consequences of nuclear weapons use,” Harf said. “It is in our interest, as well as the interest of all nations, to extend the nearly 70-year record of nuclear weapons non-use forever. We remain committed to practical step-by-step disarmament and will continue to take steps toward securing a world without nuclear weapons.”
Harf pointed to the elimination of 85 percent of the U.S. nuclear stockpile since its Cold War peak and and the recent New START Treaty with Russia as signs of progress. She added that Obama has “reaffirmed his desire to take additional steps along the path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons” and that this would be a topic of discussion during next month’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
While the Obama administration’s decision to skip the conference has been discrete, in Britain by contrast it has set off a firestorm of criticism against Prime Minister David Cameron from lawmakers on all sides.
“We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not [going]”, The Guardian quoted former Defense minister and chairman of the defense committee James Arbuthnot as saying.
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