New momentum for disarmament

Anniversaries bring action on nukes

SEVENTY years ago, a US aircraft flew from Tinian Island in the northern Marianas to the Japanese city of Hiroshima. On 6 August 1945, the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the undefended city, massacring tens of thousands of civilians. The use of nuclear weapons led to the Cold War arms race and the development of nuclear arsenals across the globe.

The 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has particular importance for our region. For fifty years between 1946 and 1996, the United States, Britain and France developed their nuclear arsenals in Oceania, with more than 315 nuclear weapons tests conducted in Australia and the Pacific islands.

This month’s anniversary parallels other important milestones in the Pacific campaign for nuclear disarmament: the 30th anniversary of the French terrorist attack against the Rainbow Warrior in July 1985, and the 30th anniversary of the Rarotonga Treaty for a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ), first signed on Hiroshima day, 6 August 1985.

Nuclear testing at Moruroa atoll ended in 1996, but the lingering health and environmental impacts of US, UK and French nuclear testing have reinforced regional support for international efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. While climate change remains the central focus for regional environmental security, there has been a recent revival of disarmament campaigning.

Since 2013, Pacific officials have been active at three international conferences in Norway, Mexico and Austria, focusing on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Pacific affiliates of the Red Cross / Red Crescent movement and other civil society groups have also renewed disarmament campaigning, recognising the ongoing threat posed by nuclear arsenals.

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