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Abolish Nukes--It's Too Late for Control

Disarmament: As long as any state has nuclear weapons, nonproliferation is doomed.

July 07, 1998|STANLEY K. SHEINBAUM and ALICE SLATER | Stanley K. Sheinbaum, a former UC regent, spent 10 years on the oversight committee of UC's Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories. Alice Slater is president of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment

The shock waves caused by India's and Pakistan's nuclear breakout is a terrifying reminder that the U.S. addiction to nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of its military policy, coupled with its bankrupt efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, is an utterly failed policy. North Korea has also been rattling its nuclear sabers, indicating that it may break its promise to forgo the nuclear weapons option.

India's nuclear tests took place on the heels of a deadlock in Geneva in early May at a Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting, during which the U.S. blocked a proposal merely to discuss nuclear disarmament as a special topic. The treaty group met for two weeks to review progress on promises given by the nuclear weapons states to eliminate nuclear weapons and ended its meeting at midnight on May 8 at an impasse.

On May 11, India decided to join the nuclear club. The Indian government announced on the day it began its nuclear tests that it "would like to reiterate its support of efforts to realize the goal of a truly comprehensive international arrangement which would prohibit underground nuclear testing of all weapons as well as related experiments described as 'subcritical' [not great enough to cause a thermonuclear reaction] or 'hydronuclear' [not greater than the equivalent of four pounds of TNT]." India also affirmed its commitment "to a speedy process of nuclear disarmament leading to total and global elimination of nuclear weapons."

The conventional response of Congress and the media to India's unwelcome entry into the nuclear club has been to urge ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But this avenue offers no hope for stemming the frightening spread of nuclear weapons. Ratification of the test-ban treaty without further disarmament measures ignores the issues raised by India when it announced its nuclear test. India's ambassador to the U.N., Arundhati Ghose, gave ample warning of India's intentions in 1996, when she stated that India would not be a party to the test-ban treaty because the treaty only prohibited "explosive" testing and that the nuclear weapons states, which had "already completed their programs of explosive testing .J.J. are well placed to exploit the lessons learned

The United States has conducted three subcritical tests as part of a 13-year, $60-billion "stockpile stewardship" program, enabling our weapons labs to design new nuclear bombs in computer-simulated virtual reality. India said that its recent nuclear tests were conducted to prepare for its own subcritical testing program.

The very possession of nuclear weapons by any state is an invitation to other states to acquire them. To deal with these new catastrophes, the U.S. must call India's bluff by abandoning its failed policy of reliance on nuclear weapons. We need to close the Nevada test site, cancel all our nuclear weapons research, design and testing programs and invite all nuclear weapons states to begin immediate negotiations on an international treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.

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