EDITORIAL: Problems beyond solutions
THERE ARE SOME ISSUES that continue to dominate the global diplomatic and political landscape, and yet no one country seems able to pull together a final solution to the very problems that threaten to destroy us.Take for example the situation in the Middle East. With peace plans and envoys coming and going practically every month, Israelis and Palestinians alike have finally become blasé about the chances of a final settlement. The two-state solution is rapidly losing its appeal.The other burning issue is nuclear weapons. These represent the greatest threat to mankind, yet no one country is willing to rid itself of its nuclear arsenal whilst doing everything to prevent other countries from acquiring them. Those without obviously feel threatened.It is clear that these weapons constitute the real levers of power and it is not surprising some states will do anything to acquire them. In April, the United States and Russia, which together hold nearly 95 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons, signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.This treaty caps the two countries’ deployed warheads at 1,550 or 30 per cent below the levels agreed in the 2002 Moscow Treaty, although it does not require actual destruction of the shelved warheads. The concern is what is done to them. Later in April, the United States announced its Nuclear Posture Review, which indicated that nuclear weapons should play a diminished role in its military strategy and that it would not develop any “new nuclear weapons”. However, the United States refused to adopt a “no-first-use” policy but pledged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and are in compliance with all obligations under the treaty.At the same time, 47 countries adopted, at a nuclear security summit, a 12-point communiqué to strengthen nuclear security, reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. In May, 189 countries at the United Nations NPT Review Conference reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and agreed to hold a regional conference in 2012 that would eliminate weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Despite the momentum for a nuclear weapons-free world, the nuclear non-proliferation remains difficult in East Asia. North Korea has not shown any sign of returning to the six-party talks to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. The situation in Iran – an NPT member – is unfolding although it seems that sanctions are having the desired effect. Unfortunately, it is used to this situation – so it has to be a long-term strategy.The consensus is that Japan, the United States and South Korea should keep trying to get North Korea to return to the talks and to change the attitude of China, which chairs those talks and maintains close ties with Pyongyang.