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Robson Welcomes Russian Move On Start II

Russia’s ratification of the START II agreement opens the gate for new advances in the push towards nuclear disarmament, Disarmament Minister Matt Robson said today.

Under START II, the United States and Russia have agreed to reduce their deployed arsenal of strategic nuclear warheads. The agreement was signed in 1993 and ratified by the US Senate in 1996.

Mr Robson said it was good news that after several difficult years the Russian Duma (parliament) had decided to complete the deal.

“This latest step forward opens the way for possibly much deeper cuts in the US and Russian arsenals of deployed strategic nuclear weapons,” he said.

“It would be good news too if this breakthrough between Moscow and Washington could infect other disarmament negotiations with some new energy and enthusiasm. I’ve been very disappointed to discover the stalemate afflicting much of the multilateral work in recent years,” Mr Robson said.

Nevertheless, Mr Robson cautioned that the agreed cuts needed to be permanent, and the weapons dismantled and not just stored, which is all that was agreed under START II.

“Tactical weapons must be brought into the negotiations and cut back too. The other nuclear weapons states can do more, and, sadly, there are some Governments who still have to decide to turn back from the nuclear path,” he said.

Mr Robson will have a chance to press his views on those issues when he attends the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York at the end of April.

As well as delivering New Zealand’s main statement at the opening sessions, Mr Robson said he would be supporting the Mexican Foreign Minister’s delivery of a statement on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition.

BACKGROUND

START II is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia, and it was signed in 1993. It provides for reductions in strategic warheads in the deployed arsenals of both countries, down to 3000-3500 on each side. These reductions must take place by 2007. The START Treaties, however, do not commit the parties to actual destruction of the surplus warheads.

START III negotiations are now expected to begin this year, with 2007 a target date for completion. The US has signalled a willingness to negotiate warhead numbers down to 2500-3000; Russia might seek to go lower, to 1500 on each side.

New Zealand is an active member of the New Agenda Coalition for nuclear disarmament, which was formed in 1998. It also includes Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Sweden and Ireland.

The Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Review Conference takes place every five years, and this year runs from 24 April to 19 May. New Zealand’s delegation will include officials from Wellington, our Disarmament Ambassador based in Geneva, our Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, and UN Mission staff based in New York. An NGO adviser, Mr Alyn Ware of Tauranga, will also be part of the delegation.

ENDS

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