GEORGE TOWN: A Malaysian fighting for nuclear disarmament has criticised the United States government over a recent indication that it is seeking to boost its arsenal.
Ronald McCoy, one of the founders of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said Washington, as well as Moscow, should instead be disarming as an example to other nuclear powers.
Speaking to reporters here who covered his talk on the banning of nuclear weapons recently, he said the US and Russia had between them 93% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
He said he was confident that the other seven countries with nuclear weapons would start disarming if the two superpowers were to lead the way.
“But what is alarming is that the US, in its recent nuclear posture review, indicated that it needed more smaller, usable nuclear weapons in its arsenal,” McCoy said.
“We are extremely worried about this. This is a step in the wrong direction.”
Last year, the ICAN-backed international treaty to ban nuclear weapons received the support of two thirds of the United Nations. Among the countries that did not sign it were the nine known to be nuclear-armed – the US, Russia, Israel, Britain, France, China, North Korea, India and Pakistan.
McCoy described the treaty as the “first big step” towards bringing the world’s attention to the importance of disarmament. He said there was currently a general lack of interest in the issue compared to the attention given to terrorism.
“At least if we make nuclear arms illegal,” he added, “that gives us pushing power. The signatories of the treaty can take the nine countries to the International Court of Justice and tell them to get rid of these nuclear weapons because they are illegal.”
The 87-year-old McCoy, a retired obstetrician from Petaling Jaya, has been campaigning for a ban on nuclear weapons since he was 15, after he had read a book about the catastrophe of Hiroshima. He is often regarded as the driving force of ICAN, a grouping of 468 NGOs. The group received the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
The Nobel committee said ICAN won the award “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition on such weapons”.
McCoy scoffed at the nuclear powers’ claim that they maintained their arsenals as a preventive measure and would use them only in worst-case scenarios.
He spoke of the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s, when there were close calls, and “scores of other incidents” during the Cold War that could have led to a “nuclear war by accident”.
“As long as there are nuclear bombs, one day there will be an accident,” he said.
However, commenting on allegations that North Korea was teetering close to launching a nuclear strike against the US, McCoy said this was unlikely.
He said North Korea was reacting to US provocation and added that only Washington could hold off Pyongyang’s threat.
“When the Americans threaten North Korea, what do you expect it to do? The US carries out military exercises with South Korea along the coast of the Korean peninsula. You do not blame North Korea. You blame the United States of America.”
Architect Lim Chong Keat, who hosted McCoy’s talk, also spoke about the tension between the US and North Korea, saying Pyongyang had shown a better hand in diplomacy than Washington.
“Essentially, what is happening between the two Koreas in the current Pyeongchang Winter Olympics shows how much wiser (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un is compared with (US president) Donald Trump,” he said.
“The Americans have been made out to be stupid in this game of chess.”
He said it would be better for China and Russia, rather than the US, to lead the way towards disarmament.