Friday, June 08, 2012

25 years nuclear-free

Today is a significant anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, on 8 June 1987, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 became law.

The law bans the acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons within New Zealand. Not that that was ever likely, but its good to have it written down. More importantly, it bans the stationing and transit of nuclear weapons, and prohibits visits from nuclear-powered vessels. It thus marked a decisive break with the Cold War mentality which saw nuclear weapons as security rather than a threat to humanity. This caused an immediate crisis with the United States, and caused it to reveal its true face as a bullying hegemon interested primarily in keeping its vassals in line. But it has since become part of the bedrock of our foreign policy. Even the National party, always an eager servant of foreign powers (first Britain, then America), has come to accept it, and its repeal today is unthinkable.

But twenty-five years on, there is still work to be done. While the threat of their use has receded, the world still has nuclear weapons. We need to speak up louder for their elimination. We also need to further encourage the expansion of regional nuclear-weapons-free zones, particularly in the Middle East and Europe. Kiwis still want a nuclear-free world; our government should work for that.