PIF chair reflects on painful legacy of nuclear testing, calls for disarmament


Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) chair Dr Satyendra Prasad said he was concerned about the more than 13,000 nuclear weapons around the world, many of which remain in a state of ‘high operational alert’.

The Fiji Permanent Representative to the UN made his remarks before the UNGA76 plenary on Tuesday to commemorate the international day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

“Our Blue Pacific encompasses ocean space and land territory of significant maritime and geostrategic influence,” Prasad said.

“We re-emphasise our determination to ensure that the bounty and beauty of the ocean space, land territory and the airspace above them shall remain the heritage of our peoples and our descendants in perpetuity to be enjoyed by all in peace.”

Prasad said that universal disarmament was the highest priority of the forum and called on the nine nations — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea — which controlled an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons, to accede to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

“For us, the ongoing struggle with the legacy of nuclear testing, from transboundary contamination of homes and habitats to higher numbers of birth defects and cancers, vests in the Pacific both a legal right and moral standing to demand that nuclear weapon states commit to their respective disarmament obligations under international law,” Prasad said.

“We recall concerns about the environmental impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor accident in 2011 and we are accelerating efforts to prevent harm to our Blue Pacific. We acknowledge Japan’s efforts to date and its engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

The PIF chair also underscored concern about the fact that most nuclear weapons around the world were in a state of ‘high operational alert’.

The PIF considered its regional nuclear weapons-free zone safeguard as supporting the common global goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, Prasad added, noting that 2021 marked 35 years since the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty (Rarotonga Treaty) came into force.

“Four of the nuclear weapon states have signed and ratified the protocols to the Rarotonga Treaty and the United States announced in 2010 its intention to ratify all Protocols to the Treaty. We call on the United States to take the necessary steps toward the ratification of the said Protocols,” Prasad said.

This year also marks 50 years since the PIF came into being and 25 years since the cessation of nuclear testing in the Pacific region. Forum member nations include Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Dr Prasad concluded by underscoring the legal obligations of states to prevent radioactive nuclear waste, and other radioactive material, from being dumped into the ocean.

“With growing interest in nuclear energy as a form of clean energy, we strongly urge all states to fully comply with the NPT safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities, and all related international law obligations, to ensure to the highest safety levels the prevention of any risk or harm to our ocean and our Blue Pacific, particularly from radioactive disasters that result in the transboundary spread of radioactive material and radioactive waste,” Prasad said.