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One nation that abandoned nuclear weapons – South Africa

Unfortunately, South Africa is still the only state that has ever voluntarily dismantled its entire nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear states continue to do lip service to the goal of nuclear disarmament, but little has been achieved in practice. South Africa has illustrated that long-term security can be far better assured by the abrogation of nuclear weapons than by their retention.

flag-S.AfricaSouth Africa: Nation that gave up its nuclear arsenal The solution was not the acquisition of greater military power through the development of nuclear weapons but the abolition of apartheid  Gulf Times, F.W. de Klerk Former president of South Africa December 25, 2013It will be a mistake to think that the end of the Cold War also ended the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed states continue to deploy huge arsenals of nuclear weapons, other states continue with their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and there is the alarming possibility that such weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists. Accordingly, it may be helpful to consider the factors that led South Africa to develop nuclear weapons in the 1970s and the reasons why it decided to dismantle them in 1989…..

Soon after I became president in 1989, foreign minister Pik Botha urged me to take two key steps if we wished to improve South Africa’s relationship with the world: The first was to release Nelson Mandela and the second was to dismantle our nuclear weapons and accede to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). I had already decided to take both the steps. I was determined to begin a process of radical constitutional transformation, which would of necessity require the release of Mandela and the commencement of multiparty constitutional negotiations.

Dismantling South Africa’s nuclear capability and signing the NPT also made sense to me. Nuclear weapons had no value in the kind of border wars South Africa was fighting and the prospect of using them against neighbouring countries was too appalling to be contemplated. Also, by the end of 1989, it had become clear that the world — and South Africa — had changed fundamentally since the mid-1970s……..

. In 1989, as president, I made the decision to dismantle South Africa’s atom bombs. We signed the NPT in July 1991 and concluded a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that September.

Unfortunately, South Africa is still the only state that has ever voluntarily dismantled its entire nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear states continue to do lip service to the goal of nuclear disarmament, but little has been achieved in practice. South Africa has illustrated that long-term security can be far better assured by the abrogation of nuclear weapons than by their retention.

The core of the regional and national threats that confronted South Africa before 1989 did not lie in military weakness, but in escalating tensions between black and white South Africans, arising from apartheid. The solution was not the acquisition of greater military power through the development of nuclear weapons, but the abolition of apartheid and the negotiation of a new non-racial constitution.

The international community must take concrete steps to control, and finally eliminate, nuclear weapons as a thinkable option. This will require greater support for the NPT and more rapid movement by existing nuclear weapons states towards the reduction and dismantling of their stockpiles. The world should realise that real security does not lie in increasing power to destroy others; it lies in one’s ability to live with others on the basis of peace and justice.http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/south-africa-nation-that-gave-up-its-nuclear-arsenal-1.1270778

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December 27, 2013 - Posted by | South Africa, weapons and war

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