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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 31, October 1998

UN Disarmament Symposium

'Concept of de-alerting nuclear weapons discussed by disarmament symposium at headquarters,' United Nations Press Release DC/2617, 30 October 1998

"Disarmament week, which concludes today, was inaugurated on 26 October by the Department for Disarmament Affairs with a Symposium on the de-alerting of nuclear weapons. The Symposium, which was informal, was open to members of permanent missions to the United Nations and representatives of interested organizations. It was held at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.

The Symposium was moderated by Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala, who, in his opening remarks, noted that the concept of de-alerting, though an important step to reduce dramatically the chance of an accidental or unauthorized launch of nuclear weapons, is just beginning to find its place on the international disarmament agenda. He also noted that the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) had devoted a recent issue of its newsletter to the subject.

The Symposium consisted of presentations by four keynote speakers, who spoke in their personal capacity: Bruce Blair, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Department of the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.; Guennadi Yevstafiev, Consultant to the National Security Council of the Russian Federation; and M. V. Ramana and Zia Mian, both Research Associates at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies of Princeton University.

Each speaker explored the issue from a variety of perspectives. In the course of their presentations and the question period that followed, a wide range of problems was examined, including the following: verification, the impact of advances in science and technology, political feasibility, linkage to non-first use, de-alerting in the context of South Asia, strategic, philosophical and moral issues, and the question of whether its aim is to serve as a stepping stone to nuclear disarmament or to make nuclear deterrence safe.

The Symposium is the first of a series that the Department for Disarmament Affairs will hold in the coming months with the aim of broadening the understanding of the international community regarding critical and emerging issues in the arms limitation and disarmament agenda."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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