On Friday, January 18th, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke before a private audience at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. Concentrating on nuclear nonproliferation, Secretary Ban stressed the importance of escalating nonproliferation activity worldwide, and the dangers of delaying or slowing disarmament progress. “The longer we delay,” Ban stated, “the greater the risk that these weapons will be used, these weapons will proliferate and even terrorists may acquire these nuclear bombs and materials.” Ban also stressed that the aim of nations and global organizations must be more than keeping nuclear weapons out of the wrong hands, arguing that “there are no right hands for wrong weapons.”
Ban expressed concern over the ease with which some countries are capable of circumventing UN policy regulation to delay or halt disarmament and nonproliferation progress. The Secretary General called upon major nuclear-armed states such as the U.S. and Russia to re-engage in dialogue, not just with each other but with all nuclear-armed nations, followed by deep and verified cuts in their nuclear stockpiles. According to Ban, the United States and Russia have not adapted their nuclear agenda to the modern global situation, instead remaining mired in Cold War-era perceptions of conflict.
In particular, Secretary Ban stated he was “deeply concerned” over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, and the lack of progress in nuclear talks with both nations. This concern resonates strongly in light of the recent setbacks in talks between UN nuclear inspectors and the Iranian government, and North Korea’s withdrawal from nuclear talks in protest of the latest round of UN sanctions launched in reaction to Pyongyang’s December rocket launch. Ban recounted his visit to Iran last August, wherein he urged spiritual and political leaders to take concrete steps to reassure the international community of the peaceful nature of their nuclear program. To accomplish this, Ban called on the Iranian leadership to cooperate with organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), permit inspections of their nuclear facilities, and comply with UN Security Council resolutions.
Secretary General Ban likewise urged North Korea to peacefully comply with Security Council regulations. Secretary Ban believes that the recent leadership transitions in Northeast Asian nations such as Japan, China and South Korea will help galvanize new opportunities to pursue dialogue with Pyongyang, which itself has recently experienced a dynamic change in leadership. “I encourage the new leadership in Pyongyang to build confidence with neighboring countries and address the concerns of the international community,” Ban said.
Secretary General Ban concluded his speech by strongly emphasizing the importance of increased disarmament education efforts between the UN and world academic organizations via the UN Academic Impact initiative. “The goal must be to learn how to think, not what to think,” Ban stated as he outlined the merits of online educational courses capable of reaching a massive world-wide audience. Ban congratulated and thanked the Monterey Institute for joining Academic Impact, and called on the students present to lead the way in ensuring a safer, denuclearized future. “The world needs your skills and your commitment, especially in disarmament and nonproliferation issues,” Ban said. “They are part of the United Nations’ very identity.”