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Letter to Helen Clark

8 March 2002

Rt. Hon. Helen Clark,
Office of the Prime Minister,
Parliament Buildings,
Wellington 1

Dear Helen,

We are writing with regard to your planned meeting with President Bush on 26th. March and the possible issues that will be arising in your discussions with him.

A number of actions and statements emanating from the US administration in recent months have been causing us strong concern and we wish to address a few of them.

The President's recent statement applied the "Axis of Evil" label to North Korea, Iran and Iraq. It has already been criticised by the South Koreans, as it undermines a major reconciliation initiative by them, and by others as being likely to increase insecurity and have a generally destabilising effect.

We noted that you questioned the inclusion of Iran in that trio and would sincerely hope that during your meeting you will be expressing the view that the statement and supporting philosophy are likely to have a significant, counter-productive effect internationally in terms of advancing peace and security.

President Bush also signalled an escalation of US policy from a so-called 'war on terrorism' to threatened military aggression in order to topple governments for their suspected acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. This raises the question as to why is it acceptable for some governments (ie India, Israel, Pakistan, and the P5) to have nuclear weapons, but not others. New Zealand must not risk losing its international credibility on nuclear disarmament and peace by apparently condoning this policy through its silence.

Secondly we, along with many others internationally, are very alarmed by the administration's intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. It is, as you will know, a cornerstone Treaty in the disarmament and non-proliferation field - a major arms control accord. The likely consequences of this action are deeply troubling and we live in hope that this move will not receive Senate approval. We are very gratified by Senator Kucinich's moves to oppose this withdrawal.

Similarly we have strong concerns about US attitudes towards the CTBT, the Biological and Toxin Weapons convention, its lone voice opposition to the UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit and Small Arms etc.

A copy of the Middle Powers Initiative's Aide Memoire was recently sent by the Disarmament and Security Centre to MFAT and Tim Caughley. You may find it useful to refer to in your discussions, in particular:-

a) Nuclear testing - you may wish to commend the US for its restraint as regards testing and encourage ratification of the CTBT.

b) Fissile material control. This is vital given the concerns about possible terrorist acquisition of fissile material - a concern that President Bush would probably share. Negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament are stalled, but those already with moratoria on fissile material production could develop an agreement outside the CD which would affirm a ban on production and develop an inventory of current holdings.

c) Launch on warning. What is urgently needed is for the US and Russia to stand down their strategic nuclear forces from launch-on-warning - a much simpler process than de-alerting.

We are therefore urging you to raise these issues with the President, representing the concerns not only of New Zealanders but many in the international community and, in so doing, continue the role that this country has established for itself as an international promoter of the cause of peace.

With best wishes.

Marion Hancock (Co-ordinator)
Peace Foundation.

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