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On this day in 1945, the second atomic bomb was dropped on a Japanese city.


Only President Truman’s intervention, together with Secretary Stimson, prevented the dropping of further bombs on more Japanese cities including Kyoto. The plane that dropped the bomb nearly didn’t get to Nagasaki – on the way, the firing mechanism for the bomb started to count down, and it took technical intervention to prevent the plane itself from being vaporised in midair. Nagasaki itself wasn't the original target – that had been Kokura, which was hidden under massive smoke clouds. The targeting of the bomb wasn't optimal, so the body count was just over half of that at Hiroshima. Finally, the plane nearly didn't make it back to a US airfield, almost running out of fuel, and landing in a place where they weren't expected. The bombing of Nagasaki narrowly escaped being a fiasco.


But....from a strictly US point of view.. it wasn't. The statue of Mary, retrieved from the Nagasaki cathedral, completely destroyed by the blast, appears to weep. Well she might.


The situation with nuclear weapons right now is as grim as it has ever been. The hands of the 'doomsday clock', a rough measure of how one group of nobel prizewinners and nuclear policy experts view the risk of a civilization-ending nuclear apocalypse, were set to 2 minutes to 'midnight', as close as they have ever been, back in January 2018. Since then, the situation has deteriorated still further, with the demise of the INF Treaty being merely the most recent of a series of moves largely by Presidents Trump and Putin, that make the unthinkable thinkable. The only reason that the Doomsday clock-hands don't move further is that they are running out of minutes.


Directly connected with the recent demise of the INF, and reinforcing analyses that suggest the real reason the US wanted 'out' of its restrictions on intermediate (500-5,500Km range), has been a statement by new Defence Secretary Esper, to the effect that he wants to deploy missiles in that INF- violating range in the 'Asia-Pacific' region.


Our region. Also the region of the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone,(SPNWFZ) of which Australia is a signatory.


Esper hasn't even mentioned the SPNWFZ, nor how he thinks the deployment of of intermediate range nuclear missiles might impact it. He's probably never heard of it. Someone needs to tell him that large parts/most of the 'Asia-Pacific' region is out of bounds to nuclear weapons under a treaty signed by the Governments thereof, and that the US has said it will respect that. Or maybe such 'technicalities' no longer matter.


As a signatory of SPNWFZ, one would have thought the Australian Government might just mention it to him, but it seems that at the recent Ausmin talks here in Sydney, we haven't been tactless enough – or honest enough – to do so.


The Australian Government has also not definitively ruled out the stationing of intermediate range nuclear weapons here in Australia. What they have said is that we 'haven’t been asked'. But if we 'haven’t been asked' then how on earth did it come up at all at the recent Ausmin talks? Why is it even on the agenda? Why was it widely reported by Australian media? And if we haven't even been asked, doesn’t that make it all the easier to definitively rule it out, by saying, 'you haven't asked us this, and please don't do so'?


To reiterate a previous statement, the stationing of any such weapons on Australian soil would not just violate SPNWFZ, but would put the lives of every Australian in jeopardy by making the weapons themselves nuclear targets for Russia, China, and the DPRK, and by making Australian cities targets – if the presence of missiles on US naval assets visiting/using Australian naval bases, largely located in major cities doesn’t already do so.


There are highly informed experts who believe that naval facilities located in our cities are ALREADY targeted for this reason, and have been so since the '80s. But even if this is not so, the presence of US nuclear missiles makes it more likely.


Hosting US intermediate range nuclear missiles does nothing to solve any Australian security problem. It merely makes us a likely target for the DPRK, Russia and China, at whom the missiles would be aimed. It violates the SPNWFZ Treaty and makes it all the more likely that in the event of the unthinkable becoming thinkable millions of Australians (as distinct from mere tens or hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) will be instantly vaporised.


Instead of entertaining this unbelievably bad idea for even one second Australia should:


--Press home and make much more of the modest representations we have been making thus far on nuclear risk reduction. Nuclear risk reduction might just mean the difference between civilisation ending abruptly in the next 1-2 decades and it not doing so. Nuclear risk reduction includes measures like lowering operational readiness, no first use, improved mil to mil communication, and exchange of missile launch data. Not exciting, not radical, but it just might prevent the end of the world.


--Sign, ratify, and strenuously lobby others including especially the nuclear weapon states themselves, to sign ratify and implement, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) otherwise known as the 'Ban Treaty'. If there are no nuclear weapon we can't have an (accidental or otherwise) nuclear war.


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

UN Nuclear Weapons Campaigner

Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group

Australian Coordinator,

Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND)



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