Liberation Day minus 7742 (log#6)

Aaron Tovish
5 min readMay 23, 2024

[I have created an “Index” of the L-Day logs for your ease of reference. It will be updated with each new log.]

At long last, the letter to Biden and Xi is going out. We felt that it would not be proper to send the letter in English to Xi. It took awhile to get a really good translation; the word “inadmissible” was particuarly challenging. The original suggestion back-translated to “unacceptable”. “Unacceptable” is distinctly weaker than “inadmissible” in that the former is subjective — “I/we find this unacceptible.” — while the latter is objective — “Society/civilization as a whole cannot let this pass.”

The alternative suggestion back-translates as “impermissible”. While this is actually slightly stronger than “inadmissible”, it is better to err toward stronger than weaker! At any rate, here is the English text:

Dear Presidents Xi Jin Ping and Joseph Biden, [and others]:

We welcome the resumption of high level talks between China and the United States on security issues. These talks involve serious issues that require leadership and smart diplomacy.

Escalating tensions and armed conflict involving nuclear-armed States, including the Russian-Ukraine War, are increasing the risk of a nuclear war. This makes progress on nuclear risk reduction measures, including possibilities of no-first-use arrangements, of extreme importance. Mutually agreed nuclear risk reduction measures between China and the US are of the highest importance. It would be even better if other governments could also sign on to them or onto a mutually agreed statement on nuclear risk reduction.

It is within your mutual power to turn the current status of nuclear security talks from lose-lose to win-win.

Indeed, we might say from lose-lose-lose to win-win-win since the security of the entire world hinges on the state of your bilateral affairs when preventing nuclear war is at stake.

The prevention of nuclear war, and hence, nuclear risk reduction, is so important an issue and so critical to the very survival of both China and the US and the rest of the world, that more parochial considerations and considerations of national pride or immediate-term military advantage must not be allowed to derail a process of meaningful dialogue on that subject.

We have recently found two developments encouraging:

- a dialogue had begun on nuclear risk reduction; and

- talks on no first use of nuclear weapons had been proposed.

Both these developments were in line with the January 2022 statement of the NPT NWS leaders and the statement of the G20 leaders in Bali and Delhi, and the more recent G7 in Capri, most notably that, “The use or threat of us of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

These developments need to be continued and built on, not halted, stalled, or reversed.

We are, thus, deeply concerned that:

- China has suspended participant in the risk reduction dialogue; and

- the US has still not taken up the NFU proposal.

We urge the US to take seriously, and to engage meaningfully, with the Chinese NFU proposal first enunciated in Geneva in February.

We urge China to continue with and to engage meaningfully with, proposals from whichever quarter on nuclear risk reduction.

In view of the above, we would like to suggest that, rather than this “if not mine, then not yours” approach, an “all the above” approach should be pursued, that is:

- Risk reduction measures could significantly strengthen a NFU agreement; and

- A NFU agreement would facilitate the achievement of major risk reduction measures.

We might add that heading into the second Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2026 NPT Review Conference, such a bilateral convergence would brighten an otherwise gloomy outlook. It would also put needed pressure on other nuclear armed states to bring their rhetoric into line with the Bali/Delhi stance.

Can we count on you to lay aside what are, in the grand perspective, minor differences for the greater good of your peoples and those of the whole world?

Inaction or paralysis is the greatest enemy here. Please, do not let it triumph. Seize the opportunity.

Signed

Aaron Tovish, Senior Adviser, NoFirstUse Global (former Int’l Campaign Director, Mayors for Peace)

Alyn Ware, World Future Council, Abolition 2000

Marc Finaud, Vice-President, Initiatives for Nuclear Disarmament (France)

Uta Zapf, former chair, Bundestag Committee on Nuclear Weapons,

Carlo Trezza, former Italian Ambassador for Disarmament and Non Proliferation

Prof. Frank Hutchinson, Human Survival Project, Sydney Australia,

Jonathan Granoff, Global Security Institute, NY

John Hallam, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner, People for Nuclear Disarmament

[I encourage you to Google the other signatories if you do not already know their names. Earlier I promised to make my “CV” available; click here and scroll down.]

Will Xi or Biden actually read this letter? Most probably not. Will it be read by anyone in their executive branch? Probably. But we are not banking on this. They, and the other NWS leaders, will listen to States Parties to the NPT, if not at the upcoming PrepCom meeting in Geneva, then on to New York for the final PrepCom in 2025 and the RevCon in 2026.

So this letter will serve as our point of reference when talking to the delegations preparing for the PrepCom. Our advice will be to press for “all of the above” including an issue dear to the hearts of the “non-nuclear-weapon states” (NNWSs): negative security assurances (NSA). Since the indefinite extension of the NPT’s term in force in 1995, NSA have been a topic of discussion and promises, but no legally-binding action. The idea, basically, is that it is inadmissible to threaten or to use nuclear weapons against nations which have renounced their very possession. What could be more straightforward?!

The flaw in the NSA approach is that the impact of nuclear war can be devastating even if you are NOT attacked directly. Thus, it is in the interest of the NNWSs that the NWSs do not attack one another. A muual all-parties, “NSA” is the only way to get “full coverage”. And the NPT review process is the logical setting to advance the “all-the-above/all-parties” approach.

The aim in July, should be the establishment of a open-ended (open to the participation of all parties) working group, to prepare language for consideration of final PrepCom as one of its recommendations to the RevCon. The Xi/Bi letter implicitly sets the stage for this development:

We might add that heading into the second Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2026 NPT Review Conference, such a bilateral convergence would brighten an otherwise gloomy outlook. It would also put needed pressure on other nuclear armed states to bring their rhetoric into line with the Bali/Delhi stance.

If the NWSs stonewall on this issue during this review cycle, they might very well find themselves facing an NPT amendment effort, the way they did with the test ban issue in 1998 (see my CV for the PTBT amendment effort).

And let us hope that the launch of the Score One for Humanity campaign — previewed at UN Headquarters during the 2025 PrepCom — will further encourage countries to provide leadership along these lines.

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