Chennai, February 27, 2018 (With inputs from Reuters): New Zealand’s Prime Minister on Tuesday used her first major foreign policy address to announce she is establishing a ministerial position for disarmament amid tensions in the Asia-Pacific region over North Korea’s weapons programs.
Jacinda Ardern, whose Labour-led government took the helm in October, said that her Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters would take up the new cabinet role.
“Risks to global peace and security are growing. The greatest challenge we have today comes from North Korea, situated right here in our region,” she told a foreign affairs conference in the capital, Wellington.
On Friday, the United States announced that it was imposing its largest package of sanctions yet aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
The US intensifies the MAXIMUM pressure on North Korea to denuclearize. Two weeks ago in Japan, at @POTUS’ direction, I announced the US would impose the toughest & most aggressive economic sanctions on North Korea ever. Today, @POTUS delivered.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 23, 2018
Then on Monday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ called for a new global effort to get rid of nuclear weapons, drawing a cautious response from envoys of atomic-armed powers at odds for decades over nuclear disarmament.
The impact of war has moved from frontlines to front doors. Armed conflicts are killing more and more civilians. Disarmament and arms control are top priorities for me. https://t.co/JfU2MUpRwu
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) February 26, 2018
“The portfolio … is an acknowledgment of the emphasis this government places on our long held anti-nuclear stance, and the role we must play now and in the future,” New Zealand’s Ardern said.
New Zealand has long adopted a firm line in opposing development of nuclear capabilities, which at times puts the small Pacific nation at odds with some allies.
Risks to global peace and security are growing. The greatest challenge we have today comes from North Korea, situated right here in our region – Jacinda Arden
In the mid-1980s, the Labour government of the time announced its decision to ban ships that were either nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed, prompting the United States to suspend security treaty obligations to New Zealand.
The new disarmament minister Peters is among a handful of Western politicians to visit North Korea, during a previous tenure as foreign minister in 2005.
Peters confirmed the decision on Twitter
The Prime Minister has reinstated the position of Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control. I'm looking forward to the important work ahead this year, including the early ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
— Winston Peters (@winstonpeters) February 27, 2018
Image courtesy – Wikimedia Commons