25 Sep 2017

Marshalls reminds UN of nuclear horror

3:22 pm on 25 September 2017

The Marshall Islands Foreign Minister has reminded the United Nations of the horrific consequences of nuclear testing.

John Silk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, speaks at a press briefing of representatives from the "high ambition coaltion" gathered at UN Headquarters today for the historic signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

John Silk Photo: UN/Fred Fath

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, John Silk called for greater global political resolve to eliminate the growing nuclear threat around the Korean peninsular.

He condemned recent nuclear tests because he said his nation knew the lasting impact of such actions first hand.

Mr Silk recalled how some of the 67 nuclear tests conducted by the US in the Marshalls between 1946 and 1958 were authorised by the UN itself.

"The consequences of this ignorance were and are beyond horrific. Our people and environment have suffered as no other people should. And these legacies, these legacy impacts, remain today as stark and present challenges."

John Silk said it remained his country's firm hope that all nuclear-armed nations could garner the political will to disarm.

Mr Silk welcomed a letter from the UN secretary-general António Guterres last month to the Pacific Islands Forum regarding the lasting impact of nuclear testing in Marshall Islands.

Nuclear test explosion at Bikini Atoll for Operation Crossroads, Marshall Islands, 1945/6

Nuclear test at Bikini Atoll for Operation Crossroads, Marshall Islands Photo: Supplied

He said the secretary-general descibed finding a solution to the issue as "critical for the future of the Marshall islands", and assuring the Pacific country that relevant UN agencies were ready to assist.

Mr Silk also supported those nations who were able to affirm the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and he was committed to a close and inclusive examination of his country's own participation in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill, also speaking at the UN in New York, condemned North Korea's recent missile tests.

"These are direct threats to lives of millions of innocent people, here in the Unites States, Japan and South Korea," he said, adding that Pacific Islanders were also at risk.

"We are concerned that these activities are taking place in our backyard.

"Rather than inflamed rhetoric that could have drastic consequences, we call for a peaceful resolution through political dialogue," said Mr O'Neill in reference to the war of words between the leaders of the US and North Korea.

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