- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Obama administration is planning a series of “game-changing” moves on global nuclear disarmament, according to members of a commission sponsored by Japan and Australia.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are pushing at a reasonably open door on all these issues,” Gareth Evans of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament told reporters after meetings in Washington with senior U.S. officials.

Mr. Evans, a former Australian foreign minister, outlined priority issues the administration should address to reduce the nuclear threat.

“Everything we heard … was extremely encouraging, and it’s extremely important in global terms, because in this, as in frankly so many other areas, U.S. leadership is absolutely critical,” Mr. Evans said.

The commission was established by the Australian and Japanese governments to promote cuts in nuclear arsenals and support the next round of talks to review the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which is slated to begin next year.

Mr. Evans and the commission’s other co-chairman, former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones, Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg and the chairmen of several key congressional committees, including Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I got a very, very positive impression of serious commitment from President Obama to really do some game-changing things in this area,” Mr. Evans told the Australian newspaper.

The White House National Security Council office declined to respond directly to Mr. Evans´ comments.

But a senior administration official told United Press International that the issues the commission had raised were important and a priority for the Obama administration.

“They’re under review and we look forward to engaging early and in depth,” the official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about last week’s meetings.

The commission members called on the United States to:

• Ratify the nuclear test ban treaty.

• Revitalize negotiations to cut off access to fissile material for nuclear weapons.

• Successfully conclude a deal with Russia to extend or replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, aimed at further reductions in nuclear weapons.

• Begin a serious dialogue with Russia and China on other issues such as U.S. ballistic missile defenses and U.S. nuclear doctrine.

Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told UPI the commission was “pushing very hard on issues where national governments are already focused like a laser beam.”

Mr. Sokolski urged the commission to put the “spotlight on things that national governments are not paying so much attention to.”

As an example, Mr. Sokolski cited the spread of nuclear power and “the question of how there can be a growth in the number of states with large nuclear reactors without a growth in the number of nuclear [weapons] ready states.”

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