The proliferation of nuclear weapons by Australia’s near neighbours is a matter of extreme and urgent concern, according to Flinders University international humanitarian law expert Dr Grant Niemann.
Dr Niemann, based in the Flinders Law School, said the existing weapons capacity in China, India and Pakistan – compounded by the impending acquisition of weapons of mass destruction in Iran and North Korea – is a “real and direct threat” to Australia’s national security.
“The proliferation of nuclear weapons in Asian states or near neighbours to Australia is a matter of extreme concern and unless urgent measures are taken to stem the tide of this proliferation, Australia will find itself surrounded by a curtain of nuclear weapon-possessing states,” Dr Niemann said.
“It’s the encirclement that’s the real fear because these countries are arguably within striking distance of Australia, putting our country in an extremely dangerous and unstable position,” he said.
Flinders University is next month involved in hosting a major international conference that aims to advance the debate on the urgent need to develop a legally binding tool to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.
The high-profile event will unite leading experts and academics from around the world to explore a range of issues, from the legality and use of nuclear weapons to their devastating humanitarian and environmental impacts.
Dr Niemann, who is convening the event, said it was hoped the international think-tank would reignite the push for nuclear weapons non-proliferation.
“There have been various attempts in the past to make these weapons illegal but the International Court of Justice has always maintained that the possession of nuclear weapons is not illegal unless you’re in breach of the United Nations proliferation treaty.
“But the problem is the treaty is optional, and several countries including Iran haven’t signed it.”
Dr Niemann said while the likelihood of military conflict involving Australia was “very low”, the escalating situation between Iran, Israel and the US raised significant concerns.
“Israel and the US have made it quite clear they will attack if Iran develops nuclear weapons, and considering Australia was dragged into the Korean War and we’re already involved in Afghanistan, if there was a war between Israel, Iran and the US we’d be drawn in too.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that the weapons of mass destruction we have today could essentially wipe out mankind.
“The technology we now have could wipe out a city the size of Sydney whereas the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki wiped out a few suburbs – it’s frightening stuff.”
Towards Eliminating Nuclear Weapons will be held in the Hawke Building, 50-55 North Tce, on Saturday, November 3 (9am-5.30pm) and Sunday, November 4 (9am-2.30pm).