Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he spoke at a symposium on nuclear disarmament which was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on December 16, 2003. As the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Congressman Faleomavaega spoke about his opposition to nuclear testings in the South Pacific and praised the government of Kazakhstan for its commitment to nuclear disarmament.
Congressman Faleomavaega was the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives invited to speak at this prestigious event and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the only member of the U.S. Senate invited to participate. Former Senator Sam Nunn was also in attendance and delivered a keynote address. The event was hosted by the government of Kazakhstan, a former Soviet Republic which gained its independence 12 years ago.
During the Cold War, Kazakhstan had the 4th largest nuclear arsenal in the world and today Kazakhstan has the third largest oil reserves in the world. Faleomavaega commended the government of Kazakhstan under the leadership of President Nazarbayev for its outstanding political and economic accomplishments and noted that Kazakhstan is the success story of the region. Faleomavaega also commended His Excellency Kanat Saudabayev, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan, for the work he does in the U.S. Congress to bring attention to Kazakhstan’s commitment to peace.
“Kazakhstan sets an example of how a democracy can thrive in a society which for many years lacked freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom to govern itself according to the will of its people. As a young democracy, Kazakhstan used its freedom to renounce its massive nuclear arsenal and thereby changed the course of history for the sake of global peace and stability,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Equally as important to reducing the threat of nuclear dangers and promoting the cause of peace are the noble and ongoing efforts of Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former Senator Sam Nunn who served as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Both Senators tirelessly worked to establish the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program which provides assistance to Russia and the former Soviet republics for securing and destroying their excess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.”
“In a time when international terrorists and rogue regimes seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it is time to recognize the historical significance of the Nunn-Lugar CTR program. We should also remember the courageous decision made by Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of a young Kazakhstan. Although offered considerable wealth and influence to retain Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal, President Nazarbayev made a choice to destroy the weapons of mass destruction that Kazakhstan had inherited from the Soviet Union.”
“To understand the significance of the CTR program and Kazakhstan’s decision to destroy its horrifying and lethal arsenal, one needs only to recall that in the early 1990s Kazakhstan had 1,040 nuclear warheads of 1 megaton TNT yield each,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Kazakhstan also had dozens of heavy bombers, the world’s largest anthrax production and weaponization facility, and the world’s largest nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk.”
“Like the people of Kazakhstan, Pacific Islanders know firsthand the horrors of nuclear testing and nothing about it is pretty. The United States used the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing ground and detonated more than 67 nuclear bombs, including the first hydrogen bomb which was 1,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The results were and continue to be devastating and only ceased when nuclear clouds carried radioactive materials from the Pacific Islands to the mainland U.S. where strontium 90 was found in milk products from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Only then did the U.S. determine to conduct its nuclear testing underground in the deserts of Nevada.”
“France, however, made a different decision,” Faleomavaega said. “In June of 1995, the newly elected President of France, Jacques Chirac, announced that France would violate the 1992 world moratorium on nuclear testings and explode 8 more nuclear bombs at Moruroa and Faugataufa atolls in Tahiti beginning in September 1995. What Chirac didn’t say was that each of the nuclear bombs France would explode would be up to ten times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, a bomb which took the immediate lives of some 150,000 people and later claimed another 50,000 who died from nuclear contamination and illness.”
The United States had also freely offered France the technology it sought to ensure its so-called nuclear weapons reliability, making its proposed testings unnecessary. Faleomavaega also pointed out that France is the only nuclear superpower that refuses to conduct nuclear testings inside its own borders and that of the total 200 plus nuclear bombs France has exploded, not one has been exploded on, above, or beneath French soil.
In response to the French government’s 1995 announcement to resume nuclear testings in the South Pacific, Faleomavaega shared with conference participants how he traveled to the island of Tureia, 60 miles away from Moruroa, and joined with members of Greenpeace. “On board the Rainbow Warrior II, we headed for Moruroa where France had already placed its nuclear bomb in a shaft about 3,000 feet under the atoll,” the Congressman said. “Strengthened by the innocence of 10,000 children from Hamburg, Germany who donated 8 marks each to have their names listed in protest on the sail of a boat that joined us in the Moruroa atoll, the Rainbow Warrior II launched six inflatable zodiacs right under the nose of French naval warship.”
“The zodiacs were manned by young men and women from New Zealand, Australia, Italy, the United States, France and Portugal. These young men and women were not commandos or soldiers. They were just ordinary citizens committed to a nuclear-free world.”
“As our vessels entered French waters, we were arrested by French commados, held for 16 hours, then transferred to another vessel, fully enclosed, unaware of where we were being taken, and completely prevented from taping an account of the seizure. On September 5, 1995, despite international opposition from world leaders and South Pacific Island nations, Jacques Chirac pressed the nuclear button exploding an atomic bomb at Moruroa atoll with a nuclear punch of 20 kilotons. Sixty miles away on the island of Tureia, Pacific Island children played in the ocean waves.”
“From October 1995 to February 1996, France exploded five additional nuclear bombs at Moruroa and Faugataufa atolls. France’s story was of course well-scripted. Its eurocentric rationales for resuming nuclear testings a half a world away from where its own children played were presented through international wire services. But the voices of Pacific Islanders, who also have a story to tell, were made mute.”
“As a Pacific Islander and as the Ranking Member of the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, as one whose people know firsthand the horrifying effects of nuclear testing and as one who has considered the kind of world I want my children and grandchildren to live in, I truly believe mankind would be well served if the historic contributions of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Sam Nunn were recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize committee,” Faleomavaega told conference participants. “In a world where many countries continue to pursue nuclear ambitions and pose a threat to world peace, their commitment to the process of disarmament and non-proliferation deserves the highest recognition that can be bestowed. I believe such recognition would reduce nuclear dangers and increase global security and I am hopeful that this recommendation will be seriously considered.”