For over 25 years, the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre/Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement, along with its affiliates and sister movements worldwide, has fought for a nuclear free Pacific. Although the movement was born in reaction to French nuclear tests, the first stirrings of opposition came with the brutal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 30 years earlier.
The ocean areas of the Pacific have long been seen as vest empty spaces where the nuclear powers can test or dump their weapons at will. Only one nuclear submarine has to be lost at sea, or one nuclear warhead dumped in our ocean from a stricken bomber, and the threat to our livelihood is endangered for centuries.
The installation of foreign military bases and hazardous waste storage facilities may bring employment, but the price is destruction of the Pacific peoples' customs and way of life, pollutes the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean, and brings the ever present threat or disaster by radioactive poisoning.
As is the case for many in Japan, the end or nuclear testing in the region has not brought peace of mind for the people of the Pacific. The people of Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia) are still fighting against the radioactive legacies of thirty years of testing by France at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls, and are campaigning for France to open its archives on the tests.
The battle for compensation for Fiji's nuclear test veterans exposed to radiation during the development of Britain's nuclear arsenal continues. In 1957-8, nearly 300 Fijian soldiers and sailors, together with British and New Zealand troops, witnessed Britain conduct nine atmospheric nuclear tests at Christmas Island and Malden island in the central Pacific.
Forty years on, many are suffering from health problems attributed to exposure to radiation from the nuclear tests and are still seeking recognition for their participation in the program. While the British Government has consistently denied using troops as radiological guinea pigs, hopefully there is now enough information on public record to finally bring about a just resolution.
In the 1940s, Marshall Islanders were evacuated from their homes on Bikini and Enewetak Atolls to make way for a series of US nuclear tests. The Islanders were asked to move "for the good of mankind and to end all world wars,h as the United States tested its atomic and hydrogen bombs.
But gsecurityh for the US came at a high price for the Marshallese. Today, Marshall Islanders are living with the consequences of 67 US atmospheric tests conducted between 1945 and 1958 -- illness and death from radiation exposure, displacement, and the destruction of a self-sufficient existence (which the US has failed to replace with any substainable alternative).
Those from lightly inhabited atolls like Kwajalein end Bikini have been relocated to badly overcrowded islands like Ebeye and Enniburr, where cholera and malnutrition are common. Ebeye, once described as gthe slum of the Pacific," today houses more than 12,000 people on less than 100 acres, About 1,000 people have been relocated to Enniburr, an island about the size of a football field, where there is no electricity, running water or shops.
And although nuclear testing in the Pacific ended with the last French tests at Moruroa Atoll in 1996, the so-called strategic areas of the Pacific are still being used as testing grounds for nuclear arsenals. For decades now, the US Army base on the Marshall Islands' Kwajalein Atoll has been at the heart of America's missile and missile defense programs.
The US missile defense test on 15 July was not, as promoted by the US, a success, but a tragedy for peace, the environment and the struggle for a just and equitable world. Missile defense is provocative, dangerous and costly, and its active pursuit contradicts any commitment to enhance international security through nuclear disarmament.
The Bush Administration has shown blatant disregard for international agreements on nuclear disarmament, human rights and global warming that affect people worldwide.
President George W. Bush has declared his readiness to unilaterally withdraw from the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, a move that would unravel the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime and substantially increase nuclear threats.
America's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a crucial step toward nuclear disarmament, is also a clear statement that the US Government sees rearmament as a priority and seeks more nuclear weapons in US hands, not fewer. And the US is not alone -- five years after it opened for signature, 12 other states are still yet to sign or ratify the treaty.
Fuelled by the 1980s nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (or Rarotonga Treaty) opened for signature on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1985.
Although not an end in itself and in need of review, the treaty has helped bring us one step closer to a nuclear free world. Not only has it provided a symbolic and practical precedent for other regions, but has served as a means for the region to participate in an emerging coalition of nuclear free zone states, seeking to apply global political and diplomatic pressure on the nuclear weapon states.
The people of Japan and the Pacific have suffered greatly from over half a century or foreign military presence and nuclear testing, of which the legacies will be felt for centuries, if not millennia. The fight to make the Pacific, and the world, nuclear free is far from over -- only through working together will we see the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Hiroshima, Nagasaki - never again!