I have now completed the second and last leg of my trip to Asia, this time in Brunei, sponsored by the Department of State to speak about nuclear weapons issues.
Brunei is a small country of about 400,000 people surrounded by parts of Malaysia and on the island of Borneo. It is a monarchy independent of the United Kingdom since 1984 and run by a Sultan. It is a heavily Muslim and dry country with oil wealth to support the local population. It imports Thais, Philippinos, Indians and Indonesians to run the service industries in the country.
In Brunei, I spoke before three groups: officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a university group and about ten Ambassadors or deputy chiefs of mission to Brunei from countries such as Russia, Indonesia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and a couple of other countries. I also did two brief interviews with Brunei journalists.
To review the main points in my talks:
=65 years after the dawn of the atomic age, the nuclear threat remains to the planet thanks to 23,000 nuclear weapons, most larger than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945;
=Terrorists around the globe — including places like Mumbai and Bali in Asia — have inflicted thousands of casualties with conventional explosives, aircraft, and guns, but could kill the tens or hundreds of thousands if they could explode a nuclear weapon in a city;
=the Obama Administration recognizes the threat and has taken a series of steps, particularly in the last two busy and exciting months with the New START Treaty, the Nuclear Posture Review, the Nuclear Security Summit and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference;
=the solution to the worldwide threat is not in the hands of the U.S. and Russia alone but requires worldwide cooperation including that of Malaysia a theme I repeated many times.
There were good questions about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear aspirations, the reports of Burma developing a nuclear weapons program, how to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear power without risking further nuclear weapons programs, what to do with nuclear waste, the relevance of the issue is to a small country like Brunei – and unhappiness with United States support for Israel expressed by a particularly vocal individual but shared by others. I could praise Indonesia to the Ambassador from the country for its move toward ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Russia for its signing the New START nuclear reductions agreement with the United States. I mentioned how two volcanoes in Iceland had affected travel in Europe and was told that flights in Asia were impacted as well, with many people unable to return to Europe for days.
I also had more time than in Kuala Lumpur to enjoy the country outside the official portion, including an overnight visit to a rain forest and seeing monkeys in forests.
Overall, I think I was able to impress on people that dealing with nuclear weapon threats requires global solution and it was a terrific experience.