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March 28, 2017

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Diplomatic ally wins Sweden's 'alternative Nobel prize'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Foreign Minister Tony de Brum and his nation were awarded the 2015 Right Livelihood Award yesterday for the legal struggles to make countries accountable to nuclear proliferation.

De Brum and the RMI were awarded the 2015 prize for the "courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honour their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." (NNPT) The Marshall Islands is one of 22 states that have official diplomatic relations with the R.O.C.

Three other laureates who will share the cash prize of three million kroner (approximately NT$11.8 million) are Sheila Watt-Clouthier a protector of Inuit indigenous culture (Canada), Kasha Nabagesera, an advocate for LGBTI people (Uganda) and Gino Strada founder of a medical services organization to help victims of conflict (Italy). The prize ceremony will be held in the Swedish Parliament on Nov. 30.

Last year, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation awarded Edward Snowden of the United States for revealing the extensive state surveillance systems in place "violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights."

De Brum, who has served as the country's minister of foreign affairs on three separate occasions, filed lawsuits against all nine nuclear weapons states (including China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2014.

"(De Brum) has pioneered the lawsuit against nuclear weapons states for not fulfilling their obligations to disarm. He is also very active on countering the climate threat. His island nation is of course exceptionally threatened by a warming planet," said Jakob van Uexkull, founder of the award.

As a boy, De Brum witnessed many of the 67 atomic and thermonuclear weapons tests conducted near the islands during the Cold War by the U.S. The "Nuclear Zero" lawsuits headed by De Brum and an international legal group aim to bring accountability to nations to negotiate in good faith toward nuclear disarmament as stipulated under the NPT and customary international law.

The lawsuit requests that the ICJ holds nuclear power states in breach of their obligations toward nuclear disarmament. It orders them (within a year of judgment) to take all necessary steps to comply with treaty obligations, including negotiations to conclude effective international treaties on nuclear disarmament.

According to the official website of the legal action "Nuclear Zero", the nine states with nuclear arms have a combined stockpile of 17,000 warheads and spend US$100 billion annually on nuclear armaments. This includes investment in weapon modernization and plans to continue nuclear weapon deployment up to the end of this century.

China, which became a nuclear power in 1964, has an estimated stockpile of 250 nuclear warheads according to the application filed against it by De Brum and his legal team. According to 2013 estimates, the second largest world economy expends five percent of its military budget on its nuclear weapons program (approximately US$4.5 to 9 million).

Of the nine countries involved in the suits, India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan are not parities to the NPT. Taiwan abides by the NPT despite having been forced out of the United Nations in 1971.

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