‘Strange Alchemy’ Suggesting Nuclear Weapons Elimination Will Breed Insecurity ‘Truly Offensive’, First Committee Hears, Amid Clamour for Legal Ban
No one should accept as valid the arguments preferred by nuclear-weapon States and those within their military alliances that there were no security conditions in place to bring about nuclear disarmament, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it continued its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.
To say, as a few States were doing, that the adoption of a legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons could, by some strange alchemy, increase insecurity was truly offensive, the representative of Ecuador said. It was particularly offensive for the victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 70 years on.
The representative of the United Kingdom did not agree that there was a legal gap hindering disarmament, as some of those promoting the humanitarian consequences initiatives contended, or that such a gap should be filled with a “ban treaty”. A nuclear weapons convention was something that could be used very effectively to maintain a world free from nuclear weapons, but not an instrument to get to such a world.
Simply going to zero now, he added, would not fulfil the requirement of undiminished security for all, nor was it meaningful to put a timeframe on when those conditions would exist. His country hoped never to deploy a nuclear weapon, but to deliver a deterrent effect under all circumstances, to prevent nuclear war and to contribute to British national security. It would continue to place the utmost importance on keeping its nuclear weapons stockpiles safe and secure.
The nuclear genie, which 70 years ago was recklessly let out of its lamp, would not be pushed back by mere humanitarian incantations, the representative of the Russian Federation said. Aimed at averting a nuclear disaster, the country did not “just talk the talk; it walked the walk”, and for more than four decades, it had been living up to its obligations to diminish its nuclear arsenal. Furtherance of nuclear disarmament required an agreement not to be the first to deploy weapons in outer space and a declaration on strategic stability.
Nuclear disarmament was a mirror, he continued, to reflect all the nuances of events taking place in the world. No one needed additional arguments to convince countries that there was a need to undertake titanic efforts to turn around the negative processes that were destroying “our fragile home”.
The representative of Palau said that for many in the Pacific, banning nuclear weapons was a deeply personal mission, as they had experienced first-hand the “utter devastation wrought by these monstrous instruments of war”. Without its consent, the region, over the course of half a century, had suffered from more than 300 nuclear test explosions, and it was “not content to remain the unwitting victims of others’ disregard”. The voices of those most affected by the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons should be at the fore of the debate.
The president of the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) addressed the First Committee today, warning that entrenched positions on key issues risked fragmentation of the review process. The international community was not necessarily facing humanity’s “last sunset”, but new efforts were needed to bridge the gap to advance the NPT.
Also during the meeting, New Zealand’s representative introduced a draft resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas.
Additional speakers were representatives Australia (on behalf of group of nearly 30 States), Japan, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Spain, Iraq, Kuwait, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Malawi, Syria, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Nicaragua, Zambia, Morocco and the Philippines.
The representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States, Japan, Egypt and the Republic of Korea exercised the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 22 October, to continue its thematic debate on the nuclear weapons cluster.
TAOUS FEROUKHI (Algeria), President of the 2015 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference, said intensive and coordinated efforts with the chairs of the three subsidiary bodies and others had led to a smooth conduct of residual issues allowing NPT States parties more time for substantive matters. Those countries had reaffirmed the pivotal role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the importance of nuclear safeguards and norms and standards in strengthening the non-proliferation regime. The catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons should continue to play a key role in consideration of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues.
She noted the establishment by the United Nations General Assembly of an open-ended working group to identify and elaborate effective measures for the full implementation of the NPT’s article VI. The objective of the Arab Group proposal on the Middle East was to overcome the lack of progress of the last 20 years on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. A treaty was needed to establish that long-awaited zone. Entrenched positions on key issues risked fragmentation of the review process. The international community was not necessarily facing humanity’s “last sunset”, but new efforts were nevertheless needed to bridge the gap to advance the NPT.
JOHN QUINN (Australia) spoke on behalf of Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, Spain, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Iceland, Finland, Greece, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Japan, Slovenia, Slovakia, Italy, Georgia, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Republic of Korea, Ukraine and his own country. He said that despite significant reductions in the number of nuclear weapons worldwide since the end of the cold war, more than 16,000 still existed, many on high-alert status. Eliminating them was only possible through substantive and constructive engagement with the States possessors. It would also require further reducing levels of hostility and tension between States — particularly nuclear-weapon States — and the more active pursuit of confidence-building measures.
Non-proliferation and disarmament, he said, should simultaneously be advanced as mutually reinforcing processes. Practical contributions could include beginning negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty and bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force. Nuclear-weapon States should make efforts to achieve further cuts in their arsenals as soon as possible, de-alert nuclear warheads and reduce their role and significance in their defence doctrines. While a treaty banning nuclear weapons was probably necessary to maintaining a world without those weapons, such a treaty now would not “get us to global zero”. Hard practical work was necessary to free the world of nuclear weapons, with a focus on, not just humanitarian but also security considerations. There were no short-cuts, he said.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), introducing the draft resolution entitled “Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas”, said the text would have the General Assembly reaffirm the conviction that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones contributed towards realizing the objectives of nuclear disarmament. It welcomed the continued contribution of existing nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties — all of which were in force — towards freeing the southern hemisphere and adjacent areas from nuclear weapons. The resolution would call on nuclear-weapon States to sign and ratify the outstanding Protocols to all such treaties without reservations, unilateral interpretive declarations or delay.
TOSHIO SANO (Japan) said that the inability of the 2015 NPT Review Conference to have produced a consensus outcome document should neither be overestimated nor underestimated, as it did not point to a shortage of political will among Member States. However, a sense of direction towards the 2020 Review Conference had been lost, and the nuclear non-proliferation structure could gradually be “unravelled”. The Russian Federation and United States’ leadership based on mutual trust was indispensable to the further reduction of nuclear arsenals, and he urged those countries to resume negotiations as soon as possible. He encouraged the five nuclear-weapon States to take any disarmament measures that they could accomplish on a voluntary basis, as those actions would fill the gap of trust and confidence between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States, imperative to upholding the NPT regime.
He said the report adopted by the Group of Governmental Experts on the fissile material cut-off treaty was expected to increase momentum in the Conference on Disarmament. Until the entry into force of such a treaty, he urged all nuclear-weapon States and States possessing nuclear warheads to seriously consider declaring or continuing to maintain a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. Resolving nuclear proliferation issues through diplomatic dialogue was vital. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile development programme remained of grave concern. He called on that country to abandon all nuclear weapons, suspend existing nuclear programmes, and return to NPT and IAEA safeguards, while also engaging in credible and meaningful dialogue.
MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica) called for a balance between the two pillars of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, for “the NPT has started to limp when we need it to run”. There were more than 16,000 nuclear warheads in the world, and rather than destroy them, billions of dollars were spent every year to modernize them, which multiplied the nuclear threat. Modernizing and upgrading those weapons were inconsistent with existing obligations and the goal of a nuclear-threat-free world, and there had been only scant progress in reducing those weapons stocks. Costa Rica urged nuclear-weapon States to adopt new measures to reduce the operational and non-strategic nuclear-weapon stocks in a transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner, and to reduce the operational availability of their systems, as many nuclear weapons were on high alert and susceptible to cyber-attacks. Her country also reiterated the need to finalize a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material, which must include regulations for existing stocks, as well as confidence-building measures.
She urged increased transparency, including verifying reductions, via the IAEA and the cessation of all modernization programmes. Despite the need for multilateralism; bilateral and unilateral verification processes remained standard practice. It was unrealistic to press others for compliance with the obligations that arose from the NPT and the CTBT while disregarding one’s own obligations. With that, she called for an end to both horizontal and vertical proliferation, and compliance with all — and not just some — of the obligations arising from those treaties. Every attempt to destroy mutual trust must be condemned. As a State party to the Treaty of Latin American Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, or Treaty of Tlatelolco, she heralded it for having been the first established in a densely populated area. Costa Rica encouraged countries in other regions to consider the establishment of such zones. That was particularly critical in the Middle East, she said, calling for the convening of a United Nations conference on that matter as soon as possible.
IVIAN DEL SOL DOMINGUEZ (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that nuclear disarmament was a “call that remained unheeded” 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the formation of the United Nations. The only guarantee that nuclear weapons would not be used was to ban them. However, the ninth NPT Review Conference confirmed yet again the gulf between “the rhetoric and good intentions trotted out time and again” by some nuclear-weapon States and the commitments they were willing to make. Given the failure of the Conference to have reached an outcome document, it was “no small wonder” that a growing majority of States parties to the NPT considered it not their treaty, but the treaty of those States that possessed nuclear weapons. It was becoming all the more urgent to begin negotiating a legally binding instrument to give security guarantees to States that did not possess nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament could not be continually postponed and subjected to eventualities. He said that “right is on our side and we must not give up the fight”.
SOLEDAD URRUELA ARENALES (Guatemala), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country was committed to promoting the NPT’s universality. Its indefinite extension did not mean the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons, nor did it change the fact that the Treaty was a compromise between States with nuclear weapons and those without. Countries without those weapons had complied with their part of the commitment, but nuclear-weapon States still needed to do their share. While it was regrettable that the NPT Review Conference had failed this year, the international community should nevertheless try to revitalize the nuclear disarmament debate. The Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission also suffered from a lack of consensus. However, initiatives like the Humanitarian Pledge were proof of the urgency of breaking through these impasses.
She urged the international community to stop repeating the same mistakes while hoping for new results. While Member States should not lose sight of the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, it was essential to maintain the moratorium on nuclear tests, pending the CTBT’s entry into force. She appealed to all countries, especially the Annex II countries, to sign and ratify that Treaty. Guatemala was proud to be a part of the Treaty of Tlalelolco and hoped that zone could serve as an example for the creation of others elsewhere in the world.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), speaking in his national capacity, said it had been a watershed year for nuclear disarmament. Those who had for years steadfastly believed that the NPT would be the means for moving the international community forward and frame effective measures for the total elimination of nuclear weapons had received “something of a wake-up call”. A significant number of NPT States parties had gone to the ninth Review Conference believing that 20 years after the decision to extend the Treaty indefinitely, it was time to consider the direction of article VI. However, it had become clear that not all members of the NPT community were ready for further effective measures. Instead, it appears that States parties could only agree to convene an open-ended working group, but not one with a mandate that offered the prospect of real movement in implementing the Treaty’s article VI. Reflecting the increased impetus for nuclear disarmament, as manifested in the Humanitarian Initiative, several new drafts were being presented to the First Committee this year.
KIM YOUNG-MOO (Republic of Korea) said that while the lack of a final document at the NPT highlighted the challenges, all States parties should engage in constructive dialogue to identify the gap between them and find ways to fill it. He supported the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and the Russian Federation. He noted that the Republic of Korea had hosted a Group of Eminent Persons in June, at which it adopted the Seoul Declaration calling for Annex II States to sign and ratify the CTBT without delay. He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from any further testing.
He supported the role of the IAEA safeguards and its additional protocol, essential to the global non-proliferation regime, and in that regard, noted that his country had become one of two to have applied the new version of the State-level approach. As the next chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the country would accelerate efforts to strengthen the international regime in order to staunch nuclear proliferation. He strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and urged it to immediately return to meaningful denuclearization talks. The gravity of the advancement of nuclear capabilities and ongoing activities at the Yongbyon site should not be overlooked.
NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), associating with the Joint Statement delivered by Australia, said confidence-building measures, reciprocal transparency and effective verification were integral components of nuclear arms control and disarmament. Until the international community reached the point of complete nuclear-weapons eradication, the reduction of the global stockpile was crucial. Lithuania, a non-nuclear-weapon State, welcomed the agreement by the E3+3 (France, Germany, United Kingdom, China, Russian Federation and United States) and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That was an important victory in multilateralism and proved that sustained pressure by the international community could create conditions for negotiations. In order to make further progress, the United Nations should maintain an inclusive approach, avoid fragmentation of the international community and involve all States, including possessor States.
Lithuania, he went on, remained concerned over the serious ramifications that the conflict in Ukraine had on the NPT. In 1994, Ukraine joined the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State and, in exchange, the nuclear-weapon States, including the Russian Federation, had reaffirmed their commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine, guaranteeing that none of their weapons would be used against that country. By illegally occupying Crimea, the Russian Federation had violated the obligations set out in the Budapest Memorandum. Lithuania urged the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine’s independence, as well as the denuclearized status of the occupied Crimea.
FERNANDO LUQUE MÁRQUEZ (Ecuador), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Union of South American Nations, condemned the development and use of weapons of mass destruction and reiterated the pride in belonging to the Tlatelolco Treaty. The clamour from all the peoples of the world to eliminate nuclear threats once and for all must be heeded without further delay. His delegation could not accept as valid the arguments preferred by nuclear-weapon States and those within their military alliances that there were no security conditions in place to bring about nuclear disarmament. The need to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons had become all the more urgent due to the catastrophic consequences of an accidental or intentional detonation.
To say, as a few States were doing, that the adoption of a legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons could, by some strange alchemy, increase insecurity in the world was truly offensive to all those who advocated the elimination of nuclear weapons, he said. It was particularly offensive for the victims of nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now commemorating 70 years since the first use of nuclear weapons. The three pillars of the NPT needed to be implemented in a non-discriminatory and impartial manner. However, there was a lack of agreement on the section relating to the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. He was pleased by the Iran agreement, which not only opened up a new diplomatic and political phase in the Middle East, but also demonstrated that differences could and must be bridged through diplomatic means. His delegation was pleased to inform the Committee that in February, Ecuador had signed an agreement to establish an infrasound station and a radio radionuclide station in the Galapagos Islands, which he hoped would be built as soon as possible so as to strengthen the international monitoring system.
JOSÉ ANTONIO LATORRE REMÓN (Spain), associating with the statement made by Australia on behalf of 28 States, welcomed the agreement with Iran, which established clear limits to its nuclear programme. The NPT was the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and he deeply regretted that the recent Review Conference had not been able to conclude with a final consensus document. He also regretted that it had not been possible to achieve an agreement for the holding of a conference on a Middle East zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. He urged all parties to demonstrate “true determination” towards holding the conference as soon as possible. He expressed concern about the development of a nuclear programme in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called on that country to give up in a verifiable manner its nuclear and ballistic programmes.
He reiterated support for the Conference on Disarmament as the only standing body designed to conclude legally binding treaties in areas on its agenda. He was concerned about its paralysis, and called on States to step up efforts to renew negotiations. He acknowledged the analysis work of the Group of Governmental Experts on a fissile material cut-off treaty, which provided an opportunity to consider the matter and reach agreement. Spain considered it important to comply with Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), and to continue preparations in 2016 for its review.
MUHAMMAD ALWAN (Iraq), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said that nuclear disarmament was a priority of the Conference on Disarmament and he insisted on the importance of negotiations within that framework towards an international treaty that would prohibit the production and use of nuclear weapons within a clear timetable. His country understood the importance of General Assembly resolution 32/68, which was a road map towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. He deplored the lack of consensus at the NPT Review Conference.
He said that the NPT now had a fourth pillar, which was the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. However, a single entity, Israel, had refused to accede to the NPT. Israel was a nuclear-weapon State, was not a part of the NPT, and yet still called for other States to abide by their obligations under the Treaty. Iraq was proud that the IAEA had noted its fulfilment of its obligations within the framework of the transparency report on the additional Protocol. He called on the international community to bring pressure to bear on Israel, which must acceded to the NPT and submit its nuclear facilities and infrastructure to the IAEA. That was the only way to strengthen peace in that region.
MOHAMMED AL-HUWAILAH (Kuwait), associating with Arab States and the Non-Aligned Movement, called for the multiplication of disarmament efforts in addition to bilateral treaties signed between nuclear-weapon States. Regarding international initiatives and nuclear-weapon-free zones, the challenges facing the establishment of a zone in the Middle East should be remembered. The resolution in 1995 as part of the extension of the NPT remained in effect. The main outcomes from the 2010 Review Conference were the road map, and contained a plan to hold a conference for establishing such a zone in the region, before the end of 2012. That 5 year-old document affirmed the importance of Israel joining the NPT. Despite flexibility over the past five years, the conference had been postponed through unilateral decisions without consulting Arab States, which represented a reversal of efforts towards reaching a nuclear-weapon-free world.
TRIYONO WIBOWO (Indonesia) said that the end of the cold war had created a momentum for countries not to pursue ambitions for a nuclear weapons race. The framework for strong communications had been established between countries, which was highly important in avoiding incidences that could create a nuclear war. However, nuclear catastrophe was still possible as long as nuclear weapons existed. The international community should do its utmost to ensure that nuclear armaments were no longer a part of any country’s military doctrines. It was high time for the world to pursue effective steps to ensure that real progress was achieved in the field of nuclear disarmament.
He said that the 2015 NPT Review Conference had reaffirmed the reality that the majority of nations remained concerned about the threat nuclear weapons to humankind’s very existence. Against that background, his country would continue to place full support behind the Humanitarian Initiative. That imperative must be acknowledged because the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons was based on preserving human life and dignity. The existence of nuclear weapons was a “perpetual guillotine hanging over the world’s neck, the rope of which can snap at any moment”. It would be remiss to do nothing.
SOULIKONE SAMOUNTY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, regretted that the NPT States parties could not reach a consensus on a final document. Her country had expected the Treaty to have been strengthened rather than weakened. She stressed the importance of the entry into force of the CTBT and hoped that those States that had yet to sign and ratify it would do so soon, particularly the remaining eight Annex II States. The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones had significantly contributed to strengthening the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime and enhancing regional and global peace and security. To that end, she encouraged nuclear-weapon States to accede to the Protocol of the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.
U MAUNG WAI (Myanmar) said the continued existence of nuclear weapons and deployment stood as one of the most serious security challenges, posing the gravest threat to the existence of mankind and the survival of civilization. The only absolute guarantee against a nuclear catastrophe was the complete and total elimination of those weapons. For that reason, his country was introducing the draft resolution entitled “Nuclear disarmament” on behalf of its co-sponsors. The text was comprehensive and focused on concrete, practical steps to achieve a safer world without nuclear weapons.
MAJID MOHAMMAD AL MUTAWA (United Arab Emirates), associating with the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said that full implementation of the NPT’s provisions, as well as application of the resolutions from its Review Conferences, were a key priority. The only guarantee against the use or the threat of nuclear weapons was their complete abandonment, which required a quantitative and qualitative reduction of all types, according to a transparent and credible framework. His country, therefore, called on nuclear-weapon States that had not taken any practical steps towards disarmament, to start reducing their nuclear arsenals. Additionally, the country stressed the importance of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons at the earliest possible opportunity.
Furthermore, he said, his country supported strengthening the IAEA safeguards system reinforced by the Additional Protocol, as that enhanced the Agency’s capabilities to fully verify the peaceful nature of States’ nuclear activities. He called on the States whose nuclear programmes raised concerns to cooperate completely with the IAEA to dispel them. He also urged States to refrain from any action that would undermine the credibility of the conclusions of the IAEA safeguards system. Finally, Iran must fulfil its commitments and cooperate fully with the Agency in order to dispel any fears surrounding its nuclear programme and build confidence in its peaceful intentions.
LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, 70 years after the use of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hospitals in Japan were still treating victims for the long-term health effects. Such consequences made it imperative to prohibit nuclear weapons. As a signatory to the Pelindaba Treaty, Malawi’s goal was a world free of nuclear weapons, and annual reports were needed on the progress made in implementing disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.
He said Malawi had submitted the first report, pursuant to operative paragraph 4 of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), following a workshop organized by the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, in Lilongwe. His Government had established a national authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention, counter-terrorism committee and, recently, for biological weapons. That initiative was meant to steer Malawi’s implementation of disarmament and non-proliferation treaties.
ASAAD IBRAHIM (Syria), associating with Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country had been among the first in the Middle East to have signed the NPT in 1968, based on the firm belief that the possession by any State in the region of those weapons was a threat to regional and international peace and security. Syria had also been a pioneer in calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. However, attempts to do so had been thwarted by an influential State on the Security Council, aimed at protecting Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. Failure to have reached consensus at the 2015 NPT Review conference had been perpetrated by countries that considered themselves NPT sponsors but which were however violating the Treaty’s credibility. Despite the lack of a positive outcome, Syria would remain committed to the NPT’s four pillars, the fourth being the creation of a Middle East zone free from all weapons of mass destruction. He stressed the importance of holding a conference for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, which had not been convened because of Israel and other States working to serve Israel’s interests.
Additionally, he noted, Israel was not party to any of the treaties or conventions governing the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. More than half a century had passed since the establishment of Israel’s nuclear programme, and yet States refused to address that issue, which was the sole threat in the region. Israel had been allowed to produce more than 840 kilograms of uranium for military purposes, which was enough to produce more than 200 nuclear warheads. Some States had been supplying Israel with advanced nuclear technology for decades, and their continued protection of the Israeli nuclear arsenal was a blatant violation of the NPT. He reiterated the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in cooperation with the IAEA, and he opposed any attempt to interpret the NPT in a way that restricted that right. Syria congratulated Iran on reaching an historic agreement that fulfilled the aspiration of the Iranian people and protected its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and unfreeze its assets. That was proof that diplomatic efforts were capable of overcoming all obstacles.
ANNIKA THUNBORG (Sweden) said she understood that some delegations had problems with the notion that it was in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again under any circumstances. However, she asked what possible circumstances could justify the use of those weapons. The resolutions that focused on the consequences of a nuclear-weapon detonation and on the humanitarian pledge should be seen as two separate tracks. The resolution on consequences laid the foundation on substance, which could be pursued through, for example, educational efforts in parts of the world where that position had not yet taken hold. Possible ways forward should be pursued in an open-ended working group under the General Assembly.
VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said that in furthering the noble goal of freeing the planet from the threat of a nuclear disaster, the Russian Federation did not “just talk the talk; it walked the walk”, setting an example to be emulated. For more than four decades, the Russian Federation had been living up to its obligations to diminish its nuclear arsenal. To date, its stockpiles had been reduced by almost 90 per cent compared to their 1970s peak, and there had been significant cuts in the past five years. His country remembered very well who had begun, and then stepped up, the arms race. The Russian Federation would never forget the lesson of the Second World War. This year, it recognized the seventieth anniversary of victory over the “brown hoard” of Nazism, which had cost the lives of millions of citizens.
He said that his country also understood well the true content of the notion of international security and strategic stability. The Russian Federation had consistently advocated for such principles as equal and indivisible security for all States without exception, respect for national interests and defence of the norms of international law. The only international obligation of the Russian Federation in the area of nuclear disarmament was the NPT’s article VI, and the only working bilateral agreement on nuclear disarmament was the START with the United States. Russia was geared towards the implementation of those documents.
However, it was no secret that any disarmament treaty was a very complex system of mutual intergovernmental compromises. It was thus a serious distortion of reality to present article VI as falling exclusively under the responsibility of the nuclear Powers. The issue of general and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, was the responsibility of all States. Nuclear disarmament was a mirror to reflect all the nuances of events taking place in the world. With mutual understanding, the process gained speed; without it, the process slowed or came to a standstill altogether.
All must open their eyes to the present global reality and look back over the disastrous events of the past 15 years, which began with the bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of Yugoslavia. No one needed additional arguments to convince countries that there was a need to undertake titanic efforts to reverse the negative processes that were destroying “our fragile home”. In today’s complex circumstances, the atmosphere was highly exaggerated and in no way justified the dangerous expectations by so-called “humanitarian activists”. The nuclear genie, which 70 years ago was let out of its lamp so recklessly, would not be pushed back by mere humanitarian incantations. Two steps acceptable to further nuclear disarmament were agreement not to be the first to deploy weapons in outer space and a declaration on strategic stability.
CHARLENE ROOPNARINE (Trinidad and Tobago), associating with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the threat of use of nuclear weapons was not only a threat to peace, but was a crime against humanity. Only through those weapons’ total elimination could international peace and security be guaranteed. She called for the denuclearization of all regions of the world, expressing pride at belonging to a region that had been the first to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in a populated area, the Treaty of Tlateloco. Treaty obligations were sacred and must be carried out fully and effectively. She called on all NPT State parties to honour their obligations, and recalled the Humanitarian Pledge, which represented the commitment of more than 100 States to strive for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The possibility of a nuclear detonation, whether by design or accident, would be an “existential horror”. She reiterated CARICOM’s call for the adoption of a universally and legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons, including their testing, stockpiling, transferring, use and threat of use. While recognizing the right of States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, she was gravely concern at the use of the Caribbean Sea as a route for the transport of nuclear and hazardous waste, which could be catastrophic to sustainable development in the event of an accident.
MATTHEW ROWLAND (United Kingdom) said his country was committed to a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament through the NPT process. Its approach to nuclear arms control was linked to the international security environment. The United Kingdom had reduced the size of its nuclear forces by well over 50 per cent since the cold war peak, and now had a single design of warhead, a single type of delivery system, and a single type of platform, which was a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. This year, it had reduced its total number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120, and would reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 180 by the mid-2020s. The United Kingdom would retain a credible and effective minimal nuclear deterrent for as long as the global security situation made that necessary.
Some present at the Vienna Conference had emphasized the catastrophic consequences that could result from the use of nuclear weapons, he said. The United Kingdom agreed, but noted that such consequences were not new but had been known since the creation of the NPT. His country hoped never to deploy a nuclear weapon, but to deliver a deterrent effect under all circumstances to prevent nuclear war and contribute to British national security. It would continue to place the utmost importance on keeping its nuclear weapons stockpiles safe and secure. His delegation did not agree that there was a legal gap hindering disarmament, as some of those promoting the humanitarian consequences initiatives contended, or that such a gap should be filled with a “ban treaty”. To create a world without nuclear weapons in a sustainable way, disarmament could not take place in isolation of the very real international security concerns. That was why the NPT, in its near-universal form, had been the cornerstone of efforts to end the nuclear arms race and pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith.
In order for there to be a convention banning nuclear weapons, he said there needed to be more work done by States to create the undiminished international security conditions necessary for the full implementation of the NPT’s article VI. A nuclear weapons convention would not be an instrument achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. Simply going to zero now would not fulfil the requirement of undiminished security for all, nor was it meaningful to put a timeframe on when those conditions would exist. Working patiently and methodically was all the international community could do together to continue to create those conditions. The attainment of a world free of nuclear weapons would require much greater trust than existed today. The United Kingdom had initiated a dialogue between the “P5” — permanent Security Council members — to that end, and the process had reached an unpreceded level of transparency last year.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa), said that despite the awareness of the risks associated with nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament efforts still fell short. His country had repeatedly demanded the implementation of the 13 practical steps agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, but the lack of political will to implement them endangered international peace and security. The NPT did not mean that States were permitted to possess nuclear weapons indefinitely. His country had striven for over four decades to free the Middle East of nuclear weapons as a top priority of its foreign policy. Israel’s continued monopoly in the region of possessing those weapons threatened Arab national securities. Twenty years had passed since the adoption of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, and it remained far from implemented, due to the lack of sufficient effort from its co-sponsor States.
The way forward was ultimately through the Arab Working Paper adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement, which called for the Secretary-General to invite States of the Middle East to convene a conference aimed at establishing a zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction in the region. States attending the conference would negotiate a binding regional treaty to create that zone. Unfortunately, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada had blocked consensus at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, which was the last opportunity to regain the credibility of the NPT and the entire nuclear disarmament regime.
HAMZA A. B. ALOKLY (Libya), associating with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said it could not be guaranteed that the threat of nuclear weapons would disappear unless those weapons were eradicated. That would not happen in the near future, but steps were being taken that offered a spark of hope. Some nuclear-weapon programmes had been dismantled, including in Libya, which had dismantled all facilities that could be used to produce nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. Libya was working with IAEA inspectors to secure all Libyan infrastructure that had been transformed into civilian facilities. His country hoped to cooperate even more closely with the IAEA and other international partners to develop Libya’s capabilities in peaceful nuclear energy, including the production of electricity and for medical purposes.
He said his country was in favour of convening an international conference to see what further steps could be made to completely eradicate nuclear weapons. Libya thought it was very important to create zones free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. To achieve that goal, it was necessary to strengthen peace and security, and to establish the groundwork for ensuring the safety of human beings. Libya was ready to take part in those efforts and to be a member of such zones. The League of Arab States had been working hard to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons, and was disappointed that a final document could not be achieved at the NPT Review Conference, owing to the desire by several States to block that compromise. He urged those three States to make more efforts to contribute to making the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons, as enshrined in General Assembly resolution 29/69.
RAUF ALP DENKTAŞ (Turkey), associating with the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said that when it came to nuclear disarmament, the primary responsibility lay with the nuclear-weapon States. Special attention also should be given to nuclear-armed States outside the NPT regime. He called for systematic, progressive, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament, and encouraged all State possessors to take further practical steps in that direction. An important confidence-building measure would be the establishment of zones free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, wherever feasible. The cessation of all nuclear-weapon tests was another important building block towards both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and in that regard, he stressed the centrality of the CTBT.
JASSER JIMENEZ (Nicaragua), associating with Non-Aligned Movement, condemned the use of weapons of mass destruction, which ran counter to international law. Holding a conference no later than 2018 to eliminate nuclear weapons was a good effort to eliminate them, and he welcomed the inclusion of humanitarian pledges in that regard. He also commended agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, while calling for the implementation of the CTBT and NPT. He regretted the inability to have reached consensus on the outcome document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, as that undermined the efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons and negatively affected the credibility of and trust in the NPT.
His country also regretted the failure to abide by the requirement to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and hold a conference to that end. He noted agreement in the final outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to further that aim by convening a conference on the matter, and urged parties to bring that about as soon as possible. The international community needed concrete actions and fulfilment of the NPT’s article VI commitments. Negotiated, international and legally binding instruments were the only way to assist the achievement of nuclear disarmament. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was a crime against humanity and ran counter to the United Nations Charter and international law. He welcomed a treaty that would put an end to an arms race in outer space. Since 1945, populations still suffered from the fallout of nuclear tests, he said, adding that Nicaragua was proud to be a Tlatelolco Treaty party.
CALEB OTTO (Palau), standing in solidarity with the Marshall Islands in its pursuit of legal action aimed at compelling the nuclear-armed States to disarm, expressed alarm that all nine nuclear-armed States continued to invest heavily in upgrades to their nuclear arsenals, apparently with the intent to retain them for many decades. “This was a recipe for a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions,” he added. Palau also expressed disappointment that the recent NPT Review Conference had failed to agree on an outcome document. However, the landmark pledge — now endorsed by 119 nations, including Palau — filled its place and offered much hope.
Consensus, he continued, was a worthy aspiration. However, too often that practice was invoked or imposed purely with the intent of preventing progress. It afforded great power to a small number of States that were “out of kilter” with the mainstream international community. Palau was convinced that a ban on nuclear weapons — even without the nuclear-armed States on board — had great potential to change the international landscape by establishing clear norms. A prohibited weapon would quickly lose its status and any perception of legitimacy. It was time, he said, “for the nuclear-free majority to assert itself more confidently”.
For many in the Pacific, banning nuclear weapons was a deeply personal mission, as they had experienced first-hand the “utter devastation wrought by these monstrous instruments of war”. Without its consultation or consent, the region, over the course of half a century, had suffered from more than 300 nuclear-test explosions. He said “we are not content to remain the unwitting victims of others’ disregard” and expressed his hope that the voices of those most affected by the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons would be at the fore of the debate.
MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said her country had always been a strong advocate of general and complete disarmament. The act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons with a view towards a nuclear-free world should be embarked upon by all. Necessary safeguards should be put in place to ensure continued peace and international security through the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed States should be fully committed to that goal. It was also paramount that nuclear weapon-States come up with specific timelines for major reductions.
For nuclear disarmament to take root, all nuclear-weapon States, including those not party to the NPT, should immediately and aggressively pursue and comply with the CTBT; they should meet their obligations as pledged during the 2014 NPT preparatory committee for universalization of complete disarmament. Her delegation also supported the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones treaties and their relevant Protocols, and appealed for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East. For its part, Zambia remained committed to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, which it had ratified in 2010. Africa was currently the largest nuclear-weapon-free zone in the world, she said, urging all African States that had not ratified the Pelindaba Treaty to do so.
BOUCHAIB ELOUMNI (Morocco) said that the security of all nations lay in the peaceful coexistence, dialogue and mutual trust and not in military power and the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction. The NPT allowed the international community to lay the foundations of a multilateral nuclear consensus, based on a delicate balance between its three pillars. The starting point for any credible and sustainable nuclear disarmament remained the fulfilment of existing obligations and the implementation of agreed measures. Nuclear-weapon States had a particular status and, therefore, a particular responsibility. If some conventional weapons were prohibited on the grounds of their humanitarian and indiscriminate impact, it was not acceptable any more for nuclear weapons to remain the only weapons of mass destruction that were not prohibited by an international instrument.
LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while many States had been disappointed by the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament, especially after the 2015 NPT Review Conference had failed to adopt an outcome, the many proposals proved a collective will to further the process. In that regard, she said the Philippines continued to co-sponsor the draft resolution “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations”, which it believed went a step further by convening an Open-Ended Working Group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations — and the achievement of global zero.
The Philippines, she continued, also openly and strongly supported the initiative on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. Her delegation particularly welcomed two new draft resolutions: “Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons” and “Humanitarian Pledge for the Prohibition and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”. The nuclear disarmament process would benefit from the inclusion of moral and ethical dimensions, as a complement to the legal and humanitarian aspects of nuclear-weapon possession. In that regard, the Philippines also lent its strong support to the new draft resolution “Ethical Imperatives of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World”, tabled by South Africa. It was the Philippines’ fervent hope that those texts would create the much-needed momentum to break the cycle of failures in the disarmament agenda.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea responded to the statement made by Japan by saying that it was shameful that he had “the brazen face” to tell the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear deterrent. The Japanese delegations were so full of deceit, and an affront to justice and decency. Contrary to Japan’s repeated announcement that it remained a peace-loving nation, it was reviving militarism, and, under its current administration, that dream was in full swing. Yesterday, one country had called the Committee’s attention to Japan’s dangerous military ambition. By disguising its pursuit of that ambition, and with a rhetorical contribution to peacekeeping, Japan was attempting to erase its shameful past and inhumane war crimes.
Responding to the statement made by the Republic of Korea, he advised that representative to take a dispassionate view of the present reality. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a full-fledged nuclear-weapon State and that status remained despite the Republic of Korea’s objections. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear deterrent was a reliable guarantee to the region’s prosperity. The Republic of Korea should reflect on its blind collaboration with outside forces.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United States responded to Egypt’s delegation by saying that his country was unable to join the consensus on the text dealing with establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East as it was incompatible with the United States’ policy of a consensus-based process. The chair’s final draft of the NPT outcome document had proved unacceptable. The United States supported the worthy, if ambitious, goals of establishing such a zone, but that could only be done if it was undertaken in a constructive, inclusive manner. He encouraged a solution that took into consideration the legitimate interests of all States in the region.
Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Japan responded to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s remarks by saying that Japan adhered exclusively to a defence-oriented policy and to not becoming a military Power or threat to others. His country would continue its course as a peace-loving nation.
Also exercising his right of reply, the representative of Egypt reiterated that the Arab Working Paper submitted to the NPT Conference was endorsed by the Non-Aligned Movement. He highlighted snapshots and extracts of the paper and proposed that the conference follow practical steps. He called on the Secretary-General to call the conference within a 180-day timetable aimed at launching a process to conclude a legally binding treaty banning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the region. The conference should meet annually in its plenary format and working groups. It should be divided into two sections: first by geographical demarcation and second for verification and implementation measures. The Secretary-General should inform the 2020 NPT preparatory committees and present reports to the co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution, which bore special responsibility as depositary States of such a treaty. A voluntary fund should be established to support the treaty. Failures in the NPT regime should not be an obstacle to the vision of a Middle East free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.
The representative of the Republic of Korea, also exercising his right of reply, said that the Committee had gathered to discuss how to pursue disarmament and non-proliferation. No Member States could accept that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a nuclear-weapon State. Its nuclear test was illegal under international law and it could gain nothing by development of its nuclear programme. He called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the dialogue table with a sincere commitment to denuclearization.
In a second intervention, the representative of the United States responded to Egypt by saying that proposals were nice to put forward, but if the consensus of all States in the region was not reached, the shared goal of a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction would not be achieved.
In a second intervention, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that he had made clear his position on his country’s inevitable possession of nuclear weapons to counter the nuclear threats of the United States. Japan should fulfil its moral responsibilities and obligations on the redemption of past crimes and achieve harmony with neighbouring nations.