Pointing at Epochal, Positive Shift on Korean Peninsula, First Committee Delegates Say Dialogue Proves Effective in Conquering Decades‑Long Hostilities
Mounting a staunch defence of multilateralism, delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) praised the détente on the Korean Peninsula, urging States to continue the difficult, pragmatic work needed to build durable peace around the world.
The Committee’s deliberations are taking place in a very different context from a year ago, when tensions were escalating on the Korean Peninsula, said the representative of the Republic of Korea. Positive developments provide a glimpse of hope in addressing other disarmament and non‑proliferation challenges the world is facing, he said, emphasizing the indispensable role of the United Nations in the process.
Citing a firm determination and strong will to forge a new history in its international relations, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Singapore summit between his country and the United States demonstrated that even States with decades‑long hostile relations can, through dialogue and negotiation, resolve issues of regional and world peace.
The epochal change on the Korean Peninsula is having a positive impact across the world, he said. His Government stands firm in its commitment to implement the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea‑United States joint statement in a responsible manner and in good faith, he said, noting that confidence‑building to address deep‑rooted distrust is key to its full implementation.
China’s delegate lauded the positive progress made on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and expressed hope that with the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, that part of the world can be free of nuclear and military threats. Admonishing unilateralism and protectionism, he said the cold war mentality and power politics have become “more outdated than ever before”.
Laying bare the eroding trust among States, the representative of Turkey said there is no shortcut in the process towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, adding that efforts must be realistic and involve nuclear‑weapon States. Calling for greater attention to areas of mutual interest, the representative of Finland said that ahead of the 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, concrete steps can be taken by nuclear‑weapon States on transparency measures, negative security guarantees and confidence‑building measures.
Adding to a chorus of delegates calling for greater international cooperation, including representatives of Guinea and Guatemala, Ghana’s delegate said multilateral diplomacy is vital to achieving a safe and secure world. Providing a recent example of mutually beneficial cooperation, Eritrea’s representative said the international security architecture starts at the regional level. Highlighting new bilateral and trilateral agreements on the Horn of Africa, she said States in the region are making remarkable strides in ending an era of conflict and zero‑sum competition and starting a new, more positive chapter.
Yet, other delegates voiced concerns throughout the debate, discussing cyberattacks, anti‑personnel mines, conventional weapons and nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, with Libya’s representative cautioning against attempts to block the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, calling it a precondition for stability in the region.
Also delivering statements were representatives of India, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Guyana, Costa Rica, Nepal, Colombia and Singapore. The representatives of the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 12 October, to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
PANKAJ KUMAR SHARMA (India) reiterated his Government’s commitment to preserving the disarmament machinery and expressed concern about the tendency to resort to outside forums. As such, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons does not create any obligations for India and in no way contributes to the development of customary international law. Nevertheless, the divide within the international community on the path towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world needs to be bridged through dialogue, cooperation and commitment to multilateralism. His Government is ready to support the commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in the Conference on Disarmament and attaches great importance to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, while sharing concern over allegations on their use in different parts of the world. To address global concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, India will once again be tabling the draft resolution “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.”
JORGE SKINNER-KLEÉ ARENALES (Guatemala) said the international situation was one marked by recurring threats and terrorist acts, with a real risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non‑State actors or even of another nuclear incident. At the same time, some claim there are not enough resources to combat poverty and disease. Member States must show unwavering support for multilateralism, the only way to build inclusive and peaceful societies. He expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as a complement to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and affirmed that Guatemala will be soon ratifying the former. Ahead of the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, nuclear‑weapon States must act in good faith and deliver on their obligations under article 6 of the Treaty. Expressing concern about the possibility of an arms race in outer space, he said military conflict in that realm could lead to terrible consequences. Meanwhile, the scourge of illicit tracking in small arms and light weapons threatens physical safety and discourages sustainable development. He welcomed the outcome document of the third Review Conference of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and expressed support for the regulation of ammunitions. He then called on the international community to promote disarmament and show political will, moving forward on clear, verifiable actions and putting rhetoric aside.
MARIA DE JESUS DOS REIS FERREIRA (Angola), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, noted that her delegation participated in the fourth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty earlier in the year and was fully committed to ratifying the Treaty soon. After 30 years of war, Angola is strongly affected by several types of anti‑personnel mines. A successful de‑mining process was conducted with help from partners, which has facilitated the free movement of people and goods. Recalling a meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique, in November on harm caused by the use of explosive weapons, she said representatives concluded that the involvement of African States and civil society can play a pivotal role in enhancing the protection of civilians from that harm.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) underscored his country’s support for existing treaties and frameworks that aim at achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, particularly in the Middle East. However, genuine will by nuclear‑weapon States is needed to achieve that goal. Welcoming the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he hoped it would promote international peace and security and rid the world of such arms, as well as of other weapons of mass destruction. He condemned Israel’s refusal to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and subject its facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Saudi Arabia is co‑sponsoring a draft resolution that would have the Secretary‑General invite regional actors to participate in a conference in 2019 towards the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. While his country had previously supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran used the revenue generated from the lifting of sanctions to perpetrate activities that destabilized the region, including supporting Houthi terrorists in Yemen, which have launched ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia. Calling on the international community to take a firm stand against Iran, he urged the country to adhere to Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and stop interfering in the affairs of other States. He went on to express regret at the atrocities perpetrated by the Government of Syria, calling on Member States to hold the regime accountable.
FU CONG (China) said that the cold war mentality and power politics have become even more outdated than ever before. Unilateralism and protectionism will get nowhere, he said, adding that China upholds multilateralism. Positive progress has been made on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and with the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, that part of the world can find peace and be free of nuclear weapons and military threats. All parties must firmly uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement. “We must not stand still or even reverse course,” he said. On Syria, alleged uses of chemical weapons must be objectively and impartially investigated, but recrimination and prejudgement would only complicate matters. Highlighting the need to adhere to international rules and norms, he said the mandate of the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) should not be arbitrarily distorted or expanded. On other issues, he said China has always honoured its commitment to the moratorium on nuclear tests. He also invited Member States to join discussions on the Chinese‑Russian proposal to establish a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space towards an early start of negotiations on an instrument.
RUDOLPH MICHAEL TEN-POW (Guyana), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his Government remains committed to the disarmament agenda. International peace and security requires the collective will and effort of all States. “There can be no development without peace,” he said, adding that efforts to combat the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons are especially important to Guyana as a developing country. Turning to nuclear disarmament, he said these weapons “have no place in our world” and their continued existence runs contrary to the principles of the United Nations. Condemning the use of chemical weapons, he noted the relevance of attributing responsibility whenever they were used. In closing, he expressed pleasure over the increasing inclusion of a gender dimension in the disarmament agenda.
CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea) noted that the general debate in this Committee is now taking place in a very different context from a year ago, when tensions were escalating on the Korean Peninsula. In April, his country’s President and the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea confirmed the common goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was reaffirmed in the United States‑Democratic People’s Republic of Korea summit in June. During the third inter‑Korean Summit, in September, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Chairman agreed to dismantle the Dongchang‑ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries and indicated his willingness to permanently dismantle nuclear facilities at Yongbyon if the United States takes corresponding measures. These positive developments provide “a glimpse of hope” in addressing other disarmament and non‑proliferation challenges the world is facing, he said, emphasizing the indispensable role of the United Nations in that regard. Given the current geopolitical reality, progressive and step‑by‑step approaches based on the Non‑Proliferation Treaty are the most pragmatic way to engage nuclear‑weapon States in the process.
RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDÓN (Costa Rica), recalling that the threat of nuclear weapons or their use is the focus of discussion in this Committee, urged States to comply with international obligations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an opportunity for a new impetus towards disarmament and it is based on humanitarian principles. Article 6 of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty must be implemented, he said, noting that Costa Rica is anticipating a tangible outcome at the 2020 Review Conference, given the unacceptable deadlock experienced in 2015. Turning to other concerns, he said States that have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty should do so without delay. He called for an end to modernizing weapons and a reduction in strategic weapons stockpiles. A proposed fissile material cut‑off treaty must be part of the global non‑proliferation regime. There is also a need for more arms control, he declared, adding that Costa Rica will advocate for the development of a security doctrine based on humanity, not of the military nature.
ELIF ÇALIŞKAN (Turkey) said trust among States has seriously eroded, along with entrenched divisions on nuclear disarmament and the use of chemical weapons with impunity. There is no short‑cut in the process towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, she said, adding that efforts must be realistic and involve nuclear‑weapon States. Meanwhile, she said it is difficult to accept the fact that the use of chemical weapons has become “daily news”. Regretting to note that the mandate of the OPCW‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria was not extended in 2017, she called for the Security Council to find a solution. Turning to other matters, she underscored Turkey’s commitment to strengthening the Programme of Action on Small Arms, International Tracing Instrument and the Arms Trade Treaty. Expressing support for the peaceful use of outer space, she welcomed the creation of a group of governmental experts on the issue, adding that preparations to establish a Turkish space agency are under way.
BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal) said nuclear weapons present a constant security dilemma, are not useful deterrents and should not be part of any State’s security doctrine. Only the total elimination of such weapons can guarantee against their use. Until that goal is achieved, the international community must adopt legally binding assurances for non‑nuclear‑weapon States. Meanwhile, nuclear‑weapon States must respect principles of transparency, irreversibility and verifiability of nuclear weapons for their time‑bound and total elimination. The early conclusion of a fissile material cut‑off treaty will give true meaning to nuclear disarmament efforts, while the establishment of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones can complement non‑proliferation efforts. Highlighting technology as a powerful agent of change and transformation, he warned that its misuse raises serious ethical and moral questions. As such, he called for a sound regulatory framework. Recognizing the value of the regional disarmament process in complementing global efforts, Nepal will once again table a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.
BAH OURY (Guinea), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, adding that his country has joined the relevant global disarmament instruments. Further, Guinea stands ready to participate in negotiating a fissile material cut‑off treaty. The Non‑Proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime and its universality is a gauge for international peace. Regarding the Arms Trade Treaty, he welcomed the success and recommendations stemming from the recent Conference of States Parties, expressing hope that the next meeting in Geneva will garner enhanced political commitment. For its part, Guinea organized a regional seminar in September on ways to prevent small arms and light weapons from falling in the hands of illegal non‑State actors.
FRANCISCO ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Colombia) recalled his country’s President’s recent speech to the General Assembly, calling for multilateral cooperation and underlining a need for the political will to implement disarmament instruments, including those on conventional weapons, which cause the highest number of casualties. In this regard, Colombia welcomes the result of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Raising other concerns, he highlighted as critical actions the provision of mine‑risk education and assistance for victims of such explosive devices, reiterating his commitment to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention. Colombia is a State party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said, noting that it is essential for the instrument to achieve universality. Referring to recent activities, he said Chile and Colombia carried out a peer review on the implementation of a Security Council resolution on counter‑terrorism.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana) said multilateral diplomacy is vital to achieving a safe and secure world. While a nuclear‑weapon‑free world in the context of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty continued to elude the international community, billions of dollars are being invested by some States for the development, modernization and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction at the expense of global human suffering and sustainable development. Meanwhile, some States are redefining and reneging on their international obligations, while replacing existing commitments with vague negative security assurances. However, Ghana is encouraged by the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and had already signed it. Regarding small arms and light weapons, she highlighted the havoc caused by their illicit transfer, particularly in Africa, while welcoming the outcome of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Calling attention to the potential danger of the “self‑seeking” exploitation of outer space, she said increasing dependence on space‑based platforms and satellites in the twenty‑first century appears threatened by a “new form of colonial competition”.
ELSA HAILE (Eritrea) said the international security architecture starts at the regional level. Indeed, achieving peace and security requires regional conflict resolution mechanisms that address the specific challenges. A region that views security in a non‑inclusive manner cannot provide security for its citizens nor contribute to global peace and security. Even worse, instability provides a fertile ground for terrorists and transnational organized crime. While the Horn of Africa has endured conflict, extreme poverty and displacement in the past half century, States in the region are making remarkable progress by ending an era marked by conflicts and zero-sum competition. Through bilateral and trilateral agreements, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are forging closer political and economic ties, while leaders of Eritrea and Djibouti have agreed to establish a new chapter of cooperation and good neighbourliness. She went on to underscore the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States in the maintenance of international peace and security.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed support for United Nations resolutions and international instruments in disarmament and international security. However, he regretted to note current increasing global military expenditures at a time when hundreds of millions of people live in poverty and many children are out of school. These resources should be redirected to poverty eradication efforts. Peace, security, human rights and development are all intertwined, he said, adding that there is no peace without development, and vice versa. He cautioned against attempts to block the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, recalling that due to the inclusion of one paragraph addressing the issue, the outcome document was not adopted at the 2015 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Establishing such a zone is a precondition for the stability of the region. Regarding chemical weapons, Libya has been certified as eliminating related stockpiles in 2017, he said, urging other States to follow suit.
WEI’EN JOHN KHOO (Singapore), aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reduced significantly, noting his country’s honour to have hosted a summit earlier in 2018, bringing together the Heads of State of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Following Thailand’s ratification, all ASEAN Member States are now parties to the Test‑Ban Treaty, adding that Singapore views the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone for the international disarmament regime. On other concerns, he warned that States are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks and welcomed United Nations initiatives to facilitate dialogue to foster respect for norms in cyberspace. Singapore condemns the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstance, he went on to say. He also noted that his Government believes that outer space must remain a peaceful global common area.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said there is a “fresh” trend towards peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula in 2018 that has changed the direction of the situation. With firm determination and a strong will to forge a new history in relations, he recalled the historic meeting between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un and the President of the United States Donald Trump. The Singapore summit demonstrated that even countries with decades‑long hostile relations can, through dialogue and negotiation, resolve issues of regional and world peace and security. At the same time, there has been a fundamental change in inter‑Korean relations commenced by Chairman Kim’s New Year address, followed by exchanges and cooperation in various fields, which further led to three rounds of talks and the adoption of the Panmunjom Declaration and Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
This epochal change on the Korean Peninsula is having a positive impact across the world, he said. Ever since the Singapore summit, the world’s attention is focused on follow‑up steps. His delegation stands firm in its commitment to implement the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea‑United States joint statement in a responsible manner and in good faith, he said, noting that confidence‑building is key to its full implementation. Solely discussing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not help solve the issues without addressing deep‑rooted distrust. To ensure transparency, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has discontinued nuclear tests and inter‑continental ballistic rocket testing and is irreversibly dismantling the nuclear test ground. Phased steps are necessary to improve relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States and to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Indeed, the quickest way to solve the problem is to depart from old methods and take a step‑by‑step approach, he concluded.
LEENA PYLVÄNÄINEN (Finland) said that given the current security situation, deliberations should be guided by one key question: how can Member States most effectively strengthen the international arms control architecture and pave the way for concrete progress in the months ahead? “Our shared aim must be to support and strengthen the Non‑Proliferation Treaty,” she said. In doing so, it is important to focus on common interests. Towards the Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference, concrete steps can be taken by nuclear‑weapon States to reduce tensions. Progress is possible on transparency measures, negative security guarantees and confidence‑building measures over the next two years. The decision on OPWC and its new capacity to attribute responsibility to the use of chemical weapons is a first, important step in combatting impunity. However, the final responsibility for achieving accountability rests with the Security Council.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to comments made by his counterparts. The United States’ representative on 10 October failed to remember that it had used weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, deployed nuclear weapons and possessed atomic bombs in its military bases around the world, in violation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, United States weapons have been used to kill many people in scores of countries, including Iran, Libya, Viet Nam and Panama. Indeed, the United States facilitated the transfer of chemical weapons to Syria and trained terrorists there on how to use them. Noting that France cannot be a “firefighter” when it is the one “setting fires here and there”, he urged his French counterpart not to forget nuclear explosions in Polynesia and the desert of Algeria. Saudi Arabia launched a bloodbath in Yemen and spread terrorism throughout the world. Turkey also facilitates the transfer of chemical weapons and terrorists across the border. Recalling the recent decision taken at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said it runs counter to provisions in the instrument and sets a dangerous precedent.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his Russian counterpart introduced a false tale on 10 October. Providing a summary of the incident, he said two Russian nationals travelled to the United Kingdom to attempt an assassination and evidence led to charges against them. In addition, the European Union concluded that the Russian Federation is highly likely to be responsible. Moreover, the Russian Federation’s representative cannot fool anyone.
The representative of Iran said his counterpart from Saudi Arabia made baseless allegations involving the transfer of ballistic missiles to Yemen. Saudi Arabia failed to recall that his country is the largest military spender in the region, being the largest buyer of “beautiful American weapons” that are used to attack children and other civilians in Yemen. Saudi Arabia cannot buy security with petrodollars and the country is synonymous with terrorists.
The representative of the United States said that while Iran is trying to create an image of a moderate, peace‑loving country, the truth is much different. Iran is addicted to fomenting terrorism around the world, despite Security Council resolutions, and continues to arm Hizbullah and the Houthis. Moreover, multiple ballistic missiles have been launched by Iran in flagrant violation of relevant Council resolutions. Iran is in no position to point fingers at any State. Instead, it should focus on treating its increasingly violent addiction to terrorism. To his counterpart from Syria, he said the country has used chemical weapons against its own people, has gassed its own people repeatedly, is one of the major State sponsors of terrorism, has no credibility and will be held accountable for its actions.
The representative of France said Syria’s delegate was trying to divert attention away from issues on the Committee’s agenda. The Government of Syria was systematically violating its international obligations, he said, noting that chemical massacres have been ongoing since 2013. The world must denounce the risks of the proliferation of such weapons, he said, also condemning recent chemical attacks in Kuala Lumpur, Iraq and the United Kingdom.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said Iran’s delegate continued its destabilizing acts in the region, including supporting Houthi militias. Concerning allegations against his country regarding Yemen, he said Saudi Arabia is a responsible State that abides by international conventions and upholds its responsibilities. His Government is committed to finding a political solution in Yemen. He called on the international community to address Iran’s nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and support for terrorism. Peace and security in the Middle East involves deterring Iran’s expansionist policies. It is ironic that Syria’s delegate accused Saudi Arabia of committing massacres when the Syrian Government commits daily massacres on its own people.
The representative of Iran said his country fights against terrorists created by the United States. While the United States’ representative chose to fabricate incidents, he cited real terrorist incidents that have been supported by the United States. To his counterpart from Saudi Arabia, he said even journalists are not safe from the country’s terrorist activities. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s delegate is uninformed by his country’s behaviour, especially in its refusal to engage in any meaningful dialogue on Yemen.
The representative of Syria denounced the fabricated allegations of France’s delegate, given the latter’s participation with armed groups operating in Syria. Indeed, France has armed groups with equipment, ammunition and intelligence, and even chemical weapons. Meanwhile, the Wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia is filled with hypocrisy and factual mistakes to cover its crimes and terrorism. The Al‑Saud regime finances a counter‑terrorism centre at the United Nations while it violates related Security Council resolutions. In addition, it has beheaded more than 100 people, using swords just like Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Addressing his counterpart from the United States, he recalled that WikiLeaks released classified information, including a regime‑change plan for Syria. Even Hilary Clinton confessed in her memoir that the United States created Da’esh and Al-Qaida. The world cannot forget what happened in Iraq and how it led to calamities in the region, he said, adding that the United States uses terrorist groups as part of its foreign policy.
The representative of the United States said Iran’s record on terrorism is very clear, recalling its taking of hostages at the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979. He then said Syria’s delegate “is a joke”.
The representative of France rejected the “fantasy” approach of Syria’s delegate. France does not finance and support terrorism; it fights it every day with determination.