Amid Reports of Continued Chemical Weapon Use, First Committee Delegates Debate How Best to Effectively Eliminate Banned Lethal Agents
Spotlighting continued violations of bans on chemical and biological weapons, delegates discussed how best to effectively address those threats and ensure the destruction of remaining stockpiles, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its debate on other weapons of mass destruction.
Raising concerns about continued violations, some representatives called on the international community to preserve global norms and a century‑long effort to outlaw such materials. Many pointed to targeted attacks and the disturbing use of lethal chemical agents in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom as instruments of assassination. Some delegates voiced grave concerns at existing stockpiles, calling for their immediate destruction.
New Zealand’s delegate warned Member States that complacency on the matter could contribute to an erosion of the core principles of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. Highlighting the indiscriminate nature of a chemical weapon attack, she said the breach of international law is particularly abhorrent when it involves weapons so clearly incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants.
Expressing concerns about the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria and the incident in Salisbury, Ukraine’s representative said such acts cannot be left unanswered. This would undermine a basic sense of justice and lead to the erosion of the non‑proliferation and disarmament regimes.
Many delegates expressed support for a decision made in June at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention that would allow the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to identify the parties responsible for the use of such weapons. Meanwhile, Latvia’s delegate, among others, expressed dismay at an attempted cyberattack in April against OPCW, while calling on the international community to strongly oppose and deter efforts to interfere with its work.
The peaceful and legitimate use of such weapons also featured prominently throughout the discussion, with representatives of several developing States, including Cuba, highlighting the importance of article 11 of the Chemical Weapons Convention regarding economic and technological development.
Other delegates stressed the importance of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. Some emphasized the numerous challenges it faces, including keeping up with rapid progress in biological sciences and ensuring strong national implementation programmes.
Voicing a common concern about the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands, Kazakhstan’s representative said technological advances exacerbate the threat of terrorism and make negotiations for a convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism increasingly relevant. Similarly, Nepal’s delegate called for a universal, non‑discriminatory and legally binding mechanism to tackle the issue of biological threats.
The Committee also began consideration of the disarmament aspects of outer space.
Delivering statements on the issue of other weapons of mass destruction were the representatives of Paraguay, Switzerland, Canada, Egypt, Mexico, India, South Africa, Ireland, Japan, Germany, France, Algeria, Pakistan, Poland, Indonesia, Qatar and Hungary.
On the issue of outer space, the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States and Switzerland, as well as the European Union delivered statements.
The representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria and France spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 October, to continue its thematic debates on weapons of mass destruction and on outer space.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said that the prohibition and elimination of weapons of mass destruction are necessary conditions for international peace and security. As a State party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, Paraguay urges all States to refrain from any act that undermines the aims of these instruments and to encourage their universalization. In cooperation with the Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, his Government is working to develop an institutional framework to combat terrorism and help to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction by non‑State actors.
SABRINA DALLAFIOR (Switzerland) called on Member States to accede to both the biological and chemical weapons conventions if they have not yet done so, underscoring the importance of their universal ratification. The repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), as confirmed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in 2016 and 2017, is an unprecedented violation of the norm. The use of a Novichok class of nerve agent in the United Kingdom is illegal, she said, expressing her Government’s full confidence in the results of the OPCW and United Kingdom investigation. Therefore, the Russian Federation should clarify the origin of the nerve agent and disclose any nerve agent development programmes and stockpiles to OPCW. Switzerland supports the decision made in June on OPWC at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which called for establishing a mechanism to identify the parties responsible for use of such weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention faces numerous challenges, including a need for stronger national implementation and for keeping up with a rapid progress in biological sciences.
ROSEMARY MCCARNEY (Canada) said the taboo against the use of chemical weapons has been broken. Toxic chemicals have been used as weapons in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom. Many chemical weapon attacks in Syria remain unattributed due to the Russian Federation’s veto in the Security Council of the renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism. Canada welcomes the June decision to broaden the OPCW mandate and will continue to do its part to mitigate chemical‑weapon threats globally, having, to date, contributed more than $41 million for destruction, monitoring, verification and investigation efforts in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt) said that even though the Middle East is fraught with chronic tension and instability, his country acceded to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in goodwill and implemented all its provisions. Yet, a zone free of weapons of mass destruction has not yet been established, creating a security imbalance due to one party’s obstruction of efforts in this regard. He called on Member States to rid the Middle East of such weapons and redress the imbalances of the region. Opposed to the use of such armaments, Egypt supports the biological and chemical weapons conventions, all relevant Security Council resolutions and efforts to implement resolution 1540 (2004) to prevent non‑State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. He pointed out the “clear contradiction” of States calling for the universalization of these conventions, while failing to call on Israel to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. These States are also reluctant to support a conference to negotiate a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East on the pretext that security conditions in the region are not favourable, he said, reminding them that humanitarian principles are indivisible and that the security of all States should be treated equally without double standards.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVICS (Latvia) strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by State and non‑State actors under any circumstances. Expressing dismay at an attempted cyberattack in April against OPCW, he said the international community must strongly oppose and deter any such efforts to undermine the global norm or interfere with the Organisation’s work. Moreover, he expressed regret that it was not possible to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism mandate in November, welcoming a decision to enhance the capacity of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. United and coordinated multilateral action is the only way forward to effectively tackle the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, he said, adding that Latvia welcomes the adoption of a new European Union autonomous sanctions regime designed to fight the proliferation of chemical weapons and their precursors.
SOCORRO FLORES LIERA (Mexico) expressed concern about the United States withdrawal from the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, formally known as the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate‑Range and Shorter‑Range Missiles. Cautioning that the decision would erode confidence in global disarmament efforts, she urged the United States and the Russian Federation to spare no efforts to avoid jeopardizing international security. The First Committee is also meeting at the time when the norms on chemical weapons have been violated. Categorically condemning the use of such weapons, she said perpetrators must be held accountable. The Chemical Weapons Convention is an outcome of effective multilateralism, she said, adding that his delegation welcomes the June decision to broaden the OPCW mandate.
SANDEEP KUMAR BAYYAPU (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the use of chemical weapons cannot be justified under any circumstances and perpetrators of such abhorrent acts must be held accountable. All investigations into the alleged use of such weapons should be conducted in an impartial and objective manner, strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. India has the second largest number of declared facilities and receives among the largest number of OPCW industry inspections, he said, adding that Convention provisions must be implemented in a manner that does not hinder legitimate activities.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said her country strictly complies with provisions of biological and chemical weapons conventions. Cuba firmly rejects the use of such weapons under any conditions. To achieve the objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention, she called on the United States to complete the destruction of its declared stockpiles. Likewise, she called for the full implementation of article 11 of the Convention regarding economic and technological development. She condemned the attack by the United States on 13 April against military and civilian installations in Syria under the pretext of the Government’s use of chemical weapons, despite having no proof. Moreover, she called for a knowledge exchange on chemical and biological activities for peaceful purposes in line with relevant conventions. She went on to condemn the United States blockade against Cuba, while stressing the central role of the United Nations in matters relating to disarmament and non‑proliferation.
NATASHA MALEKANE (South Africa) underscored the importance of implementing all provisions of the biological and chemical weapons conventions and urged all possessors of such weapons to accelerate disarmament and non‑proliferation efforts. Expressing concern that chemical weapons have been used in Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom, she said her country condemns any use of such weapons. Voicing concerns that OPCW has been polarized by taking a decision by vote, not by consensus, she anticipated the forthcoming Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to hear details of the attribution mechanism for the use of chemical weapons. Her delegation will continue to work to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. The universality of both instruments is critical, she said, welcoming the recent accession of the State of Palestine while urging States that have not yet done so to join the treaties.
ASSYLBEK TAUASSAROV (Kazakhstan) said that through the Biological Weapons Convention the international community committed itself to eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. He said technological advances exacerbate the threat of terrorism and make negotiations of an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism increasingly relevant. Biological research must not be allowed to pose a threat to security. States in possession of chemical weapons must fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and must “destroy their arsenals within agreed time frames”. Kazakhstan supports a weapons‑of‑mass‑destruction‑free Middle East, he said, voicing regret that a conference on the matter has still not been convened.
FRANK GROOME (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, the biological and chemical weapons conventions and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are all key in achieving a world free of weapons of mass destruction. However, it is “deeply shocking that the international community is still confronted with the use of chemical weapons despite international law prohibiting them,” he added. The repeated use of veto powers in the Security Council to prevent moves towards accountability for chemical weapon use in Syria is highly regrettable. The failure to ensure effective accountability only serves to embolden those who dare to use such banned weapons. Strengthening the non‑proliferation regime is a high priority for Ireland. The role played by export control regimes is an essential part of ensuring the best possible standards are applied to sensitive technology transfers. Ireland is a strong supporter of The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and continues to support the important goal of achieving a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
NOBUSHIGE TAKAMIZAWA (Japan) said that although progress has been made under the Chemical Weapons Convention, the continued use of these substances in recent years has become a serious and urgent issue. Welcoming the June decision to broaden the mandate of OPCW, Japan looks forward to working closely with other States parties to translate it into action. Highlighting the increased threat posed by non‑State actors, he called on States to prevent chemical and toxic substances from falling into the wrong hands and encouraged the remaining non‑member States to reconsider their position or to facilitate internal processes for an early accession to the Convention. Having invested a significant amount of human and financial resources to destroy abandoned chemical weapons in China, Japan takes its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention seriously. While the ongoing project faces various challenges, consistent progress is being made, he said, noting the destruction of 51,000 of the 63,000 recovered chemical weapons. Progress has been made possible through valuable, on-site joint efforts with China. He also underlined the importance of international collaboration and confidence‑building measures in the national implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention.
PETER BEERWERTH (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said the Chemical Weapons Convention is “a truly successful and relevant multilateral non‑proliferation, arms control and disarmament treaty”. In this vein, he highlighted the completion of the destruction in Germany of Libya’s remaining chemical‑weapon precursors and the completion of the destruction by Iraq of remnants of its chemical weapons. Germany strongly condemns the cyberoperation that targeted OPWC, noting that the attack was successfully disrupted by Dutch authorities. Regarding the Biological Weapons Convention, he said rapid developments in the field of biotechnology and life sciences must be carefully monitored in view of their dual‑use potential. Cases of alleged attempts of bioterrorism demonstrate a need for adequate national implementation measures.
SURENDRA THAPA (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country is committed to implementing disarmament‑related international treaties and is free from all types of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and does not manufacture, import or export any such weapon nor does it intend to do so. The use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime against humanity and perpetrators must always be held accountable. As a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Nepal has always been careful to regulate the cross‑border movement of such goods. He called for a universal, non‑discriminatory and legally binding mechanism to tackle the issue of biological threats. Despite an unwavering commitment to disarmament and non‑proliferation, some least developed countries still lack adequate technical and financial resources and enforcement capabilities to comply with provisions of various treaties. As such, he called for the international community to focus on strengthening the institutional capacity of these countries in this regard.
YANN HWANG (France) said that the international community is facing the most serious proliferation crisis of the century in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While ongoing diplomatic efforts are commendable, the country has not put a stop to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which are a continuing threat to international peace and security. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also has a chemical weapons programme, he said, adding that his delegation expects it to take real and tangible steps towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its illegal weapons programmes. On Iran, he said the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action must be rigorously and transparently implemented, adding that there is no credible and effective alternative. His delegation is very concerned about the rapid development of Iran’s ballistic missile programme. He also welcomed the June decision to broaden the mandate of OPCW.
MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, African Group and the Arab Group, said bans on weapons of mass destruction constitute a priority in global disarmament and non‑proliferation efforts. The two treaties prohibiting biological and chemical weapons bear great importance towards achieving a world free of such weapons. Taking note of all the gains achieved under OPCW, he completely rejects any use of such weapons by anyone for any reason. Algeria hopes to see greater international cooperation in the peaceful use of technology to strengthen the economy of nations. He underscored a need for the balanced implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention and a need to prevent the emergence of new kinds of weapons of mass destruction. He also called for the establishment of a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
JEHANZEB KHAN (Pakistan) said the biological and chemical weapons conventions are important pillars of the international security architecture. At the same time, Pakistan values the Biological Weapons Convention’s potential for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of life sciences. In that regard, Pakistan is seeking to further strengthen the legislative, regulatory and administrative framework to regulate life sciences and enhance biosafety and biosecurity regulations. Turning to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he called for preserving the objectivity and credibility of OPCW and its verification regime, adding that distortions to its mandate must be avoided. In addition, OPCW should be strengthened to deal with the ongoing and future challenges of the Convention. Highlighting measures Pakistan has taken to address the threat of chemical and biological weapons by non‑State actors, he said comprehensive reports have been submitted to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004). Pakistan also supports the Russian Federation’s proposal for an international convention to be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament to address acts of chemical and biological terrorism.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) urged countries that have not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention — namely South Sudan, Israel, Egypt and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — to do so without delay. The breach of international humanitarian law is particularly abhorrent when it involves weapons so clearly incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants. In addition, OPCW recorded more than 100 instances of alleged chemical weapon use in Syria from 2015 to 8 October 2018. She also condemned the “highly disturbing” instances of the use of lethal chemical agents as instruments of assassination in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Any complacency on the part of Member States could contribute to an erosion of the core principles of the Chemical Weapons Convention, she warned, adding that the international community must guard against the undermining of the success of the century‑long effort to outlaw these weapons.
MARCIN KAWAŁOWSKI (Poland) said his delegation is introducing a draft resolution on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is a national priority. The key goal of the draft resolution is to provide strong and unambiguous support from the whole international community to uphold the Convention’s integrity, he said, also emphasizing the critical role of OPCW and its many efforts and achievements. In 2018, Poland was confronted with fundamentally divergent views of some Member States. Finding middle ground proved to be even more challenging than in the past, he said, ensuring that Poland, as the sole sponsor, has done its utmost to table an effective draft resolution.
FAIZAL CHERY SIDHARTA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his Government established the National Authority on the Chemical Weapons Convention and is working to plan, enforce, observe and evaluate the use of related substances for peaceful purposes. It is undertaking an enhancement in cooperation with international organizations and States parties to the Convention. Indonesia is pleased that the Meeting of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention in 2017 successfully reached consensus on an intersessional programme from 2018 to 2020. His delegation takes note with interest the outcome of the 2018 Meeting of Experts in August and hopes that these efforts will contribute to strengthen the Convention, including a resumption of multilateral negotiations for a legally binding protocol on a verification regime.
TALAL RASHID N. M. AL-KHALIFA (Qatar) expressed grave concern over the spread of conflict and the use of extremely dangerous weapons by armed groups. His Government condemns the possession and development of such weapons, which runs counter to the objective of creating a peaceful world. Drawing attention to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), he said weapons of mass destruction should not fall into the hands of non‑State parties and terrorists. The Chemical Weapons Convention contributed to global efforts in the field of disarmament and counter‑terrorism, but violations of its provisions are unacceptable and perpetrators must be held accountable. The international community does not tolerate the use of such weapons in Syria, which amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Qatar has held many trainings and seminars in cooperation with OPCW and has implemented its obligations under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.
GYÖRGY MOLNÁR (Hungary) introduced a draft resolution on the Biological Weapons Convention. The instrument is a “fundamental pillar of the international community’s effort against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, he said, adding that the draft resolution reflects progress made in the universalization of the Convention. It also highlights the serious financial situation of the Convention, which requires States parties to take urgent action.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) expressed concern over the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria, as documented in several OPCW fact‑finding mission reports. Condemning the use of chemical weapons, he called for perpetrators to be held accountable. The incident in Salisbury is another example of a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and international law. Any such act cannot be left unanswered, as it undermines a basic sense of justice and leads to the erosion of the non‑proliferation and disarmament regime, which consequently undermines global security. He welcomed the decision to broaden the OPCW mandate in this regard. He went on to note the importance of the proper implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), an important tool to address the evolving risk of the use of weapons of mass destruction by non‑State actors.
FAIZAL CHERY SIDHARTA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, recognized the common interest of all humankind and the inalienable right of all States in the exploration and use of outer space for “exclusively peaceful purposes”. He emphasized the importance of strict compliance with existing disarmament agreements relevant to outer space and pointed to an urgent need for substantive work on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. He welcomed General Assembly resolutions on the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race in this realm.
He said the Non‑Aligned Movement urges all Member States to “contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space”, as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation in its exploitation and use. He voiced concern about the negative implications of the development and deployment of anti‑ballistic missile defence systems and the threat of the “weaponization” of outer space. He reaffirmed a need for a universal, comprehensive and non‑discriminatory multilateral approach towards the issue of missiles in all its aspects. “Any initiative on this subject should take into account the security concerns of all States and their inherent right to the peaceful use of space technologies,” he said.
BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, underscored that because outer space is a property of humankind and does not belong to a particular party, its use must be codified. There is a need for an international consensus to prevent an arms race in outer space. However, outer space governance should not prevent its legitimate use for peaceful purposes. Outer space is not the place to test or deploy weapons and related technologies. The Arab Group welcomes the work of the Governmental Group of Experts on a legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space, he said, expressing hope for the commencement of negotiations on such a treaty.
MOHD SUHAIMI AHMAD TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, reaffirmed the imperative of preventing an arms race in outer space and welcomed the establishment of the Group of Governmental Experts on the subject. Expressing hope that its work will be transparent and inclusive, he anticipated a dialogue on how international law can be applied to the conduct of States in outer space. Given the rapid development and deployment of new space technologies, such nuanced questions will assume increasingly practical relevance.
All States must ensure that the use and exploration of outer space are exclusively peaceful, he continued, noting the vital role of the General Assembly in fostering dialogue on current issues and challenges in the field. In that connection, Member States should consider holding meetings on an ad hoc basis, such as those held by the First Committee and Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) during the seventieth Session. Indeed, United Nations‑led mechanisms are the most suitable avenue for deliberation on space‑related challenges. At the same time, confidence‑building measures play a critical role in preventing an arms race in outer space, he continued, noting Southeast Asia’s support for related initiatives through platforms such as the ASEAN regional forum.
ANNE KEMPPAINEN, of the European Union delegation, expressed support for the preservation of a safe and secure space environment on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. The European Union recognizes outer space as a global common good to be used for the benefit of all. Strengthening the safety, security, sustainability and peaceful nature of outer space activities is best achieved through international cooperation. The European Union and the European Space Agency together have the second largest budget for space in the world.
Both a responsibility and a global common resource, space requires global governance, she continued, affirming that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty remains the cornerstone of global governance of this realm. Underlining the importance of transparency and confidence‑building measures, she voiced support for efforts to pursue political commitments through codes of conduct. The European Union will continue to promote principles of responsible behaviour in the framework of the United Nations and other multilateral forums. She went on to express concern about the continued development of anti‑satellite weapons and capabilities, including terrestrially based armaments, highlighting a need to address such developments promptly as part of international efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space.
YLEEM D.S. POBLETE (United States) raised several concerns about the Russian Federation and its space apparatus inspector and statements made by its space troops commander and military officials. Such statements included that new prototypes of weapons into space forces’ military units is a main task facing the aerospace forces space troops and that the Russian Federation’s space troops have delivered a combat laser system. Furthermore, the Russian Federation claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid‑flight to destroy American satellites. Such developments are yet further proof that the Russian Federation’s military actions do not match their diplomatic rhetoric. In addition, the drafters of the “no first placement” resolution and the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space are actually also developing capabilities designed to attack satellites in space — the very thing that they claim to seek to prohibit. Such proposals are fundamentally flawed and are advanced by a country that has routinely violated its international obligations. For its part, the United States continues to support the Committee’s resolution on transparency and confidence‑building measures.
SABRINA DALLAFIOR (Switzerland) highlighted progress in 2018 on strengthening international norms and ensuring security in space and the safety and long‑term sustainability of activities there. In the Conference on Disarmament, discussions are helping to strengthen mutual understanding among Member States, she said, expressing hope they will prepare the ground for the possible development of new instruments for preventing an arms race in outer space. The participation of major space powers in the Group of Governmental Experts on Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space is encouraging, she said, also noting with appreciation the Disarmament Commission’s work on transparency. In addition, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space finalized nine supplementary guidelines, she said, demonstrating the goodwill of all States involved. Switzerland supports the proposal discussed within the Fourth Committee for a new joint meeting in 2019.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected allegations made by his counterpart from France that his country is continuing with the development of weapons of mass destruction. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea undertook a number of measures, including the discontinuation of intercontinental ballistic missile launches. Instead of welcoming Pyongyang’s significant contribution to international nuclear disarmament efforts, the French delegate made provocative allegations. The French delegate believes that nuclear weapons are safe in their hands but dangerous in the hands of others, he said, adding that France should follow the good example of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in its denuclearization efforts. He also rejected allegations about chemical weapons programmes.
The representative of Syria said his Government condemns any use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Syria honoured its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, confirmed by United Nations officials. Some delegations cited the Joint Investigative Mechanism report, which was governed by States that sponsor terrorists. Therefore, Syria rejects all allegations made by a number of delegates, including those from Canada, Germany and Switzerland.
The representative of France commended the diplomatic efforts on the Korean Peninsula and encouraged these positive developments. However, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must end its illegal nuclear weapons and chemical weapons programmes, which are of concern to all, in a verifiable and irreversible manner.