Speakers Call for Stronger Commitment to International Accords Banning Weapons of Mass Destruction, as Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Continues
Citing violations of international treaties banning the use of weapons of mass destruction, speakers meeting for a fourth day at the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons today also spotlighted the success of those instruments and urged stronger commitment to deter aggression and advance disarmament.
The Chemical Weapons Convention has been “a remarkable success” with more than 99 per cent of 72,000 metric tons of declared chemical weapons stockpiles destroyed under robust verification by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), its representative said. However, recent chemical weapons use in Iraq, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, Syria and the United Kingdom, as well as the threat of their use in the war in Ukraine, are cause for growing concern. “In managing these challenges, effective national implementation of international obligations is our first line of defence,” he emphasized.
Wendin D. Smith, Acting Assistant Secretary General of the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), pointed out that after the cold war, allied countries “dramatically” reduced the number of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and took steps to ensure NATO’s nuclear deterrent capabilities remain safe, secure and effective. Notwithstanding the Russian Federation’s actions that undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty, she said the purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. Allies have always adhered to their Treaty obligations and will continue to do so, she said, while nuclear sharing arrangements remain consistent with the accord.
Highlighting a bilateral initiative in Latin America, a representative of the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, said the Agreement between Argentina and Brazil for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy established a common system of control applied to all nuclear materials and facilities — an innovative arrangement that exists nowhere else today. The agency cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to improve the coordination of safeguards activities, as well as with Government entities and technical associations outside the region.
Representatives of regional organizations highlighted the importance of nuclear-weapon-free zones in ensuring regional and international peace and security, while underscoring areas for urgent action.
The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States noted that all Arab States have joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty — motivated by the promise of increased security. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that remains outside the Treaty, he said, adding that the lack of progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region has led to “deep negative effects”. For the Review Conference to be considered a success, its outcome document must address the need for greater efforts to establish such a zone and for Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear State.
A speaker for the African Commission on Nuclear Energy — as well as African States parties to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (the Pelindaba Treaty) — said the Commission is enhancing coordination with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone and it plans similar engagement with other regional zones. Noting that the nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, and the zone in Mongolia comprise 114 States and almost 40 per cent of the world’s population, he called on the five nuclear-weapon States to prioritize ratification of all applicable protocols within current nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties.
Member States also took the floor, echoing calls heard on prior days’ deliberations for nuclear-weapon States to renew their commitments on disarmament, while highlighting the benefits of cooperation, including in the establishment of zones free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Botswana said the IAEA has facilitated his country’s access to nuclear technology to prevent and control livestock diseases and crop production. Botswana has also received capacity-building support from the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in collaboration with the United States, the European Union and other partners.
The speaker for Peru said that, as a party to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), his country has witnessed the benefits of nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in enhancing regional security and promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology. Voicing concern over expanded nuclear alliances that undermine commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said the international community must strengthen cooperation among the different nuclear-weapon-free zones.
Also speaking were representatives of Canada (on behalf of a group of States on gender), Equatorial Guinea and Myanmar.
Representatives of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the International Committee of the Red Cross also delivered statements.
The representatives of Germany, United States, Iran and China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Friday, 5 August.
LESLIE NORTON (Canada), speaking on behalf of a group of States on gender, noted that Action 36 of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament makes clear that the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in representation, advocacy and decision-making processes is key to moving towards a safer future. She affirmed that gender perspectives provide key insights into how individuals and groups are differentially impacted by armed conflict and weapons. The intersections of race, gender, economic status, geography, nationality, and other factors must be taken into account, as nuclear weapons have different effects on different demographics — as evidenced in studies with survivors of weapons use and testing. It is further important to identify gaps and barriers in existing regimes and forums. She noted that this review cycle has seen some improvements in the number of women participants, which should be recognized.
She further welcomed an increased focus in ensuring that youth and other historically excluded voices are heard, including through the #Youth4Disarmament initiative. As the generation that will have to live with the consequences of success or failure on the issue, she stressed that youth have a very real stake in the work of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — also bringing fresh and creative ideas to the fore. Gender can affect exposure to nuclear risk, she noted, including: the impact of ionizing radiation resulting from nuclear weapons use; the ability to benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and access to education and training in nuclear science and engineering. She cited the efforts of civil society and United Nations organizations such as the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in the field of gender equality. “Civil society provides evidence, expertise, advice and ideas that spurs us on to meaningful action,” she said.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, called on nuclear-armed States to renew their commitment to achieve their disarmament and non-proliferation goals. Unfortunately, there has been no progress on the aims of the Treaty, but rather, efforts to modernize nuclear weapons with “astronomical” costs, while malnutrition, disease and the effects of climate change devastate humanity. He expressed hope the Conference will agree on an internationally verifiable disarmament timetable, stressing: “It is time for a new approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”. It is essential that States comply with IAEA safeguards agreements without reservation. Equatorial Guinea has signed and ratified all relevant international instruments, he said, adding his voice to those supporting the use of atomic energy for civilian purposes in the areas of agriculture, food and health. In Africa — a nuclear-weapon-free zone — minerals, such as uranium and plutonium necessary for the development of these weapons, should not be traded for military purposes. He expressed his strongest condemnation of nuclear tests, renewal or threats of use and improvement of nuclear arsenals, stressing that the possession and production of such weapons should be regarded as a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.
JOSÉ MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS (Peru) said nuclear-weapon States must provide non-nuclear-weapon States with effective universal, unconditional, irreversible and legally binding security guarantees against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in all circumstances. “We see the expansion of military alliances, which may be called nuclear alliances, that undermine commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty aimed at reducing dependence on nuclear weapons,” he said, voicing concern about how strategic defence alliances that involve the exchange of technology for nuclear-propulsion submarines could jeopardize the non-proliferation regime. Nuclear-weapon-free zones play a critical role in the promotion of both disarmament and non-proliferation. As a party to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), his country has witnessed the benefits those zones can provide, he said, noting that they could enhance regional security, particularly in areas of high tension, and promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology. The international community must adopt specific measures to strengthen cooperation among the different nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said, adding that the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, in accordance with the 1995 resolution, will be critical for stability and peace in that region.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed to several nuclear “close calls” — a reminder that disaster is “just a few keystrokes away”. The only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them in a verifiable and irreversible manner. He called for strengthening the Treaty and decisions adopted at past Review Conferences. While most non-nuclear-weapon States have taken “considerable” measures to uphold the three pillars, nuclear-weapon States have not pursued the disarmament pillar with corresponding urgency. He encouraged the peaceful use of nuclear energy, underscoring the paramount importance that its development comply with IAEA guidelines and that the safety of nuclear facilities is ensured. “We condemn the attacks on nuclear facilities at under any circumstance, anywhere, anytime and by anyone,” he asserted. He raised alarm at the record number of ballistic missiles launched by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2022 and urged it to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions, calling as well on Annex II States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Myanmar’s civilian Government had planned to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, bring the IAEA Additional Protocol — signed in 2013 — into force and adhere to the Modified Small Quantity Protocol, however, with the dissolution of Parliament by the military junta, “these plans have been derailed,” he explained. “History tells us that the military junta has never been a good partner in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.” He urged the international community to “keep an eye on” the illegal junta so it does not jeopardize what Myanmar has accomplished.
MILIKO LABA (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, expressed concern over the current fragile state of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes due to actions that undermine and violate the principles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He called for States parties to reaffirm their commitment to its three pillars, mustering the political will, good faith, and spirit of consensus to deliver a successful outcome. Commending the IAEA for its work in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he noted the Agency has also facilitated Botswana’s access to nuclear technology to prevent and control livestock diseases and crop production. He further recognized the efforts of other United Nations entities in supporting disarmament and non-proliferation, including the General Assembly as a norm-setting platform, and the Secretariat in implementing Member States’ mandates. Botswana has received capacity-building support from the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in collaboration with the United States, the European Union and other partners.
SONIA FERNANDEZ MORENO, Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, said the Agreement between Argentina and Brazil for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, which entered into force in 1991, established a common system of control applied to all nuclear materials and facilities — an innovative arrangement, as there is still no similar system in the world. The accord outlines a mission of verifying and guaranteeing that all nuclear materials and facilities in both countries are used for exclusively peaceful purposes, with Brazilian inspectors verifying Argentine nuclear materials and activities, and vice versa, under the purview of a technical Secretariat. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the agency carried out all planned verification activities between 2020 and 2022. Cooperation was of “fundamental importance” to that end, he said, adding that the agency cooperates with the IAEA to improve the coordination of safeguards activities, on the basis that both entities are able to reach independent conclusions. It also maintains close cooperation with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States Department of Energy and the Korea Institute of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Control, as well as with technical associations, such as the European Safeguards Research and Development Association and the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, spotlighted the current “trust crisis” resulting from a lack of progress in nuclear disarmament coupled with State efforts to modernize their nuclear arsenals to promote nuclear deterrence. He also expressed concern over the eroded credibility of the non-proliferation regime, pointing out that some States parties are violating article I of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by supporting Israel in the nuclear field. Israel is the only Middle Eastern State that remains outside the Treaty, and it must accede to that instrument and subject its nuclear facilities to the IAEA’s safeguards system. Noting that all Arab States have joined the Treaty — motivated by the promise of increased security — he stressed that the lack of progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East has led to “deep negative effects”, complicated further by Israel’s ambiguity regarding its nuclear facilities and capacities.
He went on to underscore that this increases tension and instability in the Middle East region, reiterating the need to intensify efforts to establish such a zone. Further, States’ inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes must be respected, rather than being exploited to impose further restrictions under the guise of non-proliferation. He added that, for this Conference to be considered a success, its outcome document must address several important issues, including the need for Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear State; the need to intensify efforts to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; and the lack of progress in nuclear States’ commitment to nuclear disarmament, as such States have now “transferred the arms race to outer space”.
FLÁVIO ROBERTO BONZANINI, Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, noted that unlike previous Conferences, a Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia did not precede this one — despite those periodic conferences being of the utmost importance. He therefore called for all involved States to agree on the dates for convening that Fourth Conference and choose its coordinator. This atypical situation should not set a precedent, he stressed, calling for the next Review Conference to be held immediately after the Conference of Nuclear-Weapon- Free Zones, as has been the case since 2005. He noted that since the last Review Conference, the risk has increased, with the real possibility of a new military and nuclear competition that will endanger international peace and security. The dismantling of historical agreements and erosion of international norms “force us to do everything possible to reaffirm our collective commitment,” he stressed.
The Treaty of Tlatelolco, the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty establish norms of international law and are a suitable legal basis for completely eliminating all nuclear weapons in a transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner. Also citing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a complement to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, he noted that the member States of his Agency played a crucial role in the former. Noting the States Parties to the Treaty of Tlatelolco submitted a working paper with punctual recommendations for consideration, he urged the Tenth Review Conference to include those elements in a final document.
COLLIN NAMALAMBO, speaking for the African Commission on Nuclear Energy, and the African States parties to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (the Pelindaba Treaty), explained that the African Commission is the Secretariat of the Pelindaba Treaty. The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone — together with the four other zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, and the zone in Mongolia — comprise 114 States and almost 40 per cent of the world’s population. He highlighted progress made in reducing the geographical footprint of nuclear weapons, encouraging the five nuclear-weapon States to prioritize ratification of all applicable protocols within the current Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaties. The African Commission seeks to engage with them and Spain as soon as possible on the ratification the Pelindaba Treaty protocols. It is also engaging with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone to enhance coordination, and plans similar engagement with the other zones. He voiced support for IAEA’s General Conference resolutions on the establishment of a mutually and verifiable nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East and encouraged Annex II States in particular to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, acknowledging initiatives by the Zangger Committee, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group related to the interpretation of Non-Proliferation Treaty article III.
WENDIN D. SMITH, Acting Assistant Secretary General of the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Director of the Arms Control, Disarmament, and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation Centre, said NATO’s new Strategic Concept underscores its enduring commitment to the Treaty. In contrast, the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine undermines all three pillars of the Treaty, she said, describing its nuclear threats and rhetoric as “dangerous and irresponsible”, and its activities as being in direct contravention of the most recent leaders’ statement by the five permanent Security Council members. The Russian Federation undermined the non-proliferation pillar by violating the Budapest Memorandum, while its actions related to Ukraine’s civilian nuclear power plants undermine the pillar on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Conference outcome should reaffirm the commitment by all States to the Treaty, recognize its enduring benefits and reinforce the non-proliferation regime.
For its part, NATO leaders at their June summit reiterated the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and resolved to take steps to create the conditions for disarmament negotiations. She explained that after the cold war, allied countries “dramatically” reduced the number of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, took “considerable” steps to ensure NATO’s nuclear deterrent capabilities remain safe, secure and effective, and have consistently supported efforts towards strategic risk reduction — efforts that advance implementation of article VI. NATO continues to oppose the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as it is not an effective tool for reaching the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. “As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance,” she affirmed. The purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. Allies have always adhered to their Treaty obligations and will continue to do so, while nuclear sharing arrangements have always been and are consistent with the accord.
FABIAN RUTHERFORD, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), affirmed that the Treaty has been the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime for more than 50 years, stressing that it has been “a remarkable success” in reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation, keeping the global disarmament goal on the multilateral agenda and promoting peaceful nuclear energy use. Yet, the multilateral approach to arms control has eroded, as several agreements and commitments have been weakened, ignored or “completely abrogated”. The Chemical Weapons Convention has been integral to disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, with more than 99 per cent of 72,000 metric tons of declared chemical weapons stockpiles having been destroyed under robust verification by OPCW. He expected the destruction of all declared stockpiles to be achieved in 2023, adding that the Convention has near universal reach, with 193 States parties.
However, he said recent chemical weapons use in Iraq, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, Syria and the United Kingdom have placed the international norm against these heinous weapons under pressure. The fears and threat of their use in the war in Ukraine have added to the concern. Further, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) has demonstrated in Iraq and Syria that the danger posed by non-State actors using chemical weapons is no longer a theoretical possibility. While developments in chemical production technology and the rapid expansion of the chemical industry help to advance and broaden the peaceful uses of chemistry, he said these changes, conversely, also heighten the risks of diverting toxic chemicals, technology and know-how into the wrong hands. “In managing these challenges, effective national implementation of international obligations is our first line of defence,” he explained. In 2023, OPCW will reach key milestones that will shape the Convention’s implementation, among them, its new Centre for Chemistry and Technology, which will provide a new, high-quality tool for OPCW to conduct chemical research, analysis and training.
MOHAMED YAHIA ALIBI of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that, while the professed purpose of nuclear deterrence is to maintain national and regional security, the existence of nuclear weapons poses major risks to human security. Accepting such weapons as an indispensable part of security is indefensible, dangerous logic, he stressed, expressing doubt that they could ever be used in accordance with international humanitarian law. He went on to say that prohibition is an essential step towards nuclear disarmament and that, in this respect, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons complements and supports the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. “Through prohibition, it creates a disincentive for proliferation,” he said. Adding that the international community stands at a “critical juncture for nuclear disarmament”, he noted that the ICRC has submitted a working paper with recommendations on how this Conference can contribute tangibly to nuclear disarmament. These include risk-reduction measures, renewed commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, cooperation with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and disarmament education.
Right of Reply
The representative of Germany, exercising the right of reply, referred to unfounded accusations by a State party that NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements are in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is and has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression, he said. NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements, which include United States nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and dual-capable aircraft provided by a number of European allies, continue to be fully consistent and compliant with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Those arrangements were put in place well before the Treaty entered into force in 1970. That resulted in seamless integration of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements into the Treaty, which was negotiated with NATO’s arrangements in mind, and which has long been accepted and publicly understood by all States parties to the Treaty. The United States maintains full custody and control over its nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe, which fully conforms with articles I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said.
The representative of the United States, exercising the right of reply, responded to Iran's statement yesterday afternoon and stressed that the suggestion that the United States assists any State inside or outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear weapons is an absolute fabrication. The United States complies strictly with its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and hopes that every State party operates in the same way. He noted that United States President Joseph Biden has directed it to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, emphasize strategic stability, and facilitate risk reduction and arms control agreements. “We have completed a deliberate nuclear policy that advances each of those goals,” he said, adding that if States parties are interested in a factual discussion of those issues, they are welcome to join his delegation's high-level side event on United States nuclear policy tomorrow in Conference Room 4.
The representative of Iran, responding to the “unfounded accusations and unacceptable statements” made by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and others concerning Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme, underscored that his country has the inalienable right to enjoy the peaceful use of nuclear energy like other States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Those countries, which are actively involved in modernizing their nuclear arsenals and extending unqualified support to the Israeli regime, have no moral ground to give those hypothetical statements. While Iran had to take certain remedial measures when the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reinstated sanctions, he said that his country will fully implement the agreement if other parties thereto “keep their end of the bargain”.
The representative of China, on nuclear sharing arrangements, said that nuclear-weapon States have committed to not transfer ownership or control of nuclear weapons to any other country and, therefore, non-nuclear-weapon States should not accept such deployments. Many countries believe that the United States’ deployment of nuclear weapons in NATO countries violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and China agrees with this position. Whether or not certain arguments, such as that these arrangements existed before the Treaty entered into force, are true, this does not affect how other countries interpret the Treaty, and he stressed that nuclear sharing arrangements will trigger nuclear deterrence and proliferation.