Many Speakers Voice Concern over Increase in Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Rhetoric amidst Ongoing War against Ukraine, as Disarmament Commission Opens Session
The Disarmament Commission’s 2023 substantive session began today by bringing into sharp focus the nuclear risks faced by the international community, as speakers stressed the alarming increase of dangerous nuclear rhetoric amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine and the crucial need to prioritize disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control measures.
Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, delivering opening remarks, issued a warning that the risk of a nuclear weapon being used, whether intentionally or by mistake, is currently higher than it has been at any point since the height of the cold war.
“I want to be clear: risk reduction is not a substitute for nuclear disarmament, indeed the only way to eliminate the risks associated with nuclear weapons is to completely eliminate the nuclear weapons themselves,” she stressed.
The Under-Secretary-General emphasized that the acquisition of more nuclear weapons, as well as the development of more sophisticated delivery systems, do not reduce the risk of a nuclear incident. She underscored that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the foundation of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, expressing concern over the erosion of confidence and trust in the critical framework.
Acting by acclamation during an organizational meeting ahead of its 3 to 23 April substantive session, the Commission elected Akan Rakhmetullin (Kazakhstan) as Chair. Upon taking his post, he noted that much progress has been made in multilateral discussions on nuclear and outer space issues, despite ongoing conflict in Ukraine and growing competition among major military Powers. During the cold war, the Commission was able to agree on seven sets of recommendations — a testament that the body can contribute to global security in a challenging era.
During the ensuing discussion, numerous speakers voiced concern about the state of global security, citing the clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations posed by the threat of nuclear weapon use. The war in Ukraine has accelerated the unraveling of international arms control architecture, possibly prompting a new arms race.
The representative of the United States said the Russian Federation broke its arms-control obligations by violating multiple provisions of New Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) even before its announced suspension of that instrument. Also recalling Moscow’s recent announcement to station nuclear weapons in Belarus, she stressed that no other country is seeking to undermine strategic stability to this degree.
Japan’s representative said that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, his State absolutely cannot accept the Russian Federation’s nuclear threats. He further expressed concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s intensified nuclear and missile activities in his region, including its ballistic missile launches at an unprecedented frequency.
Bangladesh’s representative highlighted the United Nations longstanding vision of a world free of nuclear weapons but noted with disappointment the lack of progress, including the failure of the Ninth and Tenth Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to reach a consensus on an outcome document.
The lack of tangible progress in implementing the provisions of that treaty “means that humanity cannot shed itself of [weapons of mass destruction]”, Jordan’s representative said.
Colombia’s delegate said that the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of any use of nuclear weapons are proven by history and scientific evidence. Adopting urgent measures for their total elimination “is the only absolute guarantee against their use or against the threat to use them”.
In highlighting the significance of nuclear-free zones in advancing disarmament and non-proliferation, Peru’s delegate emphasized the potential of such zones to improve regional security and promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
During the discussion, multiple speakers called on Member States to align themselves with the conclusions of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction. They highlighted that the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East is crucial for achieving peace in that region.
In addition to nuclear proliferation, cyber and space are increasingly becoming critical to international security, many speakers pointed out, with Portugal’s representative warning that the development of space-based weapons poses significant risks to destabilizing the international security environment. These weapons could potentially target critical space infrastructure such as satellites used for communication and navigation and threaten daily life.
Upon assuming his post, the Commission’s new Chair expressed commitment to being fair, open, and approachable, while expressing gratitude to the members of the body for their cooperation in achieving important goals. He also paid tribute to the work of the previous Chair, Xolisa Mabhongo (South Africa).
The Commission also elected Landry Sibomana (Burundi) and Helena Ndapewa Kuzee (Namibia) as Vice-Chairs from the Group of African States; Jatuchatra Chommai (Thailand) as Vice-Chair from the Asia Pacific Group; Timothy O’Sullivan (Australia) as Vice-Chair from the Group of Western European and Other States; Anatolii Zlenko (Ukraine) as Vice-Chair, and Anna Shestopalova (Russian Federation) as Vice-Chair. Landry Sibomana (Burundi) agreed to serve as the Commission’s Rapporteur. The body also re-elected by acclamation Szi lvia Balázs (Hungary) and Kurt Davis (Jamaica) as chairs of working groups.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia (also on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Philippines (also on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Lebanon (also on behalf of the Arab Group), Lithuania (also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia), Cuba, South Africa, Guyana, Malaysia, Egypt, Chile, Singapore, Thailand, Morocco, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Iraq, El Salvador, Nigeria, Argentina, Australia, Cambodia, Namibia, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Honduras, Kenya and Nicaragua.
Exercising the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, United States and Ukraine.
The Disarmament Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 April to continue its substantive session.
AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan), Chair of United Nations Disarmament Commission for its 2023 session, opening the plenary meeting, observed that the body has been discussing the same topic for nearly two decades, during which changes in the global security environment have affected the discourse on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He recalled that, in 2022, the Commission’s working group relating to the implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures to prevent an arms race in outer space heard presentations from a variety of stakeholders, including 11 States that presented national space policies. Noting that the summary of those proceedings aims to provide a basis for discussions in 2023, he underscored that the Commission’s adoption of recommendations to promote the practical implementation of such transparency and confidence-building measures would reinforce the work of other United Nations bodies.
He went on to note that, since the Commission’s 2022 substantive session, much progress has been made in multilateral discussions on nuclear and outer space issues, despite a deteriorating global security environment, ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere and growing competition among major military Powers. He recalled that, even during the cold war, the Commission was able to agree on seven sets of recommendations — a testament that the body can contribute to global security and multilateral diplomacy in a challenging political environment. Urging all present to work together to complete consideration of current agenda items and adopt recommendations by consensus, he stressed that successfully concluding the Commission’s work for 2023 is an important part of international efforts to revitalize disarmament machinery.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the increase in dangerous nuclear rhetoric, now too often heard in the context of the war in Ukraine, is a grave reminder that nuclear risks are very real. The risk of a nuclear weapon being used, either deliberately or by accident, is higher than at any time since the depth of the cold war. Rapid advances in science and technology, without guardrails and effective governance, exacerbate the risk of their negative impacts on international peace and security, including those related to space-based systems and malicious use of cyberspace. “We are witnessing all these developments against the background of the erosion of the disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control regime,” she warned.
Nuclear risk cannot be reduced through the acquisition of more nuclear weapons, or through the development of increasingly sophisticated delivery platforms, she continued. “I want to be clear: risk reduction is not a substitute for nuclear disarmament, indeed the only way to eliminate the risks associated with nuclear weapons is to completely eliminate the nuclear weapons themselves,” she stressed. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. She expressed deep concern for the erosion of confidence and trust in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons regime which could potentially undermine the tangible and enduring benefits the Treaty provides to all States parties. The inability of the Review Conference to reach a consensus outcome in August 2022 was disappointing, she said, noting that negotiations were complicated by new issues, such as nuclear propulsion and the security of nuclear facilities in armed conflict zones.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons needs to evolve to be able to respond to nuclear security challenges while catering to the increasingly multipolar nature of the nuclear order, she continued. It is important to address the growing nexus between nuclear capabilities and emerging domains such as in cyber and outer space. “I was heartened that despite this challenging international environment, States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons were able to agree on an ambitious action plan and a strong declaration,” she said. The Treaty’s strong condemnation of “any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit” is a particularly relevant call that should be heeded. She urged States that have not signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to study it in a serious manner.
The policy brief on the New Agenda for Peace, to be released in June, will provide a good opportunity to call for concerted global action on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, she continued. Urging Member States to use the coming weeks as an opportunity to formulate forward-looking ideas, she said she hoped deliberations will add impetus to preparations for the New Agenda and the Summit of the Future to be held in 2024.
Turning to space-based services, she said space is vital to solving global problems, such as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the international community faces increased challenges to the security and sustainability of outer space activities, which could imperil access and use of outer space by succeeding generations. The work of this Commission is complementary to the other workstreams on space security. With respect to the preparation of the substantive outcome of the outer space track, she said that the existing intergovernmental bodies should play the primary role. Regarding the security dimensions, relevant bodies can include this Commission and the Conference on Disarmament, in addition to the Open-ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts mentioned earlier.
“The Secretary-General is encouraging us to be bold and ambitious,” she said. There should be no doubt that the successful implementation and development of measures to build trust and confidence can serve as building blocks for more ambitious measures, including proposals for legally binding obligations. “Over the next three weeks, you will have an opportunity to build on your previous deliberations and form concrete and practical recommendations,” she said. The fact that the Commission was able to achieve consensus 16 times in the first two decades of its existence and once more in 2017 is a testament of its potential.
MARISKA DWIANTI DHANUTIRTO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterates the group’s deep concern over the lack of progress in the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments by the world’s nuclear-weapons States, and their lack of progress towards accomplishing the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals in accordance with their relevant multilateral legal obligations. There is an urgent need for accountability for those States vis-á-vis their obligations, including through benchmarks, as well as concrete, measurable and timebound actions on nuclear disarmament and progress reporting. Underlining that General Assembly resolution 77/47 provides a concrete road map to achieve the objective of nuclear disarmament through the start of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, she also reaffirmed the urgent need for the conclusion of a universal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and legally binding instrument to assure all non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear arms under any circumstances.
Among other urgent actions, she called for the convening of a high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament, as decided through the General Assembly resolutions. The group reaffirms the inalienable right of each State to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy, and believes that non-proliferation control arrangements should be transparent and open to participation by all States, and should not impose restrictions on access required by developing countries. She voiced support for efforts to convene a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and demanded that Israel renounce its possession of nuclear weapons and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty without precondition or further delay. Turning to outer space, she said that realm is in the common interest of humankind and all States have a legitimate, sovereign right to explore and use outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes. There is an urgent need to begin substantive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a legally binding and multilaterally verifiable instrument on those issues, including the prohibition of the placement of weapons in outer space, she added.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the global peace and security architecture is currently under pressure from heightened tensions between major Powers, the modernization of nuclear arsenals, an accelerating arms race and ongoing conflicts. Underlining the group’s full commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation, he reiterated its members’ support for efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons and voiced concern about the dire consequences of any use of nuclear weapons on people and the planet. ASEAN stands against nuclear testing and urges remaining Annex 2 States to sign and ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as soon as possible. It also views the Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy, he said, expressing disappointment over the consecutive failures of its two most recent review conferences to adopt a consensual outcome.
Against that backdrop, he called on all nuclear-weapons States to fulfil all their nuclear disarmament obligations and stressed the need for them to adhere to transparency and accountability and report on the implementation of their obligations until the total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved. ASEAN reaffirms its commitment to preserving South-East Asia as a nuclear weapons-free zone, he said, spotlighting the role of the ASEAN Regional Forum in such matters as nuclear risk reduction efforts. In addition, he reaffirmed the inalienable right of States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy — in particular for their economic and social development — and pledged that ASEAN will continue to strengthen its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while adding that access to outer space is also the inalienable right of all States. The use of outer space should be exclusively for peaceful purposes, and for the collective benefit of humanity, he stressed.
Delivering remarks in his national capacity and allying himself with both ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, he went on to describe the Disarmament Commission as the only platform where all United Nations Member States are present to make recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. He echoed grave concerns raised about nuclear rhetoric and the continued modernization and refinement of nuclear weapons capabilities, stressing that nuclear risk reduction is only a pathway towards — and not an alternative to — complete nuclear disarmament. Any agreement on risk reduction must recognize that risks emanate from the very existence of nuclear weapons itself, and that any efforts to reduce them cannot legitimize the existence of nuclear arms. There is an urgent need for transparency and accountability on the part of nuclear-weapons States under the Non-Proliferation Treaty through benchmarks, as well as concrete, measurable and timebound actions on nuclear disarmament with established deadlines. He also stressed the need to keep outer space free of conflict, and welcomed the convening of the Open-ended Working Group on that issue in August.
JEANNE MRAD (Lebanon), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction under international monitoring and verification, and to harness the human potential of these inhumane weapons to serve development. Emphasizing that the increase in military expenditures to develop nuclear weapons leads to further international tensions, she expressed deep concern over the failure to achieve any tangible progress in nuclear disarmament. The Arab Group has implemented its share of responsibility regarding the creation of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons, she said, noting that other parties have to live up to their commitments. Otherwise, they would be jeopardizing the credibility and sustainability of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and threatening the disarmament regime at the international and regional levels. All Arab States have adhered to the Treaty, subjecting all their nuclear facilities to the safeguards regime of IAEA. However — despite relevant United Nations resolutions — Israel has not done so, she asserted.
The failure of the Ninth and Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the fact that nuclear States are not living up to their nuclear disarmament commitments puts the international community in front of an increased responsibility. Against this backdrop, she called on States to accelerate their efforts to fully eliminate nuclear weapons. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons violates international law and threatens international peace and security, she cautioned, reiterating that the Group supports all legal instruments aimed at reinforcing the nuclear disarmament regime and the universality of the Treaty. On preventing the arms race in outer space, she underscored that the space is a common heritage of humankind and any human activity therein should benefit all countries. Moreover, outer space should remain free from conflict and be used for peaceful purposes until a legally binding treaty is reached. She also advocated for technology transfer in outer space and for the provision of technical assistance to developing countries.
NATACHA TOLSTOI, on behalf of the European Union in its capacity as observer, underlined the important role of the Disarmament Commission and joined other speakers in emphasizing the challenging geopolitical context in which the body is currently meeting. “International relations must not be based on the use or threat of use of force,” she stressed, drawing attention to the Russian Federation’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. She also noted the worrying trend in which some States are moving further away from their disarmament commitments, and said the Russian Federation in particular continues to misuse the “consensus principle” in several multilateral forums. It is a positive development that the Commission has been able to restart its work, she said, voicing her hope that in 2023 its recommendations on both the nuclear and outer space tracks will be adopted by consensus. The Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, she said, expressing regret that recent review conferences were not able to reach agreement due to the Russian Federation’s isolated position.
Recalling the obligations of States under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, she deplored Moscow’s repeated threats of nuclear weapons use as well as its recent announcement of its decision to station its weapons in Belarus. She also called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in meaningful disarmament discussions, and to take steps towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Union is actively engaged in preserving a safe, secure outer space environment for the benefit of all people. It is also strongly committed to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which is critical to safeguarding the long-term use of outer space for peaceful purposes. To that end, she advocated for the strengthening of trust and transparency between States, including the publishing and sharing of countries’ outer space plans and activities — which will help build trust and confidence. Outlining the Union’s own policies in that area, she pledged that the bloc will help protect space services, further build confidence and promote more responsible space behaviours.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), also speaking for Estonia and Latvia and aligning himself with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, calling on Moscow to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops and military equipment from Ukraine’s territory. He also recalled that, in August 2022, the Russian Federation broke emerging consensus for the outcome document of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and that, in February 2023, that country announced the suspension of its participation in the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). Further, it continues to resort to threatening, irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric, recently amplified by the 25 March statement on its plans to deploy nuclear weapons on Belarus’ territory. Expressing concern over Belarus’ continued aid to the Russian Federation’s aggression, he called on Belarusian authorities to stop supporting Moscow’s war efforts.
He went on to stress that the global community must continue efforts to prevent ongoing nuclear-proliferation challenges from transforming into crises. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues the pursuit of its unlawful nuclear-weapons programme, and he called on that country to comply with Security Council resolutions and abandon its existing ballistic-missile and nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. He also expressed concern over Iran drifting from its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, urging that country to reverse its nuclear trajectory and return to full implementation of that agreement. Emphasizing the significance of a new review cycle of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he also supported the activities of the working group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour. He added that discussions in the Commission’s 2023 session can make a positive contribution to both processes.
GERARDO PEÑALVER (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said it is vital that the Commission adopts concrete recommendations that can be presented to the Assembly. Noting that the working document contains recommendations and fair claims from two thirds of the membership, he stressed the importance of reversing the lack of progress in fulfilling binding obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Calling for the universalization of that Treaty, he said its entry into force established that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but also illegal. Expressing concern about States attaching conditions to nuclear weapons as a way of legitimizing the status quo, as well as the deterrence claim, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the disarmament regime. Defending nuclear disarmament is a priority for Cuba, he stressed. Further, the Commission must ensure that its recommendations for transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space are not an alternative to the swift adoption of a treaty to prohibit weapons in outer space. The recommendations must respect the mandates of the different United Nations bodies relating to outer space and must protect the legitimate rights of all States to use outer space for peaceful goals.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern that no tangible progress has been made in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation in terms of implementing the provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. “This harms international peace and security and it means that humanity cannot shed itself of [weapons of mass destruction],” he continued, also adding: “This session being successful is absolutely crucial given the tension facing the world.” He called on Member States to align themselves with the conclusions of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East. Israel must participate in the Conference with no preconditions and also place its nuclear installations and facilities under the safeguards system of IAEA. Turning to space, he recalled that international agreements already regulate outer space but also added that there is a need for a new binding global treaty stipulating all non-peaceful uses of space.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said the consecutive failure of two Review Conferences “reminds us of the lengths nuclear-weapon States are willing to go to”, putting their selfish narrow interests ahead of the collective peace. Condemning their deep hypocrisy in justifying their nuclear weapons based on “absurdist deterrence doctrines”, while trying to dissuade others from these catastrophic instruments, he also pointed out that States in nuclear military alliances benefit from a lack of outcome in this process, because it further shields them from criticism for advocating the value of nuclear weapons. “These so-called umbrella States must stop hiding behind the cover of nuclear-weapon States,” he said, highlighting the crucial role of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Regarding calls for measures to address nuclear risks, he warned that risk reduction measures only contribute to the illusion that “we can live with nuclear weapons indefinitely” and should not replace genuine efforts at nuclear disarmament, nor should they endeavour to make the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons more palatable. Turning to outer space activities, he said the non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures there must not undermine existing legal obligations or hamper the legal use of space, particularly by developing States.
CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT (Guyana), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, at a time of great global tension and shocks which have shaken the multilateral system, States must collectively chart a new course for complete disarmament. Voicing deep concern about the threat posed to humanity by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, she called for their total elimination through concrete and timebound actions. Against this backdrop, she stressed the importance of the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Turning to the issue of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, she cited those measures as vital in augmenting operations and the safety, sustainability and security of day-to-day space operations and acknowledged their important contribution towards mutual understanding relating to activities in space.
MARIA BENEDICTA DIAH KRISTANTI (Indonesia), allying herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, stressed that nuclear-weapons States must step-up their efforts to advance nuclear disarmament, adding that relevant States should cease hosting nuclear weapons on their territory and reject the use — or threat of use — of such arms on their behalf. “We must not move an inch” from achieving the objective of a world free of nuclear weapons, she underscored, stating that efforts to realize this goal must not be side-tracked by interim steps — including measures to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons. While nuclear risk reduction is critical to preventing catastrophic humanitarian consequences, it is not — and should not be — a replacement for nuclear-disarmament obligations. She went on to stress that outer space must be preserved for peaceful purposes only for the benefit of all mankind, noting that greater transparency and confidence-building measures in this area will facilitate trust, reduce misunderstanding and prevent conflict. She further called for the immediate negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space.
AHMAD FAISAL MUHAMAD (Malaysia), allying himself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the qualitative improvement of and quantitative increase in nuclear weapons as well as the consecutive failure of the Ninth and Tenth Review Conferences of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to achieve a substantive outcome. Though not adopted, the draft outcome document of the Tenth Review Conference could provide a good basis for further deliberations among States parties, he said, also looking forward to the second meeting, later in 2023, of States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which he described as a landmark instrument in the collective efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Turning to his region, he underscored the urgency of resolving all outstanding issues pertaining to the signing and ratifying of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Protocol by the nuclear-weapon States at the earliest. Also condemning the significant increase in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s missile launch activities since 2022, including launches of ballistic missiles of intercontinental range in recent months, he urged that country to immediately cease its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Alignment Movement and the Arab Group, expressed disappointment over the failure of the ninth and tenth Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, which was a missed opportunity to bring under control international tensions and to fuel hope regarding nuclear disarmament. However, the holding of this session of the Disarmament Commission presents a new opportunity to reduce international tensions, he observed, noting that the recommendations stemming from the Commission will reiterate the importance of implementing the provisions pursuant to Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He further expressed hope that the Commission will be able to adopt recommendations to make progress on preventing an arms race in outer space and preserving it for peaceful purposes. Stressing the importance of the voluntary measures towards that end, he called for a legally binding, consensus-based outcome document.
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the principle of indivisibility of international security, without regard to a States’ size or power. She noted with deep concern the unravelling of the longstanding weapons control regime, calling for new agreements, strengthened transparency and confidence-building measures between States — especially nuclear-weapons States. “Nuclear weapons must be eliminated,” she said, emphasizing that that goal must be pursued without any further delay. The objectives set forth in the Non-Proliferation Treaty are the right direction, she said, noting Chile’s grave concern over the potential disastrous humanitarian consequences of the use of just a single nuclear weapon. Turning to the issue of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space, she welcomed the exploration and use of space in the common interest of all humankind, including all States regardless of their development level. She also advocated for the urgent negotiation of a legally-binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and for the inclusion of gender perspectives in all matters of disarmament and non-proliferation.
SI TONG BERENICE LOW (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN, reaffirmed the role of the Disarmament Commission as the sole body to make recommendations on disarmament issues. Against the backdrop of a deteriorating international security environment and the transnational nature of nuclear proliferation, a multilateral approach is essential to address these issues. To this end, States must strengthen their commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty — the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime — he noted, expressing disappointment at the failure of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty in August 2022 to adopt a final document. Moreover, States must redouble their efforts towards the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Underscoring that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones have been useful building blocks towards a world free of such weapons, she welcomed efforts to establish such a zone in the Middle East through constructive dialogue.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, declared: “These are not ordinary times.” The rise in geopolitical tensions, continuing armed conflict and decline in trust amongst States have all exacerbated the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. There is growing doubt about the relevance of the multilateral regime and the United Nations as part of the global disarmament machinery, and growing fear that “the unthinkable with regard to nuclear weapons may happen”. Stresing that this is therefore no time for complacency, he said it falls to all States to reverse those trends. Expressing deep concern about the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons — whose use would wipe out the gains of sustainable development and put the safety and security of humanity at risk — he cited the Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use regime. Among other things, he also called for more efforts to ensure the future success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and reiterated Thailand’s commitment to maintaining South-East Asia as a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone under the Bangkok Treaty.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) said that the threat of the use of nuclear weapons is a clear contravention of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Prohibiting nuclear weapons in an explicit and comprehensive manner around the world is greatly important. It is also important that for the first time the scope of action has been broadened to include international humanitarian law by establishing a mechanism to assist victims of nuclear attacks. Nuclear-free zones play a key role in achieving the goal of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Peru is a witness to the benefits that these zones can provide and the potential of these zones to improve regional security and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energies and technology. The establishment of a zone that is free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East would be of vital importance to bringing peace to that region. Outer space has become a source of geopolitical competition, he added. Hence, it is key to support initiatives that lead to a legally binding instrument that would prohibit any weapons being put in outer space under any circumstance.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, urged Member States, in particular nuclear-weapon States, to show genuine political will. The United Nations envisioned a world free of nuclear weapons in its very first resolution. Sadly, the promise of disarmament remains elusive. Bangladesh believes that the guarantee of international peace and security lies in the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It was from that conviction that it ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He expressed disappointment over the consecutive failure of the Ninth and the Tenth Review Conferences to adopt a consensual outcome document. The protracted deadlock in the Conference of Disarmament reflects lack of political will, he said, urging Member States to intensify efforts towards achieving the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its universal adherence. All activities in outer space must be carried out in accordance with international law. States ought to be able to bring up their concerns when defining the future rules for outer space, he added.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country will continue to participate in efforts aimed at achieving a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Also recalling that his country ratified the Treaty of Pelindaba, he said that this agreement — designed to establish an Africa free of nuclear weapons — is a key aspect of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation that will contribute towards global efforts for a world free of nuclear weapons. He further underlined the need for a non-discriminatory, legally binding instrument to prevent all nuclear-weapon States from using — or threatening to use — such weapons under all circumstances. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty also plays a key role — Morocco ratified this instrument in April 2000, and all States must do the same to speed its entry into force. Spotlighting the worrying situation in the Sahel due to arms trafficking and terrorism, he urged increased efforts to bolster regional cooperation and implement the Arms Trade Treaty. He added a call for all Member States — particularly those with space capacity — to actively contribute to preventing an arms race in outer space.
CARLOS AMORÍN (Uruguay) emphasized that the only effective guarantee against the use or the threat of use of nuclear weapons is their total prohibition and elimination in a transparent and irreversible manner. This is relevant especially in the context of the situation in Eastern Europe, he cautioned. He expressed profound disappointment regarding the lack of consensus in the review on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, underlining that the establishment of areas free of nuclear weapons is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of international peace and security. The prohibition of nuclear weapons in certain regions has a positive impact on other parts of the world, he observed, highlighting the relevance of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. Noting that the promotion of nuclear disarmament should be a common objective, he expressed support for the use of space for peaceful purposes. To this end, he called for a regulatory progress that would lead to legally binding instruments on the prevention and prohibition of the placement of weapons in outer space.
ANA MARICELA ÁVILA BECERRIL (Costa Rica), citing the current global climate of conflicts and mistrust, said the great threats weighing on international peace and security can be overcome through dialogue. Warning against letting disarmament negotiations grow stale, she voiced regret over the failure of the two recent Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, while also welcoming certain steps forward. States must listen to each other and develop trust-building mechanisms, especially at a time when “all the signs of a nuclear war are present”. Turning to outer space security, she said many past proposals in that field have failed due to a lack of common understanding among Member States. The current working groups active in that arena now have a chance to lay the foundation of a common understanding, which could reduce tensions and the risks posed by a potential arms race in outer space. Any discussions on outer space must be inclusive and listen to the positions of all States, while also considering the rapidly changing realities in that arena — including the increasing presence of private and other stakeholders in outer space.
SARMAD AL TAIE, Minister Plenipotentiary of Iraq, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, voiced his concern over the presence of nuclear weapons, their threat and the increase in military expenditures on them. As their full and total elimination is the only guarantee, there is an urgent need to promote the universality of disarmament instruments; keep nuclear disarmament on the top of the international agenda; and reach a universal, non-discriminatory, verifiable agreement that prohibits nuclear weapon acquisition, development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use. He called on the three sponsoring States of the resolution adopted by the 1995 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to fully implement their commitments; members to the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction to achieve that Conference’s goals and objectives without delay; and all countries that have not yet done so to satisfy the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. On outer space, he stressed that it should be exploited exclusively for peaceful purposes and accessible to all. In that regard, all States — especially those with space capabilities — must adopt measures to prevent an arms race.
NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) said that the very existence of nuclear weapons programmes, their launch capabilities, and production facilities profoundly calls into question civilization and basic fundamental principles. The catastrophic, painful, and prolonged humanitarian and environmental consequences of any use of nuclear weapons are proven by history and scientific evidence. Adopting urgent and effective measures for their total elimination “is the only absolute guarantee against their use or against the threat to use them”. The events of the last 13 months have led to the worst point since the nuclear threat in the cold war, highlighting the dangerous fragility of the use of nuclear weapons. Even if a document was not adopted as a result of the Tenth Review Conference, the current situation necessitates urgent measures to reduce risk, search for points of agreement, and establish renewed dialogue leading to actions that re-establish and strengthen trust. Further, Colombia reiterates its national commitment to the use of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes and underscores the need to adopt measures to guarantee the long-term sustainability of activities in space. It is necessary to focus efforts on avoiding an arms race in space and preserving it for future generations.
JULIA ELIZABETH RODRÍGUEZ ACOSTA (El Salvador) expressed regret that the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was unable to adopt an outcome document by consensus. The negotiated document represented a spirit of compromise between a majority of States and struck a delicate balance between various positions. She said that the upcoming review cycle will provide an opportunity to undertake new, good-faith negotiations to promote equal progress on the Treaty’s three pillars. She appealed to States not yet party to the Treaty to sign and ratify the instrument, which is an important part of the international disarmament architecture. On measures to reduce nuclear risks, she underscored that these constitute transitory, provisional steps on the road to complete nuclear disarmament, and that they cannot replace nuclear-weapons States’ unequivocal progress towards disarmament commitments. Turning to preventing an arms race in outer space, she underscored the need to preserve that domain as a peaceful, safe environment for all, highlighting the importance of existing legal instruments in this area. She also joined others in calling for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to prevent such an arms race.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the Commission — while useful and important — needs to improve upon its working methods to deliver on its mandate. Stressing the need for a concrete outcome in this work cycle, he urged all Member States — especially nuclear-weapon States — to show political will and flexibility. He reiterated his deep concern over the lack of progress in implementing nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments by such States, while citing the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith, and to bring to a conclusion, negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international controls. He also stressed that the universalization of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is dependent upon strict compliance with its three pillars — disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Nuclear-weapon States must consider the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of such arms, he said, while noting the continued need to respect the inalienable right of all States to peaceful uses of outer space, for the benefit of all humankind.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) highlighted the relevance of the disarmament machinery and the utmost importance of the work of the Commission, especially in light of the failure to reach the final document during the last review conferences. Total elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons should take the form of a legally binding instrument, which requires concrete measures. It is thus essential to ensure that nuclear States participate in the negotiation of measures that would lead to specific results in terms of disarmament, the strengthening of the verification regime and the consolidation of the achievements made in the realm of proliferation. She underscored the importance of responding to the legitimate demands to achieve irreversible and transparent disarmament based on multilateral commitments that recognize the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Argentina has a substantive nuclear programme that has been in place for more than seven decades, she noted, emphasizing her Government’s peaceful commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Against this backdrop, she drew attention to the 1991 Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials which has bolstered regional and international security and consolidated the position of Latin America and the Caribbean as a region free of nuclear weapons. She also recognized the sovereign right of every State to participate in the use of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes, calling for the non-militarization of outer space.
MITCH FIFIELD (Australia) said his country remains committed to redoubling efforts towards a world free of all nuclear weapons. The work of the Commission has never been more valuable, as the global disarmament regime more broadly is not functioning as hoped. However, he said, “we can still achieve progress on issues of great importance”. The need for progress is only heightened by today’s global challenges, he said, citing the Russian Federation’s non-compliance with the New Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) Treaty, its invasion of Ukraine and other reckless actions. He noted the need for nuclear risk reduction measures, while nevertheless stressing that they cannot be a substitute for the ultimate goal of complete nuclear disarmament. Citing recent joint activities in the Asia-Pacific region, he invited views on the utility of a process that could look more holistically at risk reduction and its intersection with disarmament, with the goal of making the world a safer place.
SOPHEA EAT (Cambodia), allying herself with ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out that the risk of weapons of mass destruction use is greater now than ever. As there is a need to galvanize strong political will to rebuild mutual trust and refocus concerted efforts on the advancement of the global common good, she appealed for firm commitments to diplomacy and peaceful means for the expression of strategic concerns and the resolution of disputes. A failure to adopt the final outcome document of the Tenth Review Conference is a compelling reminder that States must do more to overcome current impediments, she underscored, voicing her hope that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty can enter into force in the near future. For its part, Cambodia has ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in early 2021; is firmly committed to the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty; continues to work with other ASEAN family members in encouraging nuclear weapons States to sign the protocol to this Treaty; and has enacted laws which prohibit the manufacturing, use and storage of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. With peace, security and stability being indispensable for sustainable development, all States must ensure that future generations can enjoy a peaceful, safe and prosperous world, she emphasized.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out that this session takes place at a time when there are increasing calls to reinvigorate multilateralism and ensure that institutions governing the international order are fit for purpose. Present global realities do not provide assurances of peace, stability and security, especially from a disarmament perspective as nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat. As such, the international community must collectively recommit in earnest to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Nuclear-weapon States in particular have an imperative to better appreciate the indispensable need for their support towards strengthening security assurances by committing to engaging in complete disarmament. Inclusive multilateral cooperation and negotiations are the only avenue through which States can make headway on the vertical and horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons while mitigating their humanitarian consequences, he added. Turning to the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race, he underscored the need to agree on a legally binding and mutually verifiable instrument which prohibits both the placement of weapons in space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects. This is the only way the world can safeguard against misuse, he emphasized.
MAYAN AL-SHAKARCHY (United Kingdom), stressing that every Member States is responsible for working towards a more peaceful and stable world through disarmament, pointed out that States are too often doing the opposite. The Russian Federation’s unprovoked and premediated attack against a sovereign, democratic country continues to cast a dark shadow over the work of the disarmament community. Moscow has also irresponsibly signalled and used nuclear rhetoric. States willing to flout international norms of behaviour should not be tolerated, she said. For its part, London will continue to stand with Ukraine, calls on all to firmly condemn the Russian Federation’s aggression and urges Moscow to de-escalate and withdraw its troops. She then voiced her concern over China’s rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal before calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran to cease the continued development of their nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Against the backdrop of these challenges, the international community must preserve, reinforce and strengthen its international security infrastructure. In noting that her Government seeks to create new agreements where useful and achievable, she urged the Russian Federation to immediately return to full compliance of the New START Treaty.
Mr. LEMOS PIRES (Portugal) said that the illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has accelerated the unraveling of international arms control architecture, promoting and prompting a possible new nuclear arms race. The Russian Federation’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus are indeed very worrisome, not only for the region, but the whole world. “That is why we call on all States, not just the conflicting parties, to spare no efforts to ease tensions and contribute to end this conflict,” he said. In addition to nuclear proliferation, cyber and space are increasingly becoming critical to international security. It is essential that Member States address challenges stemming for these domains in disarmament discussions. The development of anti-satellite weapons and other space-based weapons poses significant risks to destabilizing the international security environment. These weapons could potentially target critical space infrastructure such as satellites used for communication and navigation, with far reaching consequences for daily life. “We must work together to develop norms of behaviour, promote transparency and prevent the proliferation of space-based weapons,” he said.
THOA THI MINH LE (Viet Nam), allying herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said global military expenditures have reached record highs, raising concerns of a new arms race. At the same time, the international arms control regimes are making little progress, if not backtracking. Against that backdrop, it is the responsibility of Member States to revitalize the Disarmament Commission. The continued use of basic principles and practices, as consensually agreed at the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament — as well as new, innovative ideas — can and will provide a foundation for further success. She joined other speakers in voicing regret over the failure of two recent Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences to reach consensus outcomes, “which could have provided us with better momentum towards general and complete disarmament”. In that connection, she urged all Member States — particularly nuclear-weapon States — to redouble their efforts for the implementation of the Treaty, particularly Article VI thereof, in the next review cycle. She went on to call for balance among the three issues of disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy, spotlighting Viet Nam’s role as a current member of the IAEA Board of Governors and its active participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum on political and security concerns.
Mr. TSUKAMOTO (Japan) said that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, his State absolutely cannot accept the Russian Federation’s nuclear threats, let alone its use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Japan further condemns the remarks by President Vladimir Putin about the Russian Federation’s decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which further increases the tension while Moscow continues its aggression against Ukraine. Furthermore, Japan is seriously concerned about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s intensified nuclear and missile activities including its recent ballistic missile launches with an unprecedented frequency and in an unprecedented manner, in addition to its escalatory rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons. “It is true that the only way to eliminate all risks associated with nuclear weapons is through the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, and nuclear risk reduction is not a substitute for nuclear disarmament,” he stressed. Avoiding an escalation caused by miscalculation or by misunderstanding is another vital issue. Given the current international security environment and emergence of new technologies, the urgency of this issue continues to increase.
NATHALY GUERRERO (Mexico), voicing her concern over the existential threats posed by the use of nuclear weapons, an accelerating arms race and the hardening of nuclear Powers’ deterrence doctrines, stressed that disarmament must be advanced now more than ever. It is also worrying that outer space has once again become a viable and legitimate arena of military competition and dissuasion, she added. As such, the Organization’s disarmament machinery — including the Commission — must formulate concrete measures on disarmament and international security. Deploring the permanent paralysis which has resulted in the Conference on Disarmament repeatedly duplicating the Commission’s substantive work, she called on that machinery to regain its credibility and good functioning by fulfilling its mandate. States must strive to conserve, invigorate and make the most of these spaces. Above all, they must make good use of the resources they invest each year in international peace and security. Even in times of great tension such as the cold war, agreements on disarmament and non-proliferation were not only possible but also continue to remain in force to this day, she pointed out, voicing her hope that this session will produce tangible results.
DAMOUA GUILLAUME ANGORA (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called on nuclear-weapons States to reduce nuclear risks, strengthen transparency and promote confidence-building measures. Also underlining the need to revitalize arms-control initiatives, he urged those present to fully uphold nuclear-disarmament and non-proliferation obligations. Further, he called for the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and for accelerating the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force. He went on to support increased action against nuclear terrorism, particularly the effective implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. However, he said that responding to the threat posed by the military use of nuclear energy should not come at the expense of the peaceful use of such energy, which would deprive many countries of its benefits in areas such as electricity, agriculture and environmental health. He added that, given the growing greed aroused by outer space, this area must be given careful attention, and he opposed transforming space into an arena for military confrontation.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that nuclear weapons have no place in the global order based on the rule of law between nations, noting that “their very existence challenges the survival of humanity”. Nuclear weapons — like all forms of mass destruction — are illegal and illegitimate due to their catastrophic humanitarian impact. Against this backdrop, he voiced his rejection of all deployments of nuclear weapons, pointing out that their mere deployment undermines proliferation efforts. He also said he opposed the modernization of existing nuclear weapons and the development of new types of such weapons. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation must work together in a joint manner, he observed, adding that States must comply with the obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — an instrument which is consistent with the disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. Moreover, he underscored his rejection of all planning and carrying out of nuclear tests. Also opposing the militarization of outer space, he underlined the need to promote the use of outer space for peaceful purposes only.
NOEMÍ RUTH ESPINOZA MADRID (Honduras), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined her country’s “humanist commitments”, which constitute a tangible pillar of the foreign policy of Honduras. The country uses its domestic funding for the well-being of its people, not on military expenditures, she said, warning that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons undermines all multilateral efforts. Condemning nuclear testing and the modernization of nuclear arsenals, she called for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of such weapons. States must always comply with international law and must be held accountable, she stressed, calling on all countries to use nuclear power for peaceful uses only. She therefore welcomed the recent entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, to which Honduras is a State party, and advocated for the principle of indivisibility — which states that all countries must have a role to play in disarmament, regardless of their size or power. She further advocated for the purely peaceful uses of outer space and expressed support for negotiations to that end.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said that the threat of nuclear weapons or nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists and criminal groups is real and immediate. These threats are more so made existential by the misuse of artificial intelligence when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. During the Commission’s session, Member States must demonstrate the unity and flexibility needed to ensure the timely and consensual adoption of draft reports of both the Nuclear Weapons and Outer Space Working Groups, including safeguarding substantive and action-oriented recommendations. Multilateral commitments remain relevant and should no longer be optional or conditional, until the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved. He also urged all nuclear-weapons States to adopt defence and security doctrines that exclude nuclear weapons. As a developing country, Kenya underscores the importance of the continued respect of the inalienable right of all States to engage in research and development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Regarding outer space, Kenya supports the call for adoption of a legal framework that complements international legal mechanisms to prevent an arms race in outer space, he added.
JASSER JIMENEZ (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed his regret that nuclear arsenals continue to increase, modernize and develop especially amid multiple economic, social and environmental crises. All of these economic and financial resources should instead be used to support developing countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he stressed, reaffirming his Government’s commitment to disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons. By establishing zones free of nuclear weapons, States can strengthen the non-proliferation regime as well as international peace and security — a significant contribution towards achieving nuclear disarmament. In that vein, his Government regrets the lack of compliance with the resolution to establish such a zone in the Middle East and calls for its urgent implementation. Turning to outer space, which must be used for civil and peaceful purposes only, he underscored the need to adopt international transparency and trust-building mechanisms. To guarantee security and transparency in outer space activities, the legal corpus must be strengthened, he said, voicing his support for the draft treaty put forward by the Russian Federation and China. Since all countries have a right to access outer space equally without any type of discrimination, there must be scientific and technical cooperation for countries that are yet to enjoy access.
MOHAMMAD ALI JARDALI (Lebanon), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern over increasing reliance on nuclear capabilities in defence strategies, which are reminiscent of the nuclear arms race during the cold-war era. He stressed that nuclear-weapons States are obliged to eliminate their nuclear arsenals in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, adding that the commitments made during the 1995, 2000 and 2010 review conferences must be fulfilled. Recalling that the adoption of a resolution to establish a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction at the 1995 review conference was an integral part of the indefinite extension of the Treaty, he called on all nuclear-weapons States — especially the three that co-sponsored the 1995 resolution — to support efforts towards this end. He also stressed the need to preserve outer space as a common human property, exclusively for peaceful use and free of pollution. There is, therefore, an urgent need to commence substantive negotiations on a legally binding, multilaterally verifiable instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space. Reaching recommendations on transparency and confidence-building measures to prevent such an arms race is a necessary interim step, he added.
DEBORA FISHER (United States), underscoring her country’s commitment to its nuclear arms-control, non-proliferation and disarmament obligations, said the United States is proud of the steps it has taken, including reducing its nuclear arsenal and placing a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. She expressed regret, however, over the deteriorating international security environment, observing that one year has passed since the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Federation is solely responsible for the death, destruction and displacement the war has wrought, and that country has also broken its arms-control obligations by violating multiple provisions of New START even before its announced suspension of that instrument. Also recalling Moscow’s recent announcement to station nuclear weapons in Belarus, she stressed that no other country is seeking to undermine strategic stability to this degree. She also voiced concern over the unstable security environment created by China’s rapid, opaque build-up of its nuclear arsenal; the launch of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and Iran’s continued expansion of its nuclear programme. Calling on all nuclear-weapons States to fully comply with nuclear-disarmament obligations, she added that the Russian Federation’s purported suspension of New START not only threatens global security, but also its own.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, decisively rejected “baseless”, “completely unfounded” accusations against her country. The reasons why the Russian Federation began its special military operations are well-known: since 2014, the Kyiv “regime” has carried out mass aggression against the peaceful population of the Donbas region. Moscow’s constant calls to draw attention to the onslaught of Nazis in Ukraine, the social and economic blockade and murder of peaceful civilians have been consistently ignored by Western States. Instead of urging Kyiv to stop waging a war against the residents of Donbas, the United States and its allies have been pumping Ukraine with weapons, she said, stressing that the West has zero interest in ending hostilities and is absolutely content with the situation. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is getting rid of its obsolete weapons and is gradually rearming itself. The main goal of the United States is to remain “the only blooming garden in a planet of jungle”. She underlined that despite the constantly increasing military assistance to Ukraine from the United States and other Western countries, “all the stated goals of the special military operation will be achieved”, including the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and the security of her country’s population.
On the Russian-Belarusian cooperation in the military nuclear arena, she recalled that NATO countries have for decades continued to practice so-called joint nuclear exercises, using nuclear weapons provided by the United States. All of this is directed against the Russian Federation, she asserted, adding that the United States is bringing its nuclear infrastructure closer to the borders of the Russian Federation and Belarus. For a very long time, Moscow has exercised restraint and tried to talk Washington, D.C., into returning all of its nuclear weapons to its national territory. The efforts made by the Russian Federation to ensure its security is a forced reaction to a years-long destabilizing policy of NATO countries which are currently waging a hybrid war against Moscow. The extreme degree of hostility demonstrated by the United States and the policy of initiating and intentionally escalating the conflict in Ukraine cardinally changed her country’s security situation, she observed, noting that Washington, D.C., has been breaching the New START Treaty. The Russian Federation can no longer ignore the joint nuclear arsenal of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, she stressed. As an act of good will, the Russian Federation will continue to inform the United States on any launches of intercontinental ballistic and underwater missiles, as provided for by the relevant bilateral agreement of 1998. This will allow for sufficient levels of predictability and stability in the nuclear missile sphere, she asserted.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegations made by the representatives of the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Japan. The escalating tensions in his region are entirely attributable to the hostile policy of the United States which unilaterally forces his country to disarm itself through sanctions and military pressure while enabling the military expansion of its allies. Condemning that country’s hostile encroach on the sovereignty of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he cautioned that its reckless military provocations will drive the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the critical point of a nuclear war outbreak. At the start of this year, the United States and the Republic of Korea conducted a series of combined air drills in the Peninsula, he said, adding that the European Union and Western countries are intentionally turning a blind eye to that. He also condemned the United Kingdom’s growing anti-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea confrontational stance and noted that Japan is squandering a considerable amount of its defence budget on getting ready for a pre-emptive strike.
The representative of China, responding to the smear by the United States on Beijing’s nuclear policy, which has also been trumpeted by other countries and regional organizations, firmly opposed such accusations. China’s nuclear policy is highly transparent and has a high degree of stability, continuity and predictability, he pointed out, pledging that his Government will not engage in any nuclear arms race. His country has always maintained its nuclear forces at the minimum necessary level for national security; pursues a strategy of self-defence; and is the only permanent Council member who committed to no first use — the most meaningful measure of nuclear transparency in real practice. Any country that does not use nuclear weapons or threaten to use such weapons against China will not be threatened by Beijing’s nuclear weapons, he asserted, noting that his Government’s nuclear strategy, policy and practice are themselves a positive contribution to global and regional stability, nuclear arms control and disarmament processes. Regarding the moratorium, he pointed out that there is no clear definition and cautioned that it would disincentivize negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. He then urged the United States to stop its smear campaign, implement its special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament and undertake practical and meaningful steps on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
The representative of the United States rejected the Russian Federation’s continued efforts to distort history for its own purposes, noting that the General Assembly has also rejected this behaviour. She also stressed that there is “no equivalency” between the United States and the Russian Federation regarding New START. The Russian Federation violated that treaty and then declared an invalid suspension of that instrument. As a lawful countermeasure to encourage the Russian Federation to return to compliance, the United States will not provide the bi-annual data update to the Russian Federation. Aside from this one countermeasure — which is permitted by international law — the United States fully implements New START and calls on the Russian Federation to do the same. She went on to state her country’s continued concern over China’s rapid, opaque expansion of its missile capacity and nuclear-warhead stockpile. China will likely field approximately 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, and its current nuclear modernization efforts exceed previous ones in both scale and complexity. Beijing has yet to acknowledge this rapid nuclear expansion — or explain the intent of its efforts —b and, further, its lack of constructive bilateral engagement and transparency increases the risk of inadvertent escalation. This is particularly relevant because China is implementing a “launch on warning” posture, she added.
The representative of Ukraine, responding to yet another fake narrative by the Russian Federation, stressed that there are no Nazis in Ukraine. Further, it is Moscow that will be demilitarized — and not his country — for the benefit of the international community. In continuing to commit war crimes and acts of terrorism, Moscow has launched massive missile and artillery attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure; shelled Ukrainian power plants; and occupied Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia. These deliberate actions are putting the whole region on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, he said, stressing that the Russian Federation’s statements regarding the possible use of nuclear weapons are both alarming and deserving of international condemnation. In addition, that Government has also recently announced its intention to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus — a serious blow to the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. Moscow has a track record of violations, he emphasized.