7 April 2008
General Assembly
DC/3105

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2008 Substantive Session

284th & 285th Meetings (AM & PM)


SECRETARY-GENERAL RENEWS CALL ON DISARMAMENT COMMISSION TO ADVANCE AGENDA


IN ‘SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE AND ACCOMMODATION’, AS IT OPENS NEW YORK SESSION

 


Chair Says Disarmament Machinery ‘Urgently Needs a Boost’;

Urges Member States to Focus on Areas of Potential Consensus


Renewing his call on the United Nations Commission on Disarmament to move forward in a spirit of compromise and accommodation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told members of the Commission that failure to advance the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda was not an option, as the consequences could jeopardize many other goals of the Charter and the security and well-being of all Member States.


Addressing the opening of the Commission’s 2008 session, Mr. Ban said he was renewing his call on the Commission with an even greater sense of urgency, after expressing regret last year that setbacks in the field of disarmament had become the norm, not the exception.  All Member States needed to make an extra effort to seek a consensus, given the vital importance of disarmament and non-proliferation in shaping international peace and security.


He noted that, despite a collective awareness about the risks and challenges, the world was still confronted with the twin dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and excessive accumulation of conventional weapons.  Multilateral cooperation remained absolutely indispensable in pursuing the noble goals of disarmament and non-proliferation.


The Commission’s annual session, expected to end on 24 April, is the last in the three-year cycle focusing on two agreed agenda items, namely nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, and confidence-building in the conventional weapons sphere.


Recalling that the United Nations disarmament machinery had produced great results in the past, both with regard to weapons of mass destruction and with regard to certain conventional weapons, Commission Chairperson Pieter de Klerk ( Netherlands) stated that, at present, it “urgently needs a boost”.  As the Commission began its third and last year of the 2006-2008 cycle, differences in positions remained significant and finding consensus would not be easy, but the Commission could ill afford a second three-year cycle without a substantive result.  Thus, Member States needed to focus on areas of potential consensus, and not linger on issues that they knew would find no agreement.


Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s representative underscored the need for nuclear-weapon States to implement the unequivocal undertaking of accomplishing the total elimination of their nuclear weapons and expressed concern at the slow pace, and reversal in some cases, of progress in that regard.  He repeated the Movement’s call for an international conference as soon as possible on the objective of attaining an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.


The representative of Pakistan called for a new consensus to respond to new realities and challenges, saying that, unless there was broad agreement on goals and parameters that needed to be pursued with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, it would be difficult to achieve breakthroughs.  Such a new consensus should, among other things, revive the commitment by all States to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament, with no ambiguity on that objective.  It must also reflect the importance of reducing and eliminating discrimination in the current non-proliferation regime and arrangement, as well as stress the importance of seeking ways and means of normalizing the relationship of the three nuclear-weapon States outside the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) with the non-proliferation regime.


China’s representative said that, as a nuclear-weapon State, his country was loyal to its responsibilities and obligations on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, as stipulated by the NPT.  It had always exercised the utmost restraint on the scale and development of its nuclear weapons and it would not take part in a nuclear arms race.  It had also pursued a policy of unconditional, no first use of nuclear weapons and no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones.  In addition, China had always advocated for the peaceful settlement of the Korean peninsula nuclear issues and had also dedicated itself to the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic efforts and negotiations.


The representative of Iran said the greatest threat to international and regional security and stability was the continued existence of nuclear weapons.  At the time the NPT had been concluded, States had promised that the nuclear threat, particularly against non-nuclear countries, would be removed in all its aspects, including through the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  That Treaty had been based on a simple bargain, by which non-nuclear-weapon States pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for the commitment of nuclear-weapon States to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations aimed at the total elimination of those weapons.  Today, not only had some States abandoned their NPT obligations, but they had chosen to build new nuclear weapons or to modernize their existing weapons systems.


The representative of Brazil said that, so long as States that possessed nuclear weapons continued to believe that those weapons constituted a critical element of their security strategy, the goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons would remain elusive and distant.  Reducing the role of those weapons in strategic and security doctrines was, therefore, essential for realizing the goal of nuclear disarmament.


The representative of the Philippines said the elimination of nuclear weapons would stop or prevent the “devastating and catastrophic terror” such weapons could unleash.  Thus, continued multilateral discussions and dialogue on the issue should be patiently and persistently pursued, especially since the nuclear disarmament process had been stalled for so long, and since the nuclear-weapon States were continuing their qualitative development of nuclear stockpiles.


As it began its session this morning, the Commission took note of its agenda contained in document A/CN.10/L.57, which it had previously adopted during its organizational session on 18 March 2008.  The Commission also completed its bureau with the election of Ivan Mutavdzic of Croatia and Hrachia Tashchian of Armenia as Vice-Chairpersons.  Also, Monica Bolanos Perez of Guatemala was elected to serve as Rapporteur.


Statements were also made today by the representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Cuba, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Libya, Qatar, Democratic Republic of Congo (on behalf of the African Group) and Benin.


The Commission will resume its general exchange of views at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 8 April.


Background


The Disarmament Commission met today to open its 2008 substantive session.  It is the third year of a three-year cycle in which it is focusing on the agreed agenda items: nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation; and confidence-building in conventional weapons.


Statements


PIETER DE KLERK ( Netherlands), Chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, said that during testing times for disarmament, the world needed leadership from the United Nations, in general, and the Secretary-General, in particular.  The Secretary-General had been showing that leadership.  From day one, he had called it a personal priority to revitalize multilateral efforts in disbarment and non-proliferation.  Just a few days ago, he had spoken out forcefully for strengthening the regime on anti-personnel mines.


As the Commission began its third and last year in the 2006-2008 cycle, differences in positions remained significant, and finding consensus would not be easy, he continued.  But, the Commission had to do it.  The United Nations disarmament machinery had produced great results in the past, both with regard to weapons of mass destruction and with regard to certain conventional weapons, but, at present, it urgently needed a boost.  Moreover, for the Commission itself, its credibility was at stake.  It could ill afford a second three-year cycle without a substantive result.  Member States should focus on areas of potential consensus, and not linger on issues they knew would find no agreement.


The substantive issues on the agenda were the same as in the last two years.  They reflected the fact that, when the original Commission had been created in 1952, it was a merger of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Commission on Conventional Armaments.  While agreement on both substantive items on the agenda would not mean an immediate farewell to arms, it would be a clear signal that the period of stagnation that had troubled the disarmament debate was over –- a signal that could also spur progress in related forums.


United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that the present session was especially important because it was the last in the Commission’s three-year cycle.  Now was the time for all Member States to make an extra effort to seek a consensus.  Those efforts were essential given the vital importance of disarmament and non-proliferation in shaping international peace and security.  The international community needed to work together -- the Secretariat, Member States and civil society –- to reinvigorate collective efforts to reach the shared goals in those fields.  Failure was not an option.  Its consequences could well jeopardize many other goals of the Charter and the security and well-being of all Member States.


At last year’s session, he had expressed regret that setbacks in the field of disarmament had become the norm, not the exception, he continued.  He had also called on the Commission to move forward in a spirit of compromise and accommodation.  Today, he was renewing that call with an even greater sense of urgency.


Despite a collective awareness about risks and challenges, the world was still confronted with the twin dangers of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, he went on.  Multilateral cooperation remained absolutely indispensable in pursuing the noble goals of disarmament and non-proliferation.  That was a solemn duty that could not be fulfilled through confrontation, condemnation or the adoption of intractable policy positions.  A true sense of mutual understanding and respect, give and take, and prudent flexibility was needed.


Since it was indeed possible to make progress on the issues before the Commission, the body did not have the option of closing its current session by relegating those matters to “unfinished business”, said Mr. Ban.  The time to finish that business was now.  The approach he was recommending did not amount to abandoning ambition or endorsing the “least common denominator” as the highest form of wisdom.  On the contrary, incremental progress in the institution could have positive spill-over effects across the United Nations disarmament machinery.  It could also help in cultivating a positive climate for addressing disarmament issues in other multilateral forums, including those dealing with treaty regimes.  Progress could be contagious -– what was gained in one part of the system could benefit the whole.  That was true not just about the challenges of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  It also applied to the pursuit of practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.


Although the international community had made some significant progress in conventional weapons in recent years –- especially in addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons –- new conventional weapon issues were emerging, while old problems still demanded solutions, he said.  The fact that conventional arms continued to kill many thousands of people every year was often overlooked, except by the States and individuals suffering most of the bloodshed.  Delegations should take the opportunity of the current session to demonstrate the Commission’s continuing potential as an important, even, indispensable part of the United Nations disarmament machinery.


MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, over the past few years, the regression on the agreed goals of the international disarmament agenda had been regrettable.  That regression had also taken a toll on the Commission.  At the same time, rather than being despondent, the Non-Aligned Movement remained optimistic and would always strive to constructively promote worldwide peace and security.  The Commission’s work had contributed greatly to the emergence of global disarmament norms.  At the same time, since its 2003 session, it had not been able to fully play its substantial role.


In that regard, the Commission’s deliberative role was becoming even more important, and the Movement remained committed to its principles and reaffirmed its centrality as the United Nations specialized, deliberative body on disarmament issues.  He went on to call on the Commission to support the chairs of its two working groups, and on all Member States to display the necessary political will and flexibility to achieve agreement on the recommendations on the two agenda items before the Commission.  The Movement stressed that progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all aspects was essential to strengthening international peace and security, and appealed to all States to pursue and intensify relevant multilateral negotiations with the clear goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.


On the Commission’s first agenda item -- recommendations for achieving nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons -- the Movement would reiterate its positions on the issue, as reflected in the relevant documents adopted by its summits and ministerial meetings, including the fourteenth Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Havana, Cuba, in 2006.  The vision and principles of the final document of the first special session on disarmament also remained very pertinent in that respect, he added.  The Movement underscored the need for nuclear-weapon States to implement the unequivocal undertaking of accomplishing the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.  It was very concerned by the slow pace, and reversal in some cases, of progress in that regard by those States.  Multilateral negotiations on the relevant issues should commence without delay on that matter.


He went on to say that the Non-Aligned Movement again called for an international conference as soon as possible with the objective of attaining an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.  He reiterated support for the aims of the Millennium Declaration in that regard, and also reiterated the Movement’s longstanding position for the total ban of all nuclear testing.  He was concerned over the lack of progress by the nuclear-weapon States in eliminating their nuclear arsenals and the negative developments on the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).


The Movement believed that the international community’s efforts on non-proliferation should be in conjunction with concrete efforts on nuclear disarmament, he said, adding that the Movement also believed that the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction was through the total elimination of such weapons.  He also underlined that the threat posed by terrorists acquiring such weapons should be addressed within the framework of the United Nations and with international cooperation consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter and international law.


He said that, while noting the adoption of resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006) by the Security Council, the Movement underlined the need for ensuring that any action taken by the Council did not undermine the Charter and the existing multilateral treaties on weapons of mass destruction, as well as the all-encompassing role of the General Assembly.  Moreover, the Movement cautioned against the Council’s practice of using its authority to define the legislative requirements for Member States in implementing the Council’s decisions.  In that regard, he stressed that the matter of non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction should be addressed in an inclusive manner by the Assembly, taking into account the views of all Member States.


He welcomed efforts to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones in all regions, and reaffirmed support for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, in accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  He recalled that the 2000 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review had reaffirmed the importance of Israel’s accession to that Treaty, and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under the comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards for achieving the goal of universal adherence to that important instrument in the Middle East. Here, he added that the Non-Aligned Movement States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons believed that the Treaty was a key instrument in the efforts to halt vertical and horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons.


Turning to the Commission’s agenda item on confidence-building measures, he said the Movement supported such measures in the field of conventional arms as a way of strengthening international peace and security.  History -- and present time -- was unfortunately replete with sagas of the devastation wrought by the indiscriminate use of conventional weapons.  The Movement believed such measures were neither a substitute, nor precondition, for disarmament measures.


However, those measures did have the potential to create an atmosphere conducive to arms control and disarmament and, when applied in a comprehensive manner, they could be conducive to achieving structures of security, based on cooperation and openness.  He added that the Movement also firmly supported unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures adopted by some Governments aimed at reducing their military expenditures, thereby contributing to strengthening of regional and international peace and security.  Finally, he said the Movement States stood ready to work constructively with the Commission and its respective working groups.


CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said his delegation was concerned by the lack of substantive agreement on global disarmament matters, especially in the area of nuclear disarmament.  The members of the Group formed the foundation of the planet’s first nuclear-weapon-free zone and, in that regard, urged all States to adhere to their agreed responsibilities to eliminate such weapons.  Also, the Group called on all States and regions to consider setting up their own nuclear-weapon-free zones.


He reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to the NPT, which was the cornerstone of international action on nuclear non-proliferation, and he called on States that had not done so to sign that important instrument.  That Treaty must be implemented without selectivity, and States must be allowed to pursue peaceful aims, including research on nuclear energy for development.  He also called for an international legally binding instrument on guarantees for non-nuclear States.  Such an instrument would provide certainty and guarantee the freezing of horizontal proliferation, making such activities illegitimate and unjustifiable.


The Group was concerned over signs of an arms race in outer space, and called on all States to enter into the necessary international agreements to prevent it, he added.  The Rio Group believed that confidence-building measures in the area of disarmament would help promote understanding and cooperation among States. I t was, therefore, necessary to enhance, strengthen and broaden such measures in all areas, including towards preventing the spread of, and eradicating the illicit traffic in, small arms and light weapons.  Such measures could also address the registry of conventional arms and standardized reports on military spending.


He went on to express the Group’s concern about the lack of political commitment by States to prevent the proliferation of conventional weapons, including those with excessively cruel effects. To that end, the Group welcomed the ongoing process to address the effects of cluster munitions and their humanitarian impact.  The Rio Group was ready to cooperate with the Commission and its Chair to achieve the aims of the session, especially as this was the last of its current meeting cycle.  He cautioned delegations against allowing the lack of progress in one area to hamper progress in another.  He called on all delegations to generate the political will to ensure success.


PIRAGIBE TARRAGÔ ( Brazil) associated his country with the statement by Mexico on behalf of the Rio Group and said that a meaningful and generally agreed outcome was possible and long overdue.  Achieving substantive results in the Commission was even more important in view of the recent lack of progress in the disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations.  Negative developments, such as the deadlock at the NPT review process, the paralysis at the Conference on Disarmament, the continued delay in the entering into force of the CTBT and the lack of agreement regarding the Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms -– disturbing as they were -– should not detract the Commission from persevering in the pursuit of disarmament and non-proliferation within the United Nations framework.


So long as States that possessed nuclear weapons continued to believe that those weapons constituted a critical element of their security strategy, the goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons would remain elusive and distant, he continued.  Reducing the role of such weapons in strategic and security doctrines was, therefore, essential for realizing the goal of nuclear disarmament.  Brazil expected those concerns to be duly reflected in the paper to be produced by working group I.


With regard to working group II, chaired by Brazil, he said the work done over the last two years had produced a text that could form the basis for an agreement.  Confidence-building measures aimed to alter inaccurate perceptions and to avoid misunderstandings about military actions and policies that might otherwise provoke violent conflict. Over time, they could pave the way for more stable political and diplomatic relations, transform the parties’ ideas about their need for security and even encourage moves to identify shared security interests and highlight the importance of effective disarmament initiatives.  Such measures, particularly in the conventional weapons field, had become important steps in building trust, stability and security needed to overcome conflict and enhance efforts at development.  A range of such measures were available and being actively used to pave the way for disarmament, reduce tensions and avert possible military conflict.


The Commission was a deliberative body with universal participation dedicated to long-term discussion of disarmament issues, with a view to submission to the General Assembly, he added.  It was not a forum that negotiated legally binding agreements.  Therefore, it did not operate under the constraints that characterized such negotiations.  In view of the need to achieve concrete results at the end of the present cycle, it was especially important that delegations engage in discussions with a constructive spirit, as they sought to overcome the remaining differences.


RODRIGO MAMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said that, regarding disarmament matters, Cuba supported the outcomes of the relevant Non-Aligned Movement summits and ministerial meetings, including the 2006 Havana Summit.   Cuba was concerned that the overall United Nations disarmament agenda was suffering from paralysis.  The Commission had not escaped a similar state of inertia. At the same time, the international community was witnessing unprecedented increases in military spending, as well as an accumulation of weapons of mass destruction.


“We cannot remain silent before these facts,” he said, especially as funds devoted to military spending were now so much greater than those earmarked for development. To that end, Cuba reiterated its call for the creation of a fund, under the auspices of the United Nations, which would ensure the use of a portion of the world’s military expenditures for development. Such a fund would also serve as an important confidence-building measure, he added.


He said that, across the globe, nuclear weapons stood armed and at the ready, and Cuba believed that their mere existence was a danger to international peace and security.  The nuclear-weapon States, therefore, had the legal obligation to not only hold negotiations, but to reach conclusions on complete and total disarmament.  The importance of that could not underestimated, he said, especially since everyone was aware of the selective views of some States that the focus should not be on the weapons themselves, but on “the good or bad behaviour” of those who had them.


Cuba also called for the creation of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on guarantees for non-nuclear-weapon States, he said.  Further, confidence-building measures should respect international law and the Charter.  They should not be imposed and should be based on the views of all States.  They must be based on the specific situations of the countries and regions in question.


HU XIAODI ( China) said that, in recent years, the overall process of international disarmament had been at a low ebb.  There was still a long way to go towards nuclear disarmament.  The nuclear non-proliferation regime was facing severe challenges.  Military and security factors were getting more prominent in international relations.  Against such a backdrop, the deliberations on “recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disbarment and non-proliferation” and “practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons” had realistic significance.


As a nuclear weapon State, China was loyal to its responsibilities and obligations on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, as stipulated by the NPT, he went on.  His Government had always exercised the utmost restraint on the scale and development of its nuclear weapons.  China did not, and would not, take part in a nuclear arms race.  It had all along pursued a policy of unconditional, no first use of nuclear weapons and no-use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones.  It was strictly implementing its international obligations related to nuclear non-proliferation and actively participated in relevant international efforts.


Working hard to promote the peaceful resolution of regional nuclear issues, China had always advocated for the peaceful settlement of the Korean peninsula nuclear issues, he went on.  As part of the joint efforts of the relevant parties, China had contributed to the convening of the six-party talks, with a view to achieving the denuclearization of the peninsula.  It would do its best to overcome current difficulties, maintain the momentum of the six-party talks and facilitate the denuclearization process, so as to ensure peace, security and stability of the Korean peninsula.  China had also dedicated itself to the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic efforts and negotiations.


China supported confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons, he said.  Conventional weapons related to important security concerns for various countries.  Confidence-building measures, on a voluntary basis and in conformity with the security interests of relevant countries, would be truly conducive to confidence-building among countries.  In promoting them, the international community needed to take into account the degree of comfort of the relevant parties.  Such measures should be developed in the light of the concrete situation of different regions at the time, with an objective and pragmatic attitude and in a step-by-step and incremental manner.   China had unswervingly followed the road of peaceful development and pursued a defensive-in-nature national defence policy.  Over the past year, it had promoted and participated in regional disarmament and confidence-building measures.


MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) aligned his delegation with the statement by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that every State had the right to security, as enunciated by the United Nations Charter, which enshrined equal security for all States.  Pakistan was convinced that credible security could only flow from a collective approach and a rule-based international order.  Exclusive approaches must, therefore, yield to agreed multilateral approaches to disarmament.


Given the special circumstances in its region, Pakistan adhered to the policy of credible minimum deterrence, he continued.  The global consensus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation had eroded during the last decade.  The reason for that situation included the unwillingness of certain States to give up their nuclear weapons; the development and deployment of nuclear weapons by certain States; the perceived threat of proliferation by some States; the technological capabilities of certain non-nuclear-weapon States to develop such weapons, even at short notice; the failure of collective means to counter proliferation; and the progress in the militarization of outer space, including through the development and deployment of anti-ballistic missiles.


He said that, unless there was broad agreement on goals and parameters that needed to be pursued with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, it would be difficult to achieve breakthroughs on selective objectives.  In that regard, a new consensus must evolve that would respond to new realities and challenges.  Such a consensus should, among other things, revive the commitment by all States to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament, with no ambiguity on that objective.  It must also reflect the importance of reducing and eliminating discrimination in the current non-proliferation regime and arrangement.  Also, it was important to seek ways and means of normalizing the relationship of the three nuclear-weapon States outside the NPT with the non-proliferation regime.  Also, he supported the negotiations on a fissile material treaty.


Continuing, he said the new consensus would need to address new issues, such as the danger of access to weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors, the need to agree on universal and non-discriminatory rules to ensure the right of every State to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the importance of negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon States.  It must also address the issue of missiles in its entirety, including their deployment, as well as the militarization of outer space.


He added that weapons possession by Member States should flow from the security needs of those States, and not from any desire to dominate other United Nations Member States.  The Commission could play an important role in clarifying issues and identifying possible areas for negotiation and, as such, helping revive genuine consensus for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.


BYRGANYM AITMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said her country’s history was closely linked to disarmament.  By closing a nuclear testing site and renouncing its nuclear arsenal in the early stages of its independence, Kazakhstan had set an example of responsibility by demonstrating convincingly that “it is not nuclear arsenals, but peaceful foreign policy, internal stability and sustainable economic and political development that are, in fact, real stability”.  In 2006, her country, along with other Central Asian States, had signed a treaty on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.


She said it was broadly recognized that the lack of consensus on non-proliferation issues and the general absence of political will had stifled the international disarmament agenda.  Further, there had not been any evidence that the nuclear powers would meet their obligations on reducing their nuclear arsenals.  With all that in mind, the President of the General Assembly had called on those States to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons, by creating an example for others to follow.


Kazakhstan, for its part, was convinced that it was necessary to develop effective leverage mechanisms to put pressure on possessor States acting outside the legal framework of the NPT, or that might try to leave the Treaty’s regime in the future.  To that end, her delegation had repeatedly proposed the drafting of an international legally binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.  Kazakhstan was keen to discuss further the issue of negative security assurances, as it was closely related to the nuclear disarmament process.


She went on to say that the accumulation and proliferation of conventional weapons was a key international security concern, especially since criminal and terrorist groups and radical religious movements were “actively” trafficking in illicit arms.  The Commission’s agenda item on “confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons” provided an opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen regional and global security.


Here, she urged delegations to come up with a broad spectrum of practical components, including establishing direct open communications, and arms control, verification and monitoring programmes, among others.   Kazakhstan hoped that deliberations on that agenda item would contribute significantly to the work of the upcoming third biennial meeting of Member States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action on combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms.


HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) said the objective of achieving nuclear disarmament continued to be his country’s highest priority and it remained alarmed by the threat to humanity posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons and their possible use, or threat of use.   Iraq was deeply concerned over the slow pace of progress towards nuclear disarmament.  It was fully convinced that the NPT was a key instrument in the efforts to halt vertical and horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons and was the essential foundation for nuclear disarmament.  His country reaffirmed its commitment not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly to any recipient.  It would also not assist, encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons.


Iraq supported the call for the establishment of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, he went on.  It reaffirmed the need for the speedy establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East in accordance with the Security Council resolution 487 (1981) and the relevant General Assembly resolutions adopted by consensus.  Iraq recalled that the 2000 NPT Review Conference had reaffirmed the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards, in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East.  In that regard, Iraq called for the total and complete prohibition of the transfer of all nuclear-related equipment, information, materials facilities, resources or devices and the extension of assistance in the nuclear-related scientific or technological fields to Israel.


He reaffirmed his country’s belief in the basic and inalienable right of all States to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.  IAEA was the competent authority for verifying and assuring compliance with its safeguards agreement with States parties, with a view to preventing the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives.   Iraq also supported the objectives of the CTBT.  That Treaty was now before the Iraqi Parliament under processing for ratification and accession.   Iraq believed that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of such weapons, and was the most effective way of preventing terrorists from acquiring such weapons.


KIM HYUN CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said that, despite all the setbacks and challenges, the NPT’s central role as the normative foundation of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation matters remained unchanged.  The international community must work to enhance the integrity of, and confidence in, the Treaty, while striking a balance between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Such an end could only be achieved if every State party fulfilled its obligations without making such implementation conditional on the actions of others.


The Republic of Korea also believed that the global nuclear non-proliferation regime needed to be further reinforced and that the NPT’s monitoring and verification mechanism needed to be strengthened.  In that regard, it supported the universal adherence to the IAEA’s relevant Additional Protocol and also looked forward to the extension of the mandate of the Security Council’s 1540 Committee.  He went on to say that conventional weapons did as much damage as nuclear weapons, and recognizing -- and fully utilizing -- the role of confidence-building measures and of the United Nations, in that regard, was important in achieving the common, cooperative security of all Member States.


In addition, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons not only fuelled conflicts, but also hampered development, he said.  International efforts to curb that illicit trade, including the United Nations Programme of Action, should be strengthened.  To that end, his country would be hosting, together with Norway and the European Union, a two-day United Nations-backed workshop next month in Seoul on the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument.


Turning to the situation on the Korean peninsula, he said that putting reliable confidence-building measures in place between the two Koreas was essential for the promotion of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation.  The denuclearization of the peninsula was key to its security and would provide the basis for other cooperative projects between the two Koreas.  That, in turn, could contribute to other confidence-building measures.


In closing, he said that, while the United Nations disarmament machinery had been much criticized for being “lost in translation”, the Republic of Korea believed that the world body had arrived at a point where the situation could be turned around and old stalemates could be broken.  The Commission needed to now focus on achieving a goal that was certainly in reach.  It was up to delegations to decide whether they wanted to become a part of the solution or part of the problem.


EMAD BEN-SHABAN ( Libya) associated his delegation with Indonesia’s statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to applying the NPT in its entirety.  Libya had shown concrete proof of that commitment when it eliminated its nuclear weapons programme.  His Government believed that the only guarantee against the use or threat of use nuclear weapons was the complete elimination of those weapons through the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones as rapidly as possible, including the creation of one in the Middle East.  In that regard, Libya supported the decisions of the General Assembly on the Middle East.  Unfortunately, the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons in the region and the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone there had not been achieved, because of Israel’s refusal to become a party to the NPT.  The provisions of the NPT needed to be applied in an integral and non-selective way.


He appealed for the rapid implementation of the CTBT, through signing and ratification by all Member States, as soon as possible.  The entry into force of that Treaty would be an important step towards nuclear non-proliferation, he stated.  With regard to confidence-building measures, he believed that adopting effective measures was essential for achieving international security.  However, such measures could not replace disarmament or be a requisite for it. Also, it was important that such measures be balanced.


He said his Government believed that current disarmament instruments, such as the register of small arms, remained selective, as they did not apply to all weapons, including weapons of mass destruction.  His country, however, reaffirmed its commitment to the objectives of the Commission and hoped that the work of its current session would lead to concrete recommendations.  He would cooperate completely to achieve that goal.


HILARIO G. DAVIDE ( Philippines) said that, as the issue of disarmament became more and more important, the international community could not afford to delay action.  “We cannot afford to fail,” he said, urgently calling on delegations to be flexible and willing to compromise so that the United Nations -- with the peoples of the world clamouring for peace -- could achieve the common goal of peace, established, in particular, through disarmament.  He said the quest for peace demanded progress on the Commission’s long stalled work on disarmament and non-proliferation.  Indeed, the elimination of nuclear weapons would stop or prevent the “devastating and catastrophic terror” such weapons could unleash.


Continued multilateral discussions and dialogue on the issue should, therefore, be patiently and persistently pursued, especially since the nuclear disarmament process had been stalled for so long and since the nuclear-weapon States were continuing their qualitative development of nuclear stockpiles.  The Philippines, therefore, called on all States to ban all forms of nuclear testing, especially given the harmful effects of such testing on the environment and their provocative nature, which could spark more tests of weapons that all States should be working to eliminate in the first place.  He also called on all States to fulfil their obligations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, particularly as they might fall into the hands of terrorists.


He said his delegation also supported calls for the issuance of a universal legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.  It also reaffirmed its belief in the usefulness of nuclear-weapon-free zones and its desire to see more such areas established.  The nuclear-weapon States should honour and respect those zones.  The Philippines believed that confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms were vital to achieving international peace and security.  Although such weapons did not have the same devastating effect as nuclear arms, they were just as potent and had killed or maimed countless people.  Their rampant production, continued upgrading and indiscriminate use must be stopped, he said.


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said nuclear disarmament was the most important item on the universal disarmament agenda, but the five nuclear-weapon States designated by the NPT had refused to implement the most important article of that Treaty, which concerned halting the development of their nuclear arsenals and reducing them.  The work of the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference would begin in Geneva this month.  In that regard, the review process must be undertaken in the light of the resolutions and decisions of the two previous conferences.  In order for the Second Preparatory Committee not to fail, all States parties needed to take sincere practical positions and to refrain from politicizing the work of the Committee.


In its international relations, Qatar was committed to strengthening the NPT and consolidating its foundations, he went on.  That included proliferation prevention, disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  In that regard, he emphasized the inadmissibility of compromising the inalienable right of States parties to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and the need not to impede the efforts of non-nuclear-weapon States parties to develop their nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.  The selective approach to the implementation of the provisions of the NPT only served to increase proliferation and intensify the race to develop the power of deterrence, instead of controlling it.  It was also imperative to establish a practical mechanism for creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.


He stated that other challenges in the area of disarmament that posed a threat to international peace and security included the problem of proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the proliferation of land mines, such as those planted by Israel in south Lebanon during its invasion of the area.  He condemned the failure of Israel to hand over the maps of those minefields, which continued to kill, injure and maim civilians.  Qatar also shared the concern of the international community over the danger posed by conventional weapons and their continued development.  Practical confidence-building measures needed to be taken in that domain, provided such measures were consistent with the United Nations Charter and implemented on a voluntary, mutual basis.


ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed the Group’s absolute commitment to multilateral diplomacy and said it believed strongly in the promotion of multilateralism in the field of disarmament as an essential way to strengthen universal peace and security.  The Group joined other Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement in expressing deep concern at the growing resort to unilateralism in addressing issues of multilateral interest.


The African Group shared the view that nuclear weapons posed a great threat to international peace and security, he continued.  The most effective means of achieving nuclear disarmament should be the commencement of multilateral negotiations leading to the early conclusion of a convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer and threat or use of nuclear weapons and on their total elimination.  The principle of that objective should be a commitment by nuclear-weapon States to immediately stop the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems.  Pending the total elimination of those weapons, a legally binding international instrument should be established, under which the nuclear-weapon States would undertake not to be the first to use them and also not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States.  It was important to ensure that any meaningful nuclear disarmament process was irreversible, transparent and verifiable.


The African Group reaffirmed that the NPT was a vital instrument in the maintenance of international peace and security, he went on.  It stressed the importance of consolidating existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and establishing new ones on the basis of arrangements freely reached by the States of the concerned regions.  It welcomed all efforts at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and called on countries in the region to take practical and urgent steps to that end.


Concerning confidence-building measures, the African Group remained convinced that the ultimate goal of such measures in the field of conventional arms was to strengthen international peace and security and to contribute to the prevention of war, he stated.  Practical confidence-building measures in that field should fully respect the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.  The Group noted with concern the recent trend of rising global military expenditures and believed that a reduction in military budgets was an important confidence-building measure that could contribute to global peace and security.


MOHAMMAD KHAZEE ( Iran) said the greatest threat to international and regional security and stability was the continued existence of nuclear weapons.  At the time the NPT had been concluded, States had promised that the nuclear threat, particularly against non-nuclear countries, would be removed in all its aspects, including through the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  The NPT had been based on a simple bargain: non-nuclear-weapon States pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for the commitment from nuclear-weapon States to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations aimed at the total elimination of those weapons.


The Commission’s 2008 session was opening at a time when the nuclear disarmament process “seems frustrating and threatening” to non-nuclear-weapon States, due to unfulfilled disarmament agreements and a growing threat by certain nuclear-weapon States against non-nuclear-weapon States.  He said that, in recent years, a series of developments had given rise to the pervasive concern that some nuclear-weapon States had no genuine will or desire to accomplish their part of the NPT bargain.  For example, he said, some such States had begun to reinterpret their disarmament obligations by “cunningly” asserting that the fulfilment of such obligations was subject to the emergence of an international security environment, the definition of which was only known to them.


In fact, those States were setting preconditions for compliance with their obligations, while they themselves were the ones deciding how, when and under what circumstances those preconditions would be met, he continued.  Recent speeches by the representative of the United States at the opening of the 2007 session of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and the United Kingdoms’ Defence Secretary at the 5 February meeting of the Conference on Disarmament were just the most recent examples of States not only flouting their solemn commitments, but also setting a counterproductive example for others.  Further, it was unfortunate to see the same States destabilizing the international security environment by either building or advocating a “missile shield” in Eastern Europe, based on “declaratory assessments of hypothetical and non-existing threats”.


He went on to say that, not only had some States abandoned their NPT obligations, but they had also chosen to build new nuclear weapons or to modernize their existing weapons systems.  “This is a very dangerous trend,” he said, noting that the United States, in an “extensive and multi-billion dollar programme, is seeking to build a new generation of nuclear warheads and new nuclear weapons facilities”.  In addition to the recent activities of the United States and the United Kingdom in that regard, he also cited France, whose President had announced the addition of a new nuclear-armed ballistic missile-carrying submarine to its nuclear arsenal.


It appeared that France, in defiance of its international obligations, was seeking to find and define new roles and missions for its nuclear forces in order to justify the continued retention of them in the post-cold-war era, he said.   France, which had resorted to “irresponsible methods, such as manipulating intelligence and fear to promote programmes that their people would not otherwise support”, would soon realize that its nuclear weapons had essentially lost any conceivable rationale, because today’s conditions were so significantly different than the cold-war era.  If such developments persisted, the principles and norms laid down by the final document of the first General Assembly special session on disarmament, as well as the NPT and its 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences, would be undermined.  Those principles had been established as a result of painstaking multilateral deliberations, and Iran hoped that, during the current session, the Commission would work to shore up those agreements.


He went on to say that nuclear-weapon States needed to take effective confidence-building measures by implementing their commitments to nuclear disarmament and, in the coming days, their seriousness and sincerity on the matter would be tested, as the Commission’s work got under way in earnest.  He also said that non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as recognized under the NPT, were highly important and should be considered on their own merits.  Unfortunately, non-proliferation had been manipulated by a few countries as a pretext to advance their narrow national interests and to deprive developing countries of their rights to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  The Commission needed to reflect on that matter and recommend measures that could ensure the critical balance between non-proliferation obligations and the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, he said.


On confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons, Iran believed that measures were workable and could contribute to strengthening peace, security and stability, when two parties to a particular agreement implemented the measures equally.  At the same time, he said, such measures should be voluntary and could not be converted into legal obligations.


JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said the international community had the choice of seeking security either by maximizing insecurity for everyone through an arms race, or by strengthening the collective security system that had been established by the United Nations Charter.  Despite the very difficult situation that currently existed, the current session of the Disarmament Commission should be seen as a new opportunity for making the option of security through cooperation a credible alternative.  The Commission had a key role in establishing a new consensus on the path to be taken on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  States needed to reinvigorate multilateralism and consolidate mutual confidence, without endangering the survival of present and future generations.


Benin reaffirmed the important role of the NPT and the CTBT, he continued.  In that regard, he supported the conclusion of agreements on the creation and extension of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  He also believed there was a need for a treaty that gave negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States, and a treaty to prevent non-State actors from gaining access to nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  His Government remained faithful to the common objective of eliminating nuclear weapons and believed that nuclear-weapon Powers should take agreed measures, in order to promote non-proliferation and to prevent accidental use of those weapons.  In addition, States should not engage in the clandestine proliferation of nuclear weapons, although States had the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses.


As had been done by the African States, all States should develop confidence-building measures, he continued.  With regard to the accumulation of conventional weapons, there was the need for an integrated vision, based on a balanced security.  The international community should evolve towards a more equitable international system, with more sustained effort for financing for development.  It was also important to put an end to longstanding conflicts, which had negative impact on international peace.


Turning to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said it was necessary to stop that practice and there was a need for stricter monitoring of the transfer of such weapons.  He added that the serious global danger posed by weapons proliferation called for a mobilization of resources, and he hoped that humanity would find a path of reason to work towards its own survival.


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