24 April 2000


24 April 2000

Press Briefing



The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, as well as Russia and China, with their overwhelming military superiority, should initiate action to implement the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Matt Robson, New Zealand's Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

Mr. Robson was joined at the press conference by representatives of three non-governmental organizations, who are at Headquarters for the NPT Review Conference: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research; and the Abolition 2000 Report Card on the Nuclear Weapon States.

Mr. Robson said that the New Agenda Coalition, of which New Zealand was a member, expected the five declared nuclear weapons States to respect the objectives of the Treaty, to work actively towards disarmament and to follow the International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of nuclear weapons. It was hoped that there would be movement in that direction by the five permanent Security Council members.

The Coalition would work with every participating country supporting the NPT's implementation during this month's 2000 Review Conference of the Treaty, he said. The Coalition -- a post-cold war grouping comprising Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Sweden and Mexico -- represented the wishes of a majority of the world's peoples. Their hopes were focused on the conference.

Mr. Robson said that New Zealand, despite belonging to the Western alliance, had made its own small contribution to world peace by rejecting the nuclear umbrella in 1995. The country remained committed to international conventions on nuclear weapons, including the NPT, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Conference on Disarmament.

Merav Datan, Programme Director of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, cited a statement by a senior United States Government official that it was unrealistic to expect overnight nuclear disarmament. While that was true, she said, negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention must be undertaken in order to bring about the change required for complete disarmament as required under the NPT and as affirmed by the International Court of Justice.

Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research, said that from a technical standpoint, some 5,000 American and Russian nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert could be taken off alert within a few days. All nuclear weapons in the world must be de-alerted immediately, and, storage and security allowing, all warheads should be removed from their delivery systems and stored under multilateral monitoring. Delegates spoke in New York about eventual nuclear disarmament, but on returning home they continued funding the modernization of nuclear weapons and legitimizing doctrines for their role.

Janet Bloomfield of the Abolition 2000 Report Card on the Nuclear Weapon States listed nine obligations for disarmament. Among them were: the public

NGO NPT Press Conference - 2 - 24 April 2000

declaration of all nuclear weapons, material, facilities and delivery systems; removal of targeting coordinates and navigational information from all delivery vehicles; and ending the production of nuclear weapon components and equipment. Other obligations included designation for decommissioning, closure or conversion of all nuclear weapons testing, research and production facilities; stopping the production of proscribed nuclear material; and ending funding for nuclear weapons research.

Asked if the coalition had a common position, Mr. Robson said the position had been outlined today by the Mexican Foreign Minister. The five permanent members of the Security Council had had difficulties with some of its formulations, but the position contained sensible steps aimed at moving the process forward.

Responding to another question, he said that part of the Coalition's position involved getting the nuclear weapons States to seriously begin the process of disarming. In the Conference on Disarmament, the coalition would be calling for a subsidiary body that could begin practical steps towards disarmament. The coalition wanted the nuclear Powers to review their first-strike position -- if not renounce the first strike -- and in particular, give assurances to the non-nuclear States that nuclear weapons would never be used against them.

Answering another journalist, Mr. Robson said the Coalition would make known its disappointment with the position of the United States Congress on the CTBT, just as it had made known its position on that Treaty's ratification by the Russian Federation's Duma.

Referring to the "star wars" missile defence system proposed by the United States, he said the very thought of using outer space for such a system was abhorrent to the coalition. It had spoken out strongly against such a development, which would surely have a domino effect.

Asked about the plan by the United States to deal with so-called rogue States, he said the coalition did not accept the rogue-State argument, which was not very strong in terms of the overwhelming nuclear superiority the United States held over every other country.

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For information media. Not an official record.