AS DISARMAMENT COMMISSION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE, SIGNS INDICATE EMERGING WILLINGNESS TO UNLOCK PARALYSIS, DISCARD OUTDATED IDEAS

16 April 2009
DC/3165

AS DISARMAMENT COMMISSION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE, SIGNS INDICATE EMERGING WILLINGNESS TO UNLOCK PARALYSIS, DISCARD OUTDATED IDEAS

16 April 2009
General Assembly
DC/3165
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2009 Substantive Session

297th Meeting (AM)

as disarmament commission concludes general debate, signs indicate

emerging willingness to unlock paralysis, discard outdated ideas

In the shadow of slow progress towards eliminating nuclear weapons, stalled implementation of the cornerstone Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and years of stasis in the multilateral disarmament agenda, signs were emerging that nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States could redraw the global debate and discard outdated ideas that nuclear weapons were irreversibly embedded in the global security architecture, delegates in the Disarmament Commission said today.

Concluding their general debate for the 2009 substantive session, which began on Monday, representatives of countries with diverse cold war legacies, varying degrees of economic development and stages of nuclear-energy use pointed to shifts in both national and bilateral postures that could help set the stage for a new security landscape.

Cuba’s representative stressed that the possibility of changing course “is in our hands”, drawing attention to his country’s proposal to allocate at least half of global military expenditures to social and development needs through a fund administered by the United Nations.  Indeed, record military spending of $1.39 trillion ‑‑ a 45 per cent increase over 10 years ago ‑‑ could feed the 852 million hungry people around the world and house the 640 million children living without a roof.  It was time to set aside hollow rhetoric and meet promises made.  Nuclear-weapon States were legally obliged not merely to convene, but also to conclude, negotiations aimed at attaining complete nuclear disarmament under strict and effective verification.

Nuclear Powers could indeed do more, said Australia’s representative, particularly by showing leadership at the upcoming third NPT Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2010 Review Conference.  All Member States must recognize the collective security benefits provided by the Treaty and comply with their obligations.  For their own part, Australia and Japan had established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an independent global panel that aimed to reinvigorate efforts for curbing nuclear weapons proliferation with a “fresh and imaginative vision”.

In a similar vein, Italy’s representative said he looked forward to the early start of talks ‑‑ without preconditions ‑‑ on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  Italy welcomed support for such an instrument, as expressed in the recent joint statement by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States.

At the same time, other representatives pointed out that progress would continue to lag without critical movement on age-old issues.  Jordan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed positive statements by the leaders of major nuclear-weapon States that showed their commitment to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, but also anticipated the translation of those comments into actions that would drive change.  Some States were in violation of their non-proliferation commitments, the clearest evidence of which was their cooperation with Israel in the nuclear field.  One shortcoming of the NPT was laid bare in the Middle East ‑‑ the only region that had not seen efforts to “evacuate” nuclear weapons.  The Arab Group warned against the danger of maintaining silence over Israel’s “explicit declaration” of nuclear weapons possession, which had encouraged a revival of the arms race.

Iran’s delegate said that, with the end of the cold war, the global community rightly expected that nuclear-weapon States would pursue the total elimination of nuclear arsenals.  However, even limited efforts in that regard faced serious setbacks arising from the adoption of anti-disarmament policies by some nuclear Powers.  Such negative trends had been a serious disservice to the pursuit of a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Nuclear-weapon States must prove the seriousness of their commitments to implement NPT provisions, all three decisions and resolution of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and agreements of the 2000 Review Conference.

Rounding out the discussion, Poland’s representative said that a November 2008 conference of the Warsaw Reflection Group on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation had offered a unique opportunity to explore the history of nuclear disarmament.  Titled “Arms Control Revisited:  non-proliferation and denuclearization”, the event had brought key issues into mainstream discourse.

In other business, the Commission elected Serge Bavaud of Switzerland as Vice-Chairman of its Bureau.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Sudan, Nicaragua and Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group).

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Disarmament Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 April, to continue its work.

Background

The Disarmament Commission met this morning to continue the general debate of its substantive session for 2009, the first of a three-year cycle.

Statements

ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said that, since the last session, his country and Japan had established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an independent global panel that aimed to reinvigorate efforts to curb nuclear weapons proliferation.  Given the considerable international support for a recommitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world, Australia was disappointed that States could not agree to invite the co-chairs of that body today.

Voicing strong support for the commitment by the President of the United States to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and pursue negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, he equally welcomed the announcement that the United States and the Russian Federation intended to pursue a legally binding verifiable successor instrument to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.  Such developments augured well for the commitment of nuclear-weapon States to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

However, the two States could do more, he said, emphasizing that they must show leadership at the upcoming NPT Preparatory Committee and recognize the collective-security benefits that it provided, while complying with their obligations.  On the other hand, Australia strongly condemned the recent launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called on that country to return to compliance with Security Council resolutions and to work constructively with other members of the Six-Party Talks.

Turning to conventional weapons, he said that, in addition to national measures to curb proliferation, the international community could provide practical assistance to affected States, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.  International cooperation was essential.  The illicit transfer of conventional arms and their components was a grave concern, and Australia was proud to be a co-author of a General Assembly draft resolution on an arms trade treaty.  Australia and the Republic of Korea had also promoted action in the Assembly to alert Member States to the threat presented by the illicit brokering of weapons of mass destruction.

ABELARDO MORENO FERNÁNDEZ (Cuba), in full support of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that record military spending of $1.39 trillion represented a 45 per cent increase over 10 years ago while more than 100 countries of the South would not have the $150 billion necessary to attain the Millennium Development Goals, or the equivalent of just 10 per cent of the amount devoted to military expenditure.  Those military resources could feed the 852 million hungry people around the world and ensure housing for 640 million children without a roof today, as well as the 115 million children presently not attending primary school.  It was time to set aside hollow rhetoric and meet the pledges and promises made.  Cuba reiterated its proposal to allocate at least half of global military expenditures to social and development needs through a fund administered by the United Nations.

Noting that recent years had been characterized by paralysis of the multilateral disarmament agenda, he said the Disarmament Commission “has not been unscathed by these noxious effects and has not attained concrete results”, adding that the possibility of changing course and taking steps forward “is in our hands”.  Cuba was pleased that the Commission would tackle nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, given the existence of some 25,000 nuclear weapons around the world, with 10,200 ready for immediate use.  Their mere existence and the doctrines promoting their possession and use constituted a danger to international peace and security.  Nuclear disarmament was and should remain the highest priority in the disarmament sphere; its pertinence could not be minimized.

Nuclear-weapon States had the legal obligation not merely to convene, but also to conclude, negotiations aimed at attaining complete nuclear disarmament under strict and effective verification, he stressed, adding that his country categorically rejected selective implementation of the NPT.  The obligations assumed in the areas of nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy could not continue to be set aside under that framework.  It was essential that the 2010 NPT Review Conference attain results, but that would depend to a large degree on what happened at the third meeting of the Preparatory Committee.  Cuba supported the conclusion of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Commission’s item on nuclear disarmament testified to the global community’s priority of addressing the threat posed by the thousands of nuclear warheads in the stockpiles of the nuclear-weapon States.  With the end of the cold war, the global community rightly expected that the nuclear-weapon States would fulfil their responsibilities to pursue the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  Regrettably, the limited efforts in that regard had faced serious setbacks in recent years and, with the adoption of anti-nuclear disarmament policies by some major nuclear-weapon States, the NPT faced challenges today.

Certain of those States had disregarded their nuclear-disarmament obligations and attempted to relegate the status of nuclear disarmament in the international security agenda, he said.  Such negative trends had been a serious disservice to the pursuit of a nuclear-weapon-free world.  States had a collective duty to realize that goal and restore the credibility of the NPT.  The nuclear-weapon States must prove the seriousness of their commitments to implement the instrument’s provisions, all three decisions of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and agreements of the 2000 Review Conference.  Failure to do so would lead to a dangerous build-up of dissatisfaction among Treaty signatories.

Emphasizing the importance of non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as recognized by the NPT, he said such issues should be considered on their own merit.  Non-proliferation had been manipulated by a few countries, and the Commission must, therefore, recommend measures to ensure the critical balance between non-proliferation obligations and the right to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  As the initiator of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, Iran fully supported efforts to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Addressing the statement made yesterday by the representative of the Czech Republic, on behalf of the European Union, he said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had continuously confirmed that his country’s nuclear programme “remained in peaceful use”.  Iran’s position was clear:  it had always maintained that it needed nuclear power as an alternative source of energy to serve its booming population and rapid development.  Iran encouraged dialogue and, to that end, its delegation was prepared to engage in serious negotiations with interested parties.  Any game of double standards or “scientific apartheid” was unacceptable.  Regarding a fourth disarmament decade, a concise declaration based on existing principles was worth considering.

HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan), subscribing fully to the statement to be made on behalf of the Arab Group, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the decisions and resolutions of past NPT Review Conferences remained unimplemented owing to the refusal of the nuclear-weapon Powers to abide by the Treaty’s most important provisions and their continuing frenzied efforts to develop their nuclear arsenals.

Stressing the importance of ensuring the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East, which would entail implementation of the resolution emanating from the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, he said that such a nuclear-weapon-free zone could have been created were it not for Israel’s intransigence and dogged refusal to adhere to the NPT and to submit its nuclear activities to IAEA safeguards.  In a region as complex as the Middle East, that posed a real danger.  The Sudan also appealed to those States that had not yet ratified the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) to do so immediately.

He reaffirmed the unconditional right of all States to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and applauded the Commission’s decision to take up elements of a declaration of a fourth disarmament decade.  The text should promote the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear and conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons.  It should reaffirm the need to settle disputes and conflicts through political and peaceful means by dampening hotbeds of tension throughout the world.  The Sudan, which adhered to both the NPT and the CTBT, had played an important regional role designed to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The Sudan was also playing a proactive role in combating the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons.

GIULIO TERZI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said he looked forward to the early start of talks, without preconditions, on a non-discriminatory, multilateral, internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  Italy, noting with appreciation that no objection had been raised in principle to the start of negotiations on a verifiable fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament, welcomed support for such an instrument, as expressed in the recent joint statement by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States.

MOHAMMED AL-ALLAF (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and supporting the Non-Aligned Movement, said there was international concern about the growing threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, and about policies that had led to the development of lethal weapons without regard for the NPT.  Despite the Treaty’s indefinite extension in 1995, what had been extended in reality were its shortcomings, particularly in the field of disarmament.  The Arab Group gave priority to the Treaty’s lack of implementation in the Middle East, notably by Israel.

While welcoming positive statements by the leaders of major nuclear-weapon States indicating their commitment to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world and nuclear disarmament, he said the Arab group looked forward to the translation of those statements into actions to drive change.  Some States were in violation of their non-proliferation commitments, the clearest evidence of which was their cooperation with Israel in the nuclear field.  Some States had granted exemptions to NPT States without the legal authority to do so, contradicting the Treaty’s provisions and decisions of the Review Conferences.  Some parties’ slackening in following up decisions of previous NPT Review sessions, and attempts to apply double standards, undermined their credibility.

The Middle East was a flagrant example of the NPT’s shortcomings as it was only region that had not seen efforts to “evacuate” nuclear weapons, he said, warning against the danger of maintaining silence over Israel’s “explicit declaration” of nuclear-weapon possession, which had encouraged a revival of the arms race.  Despite successive General Assembly resolutions on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and the Arab Group resolution in the Security Council, there was no concrete position on those resolutions.  The Arab Group supported movement towards implementation of the 13 practical steps adopted at the 2000 Review Conference, as well as a verifiable reduction of nuclear armaments.

States had an inalienable right to acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in accordance with Article IV of the NPT, he said.  All Middle Eastern States except Israel had acceded to the Treaty, and the global community must recognize that.  General Assembly resolution A/RES/63/84 reaffirmed the importance of Israel’s acceding to the NPT and opening its nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards.  Regarding a fourth disarmament decade, the agreed elements must reflect a clear priority to achieve disarmament in a balanced and non-discriminatory manner.  On confidence-building measures, the Arab Group emphasized measures to promote peace and security, as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  In closing, the Arab Group urged full compliance with the United Nations agenda to stop illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.

MARIO CASTELLON (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Rio Group, reaffirmed the Commission’s importance as the only specialized multilateral deliberative body dealing with disarmament in the United Nations, as well as its continuing relevance in presenting recommendations on urgent disarmament matters to the General Assembly.  The mere existence of nuclear weapons was a constant concern; together with doctrines sanctioning their use and possession, they threatened international peace and security and imperilled all life on the planet.  The NPT, as a cornerstone of disarmament, played a crucial role in preventing the greater spread of those weapons and promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, leading to general and complete disarmament.  According to recent reports, however, more than 26,000 nuclear weapons worldwide hung over the planet’s inhabitants.

He said his country advocated negative security assurances and underscored, without reserve, the need not to re-interpret the NPT or infringe on the inalienable right of States parties to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Nicaragua was also firmly convinced of the validity of the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the threat or use of nuclear weapons.  It stressed the importance of acceding to the CTBT, especially by all nuclear-weapon States, the objectives of which should be a permanent and ongoing commitment by all signatories.  As a founding member of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, he said that all States of the Middle East, including the only one to have stated that it possessed nuclear weapons, should rid the region of them.  That would reduce tensions and complement other actions aimed at peace and security.  Nicaragua urged all delegations to support the call by the Non-Aligned Movement for the convening of an international conference as soon as possible on a gradual, phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

SOCORRO ROVIROSA ( Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated its willingness to work constructively to complete the complex tasks entrusted to the Commission.  On achieving the goal of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the Rio Group was concerned about the slow progress towards their elimination.  It recognized some positive signs and hoped that the recent joint statement by the Presidents of the two major nuclear Powers would be translated into concrete actions to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world and launch negotiations for new and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals, beginning with a new, legally binding post-START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty this year.

Recalling that the Rio Group was part of the first nuclear-weapon-free zone, established more than 40 years ago by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), she reiterated the call to nuclear-weapon-free States to take concrete and urgent steps to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.  The Treaty was a step towards strengthening the denuclearization regime and achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.  The Rio Group reaffirmed the three pillars of the NPT ‑‑ nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful use of nuclear energy ‑‑ and urged States that had not yet done so to adhere to it as non-nuclear-weapon States and not to reinterpret or implement it selectively.

The Rio Group respected the right of all States to research and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, she said.  It advocated compliance with the 13 practical steps towards nuclear and general and complete disarmament, as agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.  It called for the establishment, as soon as possible in the Conference on Disarmament, of an ad hoc committee to negotiate the phased elimination of nuclear weapons within a prescribed time frame, as well as an international convention for that purpose.  The Group reiterated its call on nuclear-weapon States to conclude unconditional and legally binding negative security assurances and, pending that, to respect existing commitments in that regard.

She also stressed the relevance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, and urged negotiations on a legally binding text preventing an arms race in outer space arms, as well as banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The Rio Group supported a complete prohibition of nuclear testing.  On conventional arms, the Rio Group sought the creation of a database in the Office for Disarmament Affairs for the voluntary exchange of information to facilitate periodic consultation and transparency.

JACEK SAWICZ ( Poland) presented the report of a conference of the Warsaw Reflection Group on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Titled “Arms Control Revisited:  non-proliferation and denuclearization”, it had taken place in Warsaw on 20-21 November 2008.  It had been attended by 40 diplomats, scholars and politicians from 15 countries, as well as the United Nations.  With its broad range of topics, the event had joined the mainstream discussion carried out at the February 2008 Oslo Conference and the recently concluded Washington Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference.  Its agenda had offered a unique opportunity to explore the history of nuclear disarmament.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, expressed regret that Australia had joined other countries hostile to his own in condemning the 5 April launch.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated its total rejection of Australia’s statement, which was useless as it deliberately ignored what had really happened.  Furthermore, the Security Council presidential statement was devoid of fairness and could not be representative of the international community.  The satellite launch had been undertaken in a legitimate and transparent way, and in conformity with all relevant international law.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.