Controlling Fissile Material Holdings of Key Nuclear Weapons Possessors Would Go Far to Curb Proliferation, Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, First Committee Told

11 October 2010
GA/DIS/3411

Controlling Fissile Material Holdings of Key Nuclear Weapons Possessors Would Go Far to Curb Proliferation, Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, First Committee Told

11 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3411
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

First Committee

7th Meeting (PM)


Controlling Fissile Material Holdings of Key Nuclear Weapons Possessors Would Go

 

Far to Curb Proliferation, Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, First Committee Told

 


Multilateral Export Control Regimes Only Partial Response to Monitoring

Dual-Use Dimension of Biological, Chemical, Nuclear Fields, Holy See Warns


Pending a negotiated prohibition on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, controlling the fissile material holdings of key nuclear-weapon States, in a way that served the strategic interests of all concerned, would go far to curb nuclear weapons proliferation and prevent nuclear terrorism by non-State actors, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today, as it entered the second week of its general debate for the session.


To further the long-standing and widely supported aim of banning the production of fissile material — principally highly enriched uranium and plutonium — for nuclear weapons, via a non-discriminatory, verifiable and multilaterally negotiated fissile material cut-off treaty, the representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said the Conference on Disarmament’s stalled talks should be jumpstarted.  But achieving the long-cherished goals of disarmament and non-proliferation demanded the political will and the flexibility of States, she said.


It was critical that the Conference begin negotiations immediately on a fissile material cut-off treaty, based on the 1995 Shannon mandate, Montenegro’s speaker said, referring to the agreed negotiating mandate for the treaty, adopted by the Conference in 1995 and named for the Canadian Ambassador who had formulated it.  The international community could not afford more delays and must stay engaged in order to find solutions to the deadlock in the Conference, particularly in light of the current positive momentum, said Montenegro’s representative.


Oman’s representative said it was precisely the lack of consensus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation over the past three decades that had resulted in the acquisition of those weapons by States under the pretext of safeguarding their independence and national security.  That the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was still unsigned by some countries reflected a great imbalance in the nuclear non-proliferation regime, he said, calling for a new era.


Some delegates tried troubleshooting the blockage with suggestions, including changing the Conference’s strategy to deal with a fissile material ban and other subjects before it.  The representative of Costa Rica said the Conference’s difficulties did not lie in its agenda, or in its working plan, but in the “militaristic” way it tackled approaches and viewpoints.


“This situation will not change without, first of all, a change in the overarching viewpoint of this body and in its working methods,” she said.  “In all areas of disarmament, it is time to dispense with a strictly military model of security, and to progress towards engagements based on human development, liberty, tolerance, opportunity and the rule of law.”


The Holy See, said its observer, had been making every effort, and encouraging States to intensify their own, to help to promote negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty, as well as for a convention to ban the threat of and use of nuclear weapons, and to bring about the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). 


Another aspect of great importance in the biological, chemical and nuclear fields was the overlap of the civil and military dimension and of the possible dual-use of materials, technology and know-how, he said, urging a balance between legitimate military necessity and ethical scientific, medical and commercial interests.  Multilateral export control regimes were only a partial response.


Also speaking were the representatives of Dominican Republic, Zambia, Timor-Leste, Ecuador, Ghana, Bolivia and Eritrea.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 October, to continue its general debate.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items before the General Assembly.  (For background on the Committee’s session and a summary of reports before it, please see Press Release GA/DIS/3406.)


Statements


FEDERICO ALBERTO CUELLO CAMILLO (Dominican Republic) said that his country shared the favourable expectations that had been raised in recent months. It seemed that the world was on the eve of achievements of historical significance.  The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed between the United States and the Russian Federation, the Nuclear Security Summit, the successful NPT Review Conference, the progress towards an arms trade treaty, the satisfactory fourth biennial meeting of States on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and the high-level meeting convened in September by the Secretary-General on revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament were all tangible actions that, together, were taking the world on a journey of hope.  His country would like that journey to be irreversible.


He said that if disarmament and non-proliferation were to be achieved today, a considerable proportion of the world’s productivity that was wasted on maintaining arsenals and on the manufacture of new arms would be freed.  It would be crucial for any such funds released to be used to address the socio-economic challenges at the root of the peacekeeping operations that were being financed by the United Nations at high cost.  That approach would allow the Dominican Republic to finish making the transition towards peacebuilding and allow the eventual withdrawal of the military contingents there.


As an island country with maritime and land borders, the Dominican Republic’s problem of illicit small arms and light weapons remained one of the biggest challenges for arms control and disarmament.  His country shared the view of many countries that top priority should be accorded to strategies and policies to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and establish legally binding measures to control their sale and marketing.


NAJEEM BIN SULAIMAN AL-ABRI (Oman) said the lack of consensus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation over the past three decades had led to the acquisition of those weapons by States under the pretext of safeguarding their independence and national security.  The recent call by the United States Administration for a nuclear-weapon-free world lent strong impetus to the international agenda and the start of a new era.  Yet, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) still was unsigned by some countries, reflecting a great imbalance in the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  He called upon those countries to manifest the necessary political will to accede to the Treaty without delay.


He said that the NPT also stipulated the right of all States to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  He reiterated Oman’s call for a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, echoing the call of all other Arab countries to the goal which would help to create a positive atmosphere of cooperation among countries in the region.  He called on Israel to accede to the NPT and to subject its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.  The success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May had been a true expression of the international community’s political will and an emphasis of the need to universalize that instrument to promote peace, security and stability.  But that aim would not be achieved without tangible progress in the implementation of the Treaty’s three pillars:  disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.


Oman welcomed the Secretary-General’s ambition to have the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty enter into force by 2012, he said, also welcoming the continuing cooperation between Iran, the IAEA, the five permanent Members and Germany on the Iranian nuclear issue.  He hoped for a successful outcome of those efforts to reach an agreement, which preserved Iran’s right to benefit from nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to dispel fears. 


KANIKA PHOMMACHANH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said this session was being held amid positive developments, including the START, which served as a new impetus to multilateral deliberations.  The 2010 NPT Review Conference had concluded successfully, but hard work lay ahead to implement the 64-step action plan.  The deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament must be overcome, particularly regarding the need to formulate a fissile material cut-off treaty as a means to control non-proliferation and nuclear terrorism by non-State actors.


Turning to other ways to bolster disarmament efforts, she said that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) should enter into force as early as possible and initiatives to create nuclear-weapon-free zones should be strengthened.  Such a zone in the Middle East would contribute to a lasting solution to peace in that region.  It was essential that the 2012 conference on that issue find a successful outcome.


Regarding conventional weapons, she welcomed the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The political will and flexibility of States were essential to overcoming the challenges in order to achieve the long-cherished goals of disarmament and non-proliferation, she concluded.


MUYAMBO SIPANGULE (Zambia) said that nuclear-weapon-free zones were important means to promote cooperation on global non-proliferation efforts.  When United States President Barack Obama expressed his intention to ratify the CTBT, he renewed the momentum in global arms control and disarmament, ushering in a new optimism of fresh commitments.  As a result, the last meeting of the Conference on Disarmament had begun to move things in the right direction.


He said that weapons of mass destruction made no country safe from their use or threat of use.  Chemical and biological weapons posed a threat to developing countries that lacked the technology to mitigate abuse, and Zambia was committed to the universalization of the relevant conventions to eliminate those weapons.  Likewise, small arms and light weapons were a grave concern, particularly to Zambia.  His country’s implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects to combat those weapons had been slow-paced but determined, he said, welcoming the assistance of the Regional Centre for Small Arms and Light Weapons, which had supplied a marking machine last year.  Zambia’s landmine project had cleared land ahead of schedule; however, unexploded remnants of war remained and Zambia welcomed any assistance in identifying and cleaning the affected areas.


Zambia was concerned about the decision-making and mandates of peacekeeping missions, he said, calling upon the Security Council to consider reviewing the operations’ mandates.


MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ (Montenegro) said that it was critical that the Conference on Disarmament begin negotiations immediately on a fissile materials cut-off treaty, based on the 1995 Shannon Mandate.  It should also begin negotiations on negative security assurances, nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space.  The international community could not afford more delays and must stay engaged, in order to find solutions to the deadlock in the Conference.


He said that although his country was the youngest member of the United Nations, it had taken all necessary steps to full membership in the bodies of the Organization, and to become parties to treaties aimed at enhancing international peace and security.  His country had been among the first 30 nations to have signed and ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  That had made it possible for that Convention to enter into force and become a legally binding international instrument.  Furthermore, by destroying 353 cluster bombs last week, Montenegro had concluded the process of destruction of its cluster munitions stockpiles well ahead of the treaty’s specified timeline.


Montenegro was currently chairing the 1996 Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement, he went on.  That accord, regarded by many as a success story, had ensured that appropriate defence force levels in the region were maintained, while, at the same time, becoming an essential element in achieving a high-level of stability, cooperation, transparency and confidence among the four signatory  countries.  More than 9,000 items of heavy weaponry had been reduced in Montenegro so far.  In order to ensure the agreement’s comprehensive and thorough implementation, Montenegro accepted and conducted more inspections than was suggested by the country-specific ratio, as a sign of its commitment to regional security and cooperation in accordance with its strategic foreign policy.


ISILIO COELHO (Timor-Leste) welcomed recent advances in disarmament and non-proliferation, including a successful conclusion to the 201  NPT Review Conference.  He highlighted United States President Obama’s call for a nuclear-weapon-free world and the United Kingdom’s “Road to 2010” report on nuclear security, proposing a three-stage process towards greater progress to a world without nuclear weapons, through transparency and control, and arms reduction.


He drew attention to the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Bangkok Treaty), and added that the issue of disarmament and security could best be addressed through multilateral diplomacy.  The First Committee was a fundamental body to discuss issues related to disarmament and international security, and to create synergy for finding solutions to those challenges.  Global peace and security were conditions for development and prosperity.  “We all believe that in our globalized world, a local threat to local peace and stability automatically becomes an immediate threat to global peace and security, and as such, the local threat should be handled through multilateral mechanisms,” he said.  There was a need to develop a more coherent and effective multilateral response to those challenges instead of managing them on an ad hoc basis.


Timor-Leste had channelled its efforts by signing, ratifying and implementing the international disarmament and international security instruments.


DIEGO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador) said his country’s Constitution included a proclamation that it was a territory of peace.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons constituted a crime against humanity and a violation of international human rights.  The only guarantee that those weapons would not be used was total disarmament.  Until that was achieved, the Conference on Disarmament should commence work on legally binding negative security guarantees, as well as on a convention banning fissile material production for nuclear weapons.  The Conference’s current stagnation should be overcome.


He called upon States who had not done so to adhere to the NPT, which was the cornerstone of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.  He also called upon States to sign and ratify the CTBT, to enable its entry into force.  All States should maintain moratoriums on nuclear testing.  Ecuador was a party to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), and urged other States to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones worldwide.  Future negotiations on an arms trade treaty were also important, particularly in light of the uncontrolled illicit trade in those arms.  Ecuador had ratified the Cluster Munitions Convention this year, and called on other States to follow suit.  Civil society was most affected by landmines, and those should be cleared.  


LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said that despite positive steps towards disarmament and non-proliferation, his country, like many developing countries, faced the scourge of the spread of illicit small arms and light weapons.  The 2001 Programme of Action, and regional conventions and protocols had played a major role in combating those weapons, but more needed to be done.


He said that an arms trade treaty was an essential step in preventing conventional arms transfers to destinations where they were likely to be used to commit human rights violations, fuel conflicts and undermine national and regional development.  There was also a need for the treaty to include a comprehensive system for controlling the cross-border movement of all conventional arms, ammunition and associated equipment.


JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA (Bolivia) said that nuclear disarmament was the only path to lasting peace.  Because of the massive power of those weapons to destroy and their effect over time, they were the most inhuman weapons.  The last NPT Review Conference, despite its limited outcomes, had served to stress the importance of the total elimination of those weapons.  Bolivia was concerned that when one country possessed nuclear weapons, others would wish to also possess them.  That raised the risk that one day, either intentionally or accidentally, those weapons would be used.


He expressed alarm at the research finding, which had confirmed that there were at least 23,000 nuclear warheads in the world.  The United States and the Russian Federation had more than 22,000 warheads.  In that regard, Bolivia saw the new START agreement between those two countries as a positive step forward, as it anticipated the reduction of their arsenals.  Now was the time for political will to be deepened to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons.  The remaining possessors of nuclear weapons should show explicit will to halve their arsenals by 2015.  All nuclear tests should also stop.


Latin America would be strengthened by the implementation of confidence building measures on conventional weapons, he said.  That would also enhance peacebuilding.  Bolivia was strengthening national and institutional capacity to deal with small arms and light weapons.  The country was also very much concerned about increases in military spending; the trend to allocate ever more flew in the face of the need to put the world’s efforts into fighting hunger.  Bolivia continued to support efforts to free the world from an arms race.


ELSA HAILE (Eritrea) said that the challenges of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation remained the greatest threat to international security.  Other weapons of mass destruction, namely, chemical and biological weapons, as well as conventional weapons, greatly challenged the international community.  The proliferation of - and easy access to - small arms and light weapons was not only a source of concern to peace and security, but also to the social and economic development of many countries.  For that reason, her country attached great importance to the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.  It similarly welcomed the successful outcome of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States on its implementation.


She said her country was deeply committed to international efforts aimed at arms control and non-proliferation of any weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means.  Eritrea, therefore, was party to many of the arms control conventions.  There was now near-universal agreement that the international community could only meet security challenges, including traditional and new threats to peace, security and stability, through multilateralism.  A strengthened, revitalized and reformed United Nations was an indispensable instrument in humanity’s quest for disarmament, destruction of weapons of mass destruction, termination of the threat posed to developing countries by small arms and light weapons and bringing to an end the scourge of terrorism and similar phenomena.


CHAN MARITZA (Costa Rica) hailed the current unique momentum to reactivate multilateral cooperation on a regional and international level, given, among other things, the new START treaty and the outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  She also recognized Nicaragua’s efforts regarding landmines.  However, for Costa Rica, the world’s first country to become completely demilitarized, excessive military spending was particularly serious, especially at a time of economic and financial crisis.  In 2009, every region in the world except the Middle East had increased military spending.  That would prompt an unnecessary arms race in Latin America.


She said that the unregulated arms trade was another concern, with armed violence accounting for the death of one person every minute of every day.  Violence constituted a real obstacle to development.  She viewed the experience of Western European countries and Japan in confirming the connection between restrictive legislation regarding the possession and movement of arms and the very low rates of homicide.  An arms trade treaty would address those issues and prohibit the sale of arms to individuals or groups that would likely use them to violate international human rights laws.


Turning to nuclear weapons, Costa Rica advocated for their complete elimination, the universalization of the NPT and the entry into force of the CTBT.  The Conference on Disarmament approached disarmament from an armaments point of view and not from a humanitarian perspective; the latter should prevail.  Consequently, Costa Rica believed that the Conference on Disarmament’s difficulties did not lay in its agenda or in its working plan, but in the “militaristic” way it tackled approaches and viewpoints.  “This situation will not change without first of all, a change in the overarching viewpoint of this body and in its working methods,” she said.  “In all areas of disarmament, it is time to dispense with a strictly military model of security, and to progress toward engagements based on human development, liberty, tolerance, opportunity and the rule of law.”


ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS CHULLIKATT (Holy See) said that the substantial resources, both human and material, committed to military purposes not only distracted from peace, but impeded the promotion of authentic human development, the struggle against poverty and the ending of the present international crisis.  Pope Paul VI, in a speech in Bombay in 1964, had said that some resources destined for military spending could be used to create a world fund for development, which would be of special benefit for the poorest.  That proposal, unfortunately, was still waiting to be realized, yet all it required was for States to come together in an expression of their good faith and thus contribute to international peace and security.


He noted that the strategic reductions in nuclear arsenals, as contained in the new START between the United States and the Russian Federation, were important steps, but they were insufficient if they were not pursued within the context of general and effective disarmament conducted in good faith and at the multilateral and international level.  The Holy See had been making every effort, and encouraging States to intensify their own, with a view to helping to bring about the entry into force of the CTBT and promoting negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty, as well as for a convention to ban the threat of and use of nuclear weapons.


Biological and chemical weapons sectors also remained sources of grave concern, he said.  Most troubling in the biological field was the absence of an international monitoring system for the security and safeguard of laboratories and for guaranteeing the peaceful civil use of biological technology that respected human rights.  In that regard, the mandate given to the Secretary-General by the General Assembly and the Security Council to investigate possible cases of use by States of biological technology contrary to international law should be considered in a positive light.  That solution closed the gap in the short term, but alone was not enough without international monitoring. 


He said that another aspect of great importance in the biological, chemical and nuclear fields was the overlap of the civil and military dimension and of the possible dual-use of materials, technology and know-how.  A balance must be struck between legitimate military necessity and ethical scientific, medical and commercial interests.  It must also be recognized that multilateral export control regimes were only a partial response  It was important, therefore, to be aware of the real risks and the need to identify limits and measures, not only on a voluntary basis or from a commercial point of view, but also in line with the requirements for international peace and security. 


The Holy See also encouraged the universalization and effective actualization of the Cluster Munitions Convention, as it made assistance to the victims a priority and common objective, he said.  The lack of adhesion to that instrument by some States had led some to consider the possibility of adopting an additional ad hoc protocol to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).  If motivated by the intention to reinforce the care of victims, that proposal could be taken into consideration.  The risk of the introduction of double standards, which might render achievements on the humanitarian and military level ineffective, must not be underestimated, he added.


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