Path from Prague ‘Fast and Straight’, but Moving into ‘Uncharted Terrain’, United States Delegate Tells First Committee during General Debate

4 October 2011
GA/DIS/3430

Path from Prague ‘Fast and Straight’, but Moving into ‘Uncharted Terrain’, United States Delegate Tells First Committee during General Debate

4 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3430
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

4th Meeting (AM)

Path from Prague ‘Fast and Straight’, But Moving into ‘Uncharted Terrain’,

 

United States Delegate Tells First Committee during General Debate

 

As Size of Nuclear Arsenals Decrease, Says Verification More Complex; Russian

Speaker Says Nuclear Disarmament Requires ‘Equal and Indivisible Security for All’

The path from Prague was fast and straight, but now that path was starting to move into “uncharted terrain”, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as it debated viable approaches and credible options for the oft-expressed goal of general and complete disarmament.

“Let me stress that we are entering unknown terrain,” she said, adding, “we face verification challenges that have never before been addressed.  As the size of our nuclear arsenals decrease, verification becomes more complex.  The margins for error increase.  We believe transparency will be more important than ever”. 

Compliance with international treaties was a central element of the international security architecture and critical to peace and stability worldwide, she said, expressing her country’s pride at being on the “leading edge” of transparency efforts.  In that, she noted that it had publicly declared its nuclear stockpile numbers; participated in voluntary and treaty-based inspections measures; worked with others on military-to-military, scientific and lab exchanges and site visits; and briefed on its nuclear programmes and disarmament efforts. 

The Russian Federation remained committed to achieving the “noble goal of saving humanity from a nuclear threat” and was open to dialogue on further steps towards nuclear disarmament, said that country’s Director of the Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

He stressed the critical need for a balanced approach that took into account a whole range of factors, particularly including unilateral intentions to create a global missile defence system; the unresolved issue of preventing the placement of weapons in outer space; lack of progress in pursuing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty; increasing imbalances in conventional arms in Europe; plans to develop and use strategic offensive arms in non-nuclear configuration under the “prompt global strike” initiative; and placement of nuclear weapons on the territories of States not possessing them.

Further steps towards nuclear disarmament “could be considered and taken only in strict compliance with the principle of equal and indivisible security for all,” he said, stressing that that process should “gradually involve all States — without exception — that possessed military nuclear capabilities”. 

He said Russia’s concerns were simple and clear:  if any party or especially a military alliance “promptly and without limitation” built up its missile defence projects, the other party “will inevitably have to fill up the gap by increasing the number of its offensive arms or taking some other asymmetric action”.  So, he said, accelerated implementation of missile defence projects without consideration of other States’ interests seriously undermined strategic stability and international security and “certainly is entirely incompatible with the efforts to create favourable conditions for further progress towards general and complete disarmament”.

Putting into practice regional arrangements to prevent the use, production and stationing of nuclear weapons on their territories, several countries had committed to nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Often touted in the Committee by several delegations as a positive measure, the quest to establish such a zone in the Middle East remained elusive.

The Director of the Arms Control Department in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that essential prerequisites for establishing such a zone included a comprehensive and durable peace between regional parties and full compliance by all regional States with their arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  No majority vote or one-sided resolutions in international forums could substitute for broad regional dialogue and cooperation.  Embarking on a process that could result in the eventual establishment of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction was incredibly complex, raising practical questions emanating from the unstable nature of the region, he said.

Nepal’s representative stressed that declaration of nuclear-weapon-free zones by concluding binding treaties contributed to global denuclearization.  The 2012 conference on such a zone in the Middle East would be a stepping stone to peace in the region.  However, it was small arms and light weapons that wreaked havoc on the lives of common people around the world. 

Similarly, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that the most worrying threat was the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  He felt the scope of the disarmament debate should in fact be broadened, as the use and misuse of any category of weapons threatened peace and security, and all weapons posed a danger to life and property.  The harsh reality was that small arms and light weapons fuelled crime in African countries, including piracy, drug trafficking and the illegal exploitation of natural resources, he said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Uzbekistan (speaking on behalf of the Central Asian States), Myanmar (speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN), Australia, Kuwait, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Senegal, Tunisia, Yemen and Indonesia.

The right of reply was exercised by the representatives of Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Syria, and the Republic of Korea.

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning 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, see Press Release GA/DIS/3429).

MURAD ASKAROV (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the countries of Central Asian States, said in creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone, that his country had sought cooperation from all States in the region with a view to promoting the development of all its peoples.  The opening of the zone had been marked by a celebration in Semipalatinsk, as States parties to the agreement had undertaken commitments to ban production of nuclear weapons and their components.  The zone was the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere and the first international security agreement to encompass all Central Asian States.  He also supported other such zones, such as the one in the Middle East.  The Central Asian States had noted the importance of bringing together countries of a region.  They also called on other States to provide assistance to rehabilitate nuclear-contaminated areas. 

At the same time, he called on nuclear-weapon States to provide negative guarantees against the use of those weapons against non-nuclear-armed States.  Central Asian States also called on all to advance non-proliferation discussions.

THAN SWE (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said nuclear disarmament remained the highest priority on the disarmament agenda of ASEAN member States.  In that connection, the Association welcomed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and the Russian Federation.  At the same time, ASEAN reiterated its call for the full implementation of the action plan contained in the Final Document of the 2010 Review Conference of the NPT.  It continued to support the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as a core instrument for the elimination of nuclear weapons, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of new types of those weapons and contributing to the prevention of nuclear proliferation and to nuclear disarmament.

He said Myanmar would again introduce a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament.  It continued to believe that the mere existence of nuclear weapons on the planet, coupled with the lack of a legal regime on their complete prohibition, posed a serious threat to the survival of mankind.  ASEAN member States were dismayed that the Conference on Disarmament had not made more progress, and he urged its members to adopt a balanced and comprehensive work programme on the basis of its agenda and dealing with, among others, the core issues, in accordance with the rules of procedure, and taking into account the security concerns of all States.  The Conference should also focus on other key concerns, including negative security assurances and security in outer space.

The ASEAN countries attached much importance to preserving their region as a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, he said.  The group was encouraged by the frank and open consultations between the countries of the zone and the nuclear-weapon States, held in Geneva on 9 and 10 August.  The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) played a significant role in governing inter-State relations in the region.  Its parties welcomed non-ASEAN members and looked forward to the ratification of the Treaty’s Third Protocol by all high contracting parties.  ASEAN also looked forward to the accession of Canada to the third Protocol.  The group also noted the important work done at the second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, held in Beirut, Lebanon, from 12 to 16 September.  ASEAN appreciated the important contributions of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the successful convening of the first Meeting of States Parties to that treaty.

EYAL PROPPER, Director of the Arms Control Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, said the potential positive implications of the democratization process in the Middle East could offer an opportunity for a better atmosphere.  However, time alone would tell whether the Arab Spring would turn into a full blossom or whether it would become a relentless winter.  There was currently no regional dialogue in the Middle East, nor was there a mechanism to develop regional confidence-building measures.  He then explained that embarking on a process that could result in the eventual establishment of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction was incredibly complex, raising practical questions emanating from the unstable nature of the region. 

He said that Israel’s perspective and policy in the field of regional security and arms control had always been pragmatic and realistic, rooted in its belief that all security concerns of regional members should be taken into account.  Essential prerequisites for establishing such a zone included a comprehensive and durable peace between regional parties and full compliance by all regional States with their arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  No majority vote or one-sided resolutions in international forums could substitute for broad regional dialogue and cooperation.  For its part, Israel, last July, had engaged in the European Union seminar on the promotion of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region and had adopted a positive attitude towards the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) forum to be held next month.

For years, the First Committee agenda included two resolutions regarding the Middle East, the first dealing with a nuclear-weapon-free zone, which, albeit, despite certain reservations regarding language, garnered Israel’s support.  The second, a text on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region, was contentious, as it sought to divert attention from the activities of some regional members constituting flagrant violations of international disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  Tabling that text continued an annual declaration by its sponsors that they preferred to continue trying to alienate and isolate Israel, rather than to engage the State in a cooperative manner.  The decision of its sponsors last year to add a paragraph on a 2012 conference raised profound questions regarding the real motivation of the Arab States. 

At this September’s IAEA General Conference, the Arab States decided not to table the “INC” (Israeli Nuclear Capabilities) resolution again, and they explained that that was a confidence—building step taken in advance of future meetings.  That gesture would have been more credible if it was also displayed in other arms control forums, including the First Committee, which would do well to encourage conciliatory initiatives designed to reduce and lessen regional tensions, rather than to aggravate them.  He, thus, called upon United Nations Member States to vote against the resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

It was no coincidence, he said, that four of five violations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) had occurred in the Middle East — Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, Libya, Syria and Iran.  A fifth case involved the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Indeed, “the most dangerous phenomena in the Middle East and well beyond is Iran’s hostile policies and statements, its nuclear weapons pursuit, aggressive development of missile technology and its active involvement in support and training of terrorist organizations and individuals,” he said.  Israel, in particular, had consistently been the “target of Iran’s vicious anti-Semitic campaign, including in this building, notably statements made year after year by Iran’s President calling for the destruction of Israel”. 

He added that “the possibility that terrorists would enjoy an Iranian nuclear umbrella, or that they would actually receive such weapons from the Iranian regime, is startling and poses an imminent threat to regional as well as global peace and stability.  We are convinced that without halting the Iranian nuclear programme, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to promote an international or regional agenda aimed at strengthening the prevailing non-proliferation regime.”

Concerning nuclear safety, he said the tragic accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station in Japan reminded the world of the need to prioritize nuclear security and safety issues.  With the collapse of Qadhafi’s regime and the volatile situation in Syria, efforts should be directed towards urgent counter-proliferation issues in those countries.

He said that despite the inability to address particular challenges in the Middle East, Israel had always valued the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and had demonstrated a consistent policy of responsibility and restraint in the nuclear domain.  It had supported and, whenever possible, joined treaties and initiatives aimed at curbing and halting nuclear proliferation.  A signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), Israel maintained two seismic monitoring stations and had contributed to the build-up of that Treaty’s verification regime.

Revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament was essential to overcoming the current stalemate, he said.  However, Israel remained convinced that the rules of procedure were suited to the complexity and sensitivity of the Conference’s agenda.  In principle, Israel did not support taking outside the issues that were mandated to that body.  Additionally, the international community should address the prevention of conventional and non-conventional arms transfers to terrorists, and the Conference would be one suitable venue. 

He said his country also supported the ongoing negotiations on a new protocol on cluster munitions in the framework of 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, which could have a real impact on the ground.  From a humanitarian viewpoint, further delay in the adoption of this protocol could not be justified.  As a State party to that Convention and amended protocol (II, landmines and booby traps), Israel had undertaken concrete measures aimed at reducing the potential adverse consequences that could be associated with the use of those weapons.  Unfortunately, as long as the regional security situation continued to threaten Israel’s safety and sovereignty, the need to protect Israeli borders — including through the use of anti-personnel mines — could not be diminished, he said.

Israel aspired to achieve peace and security for all the peoples of the Middle East, he said, voicing hope that the day would come when a regional security framework encompassing all countries of the region would provide a cooperative multilateral response to all security problems there.

MIKHAIL ULYANOV, Director of the Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said one of the most urgent challenges today was to overcome the stagnation of the disarmament machinery.  One positive sign was States’ intentions to find ways to enhance the system and resume the activities of the Conference on Disarmament.  Successes were few, he said, but he highlighted the 2010 NPT Conference and the entry into force of START, which had been a major consolidating and far-reaching event, with the Russia and the United States already proceeding towards full implementation.  His delegation, together with its American colleagues, would hold a briefing on the issue later in the session.

He said his country remained committed to achieving the noble goal of saving humanity from a nuclear threat and was open to dialogue on further steps towards nuclear disarmament.  However, that issue required a balanced approach, taking into account the whole range of political, economic and military factors affecting international security and strategic stability.  Those factors, in particular, included:  unilateral intentions to create a global missile defence system; unresolved issue of preventing the placement of weapons in outer space; lack of progress in pursuing the entry into force of the CTBT; increasing imbalances in conventional arms in Europe; plans to develop and use strategic offensive arms in non-nuclear configuration under the “prompt global strike” initiative; and placement of nuclear weapons on the territories of States not possessing them.

“Further steps towards nuclear disarmament could be considered and taken only in strict compliance with the principle of equal and indivisible security for all,” he said, stressing that that process should “gradually involve all States — without exception — that possessed military nuclear capabilities”. 

He said that the interdependent nature of contemporary security problems was reflected in missile defence debates, which should be most seriously considered by the entire international community.  Russia’s concerns were simple and clear:  if any party, or especially a military alliance, “promptly and without limitation” built up its missile defence projects, the other party “will inevitably have to fill up the gap by increasing the number of its offensive arms or taking some other asymmetric action”. 

“So,” he said, “the accelerated implementation of missile defence projects without consideration of other States’ interests is seriously undermining strategic stability and international security and certainly is entirely incompatible with the efforts to create favourable conditions for further progress towards general and complete disarmament.”

Preventing the placement of weapons in outer space remained a priority of Russian foreign policy, he said, adding that his country intended to move further towards that goal, intensifying work of the Conference on Disarmament on the Russia-China draft treaty.  Important elements of such a treaty included transparency and confidence-building measures.  Considering that the Group of Governmental Experts for the development of transparency and confidence-building measures would begin its work in 2012, Russia and China would introduce at this First Committee session a draft procedural decision on those measures, providing for the inclusion of that item in the next General Assembly session.

The Group of Governmental Experts on international information security would also be re-established in 2012, he said, counting on support and co-sponsorship of the renewed Russian draft text at the current General Assembly session.  He also pointed to the joint paper by the Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on the rules of behaviour in the sphere of international information security.

Russia had consistently favoured addressing global and regional challenges to the non-proliferation regime exclusively within the NPT framework and would continue to support the IAEA safeguards system, he said, calling on all NPT parties that had not yet done so to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency.  It was also important to implement the 2010 NPT Review Conference decisions on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in the Middle East.  Convening a conference on the topic in 2012 was a priority task, he said.

His country also stood for the acceleration of the CTBT ratification process, urging all States to sign and ratify that instrument as soon as possible.  Launching negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty at the Conference on Disarmament would correspond to the interests of all States, without exception, he said, and he expected that the relevant ideas would soon become an official basis for consensus decisions.  He also hoped this year would see successes in the area of the Biological Weapons Convention and the further strengthening of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Russia also strongly supported the Chemical Weapons Convention, calling it one of the most successful multilateral mechanisms in disarmament and non-proliferation.  He confirmed Russia’s commitment to the total elimination under international control of all the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles and to undertake maximum efforts to complete the task speedily.

The United Nations played a central role in the challenges of missile proliferation, he said, and he viewed the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation as a first step towards a legally binding multilateral agreement on a global missile non-proliferation regime.  Despite difficulties with the Code’s operation, Russia remained committed to its objectives.

He said his country was also interested in the arms trade treaty and hoped the negotiating process would result in the elaboration of a really strong and efficient outcome document that would be feasible and adopted by consensus.  He considered its main goal to be to cut off the channels of illicit arms trafficking.  The improved practical effectiveness of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons was the most essential tool for preventing the illicit trade in those weapons, and Russia was willing to work with all States to introduce specific measures to halt the channels of arms transfers to criminals and those in violation of United Nations Security Council embargoes.  The “best practices” of States, including the Russia, could serve as the basis for such measures.  Russia was open to transparent and constructive cooperation throughout the Committee’s session, with an aim of achieving tangible results.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said his country, together with New Zealand, looked forward to supporting Mexico in its leadership this year of the CTBT resolution in the First Committee.  It deemed it a “serious failure” that 15 years after the Treaty was opened for signature, it had not yet entered into force.  Those countries joined others States parties in calling on those yet to ratify the text — particularly “Annex 2 States, whose ratification was required for the Treaty’s operation — to do so as soon as possible.

He said his country had been encouraged by the NPT Review Conference.  In less than seven months, NPT States parties would meet in the first of a series of preparatory meetings for the next Review Conference, in 2015, where Australia hoped to take a leading role.  Australia, together with Japan, had convened the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative.  Its members, which included Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, were committed to a world free of nuclear weapons; they all had “strong non-proliferation credentials”.

Regarding conventional weapons, in many countries around the world, the availability of illicit conventional arms fuelled armed violence, leading to fractured societies and population displacement, and undermining development.  Too often, those illicit weapons had a particularly harsh impact on women, children, and people with disabilities.

Effective multilateralism was at the heart of Australia’s foreign policy, but the key word here was effective, he said.  Australia was “frankly embarrassed” to have to say that 2011, once again, was a year of failure for the Conference on Disarmament:  no programme of work and no commencement of negotiations, particularly on the long-overdue treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  Negotiation of such an instrument remained an Australian priority, and “we are unapologetic about this commitment”.  Stopping the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons was a “vital means to an important end:  a world free of nuclear weapons”.  Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had warned that if the Conference did not “get down to the business of negotiating”, it would be “washed away” by history.  That risk remained.  In 2011, Australia and Japan made a practical and positive gesture to encourage the Conference to get back to work through its fissile material cut-off treaty expert side events.  His country would continue to do all it could to support such a ban.

Iran continued to defy Security Council resolutions, he said, expressing his country’s concern about that and about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear activities, including the revelation of a covert uranium enrichment capability.  That posed a serious threat to regional stability and to the non-proliferation efforts of the international community.  Australia looked forward to an international dialogue on cyberspace and space security, as well as to the seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, in Geneva, in December.  “We all share simple goals:  a world free of weapons of mass destruction.  Achieving these goals is not impossible.  We just need to act”, he said.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, Assistant Sectary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance of the United States, said “the path from Prague was fast and straight” and the first tasks along the way had been long overdue or clear on the horizon.  That path was now starting to move into “uncharted terrain”.  The United States, she said, “is committed to blazing new trails, to pushing forward with momentum”. 

The new START, which entered force on 5 February, was an important step on the path towards a world without nuclear weapons.  She and her Russian colleague would later in the session present a joint briefing on the treaty’s successful implementation.  “As one treaty provides a foundation for the next, we believe this vital cooperation will set the stage for further, deeper reductions,” she said.  She also noted the entry into force in July of the United States-Russian Federation Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its Protocols, committing each country to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium, representing enough material for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.

The United States had made great progress since 2010 in efforts to stem proliferation, she said, including working to implement the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan, and the submission to the Senate of protocols of the African and South Pacific nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties in efforts to reach agreement that would allow the United States to sign the treaties’ protocols.

She said her country could continue its active efforts to fulfil its commitments under article IV of the NPT to international peaceful nuclear cooperation with States that abided by their non-proliferation obligations.  The worldwide expansion of nuclear power must not be accompanied by an increased threat of nuclear proliferation, she said.

“Compliance with treaties and agreements is a central element of the international security architecture and critical to peace and stability worldwide,” she said.  At this Committee session, the United States would once again sponsor its draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments, for which she sought broad support.

At the seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention in December, she said her delegation would ask for Member States to “come together and focus on new ways to enhance confidence in compliance through richer transparency, more effective implementation, an improved set of confidence-building measures, and cooperative use of the [Biological Weapons Convention’s] consultative provisions”.  The threat of bioterrorism must be countered, by working together to detect and respond to an attack, should one occur.  Regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States was proud of its progress, and by April 2012, it would have destroyed 90 per cent of its stockpile. 

The United States was preparing for the next steps in arms control and disarmament, she said.  As President Barack Obama had said upon signing START, the country was committed to a step-by-step process to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons, including the pursuit of a future agreement with Russia for broad reductions in all categories of those weapons — strategic, non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed.  To prepare the way, the United States was reviewing its strategic requirements and developing options for the future of its nuclear stockpile.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was also reviewing its deterrence and defence posture.  While that work proceeded, the United States “is ready for serious discussion with Russia of the conceptual, definitional and technical issues that will face us in the next phases of negotiation”.

The United States, she said, was also committed to securing ratification of the CTBT and called on all Governments to declare or reaffirm their commitment not to conduct explosive nuclear tests.  It was also eager to begin the negotiation of a verifiable fissile material cut-off treaty.  The permanent members of the Security Council were committed to the implementation of the 2010 NPT Review Conference action plan and acknowledged its special responsibility on reporting, a topic it would discuss at the 2014 NPT Review Conference.

“Let me stress that we are entering unknown terrain,” she said.  “We face verification challenges that have never before been addressed.  As the size of nuclear arsenals decrease, verification becomes more complex.  The margins for error increase.  We believe transparency will be more important than ever.”  Her country was proud to be at the leading edge of transparency efforts, she said, publicly declaring its nuclear stockpile numbers; participating in voluntary and treaty-based inspections measures; working with other nations on military-to-military, scientific and lab exchanges and site visits; and frequently briefing others on its nuclear programmes and disarmament efforts.  She hoped all countries would join the common effort to increase transparency and build mutual confidence.

MOHAMMAD F. A. O. ALMUTAIRI (Kuwait) said the establishment of a world free of nuclear weapons had always been a goal, but thorny obstacles remained.  The presence of nuclear weapons threatened all peoples, and Kuwait, for its part, had ratified several agreements, including the NPT, the CTBT, as well as the Conventions on Chemical and Biological Weapons.  Kuwait had also submitted a national report setting forth its initiatives to implement Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining components of mass destruction weapons.  Regarding small arms and light weapons, his country welcomed the international instrument aimed at identification. 

He said he looked forward, during the course of the First Committee session, to a continued momentum in disarmament.  He supported the negotiating processes to advance the process, including that emanating from the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  He also reaffirmed the importance Kuwait attached to a 2012 conference on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  However, almost 16 years after the adoption of that resolution, nothing had been accomplished until now.  He hoped all the States adhered to their commitments, according to NPT provisions.  He noted that Israel was the only country in the region that had not joined that Treaty, and he drew attention to an IAEA resolution highlighting those concerns.

Kuwait held that it was the right of all States to obtain technology for the development of nuclear energy for peaceful uses, he said.  At the same time, it called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA to build confidence and quell fears.  Given that nuclear accidents did not recognize borders, it was very important for the international community to address issues of nuclear safety.  He hoped the Committee’s session would achieve consensus on issues to bolster the momentum of the disarmament and non-proliferation processes.

KIM SOOK (Republic of Korea) said that disarmament and non-proliferation were once again becoming central to the global agenda.  In 2010, the world witnessed the signing of the new START, the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, and the adoption of the final document at the NPT Review Conference.  The new treaty signed between the two major nuclear Powers added to the global momentum to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  Assembled here on this global stage today, “we must not simply gaze back upon our recent achievements in static self-complacency, but instead compel ourselves to take the next steps forward in our meaningful endeavours”.  Indeed, collectively, the present unique opportunity must be seized.

He said it was of utmost importance to create trust between Member States — those that had and those that did not have — nuclear weapons.  Getting the Conference on Development back on track was at the heart of any solution.  The Korean Government had joined the request to convene a General Assembly debate for the revitalization of the Conference, in July.  While, its expectation for the Conference’s renewal was greater than ever, it nevertheless failed to make any progress.  His country had proposed several times that an eminent persons group be formed, under the supervision of the United Nations Secretary-General, to search for solutions to overcome difficulties in the Conference. 

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty had both political and practical value for the international community, he said, noting that it enjoyed near-universal support, having been signed by 182 States and ratified by 155.  However, the promise of the Treaty would not be fully realized until it entered force and achieved universality. 

He said that Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear programme continue to pose a dire threat to regional peace and security, as well as an unprecedented challenge to the international non-proliferation regime.  In addition to North Korea’s two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, it had revealed its uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon last year.  That had generated grave concern among the international community as it could open a second path for North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.  North Korea’s nuclear pursuits were flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), which required it to immediately cease all nuclear activities.

His Government would continue to pursue a principled approach to resolving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear issue, faithfully implementing sanctions under the Security Council resolutions, while leaving the door open to dialogue, he said.  The inter-Korean dialogues, held twice, in July and September, “represent such efforts of ours”.  He meanwhile urged the Democratic People’s Public of Korea to take concrete actions to allow a resumption of the Six-Party Talks, adding that it was essential for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cease all nuclear activities. 

He drew attention to the issue of nuclear safety, pointing in particular to the tragic accident in Japan following the earthquake earlier this year.  That had implications for global safety and security, and he urged that measures be designed and implemented in an integrated manner to forestall such problems in the future.  Nuclear terrorism was an extreme threat to global security.  He expected that the Nuclear Security Summit in the Republic of Korea in 2012 would be an excellent opportunity to enhance nuclear security.  The Republic of Korea would host a side event on Friday in preparation for that Summit.

DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) said that her country participated actively in the Committee, including as current coordinator of the New Agenda Coalition — Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden and New Zealand.  Her Government was also a core co-sponsor of the CTBT resolution under Mexico’s trusty co-coordinatorship and in partnership with Australia.  New Zealand was also a strong supporter of a global arms trade treaty, on track for adoption, hopefully, next year.  She had no doubt that a comprehensive and legally binding international treaty, which established global standards for all transfers of conventional arms, would enhance both international, as well as regional, stability and development.

Next year’s review of the small arms and light weapons programme of action was an important opportunity to assess whether that framework — established in 2001 — was sufficient to deal with the threat that many colleagues here had described in their home regions.  This year’s meeting of governmental experts, which had been chaired by New Zealand, had helped to ensure that discussions at the Review Conference were not divorced from the reality on the ground, she said.

Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions had been advanced through the Second Meeting of States Parties, held in Beirut last month, she said.  The strong international reaction against the instances of cluster munitions use this year had demonstrated the stigmatisation that those weapons had now so widely attracted.  The impulse to place at the centre of concerns the innocent victims of the use, production, or trade in weapons — whether they be cluster munitions, landmines, or small arms and light weapons — was rightly strong, and in her view, growing.

New Zealand, she said, noted with regret the contrast between the progress observable in the conventional armaments sphere and the ongoing stalemate that beset the United Nations disarmament machinery.  The lengthy paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament remained highly disturbing to his delegation.  “Nothing has been coming off the assembly line, yet the urgent work continues to await the international community’s attention.”  The General Assembly must hold the Conference to account.  If the Conference itself could not fulfil its mandate as a negotiating body, then the gravity of the issues in question demanded that other ways were found to pursue negotiations.

She said the entry into force of the new START between the Russian Federation and the United States was gratifying, and she looked forward to seeing its full implementation and work commenced on follow-up measures.  Last year’s NPT Review Conference had usefully acknowledged the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons.  The clear and comprehensive pathway agreed at the Review Conference for future efforts towards a nuclear-weapon-free world was also a source of satisfaction for New Zealand, which stressed that the action must be implemented without delay.  As such, New Zealand welcomed recent meetings held in Geneva and Paris by the nuclear-armed States.  It was for the new NPT review cycle, staring with next year in Vienna, to build real momentum towards the 2015 Review Conference.  Recalling High Representative Sergio Duarte’s comment of yesterday, she said “as disarmament advances, so the world advances”.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said 2012 would be a crucial year in the international disarmament agenda, given that the 2012 arms trade treaty was among the events to come.  The Organization’s potential was yet to be seen in building a secure, safe world.  Conventional weapons, particularly in Africa, were weapons of mass destruction, spreading chaos, crime and instability, and only a legally binding instrument would control the trade in these weapons.  The last three preparatory committee meetings on an arms trade treaty were hopeful towards achieving that goal.  Notwithstanding the success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the new START agreement, and expressions of hope for a nuclear-weapon-free world, the situation had “fallen short of our expectations.  No steps had been advanced in international disarmament forums, including in the Disarmament Commission or the Conference on Disarmament.  Meeting current challenges was within the world’s reach, if coupled with political will and resolve, and serious diplomatic efforts at the multilateral level.

He said the priorities during the current session should be, among others, strengthening the authority of the NPT, the entry into force as early as possible of the CTBT, the negotiation and adoption of a binding agreement banning fissile material production for military purposes, the granting of security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States via binding instruments, and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Specific attention to the trade in conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, should also dominate discussion.  He thought most delegations present shared Senegal’s concerns.

OTHMAN JERANDI ( Tunisia) said to meet the various challenges, the meetings held in the margins of the General Assembly’s debate, especially on nuclear safety and security, showed how much more work needed to be done in the field of disarmament.  The Disarmament Commission had just closed the third year of its cycle without agreement.  In all negotiations, the concerns of all parties and States in all regions should be taken into account.  The NPT should remain the cornerstone of non-proliferation, but preserving the balance between its three pillars — non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy — was essential.

Establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was also critical, she said, noting that Israel had not put its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and calling on the international community to make every effort to establish such a zone.  Turning to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, she said her country had completed its process of destroying all its stockpiles, and she encouraged others to follow suit. 

Turning to the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, she appealed for States to submit reports in compliance with the text.  She expressed concern over the number of those weapons in circulation.  Border zones were a danger area in their trafficking, and cooperation was needed to prevent those arms from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  Subregional mechanisms would be helpful to effectively halt that scourge, bearing in mind that those responsible were not only the weapons’ possessors, but also the suppliers and producers

ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), associating with the statement of Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that multilateralism and increased political will were the best ways to achieve disarmament, and he called for more efforts towards effective measures and concrete steps to achieve progress in that regard.  Yemen’s commitment and belief in the importance of a nuclear-weapon-free world had led to its accession to a group of treaties and consequent international obligations.  It reaffirmed the need to fully eliminate all nuclear weapons and to support all nuclear test bans, including the CTBT.  His country had established national commissions and enacted laws to ban those types of weapons and it asked other countries to follow suit.  He renewed the call to all nuclear-armed States to work seriously towards eradicating their arsenals. 

Noting that Israel was not a party to the NPT, he said it nevertheless had continued its nuclear policies, pushing the region towards an arms race.  The international silence concerning the Israeli programme only encouraged it to not accede to the Treaty.  The Israeli nuclear programme should be placed under the comprehensive safeguards of the IAEA.  Indeed, Israeli non-accession to the NPT was a grave threat to the stability and security of the Middle East.

Yemen had worked to combat the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, establishing a national committee for that purpose, he said.  In addition to laws to control the spread of those weapons, a bill had been introduced in Parliament to control and confiscate unlicensed weapons, especially significant in major cities.  But, international assistance was needed to bolster such initiatives.  He renewed Yemen’s call for more rigorous efforts to deal with illicit traffic in those weapons, which affected the peace and security of all societies.  Moreover, those weapons encouraged terrorism and led to instability and unemployment.  He, thus, supported legally binding mechanisms and effective international controls.

The establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East would help achieve the NPT’s goals in that region, he said, calling for the implementation of the practical measures agreed at the 2010 Review Conference, including the convening in 2012 of a conference on creating such a zone.

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA ( Nepal) said declaration of nuclear-weapon-free zones by concluding binding treaties would contribute to the denuclearization of the world.  The 2012 conference on such a zone in the Middle East would be a stepping stone to peace in the region.

He said that conflict was the antithesis of development, and small arms and light weapons had wreaked havoc on the lives of common people around the world.  Nepal fully supported the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons, and it likewise supported the adoption of a legally binding instrument to regulate arms transfers.

The Conference on Disarmament must be revitalized without delay to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations, including on a fissile material cut-off treaty, he said.  As for weapons spending, global military expenditure stood at $1.6 trillion — during an economic crisis.  Every year, the Committee adopted a resolution on disarmament and development, yet the world continued to squander money on military expenditure, instead of on peacebuilding and development.  The United Nations entire budget was just a tiny fraction of the world’s military expenditure, let alone the budget spent for peacebuilding and economic recovery.

The Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament for Asia and the Pacific, located in Kathmandu, was conducting important activities to advance discussions on contemporary challenges, including confidence-building in the region, he said.  Nepal was committed to strengthening those activities and called for the international community’s help to enhance the Centre’s efforts.  Nepal, along with other countries, would table a draft resolution on the Centre and hoped for its consensus support.  The Committee had an important role to play to steer deliberations towards, among other things, building confidence, leading to general and complete disarmament.

HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia) said there had been no substantive progress on nuclear disarmament over the last decade.  The new START deserved praise, but outside that agreement, not much had been done on the ground.  The global citizenry expected States to ensure security and disarmament.  For its part, Indonesia had made commitments to the CTBT.  With its vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, his country wished nuclear-armed States would accede to treaties to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Concrete actions would demonstrate a will towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. 

Indeed, he said, a lack of political will had caused the stagnation of the whole United Nations disarmament machinery.  The aims of the majority of the international community were clear:  total nuclear disarmament.  He also noted that under the NPT, the right of States to pursue nuclear energy programmes must be honoured.  In the area of conventional arms, efforts should accelerate, including on an arms trade treaty.  Indonesia would continue to ensure that each State’s security and integrity was recognized in any discussions on such a treaty.  In closing, he stressed that all stakeholders must play their roles actively to make sure the current momentum did not dissipate.

OMBENI Y. SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania) said the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty) should ensure that Africa remained a nuclear-weapon-free zone; however, the most worrying threat was the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  The use and misuse of any category of weapons threatened peace and security, and all weapons posed a danger to life and property.  Thus, the disarmament debate should not exclude any weapon and should not be limited to weapons of mass destruction.

It was a harsh reality, he said, that small arms and light weapons fuelled crime in African countries, including the current menaces of piracy, drug trafficking and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  The international community should work together to improve security, to which the Committee could contribute by furthering the goals of disarmament.  All regions had a role in helping the United Nations maintain security.  For its part, the United Republic of Tanzania had participated in United Nations activities and supported Security Council resolutions on the Great Lakes Region.

It was undeniable that all weapons of mass destruction were a grave danger to international security, he said.  However, disarmament could be an expensive venture for the least developed countries, and he called for assistance from the international community in that regard.  As the arms trade treaty was negotiated, it was clear that countries should not possess more weapons than were outlined in the United Nations Charter.  It was also critical to address use and misuse of arms in future discussions on such a treaty.

Rights of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Iran said a delegation this morning had made baseless allegations concerning what he called Iran’s nuclear programme.  He denied those claims.  He said the “Zionist regime” possessed hundreds of nuclear warheads and was the main threat to regional peace and security and beyond.  The dark history and record of that regime of invading other countries, killing innocent women and children, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and undertaking terrorist activities were well known to other nations.  Those facts were sufficient enough to ask why the representative of such an irresponsible regime tried to divert the attention of the States by making baseless allegations.

He recalled that through the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, parties unanimously called upon that regime to accede to the Treaty and put its facilities under safeguards.  The international community should continue to put pressure on that regime to force it to abide by international calls.

Also exercising his right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said, in reference to his country being called a “threat” to international peace and security, said that statement was not true.  October 4, 2007, had been a notable day, because in 2007 the two Koreas had adopted a joint declaration.  It was regrettable that on that day, an anniversary of that document, the Republic of Korea had come out with its statement here, given that dialogue was important.  The United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution stating that the dialogue should be solely between the Koreas.

He said that the major threat in the Korean peninsula were the forces present there, which included the United States, Japan and South Korea.  There were nuclear weapons in the peninsula placed there by the United States.  That was for peace and security?  If that was not a threat, what was it? he asked.

It was South Korea that had manipulated the IAEA regarding enrichment, he said.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was in line with the trend of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  Additionally, war exercises continued.  If South Korea was sincere, it must show it.

Concerning the 19 September 2005 joint statement, he asked the South Korean delegate for the core issues of the Six-Party Talks.  “Action-for-action” was reflected there.  There were no confidence-building measures, he said, asking the South Korean delegate to explain what “action-for-action” meant.

Japan’s representative, exercising his right of reply, emphasized that, for his country, the goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons was “unshakable”.  Exercises by the Japanese defence forces did not target any country.  The Government of Japan had never allowed the introduction of nuclear weapons by the United States.  There was currently no introduction of those weapons by the United States, he said.  He reiterated Japan’s policy of adhering to disarmament principles.  Japan’s peaceful use of nuclear energy had been confirmed by the IAEA.  Japan had also regularly reported the amount of its plutonium holdings.

Regarding the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, he said the international community must be reminded that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had continued its programme in violation of those talks.  It was imperative that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea complete denuclearization and improve regional relations.  Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea had urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take those steps.

Exercising his right of reply, Syria’s representative said bonds of friendship and mutual respect existed between his country and Japan.  That was based on the agreement of non-interference in each country’s internal affairs.  He, therefore, had been surprised to hear from Japan’s representative yesterday about the “Syrian nuclear question”.  That harmed the bilateral relationship between the two countries. 

He said his country had been among the first States to have adhered to the IAEA and the NPT, in 1968.  There was no “Syrian nuclear issue”, and all such unbridled allegations were aimed at diverting attention from the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, containing more than 300 nuclear weapons.   Syria had worked towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Israel possessed nuclear weapons and refused to submit its programme to IAEA safeguards, but its representative had made a statement this morning that was provocative, he said.  Israel had resorted to making allegations and salacious claims to conceal Israeli aggression against Syria in 2007. 

There were many resolutions, some adopted by agencies or the Security Council, on the subject, he continued.  Israel and its allies continued to conceal the possible danger of its possession of nuclear weapons, through its policy of nuclear ambiguity, which had been demonstrated throughout its relations with various United States Government Administrations.

He called upon Israel to participate in regional efforts.  Participation in last year’s Nuclear Security Summit, he noted, had only involved several dozen countries and had been held outside the United Nations community.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, exercising his right of reply, said the North Korean representative’s statement was not based on facts.  North Korea’s nuclear programme posed a threat to international security and the non-proliferation regime.  How many agreements between North and South existed?  Many.  Yet, the North Korean delegate had just pointed to two, he said.

He said that, regarding the 2004 incident, a process was followed with the IAEA, which issued a verification report on South Korea’s scientific research.

On the subject of the Six-Party Talks, he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had conducted tests twice.  Under those circumstances, the talks could not progress.  The resumption of the talks would result in “empty” discussions, which would fall into another Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “propaganda hole”.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s argument that it possessed nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the United States was baseless, he said, adding that “we are pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons”.  He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to use actions, and not rhetoric.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in right of reply, said Japan’s nuclear power station accident was not opened to experts immediately.  Japanese military exercises were not defensive, but offensive in nature.  As for Japan’s territorial claims on islands bordering the sea with China, Japan was creating problems.

He said the Six-Party Talks agreements had not been honoured.  Concerning the South Korean delegate’s statement, he said the South Korean and United States military alliance should “go away” from the Korean peninsula.  Those military exercises had only negative impacts.  The number one target was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It was a war scenario; at any time, they would be ready to attack.

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