‘Sorry to Report’, Conference on Disarmament Official Tells First Committee, No Key Disarmament, Non-Proliferation Treaties in Pipeline Now

12 October 2011
GA/DIS/3436

‘Sorry to Report’, Conference on Disarmament Official Tells First Committee, No Key Disarmament, Non-Proliferation Treaties in Pipeline Now

12 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3436
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

10th Meeting (PM)

‘Sorry to Report’, Conference on Disarmament Official Tells First Committee,

No Key Disarmament, Non-Proliferation Treaties in Pipeline Now

 

Conference Freeze ‘Unacceptable and Unsustainable’, Says United Kingdom;

International Atomic Energy Agency, Chemical Weapons Organization Brief Committee

“We are sorry to report,” the Deputy Secretary-General of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today, “once again — despite the genuine efforts of the successive Presidents, negotiations on any issue on its agenda have been absent”. 

That was the reality, said Jarmo Sareva, 15 years after the conclusion of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and more than two years after the short-lived promise of CD/1864 (2009 Programme of Work).

Participating in a panel on the current state of affairs in the field of arms control and disarmament and the role of international organizations with mandates in this field, Mr. Sareva said, looking at the podium, that the panel represented some of the finest creations of the Conference or its predecessors:  the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) and CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty), in absentia.  There was also the BWC (Biological Weapons Convention), yet another pillar of the international community’s efforts against the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

“Today, however, there is nothing of the kind of NPT, BWC, CWC, or CTBT in the CD pipeline now,” he said.  “The questions that then beg for an answer are, how are we to continue and try and break the deadlock next year and possibly beyond?  Or should one contemplate more drastic action on the future of the Conference?” he said.  “In short, is the [Conference on Disarmament] glass half empty, or is it still at least half full?”

To some observers, the “CD glass” appeared more than half empty, whereas to others, the Conference was useful and irreplaceable, he said.  A number of wide-ranging proposals were being discussed that could impact the future of the Conference, he said, of the view that this was “one of the most important sessions of the First Committee in the history of the Conference on Disarmament”.  In the end, he hoped every effort would be made to “revalidate” the Conference as a single platform for conducting multilateral negotiations on disarmament issues. 

“The CD’s continued frozen inability to function is unacceptable and unsustainable,” the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament said during the Committee’s thematic debate on nuclear weapons, following the panel discussion.  Breaking the deadlock would not be easy, but it remained the only option for negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty, she said.  That shared goal would not be achieved by initiating negotiations elsewhere, as that would lead to an instrument to which some key players had not signed up. 

The Conference’s inability to get to work on a fissile material treaty, she stressed, was not due to an intrinsic structural problem, but caused by one country blocking the will of the majority.  The Conference would not be bolstered by undermining its mandate and “leaving it to languish”.  It was a unique forum that had proved its worth in the past, and one to which her country was committed.  The Permanent Five nuclear-weapon States were fully engaged to set the Conference to work negotiating a fissile material treaty.

The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, said he recognized the widely felt need to overcome the negotiating stalemate at the Conference, but said that despite some variations in perspectives here on arms control and disarmament issues, most noteworthy of all was the extent of agreement.

Everyone shared a “deep common commitment to the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction,” he said, adding that the common cause was not simply in regulating such weapons, or limiting the risk or frequency of their use, but in abolishing and eliminating them safely.  The world’s resolve to pursue disarmament goals “is unshakable, though it is continually subject to new challenges”. 

At the same time, he cautioned, the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction must never be viewed as an invitation to the proliferation of conventional wars.  “The fact that there is no representative of an international agency focused on limiting the production or proliferation of conventional arms is quite telling, as we consider the views of this panel”.

The representative of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Geoffrey Shaw, called for additional efforts to address the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.  That, he said, remained a real and current concern, with the Agency receiving reports “virtually every second day” of a new incident involving unauthorized possession and/or attempts to sell or smuggle these materials.  Much had been done to improve nuclear security globally, but clearly more needed to be done, he implored.

Preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and their misuse, said Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was a multidimensional undertaking that entailed strengthening the industry verification regime of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a sustained effort to keep abreast of developments in science and technology. 

Even as declared chemical weapon stockpiles were being destroyed, he said, the world must remain vigilant and prepared to deal with the threat of use of those weapons or of toxic chemicals as weapons.  The Convention was not yet universally accepted and there existed new threats, including terrorism.

Also participating in the thematic debate on nuclear weapons were the representatives of Kazakhstan, South Africa, United States and Romania.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 13 October, to continue its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to open its thematic debate segment, first hearing statements and the introduction by delegates of draft texts on the cluster on nuclear weapons and related issues.  In that connection, it would convene an informal exchange with the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and other high-level officials on the “current state of affairs in the field of arms control and disarmament and the role of international organizations with mandates in this field”.

Before the Committee were a number of reports, some of which are summarized below.  For additional summaries and background on the Committee’s work, see Press Release GA/DIS/3429.

The Committee had before it a note transmitting the annual report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (document A/66/171). 

Also before the Committee was the report of the Conference on Disarmament (document CD/1926), which contains a summary of proceedings from its 2011 substantive session.  The Conference met from 24 January to 1 April, from 16 May to 1 July and from 2 August to 16 September.  During its three parts, it held 45 formal plenary meetings, at which member States (65) as well as non-member States (41) invited to participate in the discussions outlined their views and recommendations on the issues before the Conference.

At the second plenary meeting of the 2011 session on 26 January, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a message (document CD/PV.1199) in which he, inter alia, reflected on the accomplishments of the Conference as the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, its role and its function, and suggested options that could be explored to break the long-standing deadlock and to start substantive work, including through the adoption by consensus of a programme of work, early in the 2011 session.

Subjects on the Conference’s agenda, adopted for the 2011 session, were cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; transparency in armaments; and consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The following issues, notes the report were addressed in plenary:  the question of expanding the Conference’s membership, review of the agenda and the improved and effective functioning of the Conference.

The report states that, with the growing importance of multilateral disarmament, and building on the focused efforts in the Conference on Disarmament to establish a programme of work for the 2011 session, and with a view to early commencement of substantive work during its 2012 session, the Conference requested the current President and the incoming President to conduct consultations during the intersessional period and, if possible, make recommendations taking into account all relevant proposals, past, present and future, including those submitted as documents of the Conference on Disarmament, views presented and discussions held, and to endeavour to keep the membership of the Conference informed, as appropriate, of their consultations.

The Conference decided that the dates for its 2012 session would be:  first part, 23 January to 30 March; second part, 14 May to 29 June; and third part, 30 July to 14 September.

Panel

Introducing the panel, entitled “Current state of affairs in the field of arms control and disarmament and the role of the respective organizations”, SERGIO DUARTE, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that despite some variations in perspectives here on arms control and disarmament issues, most noteworthy of all was the extent of agreement.  Everyone shared a “deep common commitment to the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction — our common cause is not simply in regulating such weapons, or limiting the risk or frequency of their use, but in abolishing and eliminating them safely”. 

He said that everyone recognized the need to achieve those goals through a multilateral process.  Rather than viewing the institutions —  Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Conference on Disarmament, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - through a geographical lens, he suggested focusing on the fact that they were part of a common process aimed at freeing humanity from the insecurities and horrors from the use, or threat of use, of the world’s most deadly and indiscriminate weapons.  That goal was more likely to be realized through collective, rather than exclusive, actions, he said.

The views expressed on the panel, he promised, represented something far more profound than reflections of the interests of the respective institutions.  They were here instead to share their perspectives on the various processes under way in the world community to “achieve a higher dimension of international peace and security, one that is rooted in mutual assistance and cooperation, rather than threats of mutual annihilation, the exhaustion of scarce public resources, and the destruction of our common natural environment and the lives and livelihoods of future generations”. 

The state of affairs in disarmament and non-proliferation was showing some signs of gradual improvement, with strong support for the key multilateral treaties, particularly the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention), and international support for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  Following a persistent evolution towards universal membership, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) had resulted in a global taboo on those weapons, a notion accepted and integrated into domestic laws and policies, he said.

Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) had helped to strengthen domestic infrastructure in achieving the twin common causes of preventing the proliferation or terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction, he said.  However, a similar process had yet to develop in ensuring that norms in the field of disarmament were reflected in mandates of specific agencies, domestic laws, military plans and doctrines, regulations and policies, he said.  Civil society and enlightened leadership from national leaders would help in giving such norms the solid domestic foundation needed to eliminate those weapons permanently.

Arms control was another focus area, with not much progress in the field of conventional arms regulation, he said.  While 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) had made some positive steps forward, on illicit trafficking, and many Member States had joined treaties to ban landmines and cluster munitions, further efforts were needed to reduce military spending, and limit production, trade and improvement of conventional arms. 

“The achievement of weapons of mass destruction disarmament must never be viewed as an invitation to the proliferation of conventional wars,” he said.  “The fact that there is no representative of an international agency focused on limiting the production or proliferation of conventional arms is quite telling, as we consider the views of this panel.  Perhaps now the world is finally starting to move these collective efforts to a higher plane, perhaps the evolution of the rule of law will soon be catching up with the growth in conventional weapons capabilities.  If so, enlightened national leadership, coupled with persistent energetic efforts from civil society, will no doubt share much of the credit.”

He emphasized that cooperation was an area that deserved attention, and he provided examples of inter-agency initiatives, including the IAEA and OPCW joint workshops, the high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security at the United Nations last month, and the United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Programme, with its visits to the IAEA and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna and the OPCW in The Hague.

“The world community’s resolve to pursue disarmament goals is unshakable,” he said, “though it is continually subject to new challenges”.  One of the most stubborn had been the widely recognized need to overcome the negotiating stalemate at the Conference on Disarmament.  However, the General Assembly’s meeting in July to follow-up the Secretary-General’s 2010 high-level meeting on revitalizing the Conference’s work represented opportunities for the world community to voice its support for new progress in this field, progress in “bringing the rule of law to disarmament”, he said.

Recalling Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the high-level meeting on the Conference, in July, he said:  “What is needed most of all is a close alignment between policy priorities and multilateral disarmament goals”.  He had added, “The road ahead will not be easy.  Yet we must never abandon multilateralism or our respect for universal norms.  We must remain true to the ideals of the United Nations.  In addressing disarmament, as with other global public goods, our goal is not to advance the preferences of the few, but the common interests of all”.

JARMO SAREVA, Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, said “the reality is that 15 years after the conclusion of the negotiations on the CTBT, and more than two years after the short-lived promise of CD/1864 (2009 Programme of Work), we are to report — once again — that despite the genuine efforts of the successive Presidents, negotiations on any issue on its agenda have been absent”. 

Conference members shared a feeling that the body was not delivering as it should, a position reflected in the First Committee.  Looking at the podium, one realized that the panel represented some of the finest creations of the Conference on Disarmament or its predecessors:  the NPT, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the CTBT, in absentia.  There was also the Biological Weapons Convention, yet another pillar of the international community’s efforts against the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction — also a product of the Conference.

“Today, however, there is nothing of the kind of NPT, BWC, CWC, or CTBT in the CD pipeline now,” he said.  “The questions that then beg for an answer are, how are we to continue and try and break the deadlock next year and possibly beyond?  Or should one contemplate more drastic action on the future of the Conference?” he said.  “In short, is the [Conference on Disarmament] glass half empty, or is it still at least half full?”

He recalled that, last week, the United Nations High Representative of Disarmament Affairs had said that democracy and rule of law could positively influence disarmament.  Regarding the rule of law, the Conference should be at the forefront as the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, and as for democracy, it would and should always remain a negotiating forum of and among Governments.  However, closer interaction with civil society would be in the Conference on Disarmament’s self-interest to help it avoid becoming even more of “an ivory tower”.  As for expanding its membership, only the members could decide that.  He reiterated that being a member of the Conference entailed responsibilities towards the broader international community, including working harder to strengthen a rule-based international order.

The current state of affairs still presented a window of opportunity to further strengthen the rule of law in disarmament through multilateral efforts, he said, cautioning, however, that that window might close yet again one day.  “As the saying goes, one should hammer one’s iron, while it is glowing hot,” he said, “but the [Conference on Disarmament] is clearly not hammering, i.e. negotiating.  It should not risk losing this historic opportunity”.

He said that the “CD” glass, therefore, appeared more than half empty to some observers and practitioners, who claimed that the Conference was more part of the problem than the solution, adding negative value to the collective disarmament efforts of the international community.  Yet, dismantling the Conference would be immensely complex, and success would be far from guaranteed.  Tearing something down was usually easier, and much quicker, than rebuilding.  Creating new institutions was easier after a fundamental crisis, simply because there might not be any other choice.  However, “let us hope that we won’t have to wait until an international crisis forces us to revitalize the disarmament machinery”, he said.

The glass was half full to others, who pointed out that even under the current situation, the Conference was useful and irreplaceable, he said.  A number of wide-ranging proposals were being discussed that could impact the future of the Conference.  “I believe this is one of the most important sessions of the First Committee in the history of the Conference on Disarmament,” he said.  The recommendations of the General Assembly carried an immense amount of legitimacy, especially when adopted without a vote.  However, any agreement to revitalize the Conference would ultimately have to come from agreement among its members.  Every effort should be made to “revalidate” the Conference as a single platform for conducting multilateral negotiations on disarmament issues.  He hoped that approach would be adopted by the First Committee at this important session.

AHMET ÜZÜMCÜ, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the unprecedented multilateral treaty — the Chemical Weapons Convention — would turn 15 next year, marking a decade and a half of benefits and advancements in international security.  The instrument had rolled back chemical weapons programmes and established a verification regime of the global chemistry industry to ensure that those weapons were never produced again.  A total of 85 per cent of the organisation’s inspection resources had traditionally been devoted to disarmament, verifying to date the destruction of nearly 70 per cent of total declared stockpiles of chemical weapons.

He said that three declared possessor States – Albania, A State Party and India – had completed the elimination of their stockpiles.  The two largest possessor Sates, the Russian Federation and the United States, would not meet the 2012 deadline, but were working diligently towards that goal.  To date, Russia had destroyed over 22,000 metric tonnes of chemical warfare agents, representing 55 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpiles, and the United States had destroyed 25,000 metric tonnes, or 90 per cent of its stockpiles.

Libya was now a concern, and the OPCW was working with the National Authority, which had given assurances that the country’s chemical weapons stockpile was under effective control, he said.  The OPCW secretariat was currently in discussions with Libya regarding the resumption of destruction of its remaining chemical weapons.

He said that the final extended deadline for the destruction of all declared chemical weapons would expire in April 2012.  The approach towards the Russian Federation and the United States was to enable them to complete their destruction programmes while agreeing to implement an enhanced package of transparency and confidence-building measures.  By April 2012, three-quarters of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles were expected to have been destroyed and by 2016, only 1 per cent would remain to be eliminated. 

With significant inspection reductions, the size of the OPCW inspectorate would be reduced by one-quarter, he said.  The long-term objective of permanent security against the threat of chemical weapons would, however, endure.  To serve that end, the Organisation would have to transition from eliminating existing arsenals to one that prevented their re-emergence in the future, as well as promote security and protection against the misuse of toxic chemicals, he said.

A key area to strengthen was domestic implementation of the Convention globally, he said.  More than 50 States parties needed to take action to ensure that their legislation covered all key areas of the instrument.  Non-State actors posed a new threat, which called for vigilance and for States parties to enact and enforce effective controls covering the manufacture, transfer and use of dual-use materials, with that safety net anchored within internal legal systems.

Preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and their misuse was a multidimensional undertaking that entailed strengthening the industry verification regime of the Convention and a sustained effort to keep abreast of developments in science and technology.  A broader approach to security also underlined the need to focus on chemical safety and security issues, he said.

Even as declared chemical weapons stockpiles were being destroyed, the world must remain vigilant and prepared to deal with the threat of use of those weapons or of toxic chemicals as weapons, he said.  The Convention was not yet universally accepted and there existed new threats, including terrorism.  The OPWC, therefore, must retain core competencies, particularly the expertise to handle chemical demilitarization, conduct inspections and investigate alleged use.  In addition, the Organisation must strengthen its ability to respond to the growing interest among members to increase their national capacities for emergency response and consequence mitigation.

The Convention had near-universal acceptance, with 188 members, and eight remaining United Nations Member States left to join, he said, appealing to those outside to accede to the Convention.  The instrument offered both a security guarantee and had a humanitarian purpose.  Its acceptance should be considered independent of regional considerations.  “The inhumane nature of chemical weapons and the long effort that led to their total prohibition have established a global norm,” he said.  “Accepting to be legally bound by this norm will signify support for the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and will promote regional security in regions such as North East Asia and the Middle East.  In that context, the OPCW was prepared to contribute to the conference to be convened in 2012 on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

GEOFFREY SHAW, Representative of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said ensuring that nuclear science and technology was used exclusively for peaceful purposes was the basic pillar upon which the IAEA had been established more than five decades ago.  To achieve that goal, a central Agency function was verifying that States fully complied with their non-proliferation obligations to confirm that nuclear material was being used for peaceful purposes.  Most countries around the world used nuclear technologies – in health care and nutrition, food security, the environment, and water resource management, and some 30 countries used nuclear power to generate electricity.

He said that all NPT non-nuclear-weapon States were required to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency.  However, there remained still 15 non-nuclear-weapon State parties to the NPT without such safeguards agreements in force, and he urged them to bring such agreements into force without delay.  Credible verification was central to a transparent disarmament process.  With its knowledge and experience, the IAEA could facilitate disarmament by independently verifying that nuclear materials from dismantled weapons were never again used for military purposes. 

The Agency had been asked last year by the Russian Federation and the United States to verify implementation of their agreement on the disposition of plutonium no longer required for defence purposes, he noted, adding that Agency experts had been working with both countries on a draft agreement, and good progress had been made.

The Agency could also assist in the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, including new ones, when requested, he said.  The IAEA has been asked to facilitate the early application of full-scope Agency safeguards in the Middle East to support the efforts by States to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.  To that end, Director General Yukiya Amano will convene a forum for IAEA member States in Vienna on 21 and 22 November. 

Nuclear security remained an extremely important issue for all States, he said, and while that was primarily a national responsibility, the Agency helped countries to develop a sustainable nuclear security capacity to protect nuclear and other radioactive material, and associated facilities, against malicious acts.  The Agency’s nuclear security programme covered everything from developing standards, to providing legislative assistance, to advice on physical protection, and radiation detection and response.  It helped States to ensure nuclear security at major events – for example, the London Olympic Games next year.  Such practical assistance also helped States to meet the requirements pursuant to Security Council resolution 1540.

However, he said, illicit trafficking remained a real and current concern.  The Agency received reports “virtually every second day” of a new incident involving unauthorized possession and/or attempts to sell or smuggle nuclear material or radioactive sources.  Much had been done to improve nuclear security globally, but clearly more needed to be done.

ISRAIL TILEGEN ( Kazakhstan) said closing down the world’s second largest nuclear test site and renouncing the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world on 29 August 1991, soon after its independence, Kazakhstan, over the last two decades, has been at the vanguard of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Marking the twentieth anniversary of its historical decision, the country was moving ahead with long-term goals, combined with practical steps to achieve nuclear abolition.

He said that the immediate target before the international community was to implement the action plan arising from the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  A key step was the call to universalize the NPT and accept the IAEA comprehensive safeguards and Additional Protocol.  Continued stagnation and ineffectiveness of the NPT regime had made possible the spread of nuclear weapons and the emergence of new de facto nuclear-armed States.  Kazakhstan supported the entry into force of the CTBT, without further delay, and his Government was engaged in the development and functioning of the International Monitoring System and on-site inspection techniques, through 24-hour tracking stations.

Also imperative, he said, was to prevent an arms race in outer space agenda, and to further that agenda by engaging other international bodies dealing with the issues of space exploration.  With the increasing demand for nuclear energy, Kazakhstan supported multilateral approaches and was ready to host a nuclear fuel bank under IAEA auspices, to allow countries to purchase nuclear fuel, as a means to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

As part of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, Kazakhstan was fulfilling its obligations to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism by upholding IAEA’s legal instruments and enacting corresponding national legislation, he noted.  However, it was crucial that nuclear Powers extended full negative guarantees for the zone to be viable – a point made explicit by Kazakhstan’s President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the General Assembly in September.  His Government was an articulate proponent of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, and saw the need to start drafting a universal declaration on a nuclear-weapon-free world as the most acceptable step before a legally binding convention or a framework of arrangements.

LESLIE GUMBI, Chief Director of the United Nations (Political) Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said the hopes of his country, as a non-nuclear-weapon State, were dwindling, based on the procrastination of States to fulfil their NPT obligations.  He believed the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons was their complete elimination; any presumption of their indefinite possession would only lead to increasing insecurity and a continuing arms race.

He said that measures for nuclear disarmament should be translated into concrete actions, including a fundamental review of security doctrines.  Efforts should be redoubled to ratify the CTBT.  Pending the elimination of all nuclear weapons, States had the right to negative security assurances, and a further step would be a legally binding instrument banning the use or threat of use of those weapons.  Likewise, it was incumbent on everyone to begin timely preparations that would culminate in the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention or a framework or set of instruments for those weapons’ complete and sustainable elimination.

LAURA KENNEDY ( United States) said her country firmly believed that the best way to achieve President Barack Obama’s agenda for nuclear disarmament was to proceed via a series of realistic, progressive and mutually reinforcing steps.  Those included continued reduction in the numbers and role of nuclear weapons, and an end to nuclear testing worldwide, as well as an internationally verified legal ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.  Each step would build on the accomplishments and momentum of the preceding ones and take into account changes in the international security environment.

She said there were those who wanted to skip intermediate steps and immediately begin work on a mandate to begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention by creating an “all-in-one” framework with a fixed timeline for dealing with all the complex issues surrounding nuclear disarmament at once.  While the United States recognized the noble objectives of such an effort, she believed that seeking a conference with a mandate to negotiate a nuclear weapons convention was much less likely to produce progress on the sought-after goals.  Combining all the issues into a single negotiation was a formula for deadlock, would drain the international community’s energy and attention from practical, achievable steps.

Indeed, it could undermine the step-by-step approach to disarmament adopted by NPT parties at the 2010 Review Conference, which had resulted in actual progress towards disarmament, and tens of thousands of nuclear weapons had been eliminated since the end of the cold war.  The United States accepted that progressive steps among possessor States were necessary to make real progress and that those steps were critical to maintaining and strengthening the non-proliferation regime, which in turn, helped to foster an international security environment conducive to that effort.  The new Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation, which entered into force on 5 February, was such a step.  Once fully implemented, it would result in the lowest number of strategic nuclear warheads by those two countries since the 1950s.

The United States, she said, was committed to continuing to reduce the number of nuclear weapons through a step-by-step process, including the pursuit of a future agreement with the Russian Federation for a broad reduction in all categories of nuclear weapons – strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and non-deployed.  In addition to bilateral steps, her country was continuing a multilateral dialogue among the five permanent members of the Security Council to address issues of greater transparency, verification, and confidence-building measures.  That dialogue was evolving. 

Constraining the capacity to develop new weapons was an equally important goal, she said.  The entry into force of the CTBT was a key step, along with the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty.  The United States was committed to pursuing the ratification of the CTBT and its entry into force at the earliest possible date.  While her country abided by the instrument’s core prohibition through its nuclear testing moratorium promulgated in 1992, the principle benefit of the Treaty – that of constraining all States from testing in a legally binding manner – remained elusive.

A fissile material cut-off treaty remained a top priority for the United States, and thus the inability to achieve consensus within the Conference on Disarmament to begin negotiations remained a “great disappointment”, she said.  The United States and the other “P5” countries continued to meet with a view to charting a productive path forward on this important issue.  The United States and Russia recently brought the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 Protocols into force.  The amended agreement committed each country to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium, which represented enough material for about 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Finally, the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones represented an important step to advance the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and was a high priority for the United States, she said.  In May, the Obama Administration submitted protocols to the Africa- and South Pacific nuclear-weapon-free zones to the United States Senate for advice and consent to ratification.  The country had also consulted with parties to the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia and was working intensively with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the “P5” to be in a position to sign the South-East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty Protocol.  The United States was also working on the appointment of a host and a facilitator for the regional conference on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Eugen Mihut ( Romania) said it was high time to take stock of the NPT implementation.  The core objectives needed to be preserved and further strengthened.  Current positive steps, including the active engagement of “global zero” and the “P5” meeting in Paris, achieved further progress.  Romania supported the work of all parties towards a fruitful conference on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

He noted that during Romania’s presidency of the IAEA in September, there had been other developments, including the adoption of a nuclear safety action plan.  He reiterated his belief that all States had a right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  The CTBTO workshop showed that the verification system was operational, even though the Treaty had not yet entered into force.  A fissile material cut-off treaty was also needed to stem the development of more nuclear weapons.

JO ADAMSON, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, said her country was committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and had a strong record of fulfilling disarmament commitments and living up to its legal obligations under the NPT as a nuclear-weapon State.  As long as nuclear weapons existed and future security remained uncertain, her Government remained committed to retaining a credible, minimum nuclear deterrent.

She said her country had set out its Strategic Defence and Security Review last year, announcing that it would, by the 2020s, reduce the number of warheads onboard each submarine from 48 to 40, reduce the requirement for operationally available warheads to no more than 120, reduce the number of operational missiles on Vanguard class submarines to no more than eight, and reduce the overall nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 180.  It had also announced new stronger security assurances that the United Kingdom would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States party to and in compliance with their NPT obligations.  In June, the United Kingdom had announced that the programmes for implementing those reductions had commenced and that at least one of its submarines now carried a maximum of 40 nuclear warheads.

Momentum from the success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference needed to move forward, she said, and bilateral and multilateral progress made this year should be recognized, including the new Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), and the “P5” meeting of nuclear-weapon States in Paris, which had led to new confidence-building measures.  All NPT parties shared the responsibility to strengthen it, including all three of its pillars.

The United Kingdom-Norway initiative was carrying out groundbreaking research into the verification of nuclear warhead dismantlement, and the countries would present their work at a workshop in London in December, she said.  The United Kingdom continued to press strongly for progress on key multilateral instruments to move towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  The CTBT’s entry into force was a priority for her country, which had been among the first to sign and ratify that instrument. 

She said she shared the international community’s “overwhelming feeling of frustration” that another year had gone by with the Conference still unable to start negotiations or even agree to a work programme.  There were many complex issues associated with a fissile material cut-off treaty, and breaking the deadlock in the Conference would not be easy – but collective efforts must be focused towards that goal.  The Conference remained the only option for negotiating a fissile material treaty because it included all the key nuclear players.  And, their inclusion in any treaty was essential if it was to fulfil the ambition of the international community to strengthen the global disarmament and non-proliferation framework in a meaningful way and to enhance global security. 

It was right, she said, that there had been considerable discussion of options to make progress in the Conference in recent months:  “the CD’s continued frozen inability to function is unacceptable and unsustainable”.  Its inability to get to work on a fissile material treaty was not due to an intrinsic structural problem, but caused by one country blocking the will of the majority.

But, the shared goal of a fissile material treaty that cut off the future production of fissile material and enhanced global security would not be achieved by initiating negotiations elsewhere.  That would lead to an instrument to which some key players had not signed up.  Nor would the Conference be bolstered by undermining its mandate and “leaving it to languish”.  It was a unique forum that had proved its worth in the past, and one to which her country was committed.  The “P5” nuclear-weapon States were fully engaged to set the Conference to work negotiating a fissile material treaty, and would be meeting with other relevant parties in the near future, she said.

Pointing to some of the other non-proliferation issues, she noted the conference to be held in 2012 on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, but cautioned that such a zone would not happen overnight and would require commitment.  The threat of nuclear weapons in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were another concern.  Her country was committed to work with nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States towards the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world where the incentives for proliferation would be removed.

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