Prospects for Nuclear-Weapon-Free World Increasingly Illusive as ‘Tectonic Shifts’ from Unilateral Measures Affect Strategic Stability, First Committee Told

11 October 2012
GA/DIS/3456

Prospects for Nuclear-Weapon-Free World Increasingly Illusive as ‘Tectonic Shifts’ from Unilateral Measures Affect Strategic Stability, First Committee Told

11 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3456
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

First Committee

5th Meeting (AM)

Prospects for Nuclear-Weapon-Free World Increasingly Illusive as ‘Tectonic Shifts’

From Unilateral Measures Affect Strategic Stability, First Committee Told

 

Russian Federation Says Plans for Ballistic Missile Defence Ensure Security

Of One Nation at Expense of Others, Create Dangerous Conditions for Confrontation

While aspiring to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, the prospects of new agreements were becoming more and more illusive as the “tectonic shifts” from hasty implementation of unilateral measures were affecting strategic stability, the Russian Federation’s delegate today told the Disarmament Committee.

Pointing specifically to plans for a global ballistic missile defence system, he called that an attempt to ensure security of one country at the expense of the others, saying that created dangerous conditions for confrontation and perhaps even a new round of the arms race.  Preventing those developments was the foremost priority, he said.

Under certain conditions, missile defence might become a responsive tool, he said, but it should be proportionate to reality rather than supposed threats and not lead to even greater imbalance in international relations.  In short, countries’ right to ensure their security should not be to the detriment of neighbours’ security. 

China also believed the development of missile defence systems that undermined global stability should be abandoned, as the security concerns and legitimate interests of each other should be respected, its speaker said.  The global security environment was getting more complicated, and the international community should abandon the outdated cold war mentality and zero-sum game theory, foster new thinking on security that featured mutual trust and benefit, and work together to overcome difficulties in pursuit of a win-win situation.

Credible steps should be taken to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, he said, urging all nuclear-weapon States to conclude a treaty on “no first use of nuclear weapons against one another”.  Those same States should commit unequivocally and unconditionally not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones and conclude a legally binding international instrument to that effect.  He urged countries with the largest nuclear arsenals to take the lead in reducing their number and, when conditions were ripe, other nuclear-weapon States should join the multilateral negotiations.

If there was to be any tangible progress across the range of issues challenging international peace, stressed the representative of the United Kingdom, everyone had to be prepared to work together on a balanced, realistic approach to multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.  As examples of collaboration, she pointed to a workshop with non-nuclear-weapon States, co-hosted with Norway, to share information about groundbreaking work on the verification of nuclear warhead dismantlement.  The United Kingdom had also hosted the first ever meeting of the “P-5” to share views on that topic.

France would not shirk its nuclear disarmament commitments, and since acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 20 years ago, it had halved its nuclear arsenal and taken irreversible measures that included dismantling production facilities for fissile material for nuclear weapons.  Any progress should not blind the international community to the huge challenges that it would face in the coming months.  He pointed, in particular, to “an aggravated proliferation crisis”, which, he said, threatened the world’s security and hindered the development of civil nuclear cooperation by undermining confidence. 

He said Iran’s nuclear crisis was obviously “the first in line” in that regard, and he called on that country to comply with its obligations.  The complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programme was another priority.  And, more light should be shed on Syria’s nuclear activities.  There were also new and serious concerns regarding acknowledgement by the “ Damascus regime” that it possessed chemical weapons.  That was particularly worrying given the level of violence in that country. 

India, for its part, said it was a “painful reality” that universal, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament remained a distant goal, its representative told the Committee.  The country, he said, subscribed to a policy of “credible minimum nuclear deterrent” and espoused the policy of no first-use and non-use of those weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States.  It had also stated its readiness to convert those policies into multilateral legal arrangements, including a global no-first use treaty.  India also supported negotiations on fissile material cut-off treaty that met India’s national security interests.

Also speaking were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Iraq, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Malaysia, Tunisia, Cambodia, South Africa, Colombia, Republic of Tanzania, San Marino, Mongolia and Portugal.

The representatives of Syria and France spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Germany’s representative spoke on a procedural matter.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 12 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate.  The Committee had before it a series of compatible reports of the Secretary-General, including the annual report of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament.  For background, please see Press Releases GA/DIS/3453 of 8 October and GA/DIS/3454 of 9 October.

Statements

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said the organization was in favour of strengthening existing multilateral disarmament and arms control mechanisms.  Its members welcomed the international community’s increased focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Security assurances, meanwhile, for non-nuclear-armed States were needed to prevent the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction; the group also wished to prevent the emergence of new such weapons.  The representative confirmed members’ support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and welcomed multilateral efforts to bolster it.  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards should be strengthened through an Additional Protocol.  It also called for the signature and ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by States that had not yet done so.

She said the organization supported the implementation of the General Assembly resolution declaring 29 August an international day against nuclear testing, which would be geared towards sending the message to the world about the terrible consequences of such tests.  Members believed in the need to swiftly develop a fissile material cut-off treaty, as well as in the role of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  They supported talks leading to an agreement concerning the deployment of weapons in outer space.  Regretting that there had been no consensus on the arms trade treaty, they called for a strengthening of existing multilateral forums, as only those could reach universal and vital decisions.

MAYADAH YASEEN (Iraq), associating herself with the statements made by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said that Iraq had taken positive steps regarding disarmament, including the issuance of a new law on chemical and biological weapons and the signing of the Test-Ban Treaty.  She emphasized her support for universal adherence to and compliance with all international conventions relating to weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, without discrimination and the total elimination of those weapons, which was the only guarantee against their use.  She called on the nuclear-weapon States to fulfil, explicitly and without delay, their obligations under the NPT’s article VI.  At the same time, she stressed the legitimate right of States to obtain nuclear technology for peaceful purposes that would serve the development projects of non-nuclear-armed States, strengthen their economies and support a diversity of energy sources.

She said that the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, was a requirement to achieving peace and security in the Middle East.  Towards that objective, all countries in the region should participate in the upcoming conference on the subject, which would be held in Helsinki in 2012.  She also emphasized the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT and to subjecting its nuclear facilities to the comprehensive safeguards system of the IAEA.  She meanwhile expressed her disappointment with the failure of the international community to reach agreement on the text of an arms trade treaty, and called for continued effort to produce a balanced text that would meet the needs and interests of both exporting and importing countries.  She also expressed hope that the Conference on Disarmament would be able to resume its substantive work.  Additionally, she endorsed the convening of a fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament as an opportunity to highlight the most important aspects of disarmament from a more current perspective.

JEAN-HUGUES SIMON-MICHEL (France), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the European Union, noted that an encouraging new NPT cycle had been launched this year with balanced discussions on each of the three pillars.  The five nuclear-weapon States were actively working on the implementation of the 2010 Action Plan, which formed the common road map.  Progress had also been made regarding the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, and the “P5” stood ready to sign the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty establishing such a zone in Southeast Asia.  France would not shirk its nuclear disarmament commitments, and since acceding to the NPT 20 years ago, it had halved its nuclear arsenal and taken irreversible measures that included dismantling production facilities for fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The country remained fully committed to a safer world for all and would work, with all States, to create conditions to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

He cautioned that progress achieved should not blind the international community to the huge challenges that it would face in the coming months.  An aggravated proliferation crisis threatened the world’s security and hindered the development of civil nuclear cooperation by undermining confidence.  Iran’s nuclear crisis was obviously “the first in line” in that regard, and he called on that country to comply with its obligations.  The complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programme was also a priority.  Lastly, more light should be shed on Syria’s nuclear activities.  There were also new and serious concerns regarding chemical weapons, which the Damascus regime had acknowledged it possessed.  That was particularly worrying given the level of violence in that country.  That demonstrated the importance of the universalization of the Convention on Chemical Weapons.

As for the Conference on Disarmament, the adoption of a programme of work was urgently needed.  The launch of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty was the next logical step in the nuclear disarmament process, because fissile material was the “raw material for weapons”.  The Conference had many successes to its credit, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and Test-Ban Treaty, but the current situation was frustrating, owing to the opposition of one country.  Many ideas had been put forward on how to overcome the deadlock, but the Conference’s expertise and characteristics – particularly the need for consensus – guaranteed that its agreements would be truly universal, and that must be taken into account if the international community was to overcome the impasse.

JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), associating his remarks with those of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that his country had offered to hold a Sherpa meeting ahead of the next Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.  He commended the High-level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism and the outcome of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 review of the NPT and urged all States parties to that Treaty to fulfil their obligations.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as that in Southeast Asia, should be created globally, he said, welcoming the conference on the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East.  Having initiated the establishment of the ASEAN Network of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies or Relevant Authorities (ASEANTOM), Thailand recognised the importance of regulation and nuclear safety, and called for full cooperation with the IAEA. 

He said that upholding the Chemical Weapons and Biological Weapons Conventions was also essential to combating proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and he welcomed the high-level meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and looked forward to the Third Special Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Thailand also supported the 2001 Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons, and called for resources and assistance to ensure its implementation, he said.  It also commended the work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.  Nonetheless, he regretted that the United Nations Conference on Arms Trade Treaty had been unable to finalize the text.  He highlighted the much-needed political impetus to enable the Conference on Disarmament to proceed with substantive work, following the high-level meeting on that body’s revitalization, in 2010.  He supported the engagement of all stakeholders in the Conference and reaffirmed his call for its expanded membership.

AKSOLTAN ATAEVA ( Turkmenistan) said that facilitating the disarmament process and reducing weapons arsenals, above all, nuclear weapons arsenals, had, over the last decade, been one of the key themes on the international agenda.  Her country, which took an active and consistent role in finding durable solutions of global importance, viewed the issue of disarmament as one of its main foreign policy priorities.  Turkmenistan carried out constructive, focused activities in that sphere, talking into account the country’s neutral status.  In 1994, the State had acceded to the NPT, and in 1998, had joined the CTBT.  At the regional level, she advocated the creation of multilateral assistance mechanisms between the States of Central Asia and the Caspian region, a historic, integral space that today was host to the most important transport, energy and communication arteries.

Theme of disarmament, she said, should become one of the most important joint activities with the United Nations.  The Ashkhabad conference on the disarmament question in Central Asia and in the Caspian basin had concluded that challenges, such as non-proliferation, should be tackled within existing international legal mechanisms.  Existing machinery should be supplemented with new documents and forms of multilateral cooperation.

She proposed the creation of a venue for multilateral dialogue to develop mutually acceptable approaches to the most important issues concerning the current and future development of the Central Asian and Caspian region.  In order to establish such a mechanism, the international community could hold a peace and security forum for the region in Ashkhabad.  Her country was ready to actively cooperate with the High Representative’s office on disarmament, and help host a number of initiatives to that end.

MIKHAIL ULYANOV ( Russian Federation) reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the functioning of the multilateral disarmament mechanisms, including the Conference on Disarmament, First Committee and the Disarmament Commission, under the aegis of the United Nations, but it shared the concern that that triad had not yielded any results in many years.  However, the Russian Federation fundamentally disagreed with those who thought that situation was due to the alleged “imperfection” of the mechanisms themselves and the proposal to “reform” them.  “Reforming experiments could break down the existing structures, but there is no guarantee that they would help build something new and more efficient than the existing triad,” he said.

He said the stagnation in the United Nations disarmament machinery was in fact caused by political factors that had to do with the atmosphere of strategic uncertainty, which had recently characterized international relations.  No organizational innovations could solve that fundamental problem; what was needed was to search for common points in the positions and carry out dialogue based on mutual respect.  In that regard, the Russian Federation called upon all States to approach the existing problems pragmatically and reach agreement without any excessive political ambition on beginning of substantive work on all four key agenda items simultaneously in working groups.

The indisputable priority was the strengthening of the NPT regime and implementation of the NPT Action Plan adopted in 2010, he said, noting that underpinning that Treaty was a solid network of effective mechanisms restricting the spread of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear materials.  It was necessary to ensure success of the regular NPT review process.  In that, one of the most important tasks was to carry out a conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in the Middle East.  While the Russian Federation and other “co-conveners” were dealing with organizational matters, the countries of the region should reaffirm their political will to establish such a zone in the Middle East, as only those countries would be able to solve the task.  His country also supported the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone, Mongolia’s efforts to consolidate its non-nuclear-weapon-free status, and the completion of the process to render Central Asia a nuclear-weapon-free-zone.

Among the significant arms control achievements of the last decade was the Russia-United States Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), which was considered a “gold standard” among disarmament arrangements.  The task now was to fully meet the commitments envisaged in the Treaty, the signing of which raised hopes for agreement on further steps. 

The Russian Federation, he said, welcomed aspirations to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, but in reality, the prospects of new agreements were becoming more and more illusive.  Strategic stability was affected by tectonic shifts, ensuing from the hasty implementation of unilateral plans to develop a ballistic missile defence system.  That was an attempt to ensure one’s security at the expense of the security of others, and created dangerous conditions for confrontation and perhaps even a new round of the arms race.  The foremost priority was to prevent those developments.  Under certain conditions, missile defence might become a responsive tool, but it should be proportionate to reality rather than supposed threats, and not lead to even greater imbalance in international relations.  In short, countries’ right to ensure their security should not be to the detriment of neighbours’ security.  The Russian Federation remained open to a missile defence dialogue, with priority given to the joint development of a missile defence architecture, which would not be a matter of concern to any side.

Another priority for his country was the arms race in outer space, he said, believing that issue to be the most relevant and ripe for discussion at the Conference on Disarmament.  The Russian Federation expected a practical team to work on the Russia-China draft treaty on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space as soon as possible and called on all States concerned to actively contribute to such a substantive discussion.  As a first step, the Russian Federation also called on all responsible outer space-faring nations to follow its lead and that of other Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) countries’ example with a political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space.  An integral part of the effort concerning that Treaty was the development of transparency and confidence-building measures, and the Russian Federation welcomed the launch of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on transparency and confidence-building measures established to explore the issue in detail and make recommendations on how those might be incorporated in international practices.  The possibility of making some of those measures legally binding to contribute to the greater responsibility of States for their outer space activities should not be ruled out, he said.

L. K. ADVANI (India), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was a “painful reality” that universal, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament remained a distant goal, but he believed it still could be achieved by a step-by-step process.  He recalled India’s Action Plan of 1988, which remained relevant and valid, and its 2006 working paper on nuclear disarmament, which retained the spirit and substance of its Action Plan.  To raise further awareness about global nuclear disarmament and contribute to its research, a National Conference had taken place in New Delhi in August, attended by more than 1,000 students and scholars.

India, said Mr. Advani, subscribed to a policy of “credible minimum nuclear deterrent”, and not to an arms race.  It had espoused the policy of no first-use and non-use of those weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States and was prepared to convert those policies into multilateral legal arrangements, including a global no-first use treaty.  The conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention demonstrated that, given a shared political will, a treaty to eliminate an entire category of mass destruction weapons within a specified time frame could be negotiated multilaterally.  India was fully compliant with its Convention’s obligations, including the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile.

He said he shared the disappointment that the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament had persisted, but warned that proposals that questioned the validity or relevance of the Conference “must be viewed with caution”.  He supported negotiations in the Conference on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices that met India’s national security interests.  Likewise, India had participated in the negotiations on an arms trade treaty in 2012, and was prepared to continue working towards a consensus-based outcome, but it was important that a treaty not be “rushed through”.  In addition, the prevention of an arms race in outer space should remain a priority, and while transparency and confidence-building measures could be useful, they could not substitute for a legally binding instrument.

In conclusion, he said that India would be presenting its three traditional draft resolutions for action by the Committee, on a convention prohibiting nuclear weapons use; reducing nuclear danger, reflecting its belief that progressive steps were needed for the de-legitimisation of nuclear weapons and for increasing restraints on their use before they were eliminated; and on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons. 

WU HAITAO ( China) said the international security environment was getting more complicated.  Thus, the international community should foster new thinking on security, featuring mutual trust and benefit, and it should abandon the outdated cold war mentality and zero-sum game theory, and instead aim to work together to overcome difficulties in pursuit of a win-win situation, resolve disputes through dialogue and make efforts to push forward the arms control and disarmament process.  Credible steps should be taken to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and advance nuclear disarmament.  “All nuclear-weapon States should make an unequivocal commitment of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, negotiate and conclude a treaty on no-first-use of nuclear weapons against one another.”  They should also make an unequivocal commitment of unconditionally not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones and conclude a legally binding international instrument to that effect.

Continuing, he said countries with the largest nuclear arsenals should take the lead in reducing the number of their nuclear weapons and, when conditions were ripe, other nuclear-weapon States should join the multilateral negotiations.  The Test-Ban Treaty should be brought into force at an early date and the Conference on Disarmament should start negotiations on the fissile material cut-off treaty as soon as possible.  The development of missile defence systems that undermined global stability should be abandoned, as the security concerns and legitimate interests of each other should be respected.

Establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said, was also an important step for the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons, and China welcomed the progress in resolving outstanding issues on the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty between the P5 and ASEAN, the political statement on Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status, and the participation of all relevant parties in the 2012 international conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.  China, additionally, welcomed the success of the first Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference and had actively participated in the P5 efforts to implement that Treaty, at the first experts meeting of the P5 Working Group on a Glossary of Definitions for Key Nuclear Terms, held in Beijing last month.

Existing international legal instruments should be implemented in good faith and the disarmament process of chemical and biological weapons should be accelerated, he stated.  China was a victim of chemical weapons, which were abandoned by Japan on China’s territory, posing a grave threat to the lives and property of the Chinese people and environment.  Concerned about the slow pace of destruction of those abandoned chemical weapons, China urged the Japanese side to complete that work as early as possible.

Preventive diplomacy needed to be promoted and information technology and outer space must be prevented from becoming new battlefields, he warned.  The threats to information security had become a challenge to the international community, so the current priority was to formulate global rules to ensure that information technologies were used only for social and economic development.  China, together with Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had submitted a draft International Code of Conduct for Information Security at the General Assembly’s sixty-sixth session and would organize informal consultations in the margins of this session of the First Committee.  As the arms race in outer space was also posing an immediate security challenge, China and Russia, in 2008, had submitted to the Conference on Disarmament a draft treaty on prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects to the Conference on Disarmament.  China looked forward to the early negotiation of an international legal instrument based on that text.  The country also supported the work of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Outer Space TCBMs (transparency and confidence-building measures).

Conventional arms control must also be advanced, he stated, noting that China was ready to continue an exchange of views related to concluding the arms trade treaty.  The recent second Review Conference on the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons provided an opportunity to combat the illicit trade in those weapons.  China, additionally, had been dedicated to international cooperation in humanitarian mine clearance efforts to help affected countries.

In closing, he said the authority of the multilateral disarmament machinery should be safeguarded and every effort should be made to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament.  The root causes for the deadlock lay in political factors, and Member States should actively seek solutions acceptable to all.  Efforts should be made outside the Conference to accommodate each others’ legitimate security concerns, so as to create a favourable atmosphere for the commencement of negotiations.  Abandoning the Conference was not the right way to solve the problem.  Establishing new mechanisms outside the Conference and removing the core agenda items would not ensure the participation of all major countries or move them any closer to the treaty’s objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, or contribute to a healthy and orderly development of the overall international arms control and disarmament process.

CHEW LEE GIOK ( Malaysia) expressed concern that efforts to reduce nuclear weapons had remained dormant for the past year, and work to rid the world of those weapons lagged.  The Conference on Disarmament had entered its fourteenth year of absolute paralysis, and that lack of development could not continue forever.  Yet, despite setbacks, there were encouraging signs at the regional level, such as the ongoing consultations between ASEAN and the nuclear-weapon States on the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty.  She looked forward to the results of those talks.

She hailed multilateralism as an important forum for the global effort to eliminate dangerous conventional weapons, and believed that Member States should push forward an arms trade treaty as soon as possible.  Similarly, she welcomed the 2001 Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and called for the full implementation of the international instrument to enable States to identify and trace those weapons.  She also expressed support for efforts to bolster the Biological Weapons Convention, and was working to ensure its implementation.

For its part, Malaysia remained committed to the global effort for general and complete disarmament under strict, effective international control, and was ready to work with other delegations to achieve a positive and successful outcome of the First Committee’s work.

JOANNE ADAMSON ( United Kingdom) said that if there was to be any tangible progress across the range of issues challenging international peace, everyone had to be prepared to work together on a balanced, realistic approach to multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.  Underlining the United Kingdom’s leading role in international security issues, she gave examples of the work her Government had been doing in the past year.  On nuclear disarmament, it had, for example, co-hosted with Norway a workshop with non-nuclear-weapon States to share information from the groundbreaking collaborative work they had conducted so far on the verification of nuclear warhead dismantlement.  Earlier this year, the United Kingdom had hosted the first ever meeting of the P5 to discuss that topic, at which lessons and views were shared.

She said her country was one of the three State co-convenors of the proposed conference on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and it supported a positive outcome.  It, likewise, supported a Southeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone, as well as the political statement on Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.  At the Nuclear Security Summit in March, the United Kingdom had led a new multilateral initiative on nuclear information security, which had the support of 31 countries.  Through their contribution to the Global Partnership against Weapons and Materials, they had, among other things, delivered improved nuclear and biological security, and advanced the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  The United Kingdom was also deeply committed to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention; as had been seen with Syria, those real threats existed.  The country also welcomed the outcome of the seventh review of the Biological Weapons Convention.

Stating that preventing the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons remained vital, she said her country had worked hard on a long list of possible improvements to strengthen the 2001 Programme of Action.  It was delighted that this year’s review of the Programme had achieved positive results that would move them a number of steps forward, including the recognition that small arms and light weapons could be used to undermine human rights laws.  The review could also lead to improvements in the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument by promoting cooperation in that area and the creation of a voluntary sponsorship fund to provide assistance to States in that regard.

The United Kingdom shared the disappointment that Member States had been unable to adopt an arms trade treaty, but wanted to make it absolutely clear that the Conference had not ended in failure, she said.  To say that it did, ignored the huge progress that had been made towards the ultimate aim of a high standard and well-supported treaty.  Crucially, the appetite to finish that work remained undiminished and there was a strong sense that agreement on the treaty was close.  There was an overwhelming view among States that a further short conference should be convened as early as possible in 2013 with the intention of securing agreement on a robust and effective treaty during the current General Assembly session.

To that end, she said, the co-authors would submit a resolution setting the timing for a short, final, consensus-based conference to finalize work on the treaty.  There had been much talk about the disarmament machinery, and with the arms trade treaty, there was a “live example” of where a difference could be made in people’s lives and how the international community could come together, making the diversity of the United Nations a strength rather than a weakness.

EL KHANSA ARFAOUI HAIRBAOUI (Tunisia), associating his statement with those made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Arab Group, said that the First Committee was meeting at a critical juncture.  It should take stock of the current disarmament regimes.  Her delegation placed great faith in multilateral efforts in disarmament and supported all initiatives aimed at reducing nuclear weapons and furthering non-proliferation.

She said that those who were serious about making real progress in international disarmament could no longer accept the absence of progress in the Disarmament Commission.  The NPT, which was the bedrock of the global nuclear order, had helped to slow down nuclear proliferation but had not been able to prevent it.  She reaffirmed the belief that the NPT was an irreplaceable instrument for maintaining international peace and security, and she urged States parties to support its three pillars, to work towards disarmament, ensure access to peaceful nuclear energy and achieve security by combating proliferation.

The Middle East was among the most worrying regions, owing to the refusal of certain parties to adhere to the NPT, or to submit their sites to IAEA approval, she said, calling on the international community, especially the influential Powers, to adopt urgent measures to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone there.

As a result of globalization, the dynamic of the international arms trade had changed, she said.  International arms transfers were not well regulated enough, which exacerbated terrorism and crime.  The world was awash with arms, and peace was too fragile.  Tunisia, therefore, attached great importance to an arms trade treaty to define common norms and standards.  Such an instrument should make it possible to limit the supply and munitions in areas of conflict and instability, and to strengthen stability and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

NGOUN SOKVENG ( Cambodia) said that the catastrophe in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was a horrific reminder of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and their potential to annihilate entire cities.  There were an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence, each exponentially more powerful than either bombs dropped in Japan.  Thus, the very existence of mankind was threatened.  Efforts to eliminate all nuclear weapons should be a top priority in the First Committee and for the international community in general.

He reiterated strongest support for a global ban on nuclear tests, and believed the CTBT must enter into force without further delay.  Those nations that had not yet joined that treaty should do so as soon as possible.  The terrible accident at Fukushima last year reiterated the utmost importance of nuclear safety and security.

The world must triple its efforts to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said, adding that their classification as “small and light” was misleading, given their grave impact on civilians.  Around the globe, those weapons killed civilians daily, with an estimated 500,000 civilian casualties per year, including of women and children.  For its part, Cambodia had hosted the eleventh meeting of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Production (Mine-Ban Convention), and hoped that the draft on its implementation would, as in previous years, receive strong support from all.

JOHANN KELLERMAN ( South Africa) declared that nuclear weapons were a source of “insecurity, not security” and that South Africa remained committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He noted the significant level of “overlap, duplication and contradiction” among the various resolutions on priority disarmament issues, and the continued divergence in votes, reflecting the ongoing challenges facing the international community.

He expressed his concerns regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the fact that some States in possession of those weapons were unable to comply with the final extended deadline of April 2012 for their destruction.  He also informed the Committee that South Africa would have preferred a stronger outcome to the seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, but he trusted that States would continue to strengthen the treaty’s implementation.  On the subject of the arms trade treaty, he said that States should endeavour to enter negotiations “with an open mind, yet realistic ambitions”.  The debate should not be “sidetracked by extraneous issues such as possession and production”.

On the encouraging side, he said, was the successful outcome of the Second Review Conference on small arms and light weapons Programme of Action, which was an especially meaningful breakthrough given that the first review in 2006 had ended without agreement on its draft outcome document.  South Africa attached great value to the phrase “in all its aspects” in the title of the Programme of Action, which implied that States should take special care by means of physical security, legal and administrative structures and instruments, systems and other arrangements to ensure that those weapons were not diverted to the illicit trade.  South Africa had repeatedly expressed its concern about the humanitarian aspects of cluster munitions, and it was currently working towards ratification of that Convention.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) reiterated the importance of multilateralism in matters of disarmament and international security.  While weapons of mass destruction posed a serious threat to humankind, the greatest threat to the security of countries and cities was the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.  It took lives but also contributed to drug trafficking, kidnapping and terrorism.  Thus, the international community must struggle on all levels to combat that problem.  He welcomed the convening of the second Review Conference on the Programme of Action and believed it would be a step forward in implementation.  He encouraged all States to work towards that goal, as well as to the implementation of the international marking and tracing instrument.

Asserting that small arms and light weapons posed an evolving threat and new obstacles to States, he said their international trade must be carried out in a responsible manner in order to prevent arms diversion to the illicit market.  The international community, therefore, must adopt a robust and non-discriminatory treaty, which included the prohibition of transfers to non-State actors and covered all activities such as sales, acquisition, brokering and transport.  Only then could the global community ensure that arms sales were carried out in an open, transparent and regulated manner.  He called for a new conference to finalize negotiations on the arms trade treaty.

He said his delegation was also committed to the prohibition of all mines, including as anti-personnel mines, as well as cluster munitions, and was thus party to the Mine-Ban Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Anti-personnel mines still claimed many victims each year, and he condemned the persistent use of those weapons, which the world community had already banned.  Regarding the Convention in Cluster Munitions, Colombia had destroyed all weapons of that nature in its arsenal.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said it was a time of enormous global challenges, the re-emergence of conflicts in some parts of the world, and growing mistrust among Member States, all of which was blocking efforts to achieve general and complete disarmament in a meaningful manner.  It was absolutely vital that the international community address that persistent and ever-growing mistrust and commit itself to multilateralism as the core principle of negotiations in the areas of disarmament, non-proliferation and international security.

However, he said, little progress was being achieved.  Instead, the Conference on Disarmament had yet to agree on a comprehensive programme of work, the nuclear-weapon States had yet to make tangible cuts to their arsenals, and a rare opportunity was missed to adopt a robust conventional weapons treaty.  Conventional weapons were destabilizing and causing immense suffering to the people in Africa and elsewhere.  More also should be done in the current session and beyond to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and other regions.  The international community must build on the momentum gained from the successes of the second review of the small arms and light weapons Programme of Action and adopt an arms trade treaty at the earliest opportunity.

General and complete disarmament was the only assurance that future generations would be spared from the spectre of armed conflicts, he said.  While affirming the right of States to acquire, manufacture, import and retain conventional arms and their parts and components for self-defence and security needs, the international community must address the growing disparity in the production, possession and trade in weapons between developed and developing countries.  It was critical to deploy all available tools to prevent the supply of arms and ammunitions to armed groups and war profiteers, wherever they operated.  The increased proliferation of illicit arms to non-State actors, as had been witnessed in the Sahel region and other parts of the world, was, by and large, a failure of States to control stockpiles and transfer arms.  That situation must be rectified.

DANIELE D. BODINI (San Marino) declared that the “clock is ticking” and the chance that a nuclear catastrophe could materialize at any time – either due to military use, human error, or terrorist act – was getting more and more probable.  Strengthening nuclear non-proliferation controls was of paramount importance and would make it easier for States to benefit from the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  San Marino had been able to maintain its independence for centuries, not with the strength of an armed force, but by peaceful means.  Multilateral diplomacy was the only solution for achieving peace and security.  He called on States with nuclear arsenals to take it upon themselves to gradually eliminate their “devastating inventory”.

OCH OD ( Mongolia) noted the progress made in the field of disarmament and nuclear proliferation, but said tangible results were awaited, which should lead to a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Mongolia supported the implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan and hoped that all three sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference would guide States parties well through the new review cycle.  Mongolia reiterated its strong support for nuclear-weapon-free zones and for the decision to hold an international conference in 2012 on the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East.  Mongolia supported efforts to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament and believed that it remained the best forum for conducting multilateral negotiations.  The country’s Foreign Affairs Minister had attended the Conference’s 2012 session in March and had appealed for a resumption of its work.

He also expressed his country’s hope for the early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty.  Mongolia appreciated the United Nations Secretary-General’s initiative to hold a high-level meeting on countering nuclear terrorism on 28 September, and reaffirmed its commitment to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  Emphasizing the essential role of the IAEA, Mongolia welcomed the Director General’s initiative to convene a conference on nuclear security in Vienna in July 2013.  The country also appreciated the Agency’s efforts in the area of technical cooperation with Mongolia.

Mongolia, additionally, welcomed renewed commitments to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and was hopeful that agreement would be reached on a legally binding arms trade treaty next year, he said.  Mongolia looked forward to the third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to be held in April 2013, and urged the instrument’s swift universalization.  Promoting its nuclear-weapons-free status, Mongolia noted its signature on 17 September of a declaration parallel with that of the P5 on Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status, which reflected the interest of the parties in promoting nuclear non-proliferation.  As in previous years, Mongolia would present a draft resolution titled, “ Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status”.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said that the outcome of the arms trade treaty Conference in July was, “to say the least, disappointing”.  Nevertheless, he was hopeful that a final Conference next year would deliver a strong and credible treaty.  He expressed concern with the continued threat of cluster munitions that still killed and maimed innocent people.  Together with Ghana, Portugal had been entrusted by the States parties to the Cluster Munitions Convention with the task of coordinating efforts, and he pledged his utmost commitment to disarmament, to humanitarian and human rights law, and to the protection of civilians.

He stressed the responsibility of States to implement their international obligations and commitments under the NPT.  In that context, the unwillingness of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply fully with those obligations and its continued disrespect of Security Council resolutions contributed to increased instability in its region.  It was not acceptable that no progress had yet been achieved in solving the outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA.  “We once again urge Iran to seriously engage, without preconditions, in those diplomatic efforts and to give verifiable assurances on the peaceful purpose of her nuclear programme, thus fulfilling her international obligations,” he said.

Portugal fully supported the initiative aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he said.  In addition, nuclear tests, which the international community banned more than 15 years ago, were of major concern as the Test-Ban Treaty had yet to enter into force.  He encouraged all States that had not yet done so, to ratify that instrument, thereby recognizing its central place in the disarmament and non-proliferation architecture.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria reminded the French regime’s representative that his country had carried out a test in the Algerian desert, which was four times as strong as the one dropped on Hiroshima.  That had resulted in a humanitarian and environmental disaster, which was still being felt today.  Experiments were made on live individuals tied to posts around the detonation area.  He also wished to remind France of its illegal tests in the ocean.  France was responsible for introducing nuclear weapons in the Middle East, by giving a nuclear reactor to Israel, which could produce nuclear weapons.  France and others should acknowledge their responsibility in rendering Israel the only nuclear Power in the Middle East.  Then they would be able to participate in discussions to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

He reiterated that allegations regarding Syria’s possession of chemical weapons were totally baseless, and null and void, and were part of a campaign of incitement against Syria.  Countries like the United Kingdom and France promoted those conceptions.  Syria was party to the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 1925, to which it was committed.  It was also ready to join the Convention on Chemical Weapons when Israel did so and also adhered to the NPT.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of France, in response to the statement by Syria’s delegation, said it was the second year in which that delegation had made such allegations, and he wished to draw the Committee’s attention to France’s previous right of reply on that issue.

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