States Must Support National, Global Action to Stop Weapons from Reaching Terrorist Groups, First Committee Hears, as It Approves 7 Texts

GA/DIS/3564
28 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 23rd Meeting (PM)

States Must Support National, Global Action to Stop Weapons from Reaching Terrorist Groups, First Committee Hears, as It Approves 7 Texts

Responding to an increasingly complex international security landscape with unprecedented threats emerging from non-State actors, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) approved 7 draft texts, one aimed at preventing an outer space arms race and another on stopping terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Approved without a vote, a draft resolution on “measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/71/L.12) would have the General Assembly call upon all Member States to support international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

By the text, the Assembly would urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.  It would also appeal to all Member States to consider early accession to and ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

With a view to stemming the flow of other weapons to non-State actors, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on “preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources” (document A/C.1/71/L.55).  By that text the General Assembly would call upon Member States to support international efforts to prevent the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive materials and sources and, if necessary, suppress such acts, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law. 

It would go on to encourage Member States that have not yet done so to become party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism as soon as possible, and invite them - in coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency - to consider the merits of an evaluation of the existing international framework applicable to radioactive sources and, if necessary, to explore possible options for its potential strengthening.

Turning to its cluster on disarmament aspects of outer space, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the “prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.3), as a whole, by a recorded vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Israel, Palau, South Sudan, United States).  By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space and call upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of and prevention of an arms race in outer space and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective.

During the meeting, the Committee approved, by recorded vote, the following draft resolutions on “no first placement of weapons in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.18) and on “measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol” (document A/C.1/71/L.43).

Acting without a vote, it also approved draft texts on “transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities” (document A/C.1/71/L.19) and on the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/71/L.56).

Explaining their position were the representatives of Egypt, India, Spain, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Iran, Ecuador, Argentina, Guatemala, Brazil, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Russian Federation, Cuba, Slovakia, Ukraine and United States.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 31 October, to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it.  For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.

Action on Draft Texts

Prior to taking action on draft texts before it, delegates spoke in explanation of position on drafts that the Committee had approved on 27 October.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation had shared the objective of a draft resolution on “united action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/71/L.26).  However, the formulation of some of its paragraphs had fallen short of expectations, he said.  Referring to operative paragraph 17, he expressed concern that the international community should not extend any kind of legitimacy to States possessing nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The representative of India, explaining his delegation’s vote on several resolutions, emphasized that there was no question of India joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon State.  Nuclear weapons were an integral part of India’s national security and would remain so pending non-discriminatory and global nuclear disarmament.  India was not convinced that the proposed General Assembly conference in 2017 on an legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, as mentioned in the draft resolution on “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/71/L.41), could address the international community’s longstanding expectation for a comprehensive disarmament instrument. 

The representative of Spain spoke in reference to a draft resolution titled “African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty” (document A/C.1/71/L.49), saying his Government had decided not to sign its Third Protocol, as the instrument contained no provision, obligation or safeguard vis-à-vis disarmament and non-proliferation that had not already been adopted by Spain, which had since 1976 been totally free of nuclear weapons.

The representative of New Zealand said she had voted in favour of the draft on a “treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” (document A/C.1/71/L.65).  However, her delegation had not favoured a number of elements, among them the negotiation preparatory procedure set up under the General Assembly auspices, as mentioned in operative paragraph 2.  In empowering a small group of 25 countries to “make recommendations on substantial elements of a future treaty”, she said, the process that would be set in motion would be neither inclusive nor transparent.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said her delegation had voted against the draft on “L.41”.  While supporting the vision of a world of nuclear weapon-free world, she said progress had not met expectations.  Her Government did not believe that jump-starting discussions on a new treaty would address existing challenges.  Member States should focus on fulfilling existing international agreements such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  For those reasons, her delegation had voted against “L.41” and against the draft resolution on “nuclear disarmament” (document A/C.1/71/L.47).

The representative of Iran said he had voted against the draft on “The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation” (document A/C.1/71/L.5).  The text was an offshoot of the Code of Conduct, which had been negotiated outside the United Nations in an unbalanced manner.  The Code of Conduct was flawed and had numerous shortcomings, including that certain States had the right to use ballistic missiles, but others must be prevented from developing such weapons.  Turning to the draft text “humanitarian pledge for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/71/L.24), his delegation had a reservation on an incorrect phrase in preambular paragraph 5, “the lowering of the technical threshold for nuclear weapon capability”, which lacked clarity and was ambiguous.  He also highlighted the inconsistent voting pattern of the draft’s lead sponsor.  While voting in favour of “L.41”, he noted that negotiations should be carried out through the Conference on Disarmament.  A lack of political will would not be solved by undermining the Conference on Disarmament, he said.

The representative of Ecuador said he had abstained from voting on the text titled “L.26”, saying it lacked any reference to the work of the Open-ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.  Turning to “L.28”, he said Ecuador had refrained from voting on preambular paragraph 4 due to its reference to Security Council resolution 2310 (2016), which represented the Council’s interference with the workings of a Treaty.  Resolution 2310 (2016) would lead to the Security Council having a right to interfere in a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations Charter contained no provision giving the Council a prerogative to intervene in international instruments.  Resolution 2310 (2016) would not speed up the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty, which could only come with its ratification by all Annex 2 States, including those States that had spoken for the adoption of resolution 2310 (2016).

The representative of Argentina said his Government would spare no effort to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  The upcoming Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons session would be an opportunity to move forward.  Argentina welcomed initiatives that would drive forward the non-proliferation agenda and advance negotiations on an instrument dealing with fissile material.

The representative of Guatemala said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.28”, but had abstained on preambular paragraph 4.  He disagreed with the reference to Security Council resolution 2310 (2016), which had been adopted despite strong objections from the 166 States that had ratified the Test-Ban Treaty.  Guatemala was concerned by Security Council interference in the functions of the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies and organs dealing in area beyond the Council’s mandate.

The representative of Brazil said he had voted in favour of “L.5”.  Although Brazil had not adhered to The Hague Code of Conduct, his Government acknowledged and respected that 138 Member States had already subscribed to it as a step toward curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  While Brazil had voted in favour of “L.26” because it shared the goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, the text should have been more ambitious, he said, adding that nuclear-weapon States had not yet fulfilled their obligations under Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Having abstained from voting on operative paragraph 27, Brazil believed the language should have reflected the outcome document of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  Considering the Test-Ban Treaty was an important disarmament measure, his delegation had voted in favour of “L.28”.  However, that draft had ignored the topic of the modernization of nuclear weapons, which constituted the greatest threat to the Treaty’s role as a disarmament measure.  Brazil had abstained from voting on preambular paragraph 4 due to its reference to Security Council resolution 2310 (2016), which was counterproductive to the Treaty’s entry into force.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he had voted against “L.26” because it had contained elements that took issue with his country’s ballistic missile development as a nuclear deterrent.  All tests had been practical countermeasures to nuclear threats by the United States who had continued to deny Democratic People’s Republic Korea as a nuclear-weapon State.  His delegation had voted against the draft resolution titled “towards a nuclear-weapon-free world:  accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/71/L.35) because it had not been fair on the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula and the practical countermeasures the Democratic People’s Republic Korea had taken.  The nuclear explosion tests had been a step towards the implementation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s policy line.  In abstaining from the vote on the draft resolution on “humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/71/L.23), he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while sharing deep concern for the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, was aware of the unique security environment on the Korean Peninsula.  His delegation had voted in favour of “L.47”, and supported the Non-Aligned Movement on the issue of nuclear disarmament.

The representative of Morocco said he had abstained from voting on “L.41” because nuclear weapons should not be the only weapons of mass destruction prohibited.  His Government had welcomed the report of the Open-ended Working Group, but was hoping that through dialogue, Member States would reach consensus.  Unfortunately, there had been no willingness to engage in dialogue or push forward any of the recommendations.  His Government did not agree with how the process had been handled, as it would affect the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process and the ability of everyone to work together.  While remaining committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, Morocco wanted to move the process forward without undermining existing mechanisms.

The representative of Pakistan said he had voted against “L.65” as it could not support a fissile material cut-off treaty that served the status quo and perpetuated asymmetries.  The current resolution had duplicated the unsuccessful approach of the Group of Governmental Experts on the issue and none of Pakistan’s suggestions had been considered.  Turning to the draft resolution on “nuclear disarmament verification” (document A/C.1/71/L.57/rev.1), he said verification should not be pursued in a piece meal manner and a more suitable forum would be the Conference on Disarmament.  While his delegation had abstained from voting on the text, it hoped to be part of the Group of Governmental Experts.  Speaking about “L.47”, his delegation had supported elements of the draft, including a call for the conclusion of a document on negative security assurances, but could not agree to the full implementation of the outcome document of the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences due to his country’s well-known position on the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He said Pakistan had abstained from voting on “L.41”, saying that because States had a right to security, progress could only be achieved through a consensus-based process that would ensure undiminished or increased security for all States.  On “L.35”, while appreciating sponsors’ efforts to remove controversial elements, he said the draft could be further improved.  His Government was dismayed by the unrealistic assertion of operative paragraph 14, calling for Pakistan to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Hence, it abstained from the draft and had voted against operative paragraph 14.

The representative of Syria, referring to “L.5”, said certain countries had taken an approach that would take some instruments out of the realm of the United Nations, which could be detrimental to the goal of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) code of conduct was discriminatory and unbalanced and did not deal with the raison d’etre of non-proliferation.  Turning to “L.28”, on which Syria abstained, he said his Government was very concerned that Israel had weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.  Israel was also the only country in the region with those weapons and had refused to open its facilities to international monitors, impeding efforts for a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.  His delegation had also abstained on the draft titled “implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/71/L.61), whose sponsors did not consider remarks and comments that had been made by Syria and others.

The representative of Pakistan said his delegation supported the draft text on “measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/71/L.12).  Increased international cooperation should be given serious consideration, he said, adding that Member States had come a long way on the issue.  Through continued efforts, the peoples of the United Nations would prevail and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Committee took action on “L.12”, by which the Assembly would call upon all Member States to support international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  The Assembly would, by the text, appeal to all Member States to consider early accession to and ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and would encourage States parties to the Convention to review its implementation on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its entry into force.

By the text, the Assembly would also urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.

The Committee then approved the draft, as orally revised, without a vote.

The Committee then considered a draft resolution on “measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol” (document A/C.1/71/L.43), which would have the Assembly renew its previous call to all States to observe strictly the principles and objectives of the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, and reaffirms the vital necessity of upholding its provisions.

It approved the draft by a vote of 179 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel, United States).

Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution on “preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources” (document A/C.1/71/L.55), which would have the General Assembly call upon Member States to support international efforts to prevent the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive materials and sources and, if necessary, suppress such acts, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law. 

It would go on to encourage Member States that have not yet done so to become party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism1 as soon as possible, and invite them - in coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency - to consider the merits of an evaluation of the existing international framework applicable to radioactive sources and, if necessary, to explore possible options for its potential strengthening.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution regarding “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/71/L.56), which would have the General Assembly encourages States parties to the Convention to provide, at least biannually, appropriate information on their implementation of article X of the Convention and to collaborate to offer assistance or training, upon request, in support of the legislative and other implementation measures of States parties needed to ensure their compliance with the Convention.

The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

The representative of the Russian Federation, in an explanation of position on “L.55,” said his Government shared the international community’s concerns about the risk of radioactive materials falling into terrorist hands.  It had participated actively in efforts to address that threat.  Nuclear security, including the question of handling radioactive sources, should be considered within the IAEA, which was the only international organization with the necessary expertise.  In recent years, the IAEA had done much work in that area.  It was unacceptable for resolutions in the Committee to give a liberal interpretation of the work of the IAEA, which was the fault with “L.55”.  Operative paragraph 10 had included a direct call for the adoption of an additional guidance document on the management of disused radioactive sources.  Time and again, however, it had been noted that such a document would require significant additional work.  Furthermore, some provisions in the text might lead to a reduction in security of the handling of spent radioactive sources.  He expressed great doubts on the logic of supporting that document in its current state.  Concerning operative paragraph 12, there had been a trend to turn the IAEA’s incident and trafficking database into an instrument to settle political scores and make unsubstantiated accusations.  However, the Russian Federation nevertheless did not wish to undermine consensus on the text, believing that the General Assembly should send a consolidated political signal that the issue of the security of radioactive sources would remain on its agenda.  On the whole, the draft resolution answered its remit.

The representative of Iran said his delegation had supported “L.12” since it had first been introduced, as it had dealt with an issue that was best addressed through relevant multilateral organizations with the participation of all States.  In that context, he added, the IAEA was the most proper place for addressing the issue.  Turning to preambular paragraph 9, he said Iran had disassociated itself with the consensus.  On “L.55”, he said his delegation had fully supported the main objective of the resolution, but it was important that the text was not overloaded with highly technical matters.

The representative of Cuba expressed support for a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.  Because the militarization of space would be unacceptable, Cuba had co-sponsored three draft resolutions in the outer space cluster, namely “prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.3), “no first placement of weapons in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.18) and “transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities” (document A/C.1/71/L.19).

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had advocated the use of space for peaceful aims and supported swiftly adopting practical measures to create political and legal guarantees to keep space free of any kind of weapons.  Thus, the adoption of a legally binding instrument was a priority, he said.  “L.18” had called on States to examine increasing threats of the deployment of weapons in outer space.  No verification measures were required.  If some Member States still refrained, we would ask “what do they find unacceptable?”  What was the basis of refraining support?  This draft was the only active resolution that aimed to prevent the arms race in outer space.  To those who planned to abstain, are you not ashamed?,  he asked, noting that the treaty would be the most important factor impeding the weaponization of outer space.

The representative of Slovakia, on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc would abstain on voting on “L.18”, as it was important to develop initiatives that would build confidence and transparency.  For its part, the European Union had proposed a Code of Conduct for outer space activities.  “L.18” did not adequately build trust and confidence between States.  There was also ambiguity in the notion of “not being the first”, which might entice States to want to become the second or third.  Moreover, the text did not clarify what constituted a weapon in outer space.  Without a common understanding, there could be confusion.  Thus, the draft could have the opposite effect of declared intention.

The representative of Ukraine said that while her Government was committed to all aspects of disarmament, it would vote against “L.18”, as the draft was not credible.  Since 2015, the Russian Federation’s aggressive policy had not changed.  By advertising the notion of “no first weapons in outer space”, the Russian Federation was drawing attention away from the continued crimes of the Kremlin.  The Russian Federation had already started an arms race in the outer space and had violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, she said.

The representative of the United States said it would vote against “L.18”.  It took seriously the transparency and confidence-building measures that had been established in the Group of Governmental Experts’ study of outer space.  According to the Group of Governmental Experts, non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures should be clear, proven and reduce or eliminate the causes of mistrust.  The draft did not indicate what constituted a weapon in outer space and it also had focused entirely on space-based weapons.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.3), which would have the Assembly reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space and call upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of and prevention of an arms race in outer space and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective and to the relevant existing treaties in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation.

It approved the draft by a vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Israel, Palau, South Sudan, United States).

Next, it considered a draft resolution on “no first placement of weapons in outer space” (document A/C.1/71/L.18).  By the text, the Assembly would reiterate that the Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, has the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement, or agreements, as appropriate, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects.

Also by the text, the Assembly would urge an early commencement of substantive work based on the updated draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008.

It approved the draft by a vote of 126 in favour to 4 against (Georgia, Israel, Ukraine, United States), with 49 abstentions.

Then, without a vote, it approved a draft resolution on “transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities” (document A/C.1/71/L.19), by which the Assembly would call upon Member States and the relevant entities and organizations of the United Nations system to support the implementation of the full range of conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures in Outer Space Activities.

By the text, the Assembly would also encourage Member States to continue to review and implement, to the greatest extent practicable, the proposed transparency and confidence-building measures contained in the report, through the relevant national mechanisms, on a voluntary basis and in a manner consistent with the national interests of Member States.

For information media. Not an official record.