Press Release Secretary-General

17 April 1995


Stresses Interconnectedness of Non-Proliferation,
Security Assurances, Nuclear Disarmament, Peaceful Access to Nuclear Energy

Following is the text of the inaugural address delivered this afternoon by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to the Conference on Review and Extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty:

I congratulate His Excellency Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka for his outstanding efforts to ensure the success of this profoundly important occasion.

This is an historical moment. This conference, by its outcome, can support a vision of international relations that extends beyond disarmament. Increasingly, States are working in harmony to make decisions of global importance on a vast range of issues, from development to international security. By forging a joint strategy on non-proliferation, you can advance this crucial process.

It is significant that this Conference takes place as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. What happens here will help to define the character of international cooperation for the twenty-first century.

The idea of nuclear non-proliferation was developed in the General Assembly of the United Nations. As early as 1959, the General Assembly, in resolution 1380, called for "an international agreement subject to inspection and control" to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. By 1965, the General Assembly, in its resolution 2028, called for a non-proliferation treaty.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was opened for signature and ratification on 1 July 1968 and came into force on 5 March 1970. It was acclaimed as the most important agreement in the field of disarmament since the nuclear age began and as a major success for the cause of peace.

It must be remembered that many experts at the time were pessimistic. They thought that further nuclear proliferation was highly likely, and that containing proliferation was going to be an extremely difficult proposition.

Fortunately, 25 years later, we can look back on a record of remarkable achievement.

In many ways, the world has become a safer place. Since 1970, the international community has created machinery to support nuclear controls and safeguards, to carry out the destruction of nuclear weapons and to ban nuclear testing.

The number of parties to the Treaty has grown steadily. When the Fourth Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference opened in 1990, the number of parties stood at 142. China and France adhered to the Treaty in 1992. Today the number of signatories stands at 178, the largest number of parties to any arms control and disarmament agreement. This is an indisputable sign of support for the Treaty. Universality is within reach.

But in other ways, today's world is one of increasing danger. Some States, ignoring their ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are seeking to obtain materials and technology for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. This is a frightening prospect under any circumstances, but even more so in a world beset by ethnic tension. It would be tragic if the end of nuclear deterrence were to be followed by a proliferation of the nuclear threat.

And another terrible risk is now recognized: the possession of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-State terrorist groups. The smuggling of nuclear material is no longer only a fear, but also a frightening reality. When a significant quantity of weapons-grade material is seized by authorities, it is virtually certain that other movements of contraband are under way and can emerge in the hands of those who believe themselves beyond the reach of national and international authority.

In this context, the Non-Proliferation Treaty provides an infrastructure for arms limitation and disarmament. It had a critical impact on the initiation and successful completion of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) I and II talks.

At its unprecedented Summit Meeting of 31 January 1992, the United Nations Security Council declared that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction constitutes a threat to international security. This declaration reinforced the resolve of the international community to consolidate the non-proliferation regime.

It is clear that all elements of the regime are interconnected -- the NPT, the ban on chemical weapons, the ban on biological and toxin weapons, and efforts to curtail conventional weapons.

As today's conference pursues a solution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, three issues demand attention:

First, we must enhance security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States through cooperative security arrangements.

Second, we must seek to advance nuclear disarmament.

And third, we must address concerns regarding access to uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The question of security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States has been debated since the 1960s, when the NPT was being negotiated. Security Council resolution 255 of 1968 addressed this issue. A satisfactory solution has not yet been found.

Any solution must recognize the need of the non-nuclear-weapon States for legally binding international security assurances. I take note, in this connection, of the security assurances resolution adopted by the Security Council on 11 April 1995. Further steps are needed.

In disarmament, there have been major accomplishments. Since the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty entered into force in 1988, thousands of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles have been eliminated and an entire class of weapons systems has been taken out of commission. Thousands more tactical nuclear arms have been withdrawn and dismantled. In the two START Treaties, agreement has been reached to remove more than 17,000 nuclear weapons from missiles and bombers.

In addition, solutions have been found to the problems of the nuclear weapons on the territories of the successor states of the former Soviet Union. Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine are full parties to the NPT and are contributing to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime.

Thanks to these positive trends, further opportunities exist. The question of a comprehensive nuclear-test ban first appeared on the agenda of the General Assembly in 1957. Its achievement would significantly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and would help to prevent the further expansion of the qualitative arms race.

Progress is being made at the Conference on Disarmament towards a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). I urge the negotiating parties to take into account the desire of the international community for an early conclusion of the Treaty.

An Ad Hoc Committee has been established by the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate an end to the production of fissile material for weapons purposes. This, together with a Test Ban Treaty, would represent a very major step forward in the implementation of Article VI of the NPT.

The third principal issue to be considered is the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful and legitimate purposes.

Technology transfer continues to arouse concerns among suppliers and clients. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is working directly with Member States to improve the physical protection of nuclear materials and to improve State systems of accounting and control. The IAEA is continuing its critical effort to develop a radiation safety infrastructure and to develop a database on illicit trafficking.

In order to ensure the best possible coordination, I have established a Working Group within the Secretariat to monitor developments and to maintain liaison between the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is the only multilateral legal instrument that commits States to negotiations for an early end to the nuclear-arms race, and to nuclear disarmament. It is the only instrument that recognizes the right of parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It is the only instrument that provides safeguards to make the peaceful use of nuclear energy a reality.

As you, the States parties to this Conference, deliberate and decide, national security issues clearly will be of concern. As you consider all the factors, you should bear in mind that your decision can affect the structure of international peace and security.

As you begin your deliberations, let us pay tribute to those who have already taken difficult decisions. I salute the pioneering declarations of the Organization of African Unity, of the Non-Aligned Movement, and of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

The South Pacific Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty, during the 10 years of its existence, has fully proved its beneficial influence in the vast area where it operates. Recently, steps have been taken to consolidate the regime established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Decisive progress is also being made on the drafting of an African nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. Its finalization is close.

In the region of the Middle East, the peace process provides the context for the parties to a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. I appeal to the parties in the Middle East to take tangible steps to free the entire region from weapons of mass destruction.

As we shape our vision of the future, let us recall a commitment the world made 17 years ago. The Tenth Special Session of the General Assembly (30 June 1978) called for an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and for their ultimate total elimination. Since that time many Member States have adopted policies in support of this great objective. Decisions made at this conference will be crucial to maintain this momentum.

The most safe, sure and swift way to deal with the threat of nuclear arms is to do away with them in every regard. This should be our vision of the future. No more testing. No more production. No more sales or transfers. Reduction and destruction of all nuclear weapons and the means to make them should be humanity's great common cause.

This Conference can mark the beginning of a new phase in arms limitation and disarmament, and a major stride towards a world free from nuclear weapons. It can pave the way to redirecting the vast sums of money now spent on armaments towards the development that can ensure lasting peace.

By assuring the security of generations to come, the international community can rise to the challenges of a new era. By acting with courage, determination, and vision, we can testify to our faith in the future. We can build a future of peace like that foreseen by the great philosopher al-Farabi in his vision of Al Madina Al Fadila, "the virtuous city". It can be a virtuous city of all the world.

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NOTE: The address by the Secretary-General of the United Nations is also in the Summary Records, document No. NPT/CONF.1995/SR.1.