31 May 2011

World Must Stay Fixed on Ultimate Objective of General and Complete Disarmament; Deterrence Only Invites Endless Arms Races, Says Secretary-General

31 May 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

World Must Stay Fixed on Ultimate Objective of General and Complete Disarmament;


Deterrence Only Invites Endless Arms Races, Says Secretary-General


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the conference on “Promoting the Global Instruments of Non-proliferation and Disarmament:  The United Nations and the Nuclear Challenge”, in New York, today, 31 May: 

It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this very important seminar, [to which] I have been very committed.  Ambassador [Tsuneo] Nishida introduced me as the first Secretary-General to visit Hiroshima, only after 65 years of the first atomic bomb dropped in any part of the world.  I am sure that I will be recorded as the first Secretary-General to visit the Semipalatinsk nuclear test ground in Kazakhstan.  Then, I think the first Secretary-General to visit Chernobyl.  So I have been trying to send out a strong message by seeing for myself the consequences of nuclear weapons.  That has given me [a] very convincing power whenever I meet with leaders.

Let me first begin by congratulating the Permanent Missions of Japan, Poland and Turkey for hosting this timely conference.  And I would like to thank the Stimson Center for their help in organizing this event — and the Japan Society for welcoming us here.

Disarmament and non-proliferation are among my highest priorities.  The reason is simple and clear:  Progress in eliminating nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is more essential than ever.  In our increasingly interdependent world, weapons-related technologies and materials flow more readily and easily across borders.  And, in such a world, the use of such weapons anywhere jeopardizes security everywhere.

I am proud of the active role played by the United Nations and all of you.  One year ago, we celebrated the successful conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference — a first in 10 years.  Yet, despite that success, we must face facts.  More than 65 years after the first nuclear bomb, the world still lives under a nuclear shadow.  The challenges posed by nuclear weapons have evolved in new and varied forms.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Let me address five specific areas for focus.  First, strengthening the NPT — the cornerstone of the world's nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.  The United Nations has consistently been promoting the key goals of the NPT relating to disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  And I have been striving to implement the mandates from the 2010 Review Conference. 

For example, I have been consulting with Member States regarding an international conference to be held in 2012, next year, on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.  I am encouraged by the entry into force of the new START [Strategic Arms Reduction] Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States.  I also look forward to the dialogue among the P-5 countries on enhanced transparency and verification.

Second, advancing the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.  If “global instruments” are to truly deserve this designation, they must not only achieve universal membership, but full compliance by States parties with their commitments.  The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) should be brought into force without further delay.  I have suggested next year, 2012, as a target date when we will be able to see the effect of the CTBT come into force.  To sustain the current political momentum, I will convene, this September, the Seventh Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, in New York.

Additional legal instruments are needed to address the grave challenges posed by fissile materials and to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.  

The international rule of law must also extend to conventional arms.  And, of course, we cannot address rule of law issues without touching on the work of the Conference on Disarmament.  Last September, I convened a high-level meeting to revitalize the work of the Conference.  And earlier this month, I wrote an op-ed that focused exclusively on this subject.  Let me make it clear.  Where Government and civil society initiatives are on the move, the Conference on Disarmament has remained stagnant during the last 12 years.  The credibility of this body is at risk. 

When I addressed the Conference earlier this year, I warned the members that if [they] do not [do their] job properly and if [they] just continue this way, then, not only is [their] credibility at stake, but Member States may need to find some alternative place to discuss these nuclear issues.  That is one of the strongest warnings that I have made on any issue and [to] anybody.  The future of the Conference is in the hands of Member States.  But the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda is too important to let this forum decline into irrelevancy, as States consider other negotiating arenas.  I hope the Conference will reach an agreement on a programme of work, including immediate negotiations of a fissile material cut-off treaty, without delay.

Third, strengthening the role of the General Assembly and the Security Council.  The Security Council should build on its September 2009 summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.  I call on the Council to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament every year.  Council-imposed sanctions play a significant role in non-proliferation efforts.  I am pleased that this subject will be a focus of your deliberations here at this conference.  The General Assembly, for its part, could forge closer links between disarmament and other challenges on its agenda.  After all, disarmament complements efforts to tackle so many other important global challenges, including poverty and climate change. 

Fourth, focusing greater attention on nuclear terrorism and nuclear security.  I welcome the Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the 1540 (2009) Committee until April 2021.  I am pleased that last year’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington recognized the importance of promoting universal adherence to and effective implementation of multilateral instruments.  As depository of the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, I stand ready to convene an international conference.  And I look forward to using the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul to advance this fight. 

Finally, let me touch on nuclear safety concerns.  Also in September, I will convene a high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security.  This will build on preceding events, including the third session of Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety.  To focus our minds on a concrete outcome to the September meeting, I launched a United Nations system-wide study on the implications of the nuclear accident at Fukushima.  The upcoming report will address the challenge from a number of angles — including the environment, health, food security, sustainable development and the nexus between nuclear safety and nuclear security.

I have shared my thoughts at some length about measures requiring our urgent action.  However, we must also stay fixed on our ultimate objective — general and complete disarmament, with nuclear disarmament as our most urgent priority.  Deterrence only invites endless arms races, while perpetuating risks of catastrophic accidents, and increasing the threat of proliferation. 

All Member States share a common interest in building a world in which the use of nuclear weapons is not simply improbable, but impossible.  I pledge my full commitment to liberating humanity from the terror of weapons of mass destruction.  That is why I enthusiastically commend the efforts of Member States and civil society to achieve a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free world.  Together, we can realize this great goal.  Thank you.

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