Still Absent Agreement on Agenda, Disarmament Commission Continues Debate, with Speakers Questioning Commission’s Role after 12 Unproductive Years

4 April 2012

Still Absent Agreement on Agenda, Disarmament Commission Continues Debate, with Speakers Questioning Commission’s Role after 12 Unproductive Years

4 April 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2012 Substantive Session

322nd & 323rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Still Absent Agreement on Agenda, Disarmament Commission Continues Debate


with Speakers Questioning Commission’s Role after 12 Unproductive Years

Despite the inability of the Disarmament Commission by the close of day three of its session today to adopt a substantive agenda, it continued its general debate along with informal rounds of talks aimed at framing its item on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in language satisfactory to all.

Intent on reviving the long-hobbled institution and putting formal meeting time to good use, Commission Chair Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru) had launched the debate late yesterday, absent agreement on a full agenda.  Speakers today voiced concern that the value of the Commission, which works in three-year cycles on three or four items that include issues of nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons, had been obscured by 12 unproductive years, which had resulted in no concrete recommendations — non-binding as those are.

The representative of Sweden made the point that the Disarmament Commission was never meant to be a negotiating forum.  However, the way it had been working did not reflect that basic fact.  As the Commission was often thought of as the “think tank” of the disarmament machinery, it would be appropriate if some constructive thinking emerged from its work.

Norway’s delegate agreed, adding that the Commission should not “import” the difficulties from other parts of the United Nations machinery; it could and should do better.  He questioned the notion that there was a lack of political will to move forward, noting, among others, the growing impatience on how to eliminate the most destructive weapons ever created.  The Commission could be used to achieve that goal.  At the start of its three-year cycle, it would not be possible to agree on specific recommendations, “but at least, let us start the conversation”.

However, Indonesia’s representative, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the impasse was due to a lack of political will and inflexible positions, particularly on the part of certain nuclear-weapon States.  He called on Member States to exercise reinvigorated political will and flexibility to enable the Commission to fulfil its role.

It was clear, concurred Egypt’s delegate, that the problems were not related to the working methods, but to the lack of political will, in the absence of which, the Commission must follow a steady course “between shared concerns on the one hand and joint aspirations on the other”.  It should avoid ambiguity in identifying its agenda items and concentrate its deliberations on an issue that left no room for different interpretations, namely effective measures to fulfil the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”.

Above all, said Brazil’s delegate, “we must refrain from entering into blame games about who has caused this state of affairs”, adding her voice to the need to find common ground leading to substantive and effective results.  In that, she stressed that “nuclear disarmament must be our utmost priority”, with the total elimination of nuclear weapons the “clear and unconditional” goal.

“We just need to act,” urged Australia’s representative.  It was not only a question of political will, but of the “individual responsibility of those in this room” to be productive.  She encouraged delegates to begin to act by adopting an agenda for the current session.  “We have to move on from items that have not garnered success and reframe them”.  For example, there were many ways of calling for “a nuclear-weapon-free world”, and they all meant the same thing.

Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Benin, Kazakhstan, France, Cuba, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Switzerland, United States, Nigeria (in his national capacity), Nepal, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and India.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply were made by the representatives of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Disarmament Commission will meet again at 11 a.m. Thursday, 5 April, to continue its general debate.


The United Nations Disarmament Commission met today to continue its work, due to conclude 20 April.  For further information, please see Press Release DC/3336.


FIKRY CASSIDY (Indonesia), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, regretted that the Commission had been unable to reach agreement on recommendations on its two agenda items during the past two cycles, owing to a lack of political will and inflexible positions, particularly on the part of certain nuclear-weapon States, despite the Movement’s constructive role and concrete proposals, especially in the working group on nuclear disarmament.  He called on Member States to exercise reinvigorated political will and flexibility to enable the Commission to fulfil its role.  Despite the ongoing stalemate, he acknowledged the contributions the deliberative body had made in the past, such as reaching consensus on guidelines for establishing nuclear-weapon-free-zones and for conventional arms control, and he called for a results-oriented session in 2012.

The Movement, he said, reaffirmed its principled position that nuclear disarmament was the highest priority and that nuclear non-proliferation efforts should be “parallel to simultaneous efforts aiming at nuclear disarmament”.  It stressed the need to start negotiations on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time, expressing concern over the slow pace of progress in that regard, particularly by the nuclear Powers.  In support of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he demanded that Israel, the only country in the region that had neither joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor declared its intention to do so, renounce nuclear weapons, accede to that Treaty without delay, and place promptly all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  The unsafeguarded nuclear capabilities of Israel “are a matter of serious concern for regional and international peace and security,” he said.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning with the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the important role of the Disarmament Commission as the sole specialized deliberative body of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  The Group was committed to the principle of nuclear disarmament as the highest priority, as well as to the related issue of non-proliferation in all its aspects.  Efforts aimed at non-proliferation should run parallel to those aimed at disarmament.  In that respect, he reaffirmed the application of the principles of transparency, irreversibility and verifiability by nuclear-weapons States.  Africa proudly remained a nuclear-weapon-free zone, he said, and was proud of that “noble status”.

The Group expressed its concern over the “lack of real progress” by nuclear-weapon States to move towards the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  He called, in that respect, for more flexibility, so agreement could be reached on recommendations during the current session of work.  He called further for implementation of the 1995 action plan on the Middle East, and strongly urged the Secretary-General and the co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution, among other actors, to exert all efforts towards the convening of a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  As multilateral deliberations remained the most effective course of action, he said, the Group was hopeful that the current session would move towards progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects — what he termed “essential ingredients for real development”.

Past recommendations issued by the Commission were indications that the body could, indeed, be effective.  The African Group reiterated the importance of the Conference on Disarmament as the sole negotiating body of the United Nations disarmament machinery, and said that its work should be intensified through reinvigorated political will.  Universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was critical, he said, and urged the early entry into force of that Treaty.  The Group further stressed the need to sustain efforts towards strengthening debates within the Commission, including on conventional weapons, adding that any discussion of conventional arms must respect the right of countries to manufacture and import arms for purposes of defence.  The Group appealed for a “sustained and meaningful dialogue” during the current session, he concluded.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) recalled that the Commission’s 1999 adoption of a report with guidelines on the establishment of nuclear-weapons-free zones and on conventional arms control/limitation and disarmament had been the last time that the body had been able to agree on substantive recommendations.  However, she said, “we must refrain from entering into blame games about who has caused this state of affairs”.  Instead, the international community must attempt to find the common ground needed to produce substantive and effective results in the area of disarmament.  In that regard, Brazil believed that debate during the Commission’s last session had been excessively general, making it more difficult to reach concrete results.

“Nuclear disarmament must be our utmost priority”, she said, adding that the total elimination of nuclear weapons must be a “clear and unconditional” goal.  “The role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines is no longer justifiable, if ever they were,” she said.  While her delegation recognized the importance of unilateral and bilateral initiatives, it believed that it was only through multilateral concerted effort that nuclear weapons would be eliminated in an irreversible, transparent and verifiable manner.  The time was ripe for the beginning of discussions on the principles and elements of a nuclear weapon convention, she added, and the Commission could help in that endeavour.  Negative security assurances must be given to non-nuclear States, and a comprehensive multilateral agreement to that end was needed.  In addition, another step in the direction of nuclear disarmament would be the negotiation within the Conference on Disarmament of a verifiable treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, which must take into consideration existing stocks and prohibit future production.

JEAN-FRANCIS R. ZINSOU (Benin), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the African Group, as well as that of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Commission remained among the most appropriate institutions for in-depth consideration of disarmament.  However, the past 12 sessions had been disappointing, and risked the Commission’s very existence.  The body, crucially, offered Member States a forum in which to deliberate the key challenges to mankind.  Leaving that challenge at status quo would lead inexorably to the persistence of an arms race and the gobbling up of enormous resources, to the detriment of socio-economic development.  Thus, everything must be done to advance the disarmament agenda, including, if necessary, a “small-steps policy”, which would allow for incremental measures pending agreement on all points on the agenda.

To do that, he said, the Commission’s working methods must again be reviewed.  The Commission should refocus its objective and set a small number of priorities on which each session would deliberate.  It should, thus, define specific areas where it could be conclusive.  The Chair’s consultations had paved the way for possible agreement on essential matters, and could lead to agreement on an agenda, uncluttered by too many items.  That would allow for in-depth and productive deliberations.  He was in favour of maintaining the two traditional areas, namely nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons.  He would make the case to convene a summit on nuclear security, and Benin also firmly supported the holding this year of a conference on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.  With the participation of all States in that region, that could be a large step towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  He drew attention to the suffering of the African continent, owing to the circulation of small arms and light weapons.

ISRAIL U. TILEGEN ( Kazakhstan) said that the Chair’s letter of 27 March was “illuminating” and “set a different tone” for the new three-year cycle of work.  Kazakhstan endorsed both items suggested in that letter.  At the current juncture, it was crucial that the recommendations emerging from the Commission’s deliberations make the body an effective entity of the disarmament machinery.  Kazakhstan was also committed to discussions on improving and reorganizing the Commission’s methods of work, and to ensuring that recommendations made in the last cycle were implemented “so that new wheels are not reinvented”.  As a first step, the Commission should review the past resolutions of the General Assembly, and other disarmament forums which spell out how the working methods of the Commission could be strengthened.  The Chair would be in the best position to prepare a short note on some of the salient recommendations from the past for use as a guideline.

There should be an equal focus on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and conventional arms and confidence-building measures.  He hoped that a “middle way” could be found with regard to each of those issues, and that a disarmament decade would be pursued.  As a first step in disarmament and non-proliferation, Kazakhstan called for universalizing the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and also the strengthening the verification mechanism of the Agreement and its Additional Protocols.  Kazakhstan emphasized the critical urgency of negative security assurances to be granted to nuclear-weapons-free zones, and was committed to working with others in the region to guarantee the physical security of nuclear materials and equipment to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism.  With the approval and supervision of the IAEA, Kazakhstan would host a nuclear fuel bank.  As a goal towards disarmament, President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev had proposed a Universal Declaration for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World as a first step towards such a Convention aimed at nuclear abolition.

Kazakhstan reiterated that an effective Conference on Disarmament was a “sine qua non”.  Every effort was needed to agree on its substantive work programme, failing which the General Assembly should consider reorganizing the disarmament machinery.  In addition, the international community had no option but to work towards adoption of the treaty text at the forthcoming arms trade treaty Conference in July.  A registry of all weapons with proper marking and classification would provide transparency, which would go a long way in building mutual trust and confidence.  The regulation of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons should be included in either the arms trade treaty, or in a set of legally binding instruments.

CÉLINE MERCIER-JURGENSEN (France), associating herself with the European Union, outlined a number of successes made in the field of disarmament in recent years, including at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, the new Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), progress made in the preparatory process of the arms trade treaty, and others.  All those signs of success showed that the international community could indeed make progress in non-proliferation, as long as an “open” state of mind prevailed.  Mobilization was necessary in all areas, including nuclear, biological, conventional and ballistic, among others.  That approach should also be at the heart of the Commission’s work during the current cycle.

The approach suggested by the Commission’s Chair, namely one in which there were two agenda items, was useful.  France was receptive to that idea and to proposals made by Member States in that regard.  As a new cycle of work lay before the Commission, it was the responsibility of all States to do their part.  The “P5” States were ready to assume their responsibility, in that regard.  France had organized the first P5 follow-up meeting to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in June of last year.  In that vein, the delegation welcomed the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty by Indonesia and Guatemala, and asked those States that had not done so to ratify it.  She also called upon all concerned States to impose a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, as France had done.  All States should contribute to disarmament and create an environment of security, she said, which meant ending proliferation, above all.  She thought, in that respect, of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, she added.

France supported efforts for the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East.  The appointment last fall of a facilitator for that process, and of a host country for the upcoming conference, were steps forward.  She stressed that the conference should take place in 2012, as planned.  Turning finally to conventional weapons, France welcomed the “positive and constructive atmosphere” that had prevailed to date in the work towards an arms trade treaty.  Such an atmosphere would allow the conference to begin in July in a spirit of cooperation and transparency.  She hoped that the same effort would be brought to the issue of small arms and light weapons, whose illicit trafficking and excessive accumulation affected international security and stability and threatened the development of many countries around the world.

Ms. HERNANDEZ ( Cuba) said the lack of agreement in the Commission was not an isolated phenomenon.  While the General Assembly continued to adopt scores of resolutions on disarmament, those were not put into effect, and many years had elapsed without substantive negotiations.  That had also prevented the Commission from reaching agreement on a substantive agenda.  Cuba supported the optimization of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  However, it could not share the priorities of several delegations, which questioned the relevance of the Commission, or which ascribed the lack of results to its working methods.  That was not the real obstacle.  The Commission’s mandate not only provided for deliberations, but called for it to issue specific recommendations.  It would be a failure, therefore, and a further sign of a lack of commitment to disarmament if the countries here were unable to attain tangible results.  The possibility of changing the status quo “is in our hands”.  Cuba fully supported the Non-Aligned Movement’s proposals on the agenda for the Commission’s next cycle.

She said that the lack of agreement on possible elements for a fourth disarmament decade was an example of the lack of political resolve.  Results on the subject could be obtained based on the progress made in past years.  Such a decade could mobilize international efforts to provide a comprehensive response to new and emerging threats.  As for the first item on the Commission’s agenda, he reiterated his full support for the Movement’s historical position that nuclear disarmament was, and must remain, the highest priority.  The relevance of nuclear disarmament “cannot be sidelined or downplayed in any way”.  Nuclear-weapon States were under the legal obligation, not only to enter into negotiations aimed at general and complete disarmament under strict control, but to conclude them.  Addressing the non-proliferation issue must not be based on double standards, or be guided by the privileged club of members who sought to deny the rights of countries of the South to the pacific use of nuclear energy.  Nuclear deterrence doctrines must be set aside, once and for all.  The Movement’s proposal to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2025, at the latest, deserved consideration.

NICLAS KVARNSTRÖM ( Sweden), who was also Vice-Chair of the Commission, said that the Disarmament Commission was never meant to be a negotiating forum. However, the way it had been working did not reflect that basic fact.  As the Commission was often thought of as the “think tank” of the disarmament machinery, it would be appropriate if some constructive thinking emerged from its work.  “It is time to have a discussion about how we go about our business”, he said, adding that the body had an obligation to the United Nations and to global opinion to find more constructive ways to work.  For that reason, Sweden intended to present some thoughts on that topic for the consideration of partners ahead of the three-year cycle.  It was within the remit of the Disarmament Commission itself to discuss its own methods and how it addressed its mandate, notwithstanding calls for a special session to address the disarmament machinery as a whole.

The problem of paralysis was, of course, not exclusive to the Commission, but characterized much of the disarmament machinery, perhaps nowhere more obviously than the Conference on Disarmament.  Sweden was among those who felt deep frustration over that deadlock.  Of the issues on the agenda on which the delegation wished to see substantive negotiations, the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was the foremost.  “We need to put a legal cap on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes, as well as to deal appropriately with previously produced stocks,” he said.  Sweden would also be ready to move forward on other topics on the agenda.  Almost 70 years since the devastating effects of nuclear weapons were demonstrated for the first time, nuclear weapons were still a major issue, he said, adding that a recent report estimated that $1 billion would be spent on such weapons in the coming decade.

In that context, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system was critical.  The international community was faced with many challenges in proliferation, including, but not limited to, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Sweden remained concerned about their continued refusal to comply with the IAEA safeguards system, and encouraged them to do so.  In addition, he said, the spread of conventional weapons threatened both security and development.  Sweden looked forward to a successful conference on an arms trade treaty in July, and to the creation of a treaty that could be signed by as many countries as possible.  Later in 2012, there would also be a comprehensive meeting on Small Arms and Light Weapons.  Sweden hoped that the Commission could find a way to become “part of the solution, and not part of the problem”, he concluded.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) expressed his country’s resolve to create a world free from nuclear weapons and its commitment to its obligations under article VI of the NPT.  While touting the United States-Russian Federation Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) as “an important milestone in nuclear disarmament”, he said “Russia and the United States are not the only States that bear the burden of ‘nuclear responsibility’” and he urged all countries with military nuclear capabilities to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty parties in the disarmament process.

Completely eliminating nuclear weapons was “possible only through a phased complex approach, through maintaining strategic stability and strictly adhering to the principle of equal and indivisible security for all,” he said.  He listed factors that might negatively impact strategic stability, including plans to implement a “global prompt strike” system, the accelerated and unrestricted development of a global missile defence system; lack of considerable progress in ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; unwillingness to ban the placement of weapons in outer space; and qualitative and quantitative conventional arms imbalances.

He stressed that the NPT was the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and international security, adding that the decisions of the 2010 NPT Review Conference were a reliable benchmark for further efforts.  He touched on a wide range of issues, including nuclear-weapon-free zones, safeguards of nuclear facilities, peaceful use of nuclear energy and trade of small arms and light weapons.  On the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, he expressed concern about the failure to agree on the programme of work and resume negotiations.  He insisted that the Conference should be preserved as a leading multilateral forum on disarmament and non-proliferation.  “We are ready for further consultations in order to find a compromise on the CD programme of work that would be acceptable to all,” he said, with an eye towards holding a substantive discussion of a treaty on preventing weapons from being placed in outer space.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, for the Disarmament Commission to successfully carry out its specialized deliberative functions, political will needed to be stronger, with the aim to achieve an agreed vision towards the body’s future activities.  However, in the absence of such political will — and with the subsequent inability to agree on agenda items for the current three-year cycle of work — Egypt believed that the Commission must follow a steady course “between shared concerns on the one hand and joint aspirations on the other”.  Although the Disarmament Commission had dealt with the subject of its working methods in 2006 and in 2009, he said, those discussions had not yielded sufficient measures to allow the body to officially fulfil its mandate.  It was clear, in those discussions, that the problems encountered in the Commission were not related to its methods of work.  Rather, the main obstacle was the stalemate resulting from the lack of political will of some Member States to achieve any progress on matters related to nuclear disarmament.  “The question is really how to mobilize the political will to address the threats and challenges in the disarmament field, particularly in nuclear disarmament issues,” he said.

The Non-Aligned Movement, which Egypt currently chaired, considered that nuclear disarmament should remain the top priority.  In that regard, there was much commitment in the four action plans that were adopted by the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference that should be translated into further agreements.  The fourth action plan of the 2010 review conference, for example, focused on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.  Accordingly, Egypt reaffirmed that the letter and spirit of the four action plans adopted by the review conference in 2010 should provide sufficient guidance during the current session of the Disarmament Commission.  That required that the Commission issue concrete recommendations on effective measures by the nuclear-weapon States to fulfil the implementation of their obligations undertaken in the 2010 action plans, he stressed.

The Commission should always avoid ambiguity in identifying its agenda items and concentrate its deliberations on an issue that left no room for different interpretations, namely the issue of “effective measures to fulfil the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”.  Moreover, he said, the Commission could also deal with the issue of “effective measures to prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction”.  Regrettably, there were still efforts aimed at giving priority to non-proliferation, without achieving parallel progress in nuclear disarmament.  Within the overarching issue proposed by the Non-Aligned Movement — namely “recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” — the Commission should strive for more focused deliberation on nuclear disarmament issues.

KNUT LANGELAND ( Norway) said there was genuine concern among Member States about the state of affairs of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  Much attention had recently been devoted to how to revitalize multilateral approaches to arms control, so it made sense for the Disarmament Commission to devote time to that topic.  The functioning of the Commission deserved a closer look.  Unfortunately, valuable time had already been lost.  The Commission was a deliberative forum and not a negotiating body and, thus, it should not import the difficulties from other parts of the United Nations machinery.  Indeed, it could and should do better.  Some said the current standstill was due to a lack of political will.  That might be so, but full use should be made of this forum to identify the differences and find ways to overcome them.  He said a question mark should be put to the notion that there was a lack of political will and resolve to move forward, noting the adoption of the 2010 NPT action plan, as well as the growing impatience on how to get rid of the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever created.

He said the Disarmament Commission could be used to achieve that objective.  It could also play a useful role in identifying ways to enhance confidence-building measures, which could lead to further progress in the conventional weapons field.  He had seen both political will and resolve when Member States had negotiated and adopted legally binding bans against anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.  It was possible to move forward and achieve effective multilateral treaties.  So, the question was whether multilateral bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission would be able to translate the political will of the overwhelming majority of Member States by advancing the goals.  There was a risk that those two institutions could be marginalized, so avenues should be considered to move forward.  At the beginning of the Commission’s three-year cycle, it would not be possible to agree on specific recommendations, “but at least, let us start the conversation”.

CLAIRE PAULIEN ELIAS ( Australia) said that the Chairman’s approach had given her delegation “genuine hope” that the Commission’s deadlock of the past 12 years could be put behind it.  Australia had a substantial history in active engagement in non-proliferation and disarmament, she said, including in bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to the General Assembly.  Australia had a “practical and realistic” approach, and hoped to continue it in this Commission.  In its view, the Disarmament Commission was very important, as it could facilitate non-binding thinking on disarmament, non-proliferation and other goals.  “We have to move on from items that have not garnered success and reframe them”, she said, addressing topics that had been considered by the Commission in the past.  Australia supported many of the proposals made for the agenda of the current session; there were many ways of calling for “a nuclear-weapons-free world”, she said, and they all meant the same thing.

All States should feel proud of the results of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, she said, especially the very important matter relating to the Middle East.  There was an important responsibility to continue the momentum from that review conference, but it was not the responsibly of a handful of States alone.  Additionally, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty was a long-standing goal of Australia.  In that respect, Indonesia’s leadership was a model for the eight remaining States required for the Treaty’s entry into force.  The delegation was profoundly disappointed and frustrated that the Conference on Disarmament had failed to adopt a programme of work.  That failure “really drives home” the need for the Commission to take advantage of its flexible nature, she said, asking it to find ways to urge the Conference on Disarmament “to get back to work”.

Australia currently chaired the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network, a group of organizations responsible for implementing safeguards and best practices in the Asia-Pacific region, she continued.  Turning next to conventional weapons, she said that in many places around the world, armed violence was fuelled by the availability of illicit conventional arms. She called, in that regard, for a “strong and robust” arms trade treaty that included small arms and light weapons, and called on all States to ensure that the arms trade treaty negotiation proceeded in a sprit of trust and goodwill.  “We just need to act”, she said of the current deadlock.  It was not just a question of political will, but of the “individual responsibility of those in this room” to be productive.  She urged delegates to begin to act by adopting an agenda for the current session.

Mr. BURNS ( United Kingdom) said his country was committed only to maintaining the credible minimum nuclear deterrent and had ceased production of material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices.  The 2010 NPT Review Conference was an important milestone for the long-term vision of a world without nuclear weapons and had provided a map towards that goal.  His country was working with its partners to capitalize on those achievements.  He outlined some of the elements of the United Kingdom’s recent strategic review, including the announcement that it would reduce its number of submarine-based warheads from 48 to 40.  In June 2011, it had announced that the programme for implementing those warhead reductions had begun; those would be completed in the mid-2020s.  It had also announced new strong security assurances that the United Kingdom would not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT.  In September 2009, it had hosted an unprecedented conference for the “P5” to discuss confidence-building measures towards nuclear disarmament.  The Paris Conference in 2011 had set in train new initiatives on which the “P5” would collaborate, including a working group on nuclear weapons definitions and terminology.

He highlighted work under way with Norway for the past five years to verify nuclear-warhead dismantlement.  The United Kingdom today was hosting a meeting of five nuclear-weapon States on that initiative.  It believed that increasing transparency and development of technological and military solutions to the practical challenges of disarmament were vital to tangible progress towards a world without nuclear weapons.  He looked forward to progress in the multilateral arena and increased trust.  His country shared the widespread frustration at the lack of movement in the Conference on Disarmament.  It was committed to a fissile material cut-off treaty, and it sought to cap the amount readily available.  With its international partners, the United Kingdom had made clear that any concerns should be addressed during substantive negotiations.  He also expected the entry into force of the CTBT.  On non-proliferation, his country supported full implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), and felt universal adherence to the IAEA Additional Protocol was fundamental to provide assurance that nuclear technologies were being used peacefully.

In the conventional weapons sphere, he favoured a robust and legally binding arms trade treaty in 2012 covering all conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons and ammunition.  Such an instrument should contain strong provisions on human rights and international humanitarian law.  The United Kingdom sought the treaty’s wide membership and global coverage in order for it to be truly effective.  It was a crucial time for the treaty’s conclusion.

PHAM VINH QUANG ( Viet Nam) said that recent positive developments showed that there were indeed commitments and political will to pursue the disarmament agenda.  Still, the challenges were huge:  there was a nuclear stockpile capable of destroying the entire world many times over, and nuclear proliferation was undergoing new and complex developments.  Regrettably, the Commission had failed to achieve results in the past two sessions.  To break the deadlock, Member States must demonstrate flexibility and redouble their efforts to reach agreement on the agenda, in support of the Commission’s disarmament aims and especially towards the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.  Given the exceptionally catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons, the only absolute guarantee against nuclear war was their total elimination.  Negotiations on nuclear disarmament must begin without further delay, to avert such a war and halt the arms race.

He said his country valued the NPT as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, and it urged nuclear-weapon States to implement the set of 64 concrete actions contained in the outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference.  Viet Nam also reaffirmed the importance of the Conference on Disarmament, and called on that body to agree on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work as soon as possible.  It was crucial to start negotiations on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time frame.  Also critical was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  Pending its entry into force, all States should maintain moratoriums on nuclear-weapon test explosions.  At the same time, he reiterated the right of all States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Viet Nam had acceded to all major multilateral treaties banning mass destruction weapons and been an active member of many United Nations disarmament bodies.

SERGE BAVAUD ( Switzerland) said the disarmament forums no longer appeared capable of providing answers to the challenges facing them because many of the nations involved gave precedence to questions of national security, to the detriment of global considerations.  He stressed the need for an in-depth review of the whole disarmament machinery, or for a new approach in this area.  “We consider it imperative for UNDC to focus its attention as of this year on the way it conducts its operations,” he said, adding that this point should be included in the agenda.

He also noted that the stalemate in the Commission came in part from having two themes in its agenda, namely nuclear disarmament and conventional disarmament.  “The option of adopting a single annual theme on the Commission’s agenda warrants consideration,” he said.  Switzerland also suggested that the Commission should focus its action within the field of nuclear disarmament on negative security assurances, nuclear-weapon-free zones, or on non-strategic nuclear weapons.  On conventional weapons, the Commission could concentrate on the issue of verification mechanisms or of confidence-building measures on the regional level, he added.

The Commission was actually “a most appropriate body” for addressing the issue of the United Nations disarmament apparatus in its entirety, he said.  Therefore, it should examine not only its own function, but that of other bodies.  And referring to the Conference on Disarmament, he said the body was the cornerstone of the disarmament machinery and was still today the single permanent multilateral forum for disarmament negotiation, and its incapacity for 15 years to undertake any substantial work was a concern.  He noted that the outcome of the Commission’s 2012 session and its assessment will serve as the basis for the General Assembly to make the decisions called for to tackle the stalemate that blocks the disarmament machinery.

JOHN A. BRAVACO ( United States) touched on some of the “activities, achievements, and commitments” of his country in the field of arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament.  He recalled that, working together in 2010, NPT States parties had achieved agreement on an ambitious and forward-looking action plan.  As President Barack Obama had said in Prague, the basic bargain of that Treaty was sound:  countries with nuclear weapons would move towards disarmament, and countries without them would not acquire them, and all countries could access peaceful nuclear energy.  He noted that implementation of the new START between his country and the Russian Federation was “well under way”.  Highlighting a number of meetings in connection with the call made at the 2010 NPT review for nuclear-weapon States to, among other things, reduce the risk of nuclear war, build confidence, and increase transparency, he said the United States would soon host the next “P5 verification, transparency, and confidence-building conference”.

He stressed that a fissile material cut-off treaty “remains an absolutely essential step on the path to global nuclear disarmament”.  The reality of the situation was simply this:  the longer an effectively verifiable such treaty was delayed, or, more accurately, “denied”, the longer a world free of nuclear weapons would remain out of reach.  He, therefore, regretted that the Conference on Disarmament had not agreed to the recent compromise work programme, which would have advanced efforts towards such a treaty.  His delegation was consulting with its “P5” partners and others on the most appropriate next steps.  The United States also remained committed to the test-ban Treaty and the Administration was continuing its engagement with the Senate and the American public on the Treaty’s merits.  Nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties were an important part of the multilateral arms control and non-proliferation architecture, and he reviewed his country’s position on the existing such instruments.  Finally, the United States would work formally with the European Union and space-faring nations to advance an international code of conduct for outer-space activities.

ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria), aligning with statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the African Group, underscored the important role of the Disarmament Commission and commended the efforts of the Chair to provide a “rich platform” for the work of its coming session.  In that context, the Chair’s letter of 27 March had indicated the need to provide a “new lease” to the Commission, and had outlined measures needed to end the deadlock.  Nigeria called for constructive engagement of delegations on the issue of non-proliferation, and for such discussions to take place in good faith.  Moreover, it hoped to keep discussions structured on the “ethos of the United Nations”, in particular with a focus on the time before the deadlock began in 1999.

Nigeria was manifestly committed to compliance with all international instruments related to nuclear non-proliferation, he said; indeed, it had been an early signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  In that respect, Nigeria reaffirmed the application of the principles of irreversibility, transparency and verification.  It reiterated the need for Africa to remain a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and encouraged remaining States, those with reservations and, in particular, nuclear-weapon states, to sign the optional protocols to that Treaty.  Nigeria also underlined the need for negative security assurances to be given to non-nuclear-weapon States.

Continuing, he called for more flexibility without overstepping the interests of all Member States, and called on States, whose ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was needed for the instrument to enter into force, to do so without delay.  The end of all nuclear test explosions would contribute greatly to the aims of peace and security, he stressed.  Additionally, debates within the Commission needed to include conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons; in that vein, he viewed the inclusion of such weapons in the work of the Disarmament Commission as indicative of wide support for measures to rid the world of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  Finally, he stressed the need to strengthen regional centres for disarmament, so they could fully discharge their mandates.

AMRIT BAHADUR RAI ( Nepal), associating with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said Member States must not remain oblivious to the fact that the past 12 years of deliberations in the Disarmament Commission had not morphed into anything concrete.  Only an effective Commission could contribute to the noble goal of the maintenance of international peace and security with fewer armaments and more resources for the world’s people.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute had revealed an increase in the transfer of conventional weapons.  In light of the financial crisis, it was a hard and mind-boggling fact that global military spending had spiked, while achievement of the Millennium Development Goals remained grossly underfunded.  Diverting just a small percentage of global military spending would be enough to meet all the Development Goals.

He said that the notion of security encompassed dimensions far beyond the concept of military security and, thus, the scarce resources and unending scientific inventions should be utilized to address the problems of global hunger, poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.  Meanwhile, general and complete disarmament remained elusive.  He was convinced that the nuclear-weapon States “must lead from the front” with bold steps towards that goal.  He lauded the NPT action plan of 2010 and stressed that, in light of the CTBT’s essential role, it deserved universal adherence, including by all “Annex 2” Member States.  The signature and ratification of nuclear-armed States to treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones was also critical to give meaning to those efforts.  He underlined the importance of strengthening the United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament, and highlighted the activities of the one serving the Asia and Pacific region, based in Nepal.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that the recent narrative of positive trends in the international environment appears to be giving way to old expressions of lament and cynicism.  Any objective appraisement of these cyclical patterns of hope and despair would reveal that a genuine conducive international environment in disarmament emanated from actions, rather than words and through sincere efforts, not opportunism, he said.

He said that in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the trajectory was negative, as evidenced by adherence to the doctrines of nuclear use, as well as resistance by some nuclear-weapon States to foreswearing nuclear weapons; modernization of nuclear weapons; opposition to commencing multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament; violations of national and international non-proliferation obligations by some major Powers; and pursuit of selectivity, discrimination and double standards by major Powers in the area of non-proliferation, for commercial and strategic considerations.

“In our view, the reasons for impasse in the Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament are self-evident,” he said, referring to the foot-dragging by some nuclear-weapon States on the most important issue of nuclear disarmament and the conspicuous silence of their partners at this obstinacy, as well as the selective pursuit of non-proliferation and its use as a substitute to disarmament.  “Any solution to the current stalemate in the international disarmament machinery should be comprehensive and applicable to all aspects of this machinery, not just the issues that are of priority to some delegations”, he said, stressing that Pakistan strongly believed in the need to preserve this machinery that had been developed with consensus.

As for the deadlock in the Conference on the fissile material cut-off treaty, he said that consensus on those negotiations had eluded the Conference for 15 years.  For over a decade, the major Powers did not allow any consideration of that, or any other core agenda item.  Now, with sufficient stocks available, the treaty had become cost-free for some of the major Powers and hence the “mantra” about it being the next logical step.  For his part, any such treaty should address, clearly and comprehensively, the issue of the asymmetry of existing fissile material stocks.  Only in that way could it contribute to disarmament.

SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating his nation with the Non-Aligned Movement, said nuclear disarmament was the top priority.  It was also very true that under the signboard of so-called “world free of nuclear weapons” the modernization of nuclear weapons is pressing ahead to the possible extent of real wartime use in battle fields,” he pointed out.

The Missile Defence System development, which completely deviated from the legally binding bilateral framework of 2002, was having negative implications and undermining the balance of power between nuclear States, thereby gradually giving way to the potential for pre-emptive or first use of nuclear weapons, he said.  He added that, if practical steps were taken for the total elimination of nuclear weapons in a legally binding framework, as mankind desires, it would have a very positive impact on the eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

He said that the United States was driving the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of war by holding large-scale joint military exercises in “ South Korea” and the vicinity at an increased level.  He said “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” military drills conducted by the two countries mobilized more than 200,000 troops in order to demonstrate their power, and the operations were in figure, scale and nature aimed at making pre-emptive strikes and holding the position of hegemony in the region by containing the neighbouring countries.  He added that since the 1950s, “the United States has deployed over 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea in a forward position”.

He went on to single out the United States as “the major source” for destabilizing the peace and security in the Korean peninsula.  Calling on the United States to pull out its troops from “ South Korea”, he said the presence of the United States troops “played nothing but the role of imposing persistent division on one nation, making the North-South confrontation aggravated only, with increased danger of war, without any sign of involving itself in the process of reconciliation, cooperation and reunification”.  He added that “the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the lifetime intention of the great leader President Kim Il Sung”.

Mr. VIPUL ( India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, with its universal membership, the Disarmament Commission provided a unique platform for deliberation on disarmament issues.  India shared the disappointment that the Commission had not been able to reach consensus on its agenda items for the past decade, but recalled, nonetheless, that the body had seen some successes in the past.  During the last cycle of work, for example, there had been some progress on the items on the Commission’s agenda, even though consensus “had eluded us”.

He asked all parties to pursue a policy of “global non-discretionary disarmament”.  India, for its part, remained committed to the “non-violent world order” laid out in the RajivGandhiAction Plan of 1988, which set out a concrete road map to disarmament in a universal, time-bound, phased and verifiable manner.  “There is need for a meaningful dialogue among all States with nuclear weapons to build trust”, he said, as well as to increase restraints on the use of nuclear weapons, among other measures.  India was committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; in that respect, the threat of materials falling into the hands of terrorists had made the risks more dangerous.  The IAEA played a critical role in that regard.  India believed in a “credible minimum deterrent”.  It espoused a “no first use” approach, and likewise supported a global “no first use treaty”.

India also remained committed to a voluntary multilateral global moratorium on nuclear tests, and supported efforts for raising public awareness towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  The last cycle of the Disarmament Commission had included a draft declaration on the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade.  While, in 2012, that item might “look dated”, there was still a chance to see if consensus could be reached; the decade was important as it could set an “aspirational disarmament agenda”.  A step-by-step approach should be adopted, one that respected the rights of States to select confidence-building measures most applicable to their particular needs.  “It is up to us Member States to put the decisions we have taken into practice,” he concluded.

The representative of Indonesia informed the Committee of a change in the last sentence of paragraph 12 of the text of the statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, which concerned negative security assurances.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Republic of Korea, exercising his right of reply, said that, as always, the remarks of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were “inaccurate, unfounded, and unacceptable”.  First, he said, the representative called his country “ South Korea”, which was “irritatingly rude and impolite” and “totally against UN protocol”.  He asked the Chair to ensure that was rectified, but if “ North Korea” insisted on that, “we will do so as well”.

Continuing, he said that every country had a right to the peaceful use of outer space, such as a satellite launch, and the peaceful use of a nuclear programme.  However, those rights should not, and could not, be enjoyed and exercised by those countries “under Security Council resolutions, under Chapter VII”.  The Democratic Republic of Korea’s recent announcement of a satellite launch constituted a clear violation of resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), with the latter banning that country from any launch using ballistic missile technology.  That plan displayed how insincere and how easily that country “breaks hard-won promises”.  Even before the ink was dry on its agreement with the United States, the country once again “breached its commitments and scrapped them away”.

If the country proceeded with its missile launch, that would be a clear violation of Council resolutions and constitute a “highly provocative” action, threatening peace and security on the peninsula and in the region, he continued.  Thus, his country called on the Democratic People’s Republic to “rescind and stop” its plan and instead to put its people first.

He quoted from specific articles of the United Nations Charter and said he hoped his colleague would be enlightened by his explanation.  As for the mention of joint military drills, everyone knew that country had posed a constant threat to the Republic of Korea’s national security.  His own country’s drills were joint in nature and conducted to strengthen its deterrence.  The delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also argued that its nuclear development was caused by the United States’ hostile policy.  “That was ridiculous.”  If one followed that argument, then many others would follow suit and develop nuclear weapons against their enemies.  When it came to the prohibition of nuclear weapons, there was neither tolerance nor exception.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should cease its “empty arguments” and heed the Council resolutions.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said — “North Korea” and “South Korea” — he had done the same and had named “North Korea”.  The delegation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had “never ever said we are two different countries”.  He asked the South Korean representative to call his country “ North Korea”; “we don’t mind, we have to be unified, and we are making progress towards that”.

As for the Security Council resolutions, he said his Permanent Representative had made clear that no other legal instruments could supersede the outer space treaty or the United Nations Charter.  He reminded the South Korean representative of the Article stipulating the sovereignty and equality of all United Nations Member States; it was with regret that he missed that Article.

Regarding the “DPRK-US” talks, he had said the ink was not yet dry; it had nothing to do with those talks, he said.  Rather, it had to do with peaceful outer-space activities, which were legitimate and equal for every country, even for South Korea.  Nobody was exceptional.  He could not say North Korea’s satellite launch was not a satellite.  Concerning military drills, the representative could not comment on that, as he had no sovereign power in South Korea; that was the United States.  Turning to nuclear weapons, his Permanent Representative had reiterated alarm about the presence of more than 1,000 nuclear weapons on the peninsula since the 1950s.  “We have been talking and talking”, but all had fallen on deaf ears.  He was now compelled to recall levels and lists of pre-emptive strikes.  Out of seven targets listed, the Democratic People’s Republic had been the number one target.  Everyone here knew that, including South Korea.

Taking the floor a second time, the representative of the Republic of Korea said that, under the Charter and resolution 1874 (2009), that country could not claim any right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy or outer space.  Resolution 1874 clearly stipulated that North Korea could not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology, and the Charter clearly said that Council resolutions adopted under its Chapter VII could apply to anybody.  North Korea’s planned launch would take place at a time when that country was facing dire food shortages, deemed chronic and one of the more pressing human rights issues in that country by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The launch would cost as much as $800 million; enough to purchase more than 100 million tons of rice.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Council resolution had nothing to do with a peaceful satellite launch.  Moreover, a Council resolution could not supersede the outer space treaty, which was an international instrument.  With only 15 members sitting in the Council, that body could not represent all international law or the international community; it was only about the maintenance of international peace and security.  The resolution referred to repeatedly by the South Korean representative had nothing to do with peace and security on the Korean peninsula.  Who was causing the trouble here?  The picture was clear.  The Council had never talked about the core issue of the “troublemaking” on the Korean peninsula.

He said the representative had touched on the very sensitive issue of human rights, but he never talked about his country’s own human rights.  And, in South Korea there was a security law, which allowed political activists to be paralysed if they said something “different”.  In terms of social and human rights, how many people were suffering under that law?  Also, South Korea held the record in “self-killing” or suicides; it was “number 2” in the world.  There were many things to talk about.  He recommended that the South Korean representative look at himself and take care of his own people, before worrying about somebody else.

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