‘No One Can Keep a Straight Face and Argue that 16,000 Warheads Are an Appropriate Threshold for Global Safety,’ Says State Party
Describing a nuclear-weapon-free world as a “critical global public good”, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to work towards ensuring that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) retained its central role in collective security, as the month-long ninth Review Conference of that accord began at Headquarters today.
At its heart, the NPT was a “grand bargain” underpinned by the symbiotic relationship between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; one could not be advanced without the other, Mr. Ban said, in a statement delivered by his Deputy, Jan Eliasson. He exhorted the Conference to chart a clear path forward for what the Treaty regime would be in 2020 — the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force.
Mr. Ban called on States parties to produce an outcome that strengthened the Treaty, promoted its universality, ensured compliance by all parties with all provisions, and reinforced its principal goals — to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination. The Conference must demonstrate how and when the action plan adopted at the 2010 review would be implemented. And he urged leaders “to abandon short-sighted political posturing and instead embrace a bold and global vision that meets the demands of humanity”.
During the debate, speakers — including deputy prime ministers and foreign ministers of both nuclear—armed and non-nuclear-armed States — offered differing perspectives on the Treaty’s progress, but coalesced around its ultimate aims.
Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, said the Review Conference was being held amid escalating tension and a burgeoning arms race in the Middle East. Further, radical and extremist groups were trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, he said, stressing the need to strengthen the NPT to frustrate their attempts. In that context, it was incumbent upon the international community to fulfil its commitment to render the Middle East free from nuclear weapons, an undertaking that had underpinned the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.
Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, urged negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention that included a phased programme and a specified timeframe for those weapons’ complete elimination. The role of nuclear weapons in the security policies of nuclear-armed States had not diminished. Some were modernizing their arsenals and planning research on new nuclear warheads; others had announced their intention to develop new delivery vehicles for them. In short, the nuclear-weapon States had not made progress in eliminating their nuclear arsenals.
Some wished to “force the speed of disarmament” without taking into account wider security considerations, said the United Kingdom’s Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Joyce Anne Anelay. She reaffirmed her country’s commitment to step-by-step disarmament, exemplified in the significant reductions in the number of warheads on each of its deployed ballistic missile submarines, from 48 to 40, and the number of operational missiles on each of those submarines to no more than eight. Her country had developed a deterrence doctrine and robust safety and security measures.
Laying bare the United States’ holdings, John Kerry, Secretary of State, said the country now had 4,717 nuclear weapons, which was 85 per cent below the cold war peak. “But yes,” he added, “that is still way too many.” President Barack Obama had decided that the United States would seek to accelerate the retirement of nuclear warheads by 20 per cent. The country was ready to engage and negotiate in further reductions of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to up to one third below the level set by the bilateral treaty with the Russian Federation.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Head of the Arms Control Department of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, emphasized that maintaining and strengthening the NPT regime met the fundamental interests of all parties, adding that his country had been fulfilling all its obligations, including under article VI. It had reduced stockpiles to a minimum level and planned to continue to work in that area to maintain a balance between developing a peaceful course of action and strengthening the non-proliferation regime.
On the United States’ proposal, he said the Russian Federation was firmly committed to nuclear disarmament, adding that discussions on those issues needed to be serious without any double standards, and could only be effective when abiding by the principles of not doing damage to the security of other nations.
“No one can keep a straight face and argue that 16,000 nuclear weapons are an appropriate threshold for global safety,” said Tony DeBrum, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands. He recounted his own childhood experience at Likiep Atoll where, from 1946 to 1958, 67 nuclear weapons were tested. Their explosive scale equalled 1.6 “Hiroshima shots” daily. Still, “nuclear nations” were modernizing and rebuilding. There was no right to “indefinite possession” to continue to retain nuclear weapons on security grounds.
As the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, Japan attached great importance to strengthening the NPT regime on all its three pillars, said that country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida. He urged both nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States to take joint action and, in particular, for the nuclear-armed States to faithfully fulfil their special responsibility pursuant to the Treaty’s article VI.
Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, noting that Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine had voluntarily renounced their nuclear arsenals, said that was a clear demonstration that, with political will and determination, nuclear-weapon States could fulfil their NPT obligations.
Also today, the Review Conference adopted its draft rules of procedure and approved requests for observer status for Israel, as well as for the following organizations and associations: the African Union; Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials; Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; European Union; International Committee of the Red Cross; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; League of Arab States; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Organization of the Islamic Conference; and the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Conference also approved the requests to attend meetings of the plenary or the Main Committee from 107 non-governmental organizations.
It elected the following as Chairs of its main committees: Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru) to Main Committee I; Cristian Istrate (Romania) to Main Committee II; David Stuart (Australia) to Main Committee III; and Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia) to the Drafting Committee.
Elected as Vice-Chairpersons were Andrej Logar (Slovenia) and Henk Cor Van Der Kwast (Netherlands) to Main Committee I; Toshiro Ozawa (Japan) to Main Committee II; Julio Bravo (Chile) to Main Committee III; Andre Sobral Cordeiro (Portugal) to the Drafting Committee; and Matthew Rowland (United Kingdom) to the Credentials Committee. It also elected 34 Vice-Presidents — from the Eastern European States Group, the Western States Group, and from the Group of Non-Aligned and Other States.
The Conference sought the nomination of a candidate for the Credentials Committee, while electing Kyrgyzstan, Norway and Poland as members. It confirmed Thomas Markram as Secretary-General of the 2015 Review Conference.
Also making statements today were the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, Foreign Ministers of Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, and in his national capacity), Algeria, Ireland, and Egypt, and the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Spain, China, Italy, Kyrgyzstan (on behalf of States parties to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty), and the Republic of Korea. Representatives of New Zealand (on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition) and Chile also spoke.
Opening the Conference was Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru), its Acting President, who proposed the nomination of Taous Feroukhi (Algeria) as the Chair of the Review Conference, whom participants approved by acclamation, following which she delivered opening remarks. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also addressed the conference.
The 2015 Review Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 28 April, to continue its debate.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, in a statement delivered by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, said eliminating nuclear weapons was a top priority for the Organization, as no other weapon had the potential to inflict such wanton destruction. “We all must remember that a world free of nuclear weapons is a critical global public good that benefits all nations.” The Review Conference was aimed at ensuring that the Treaty retained its central role in collective security and to chart a clear path forward for what the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime would be in 2020 — the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force.
He called on States parties to work hard and constructively in the coming weeks to produce an outcome that strengthened the Treaty, promoted its universality, ensured compliance by all parties with all provisions, and reinforced the Treaty’s principal goals — to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination. At its heart, the NPT was a “grand bargain” underpinned by the symbiotic relationship between, on the one hand, nuclear disarmament and, on the other, non-proliferation. One could not be advanced without the other.
The Conference must now demonstrate how and when the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 review would be implemented — lest it “risk fading in relevance”, he said, adding that such progress demanded that every State party comply with its obligations under the Treaty’s mutually reinforcing pillars.
Since the last Review Conference, the danger posed by nuclear weapons persisted. Proliferation challenges remained, including with respect to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Yet, important understanding between the E3+3, or P5+1, and Iran proved that such challenges could be dealt with by diplomacy. A Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction could provide substantial benefits, in addition to the disarmament and non-proliferation gains that would flow from such an agreement. It was disappointing that too little progress had been made and the expectations of the international community for results had dimmed. The present Review Conference must focus on seeking means to enable the States of that region to move forward on the issue with a shared vision and purpose.
Between 1990 and 2010, the international community took bold steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, he said, expressing deep concern, however, that the process seemed to have stalled in the past five years. Especially troubling were recent developments that indicated that the trend towards nuclear zero was reversing. Instead of the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) or negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, expensive modernization programmes were evident, and those would entrench nuclear weapons for decades.
That was “a regression”, he said, calling on leaders “to abandon short-sighted political posturing and instead embrace a bold and global vision that meets the demands of humanity”. National security could only be achieved away from the shadow of the nuclear threat. He challenged anyone who doubted the urgency of nuclear disarmament to listen to the experiences of the Hibakusha, who had survived the nuclear attacks some 70 years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was heartened by the growing momentum for humanitarian considerations to be placed at the centre of disarmament deliberations.
TAOUS FEROUKHI (Algeria), newly elected Chair of the Review Conference, said her country responded with a great sense of responsibility in leading the ongoing deliberations in an effort to reach peace and security everywhere on the planet by strengthening the three pillars of the NPT. She stressed the common responsibility of all States parties and added that their constructive evaluation of the 2010 Action Plan and the challenges ahead would be important. That would allow the international community to reach a substantial result in the form of a strengthened NPT commensurate with everyone’s aspirations for a safe world.
YUKIYA AMANO, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said nuclear science and technology had much to contribute to the development of human health, agriculture, water management and energy. The Final Document of the 2010 Review Conference had emphasized the importance of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme, which was recognized as “one of the main vehicles for the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes”. For instance, during the outbreak of Ebola virus, the Agency had supplied simple testing kits using a nuclear-derived technique that had made swift diagnosis possible. The impact on the lives of millions was extraordinary and deserved better recognition.
In the nuclear energy field, he continued, the most important development in the past five years was the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. It was a painful reminder that an accident could happen anywhere and that Governments must demonstrate total commitment to the principle of “safety first”. Despite the accident, he noted that nuclear power continued to play an important role in the global energy mix. Indeed, IAEA projections showed that its use would increase in the coming decades, as a stable and clean energy source.
The IAEA safeguards were a fundamental component of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and played an indispensable role in the implementation of the NPT, he went on. Since the last Review Conference, six non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT had brought into force comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency. He urged all remaining States to conclude their agreements and bring them into force as soon as possible.
On the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called on the Government to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions. Turning to the safeguards implementation in Iran, the Agency continued to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material. Concluding, he promised on the Agency’s behalf that it would do its best to assist with the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
JAVAD ZARIF, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasized the essential role of the NPT and the imperative of the full, non-discriminatory and balanced implementation of its three pillars. Referring to the Action Plan agreed in 2010, he said that the nuclear-weapon States had not made progress in eliminating their nuclear arsenals. In fact, the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies had not diminished. Some were modernizing their nuclear arsenals and planning research on new nuclear warheads; others had announced their intention to develop new delivery vehicles for them. The non-nuclear-weapon States had yet to receive unequivocal and legally binding security assurances, and nuclear technology transfer continued to face impediments, which was inconsistent with the Treaty.
Expressing concern over the military and security doctrines of the nuclear-armed States, he said the use or threat of use of those weapons would be a crime against humanity, and he called for their complete exclusion from military doctrines. On nuclear non-proliferation, he recognized the IAEA as the sole competent authority for verification of the safeguards obligations. He called for the immediate removal of restrictions and limitations on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including restrictions on exports. States parties should refrain from any action that would limit certain peaceful nuclear activities on the grounds of their “sensitivity”.
He reiterated the Movement’s support for a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and called on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons. The Movement also called for a total and complete prohibition of the transfer of all nuclear-related equipment, information, material and facilities to Israel. He also expressed disappointment over the failure to convene a conference on the zone. And he urged negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention that would include a phased program and a specified timeframe for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, associating with the European Union, said advancing the full implementation of all nuclear disarmament commitments was vital and the elimination of nuclear arsenals was an integral part of a nuclear-weapon-free world. He was concerned at the recent tensions in Europe and the increased references to nuclear weapons, encouraging work towards a set of mutually reinforcing and legally binding instruments towards those weapons’ elimination. He pointed to the proliferation of mass destruction weapons. He also regretted the postponement of a conference on establishing a zone in the Middle East free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and called for its convening as soon as possible. Regarding the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, he said he hoped for an early revival of its potential. Reaffirming his support for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he underlined that trust and confidence were key elements. He recognized, in closing, the IAEA’s role in promoting its safe and secure use. Nuclear energy was essential for meeting his country’s energy needs.
NASSER JUDEH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said the Review Conference was being held amid escalating tension and a burgeoning arms race in the Middle East. Further, radical and extremist groups were trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, he said, stressing the need to strengthen the NPT to frustrate their attempts. The Treaty’s three pillars were inextricably linked, and their successful implementation would depend on their universality. In that context, it was incumbent upon the international community to fulfil its commitment to render the Middle East free from nuclear weapons. That undertaking had underpinned the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. Yet, he said, the conference on the matter had not been held.
The goal of nuclear disarmament was far from being achieved, he said, urging nuclear-weapon States to step up their work. Non-nuclear-weapon States needed full and unambiguous commitments that those weapons would not be used against them. The peaceful use of nuclear energy was a genuine right of all countries. At the same time, such programmes should comply with international safety standards and be open to IAEA verification. Welcoming the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, he expressed hope that a final agreement would contribute to finding solutions to other long-festering problems. Jordan had underlined its nuclear disarmament commitment by acceding to the relevant international treaties and advocating for further substantive measures towards that goal. It also had enacted domestic legislation to further its international obligations and emphasized the importance of the periodic review mechanism in ensuring collective global action.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said “we meet against a bleak backdrop”; where there had been political will, there had been progress. She was convinced that nuclear disarmament diplomacy was more urgent than ever, given the heightened tension in the world and the worsened security environment with conflicts and terrorism, all of which had led to an increased awareness of the risks. The initiative on the humanitarian perspective on nuclear weapons had gained momentum. “Putting human beings first, at the heart of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, is key,” she added, highlighting her country’s efforts to make it a guiding principle of the NPT Review Conference.
Regarding implementation of 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States, she urged the Russian Federation to “take up the offer” made by the United States in 2013 to negotiate further and deeper cuts in the two countries' nuclear arsenals. Since nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing, the IAEA’s role in verifying non-proliferation obligations was crucial. Nuclear-weapon-free zones contributed to peace and security, she said, underlining her commitment to the establishment of a zone free of mass destruction weapons in the Middle East.
DIDIER BURKHALTER, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, said nuclear-weapon States had made significant reductions in their stockpiles, dismantled warheads, decommissioned nuclear facilities, and made progress on verification procedures, among others. The Review Conference should underscore the need to continue with those steps and advance them. Efforts to agree on goals for quantitative reductions must be redoubled. In addition, legal gaps in the nuclear regime must be addressed. As the CTBT had still not entered into force, thorough and inclusive discussions about possible additional instruments to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament were needed.
He urged nuclear-armed States to reduce the operational readiness of their weapons and lengthen decision times. Together with Sweden, New Zealand, and the Global Zero group, his country would host an event later this week to present a study with specific de-alerting suggestions. With regard to doctrines, he proposed that nuclear-armed States limit the role of nuclear weapons to deterring their use by other States. He welcomed the Joint Statement of Lausanne on Iran’s nuclear programme and encouraged the parties to conclude a comprehensive long-term settlement. Underscoring his country’s continued support of diplomatic efforts to resolve proliferation challenges, he urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the NPT and for as resumption of the Six-Party Talks.
JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ ROBLEDO, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said the conference coincided with several anniversaries, including that of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That underscored the urgency of implementing all dimensions of the Treaty, he said, stressing that Mexico had largely met its obligations on non-proliferation. Some two thirds of countries were living under nuclear-weapon-free zones. Mexico had gone a step further and undertaken voluntary measures.
However, there were more than 16,000 nuclear weapons around the world, with many on high operational alert. The threat or use of those weapons was a violation of the cardinal principles of international law, he said, underscoring the urgency of conducting and concluding nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith. The NPT review cycle saw a welcome momentum towards recognizing the humanitarian consequences of the use of those, which had heightened understanding of the NPT principles and the imperative of their full implementation. More than 80 per cent of United Nations Member States had endorsed the humanitarian principle, he said, calling for a comprehensive legally binding instrument that would end the threat of those weapons once and for all. Now was the time to translate the aspirations of millions into a tangible outcome.
ALBERT KOENDERS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, speaking for the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said the group’s membership was cross-sectional, which allowed it to advocate more strongly for its principles. On the seventieth anniversary since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Initiative was deeply concerned at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapons use. It had submitted a comprehensive list of practical recommendations for the Review Conference outcome document, which addressed the NPT’s three pillars. On disarmament, he welcomed steps taken so far by the nuclear-weapon States, including by the Russian Federation and the United States. However, there was a need for greater progress in meeting disarmament commitments.
On non-proliferation, the IAEA’s authority should be strengthened to verify both the correctness and the completeness of State reports, he said, underlining the importance of increased accessibility and broader application of nuclear science and technology. Strongly condemning the continued development by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes, he was at the same time encouraged by the understanding reached between Iran and the E3+3. All stakeholders should continue work on convening the conference on a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Instead of focusing on differences, the world was most effective when it focused on areas of commonality in promoting practical actions to achieve outcomes that were in everyone’s interest, he added.
Speaking next in his national capacity, Mr. KOENDERS said that participants should give credit where they could and take responsibility where they must while reviewing their work honestly and frankly. In all three pillars of the NPT, there was still a long way to go. While strengthening the safeguards regime and verification capacity, the international community also needed to be clear about non-compliance. There was frustration about the slow pace of progress on disarmament. However, the current difficulties could not be a reason for the world to abandon its ambition. Determination and perseverance were needed to build trust step by step, by improving transparency, further ridding the role of nuclear weapons in doctrines, ensuring the CTBT’s entry into force and by starting negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.
IGNACIO YBÁÑEZ, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, defined the Treaty as the most valuable instrument for advancing nuclear disarmament and as a framework that included the inalienable right of all States parties to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. He reiterated the importance of complying with the nuclear disarmament-related provisions, highlighting in particular the responsibility of the countries with the largest arsenals. Recognizing the Conference on Disarmament as the only body established for the negotiation of multilateral disarmament treaties, he expressed his regret over its paralysis.
On non-proliferation, he supported the IAEA’s authority and the strengthening of its verification and monitoring capabilities. Regarding the convening of a conference for the establishment of a zone in the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction, he said that was a matter of crucial importance to increase security and stability in the region. He condemned the nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, appealing to that country to abandon its nuclear programme. Recognizing the risk involved in diverting sensitive materials and technologies to non-State actors for terrorist purposes, he supported all efforts to fight asymmetrical nuclear weapons proliferation.
RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, recognized the qualitative leap made by the international community in social and economic development, yet noted that security and stability remained a significant challenge. “After two decades of cold war, nuclear weapons are still the biggest threat to the human race.” Despite some achievements made through the Treaty, nuclear weapons were still in military doctrines and used as deterrents. The total funds used for the acquisition, development and maintenance of those weapons amounted to $30 billion, which was a heavy burden in comparison to funds deployed for poverty eradication. The complete elimination of nuclear weapons could only be achieved through a legally binding treaty preventing their acquisition and storage.
Regarding non-proliferation, he recognized the IAEA’s authority, through its safeguards system, to verify commitments made by States parties. He underlined the importance of the independence and non-politicization of the Agency’s work. Non-proliferation was a responsibility of all States parties, whether or not they possessed the nuclear weapon, he emphasized. Regarding the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in Middle East, he noted its importance and expressed deep concern over the stumbling block to its establishment. On the peaceful application of nuclear energy, he said technology transfer and know-how were imperative.
FUMIO KISHIDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, recalled that 70 years ago in his hometown Hiroshima, a single atomic bomb had taken more than 130,000 lives. He kept close to his heart the hopes of the survivors and was determined to achieve progress during this Review Conference towards a world free of nuclear weapons. As the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, his country attached great importance to strengthening the NPT regime on all its three pillars. He urged both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States to take joint action and, in particular, for the nuclear-armed States to faithfully fulfil their special responsibility pursuant to the Treaty’s article VI.
Negotiating reductions of nuclear weapons, he said, was not possible if the number of those warheads was not known. To date, reductions had been limited to strategic nuclear weapons possessed by the United States and the Russian Federation, but all nuclear weapons of all States possessors needed to be reduced. North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons and missile programs posed a serious threat to international peace and security and a serious challenge to the NPT regime. He urged the international community to send a robust message to North Korea. Underscoring the importance of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said Japan would contribute a total of $25 million over the next five years to the Peaceful Uses Initiative to actively deliver, in a safer way, the benefits of nuclear application to a larger number of people across broader areas.
JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, said that few things were more threatening to the ideals of the United Nations than the threat of nuclear weapons. It was clear that those weapons “defied all reason”. He was far from alone in that assessment. The majority of the world had united around the belief that nuclear weapons should one day be eliminated. Moral leadership was more powerful than any weapon, and the fear of a nuclear Armageddon had been supplanted with a steady march towards peace. Such a future would relegate nuclear weapons to the history books. Clearly, the theories of those involved for years in the defence of their countries embraced a notion of change.
The “P-5” countries had come together with Iran in negotiations that would close off all of that country’s pathways to the material required for a nuclear weapon, he said. That would give the international community the confidence it needed to know Iran’s nuclear programme was indeed exclusively peaceful. The hard work was far from over and key issues remained unresolved. However, the comprehensive deal was within sight, which would make the entire world safer. The NPT had always been at the heart of those negotiations and if the talks were successful, it would once again prove the power of diplomacy over conflict.
Verification was at the heart of the NPT, and it was vital to strengthen the IAEA safeguards, he said. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to undermine the NPT regime; it must abandon all its nuclear weapons and existing such programmes, return to the IAEA safeguards, and come into full compliance with the duties it accepted when it joined the NPT. The onus was on that country to show it was serious about addressing global concerns, and until then, it would only become more isolated.
The United States now had 4,717 nuclear weapons, which was 85 per cent below the cold war peak. “But yes,” he said. “That is still way too many.” President Barack Obama had decided that the United States would seek to accelerate the retirement of nuclear warheads by 20 per cent. The Unites States was ready to engage and negotiate in further reductions of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to up to one third below the level set by the Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT). That offer remained on the table, and he urged the Russian Federation to take him up on it.
Completely eliminating nuclear weapons would require a new way of thinking; it would take intensive diplomacy, long days, late nights, and likely many years, he said. There were any number of sceptics that would doubt the international community’s ability, let alone its will. But the United States was serious and committed to working to prove the sceptics wrong over time and work through the challenges facing the NPT, leaving the race for nuclear arms behind and continuing instead on a march towards peace and stability.
CHARLES FLANAGAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, associating with the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa), said that imbalances across the three pillars of the NPT were increasing. The NPT was originally motivated by concerns about the human costs of the detonation of any one of the 80,000 nuclear weapons then in existence. Despite considerable reductions, the world could not shy away from the fact that some 17,000 of those weapons still existed, with few prospects in the short- or medium-term for further voluntary reductions outside of the Treaty. Evidence had shown very clearly that the risks of a nuclear detonation were greater than previously realized, and that the capacity to cope with such an event was hopelessly inadequate. The appalling consequences for life on the planet would be disproportionately worse for women and children than for men, he added.
He acknowledged that not a single nuclear weapon had been disarmed under the NPT, or as part of any multilateral process, and that there were no structures in place to allow that to happen. For the Treaty to retain its legitimacy, the effective measures it explicitly required for disarmament under article VI must be put in place before the Treaty’s fiftieth anniversary in 2020. While Ireland had chosen not to include nuclear power in its energy mix, his country recognized the right of all States parties to the NPT to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It was also necessary to take account of women’s important role in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Three women for every two men would die of cancer due to radiation from nuclear-weapon detonation. There was also a disproportionate effect on children, especially female children. Countries owed it to their citizens to ensure that their welfare and safety remained paramount to discussions on achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, Arab Group and the New Agenda Coalition, said that despite the international community’s understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons, today’s threats to peace and security were greater than ever. Despite the plethora of initiatives and decisions taken, the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States remained challenged in meeting their commitments. Egypt had always ascribed to implementing the three pillars of disarmament. Underscoring that the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 did not mean that nuclear-armed States should possess those weapons permanently, he expressed concern with the intention of those countries to develop new forms of such weapons and carry out research to modernize them.
While some non-nuclear-weapon States refrained from exercising their right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, other States seemed tempted to exploit that right to increase their weapons and force other States to sign the IAEA Additional Protocol, he said. Egypt was advancing towards the establishment of a nuclear plant to generate electricity in line with its development process and was keen to coordinate with the IAEA to ensure that measures were in line with its nuclear safeguards and security measures. On establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he noted an absence of political will on the part of the sponsoring States. He asked the Secretary-General to call upon the rest of the States of the region to advance such efforts and on all countries, especially the “P-5”, to shoulder their responsibility while taking into account the interests of each country in the region. Holding the Middle East conference would be a last chance to regain the NPT’s credibility, he warned.
TONY A. DEBRUM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, recounted his own childhood experience at Likiep Atoll, where, from 1946 to 1958, 67 nuclear weapons were tested. Their explosive scale equalled 1.6 “Hiroshima shots” daily. Seeing the 1954 Bravo shot at Bikini Atoll — 1000 times the power of the Hiroshima blast — some 200 miles away from where he was fishing with his grandfather was a “memory that can never be erased”. Those tests were conducted at a time when the Marshall Islands was a United Nations Trust Territory, despite Marshallese objections under Trusteeship resolutions 1082 (1954) and 1493 (1956). Those tests had had a lasting impact on his country. The moral lesson for all nations was that no one had considered the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, a burden the Marshallese people would have to carry for generations to come.
The serious shortfalls in NPT implementation were not only legal gaps, he said, but also a failure to address the human rights clarified by the outcomes of Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Norway, Mexico and Austria. An overwhelming global majority agreed that the humanitarian dimension of disarmament must be the strongest centrepiece of multilateral assurance. Thus, his country currently served as co-agent in action before the International Court of Justice, which brought the matter to the attention of the world’s nuclear Powers. Those unwilling to negotiate in good faith would be brought to account.
It was true, he said, that “no one can keep a straight face and argue that 16,000 nuclear weapons are an appropriate threshold for global safety,” he said, adding that “nuclear nations” were modernizing and rebuilding when they could use the opportunity to reduce. There is no right to “indefinite possession” to continue to retain nuclear weapons on security grounds.
The 2010 NPT action plan had serious shortcomings. The right of NPT States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only existed with the highest standards of safety and security and they must be held to account for violations or abusing withdrawal provisions. The CTBT’s entry into force was vital to NPT and all relevant States parties should take necessary measures to bring into force agreements establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones. His country’s support of a “nuclear-free Pacific” had long been clouded by other agreements, but he said he was encouraged that the United States had provided a new perspective on the Rarotonga Treaty’s Protocol. Nevertheless, “perpetuating the status quo, patting ourselves on the back and expecting accolades for making zero progress at this NPT Review Conference is totally unacceptable to all peoples and all nations,” he said. “Surely we can and must do better.”
LI BAODONG, Vice Foreign Minister of China, said the NPT was built on international consensus and had effectively forestalled the nuclear arms race, reduced the danger of nuclear war, and was serving as a strong political and legal foundation for the complete and thorough destruction of those weapons. The Treaty had established the basic principles for nuclear non-proliferation and put in place a constantly developing and improving international nuclear non-proliferation regime. All States parties were entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. On the whole, the international security situation had been peaceful and stable. But the international and regional security landscape was changing rapidly. Uncertainties and destabilizing factors were prominent, regional hot-spot issues kept cropping up, and traditional and non-traditional security threats were intertwined.
To promote global nuclear governance and enhance the NPT’s universality, authority and effectiveness, he said that peace and stability must be firmly upheld, equality and justice must be firmly promoted and a win-win cooperation must be pursued. A community must be built based on a common destiny featuring the extensive involvement of and mutual accommodation between Governments. The Chinese people were working in unison under its strategic plans to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and to comprehensively deepen reform, advance law-based governance, and enforce strict Party conduct. The objective was to realize the “two centenary” goals for China’s development and the Chinese dream of great national rejuvenation. To that end, China needed a peaceful and stable international environment.
JOYCE ANNE ANELAY, Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to step-by-step disarmament, exemplified in the significant reductions in the number of warheads on each of its deployed ballistic missile submarines, from 48 to 40, and the number of operational missiles on each of those submarines to no more than eight. That took down the total number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120, which would enable the country to reduce its overall nuclear warhead stockpile to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s.
She acknowledged the frustration at the perceived slow pace of global disarmament. Conscious of the devastating humanitarian consequences that could result from the use of nuclear weapons, her country had developed a deterrence doctrine and robust safety and security measures. Some wished to “force the speed of disarmament” without taking into account wider security considerations. That risked jeopardizing the NPT’s achievements and undermining its future.
The United Kingdom’s unilateral reductions, she said, had not always encouraged other States possessing nuclear weapons to follow its example, nor influenced those seeking a nuclear weapons capability to abandon their attempts. Her Government would retain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent for as long as the global security situation made that necessary. “But let me be clear,” she added: “the UK is here to negotiate in good faith, and we will continue to strive to build the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.” That was why it was making “parallel progress on the building blocks for nuclear disarmament”.
In that light, she said the United Kingdom would continue its “ground-breaking verification work” with Norway and the United States. It had signed and ratified a Protocol to the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty and taken further steps towards transparency. Only by talking openly and frankly would it be possible to create the right conditions for more rapid nuclear disarmament. “We will look to build on such initiatives.”
She welcomed Iran’s adherence to its nuclear-related commitments and gave her full support to the IAEA in verifying them. Her country continued to urge Iran to cooperate fully with the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues, including in relation to possible military dimensions. The United Kingdom “deplores the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear activities and its threats of a fourth nuclear test”. It also remained concerned about Syria’s failure to remedy its non-compliance with the NPT. Her country supported the 1995 resolution on the Middle East and the goal of freeing the region of mass destruction weapons, and it deeply regretted that the conference on the matter had not yet taken place. She reaffirmed the inalienable right of all NPT States parties to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes “providing that they are in compliance with their obligations”.
BENEDETTO DELLA VEDOVA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, underlined the need for an effective, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament, to be pursued through a step-by-step approach. Italy was convinced that verification and safeguards were crucial cross-cutting elements for the Treaty’s effective implementation. On the Iranian nuclear programme, he considered the IAEA’s role to be crucial in monitoring the implementation of a comprehensive final agreement as well as in dealing with the programme’s possible military dimensions.
Reaffirming his commitment to a conference on the establishment of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, he added that the primary responsibility rested with the countries in the region. Turning to national efforts, he emphasized an increased attention to education, training, and the contribution of academics and scientists to the NPT’s objectives. Additional initiatives revolved around the decommissioning of nuclear plants and the managing of radioactive waste. He concluded by mentioning successful examples of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the country.
ASKAR BESHIMOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, speaking on behalf of the States parties to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, said that the instrument, which had entered into force in March 2009, was an important step towards strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime as well as peace and security in the region. Recalling a joint statement by the heads of the foreign policy departments of the States parties, he said they had noted with satisfaction the signing a year ago in May 2014 in New York by representatives of “the nuclear 5” of the Protocol on Negative Security Assurances to the Treaty. Central Asian States parties had undertaken unconditional commitments to not allow, among other things, the use of nuclear weapons and other explosive devices on their territory.
He said the zone’s creation was also an important step towards peaceful uses of energy, rehabilitation of the environment in territories affected by radioactive contamination and pollution, and the prevention of nuclear material proliferation. States parties to the Central Asian Treaty welcomed the ratification of the protocol by France, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, and China, and hoped that the United States would complete procedures for ratification.
SHIN DONG-IK, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Republic of Korea, recalled that the 2010 Conference had begun with great expectations and culminated in a 64-point Action Plan. The scorecard, however, showed mixed results, with the recent agreement between the P5+1 and Iran ranking among the notable achievements. On the other hand, many events had run counter to the global non-proliferation cycle, including the third nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the failure to convene the conference on the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. There was still a considerable gap between the views held by the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States on the progress made on the disarmament pillar.
A treaty was no longer a treaty without the commitment and compliance of the parties, he said, adding that the principle was all the more valid when it came to the very foundation of international peace and security. Therefore, it was important to look into the case of nuclear proliferation and send a clear message that such acts could not be tolerated. Early entry into force of the CTBT remained long overdue, he said, stressing the need to immediately start negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. His country placed utmost value on further advancement of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In closing, he said the future of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not lay in nuclear weapons.
YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, noting that Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine had voluntarily renounced their nuclear arsenals, said that was a clear demonstration that, with political will and determination, nuclear-weapon States could fulfil their NPT obligations. He proposed that the international community adopt a universal declaration on the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world as a first step towards a convention on nuclear weapons. He called for the universalization of the NPT, stating that clear mechanisms to discourage withdrawal from the Treaty were also essential.
In addition, he also called on all States that had yet to sign or ratify the CTBT to do so, adding that a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing was not an effective alternative to a legally binding treaty. He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully comply with its obligations under Security Council resolutions and encouraged further deliberations on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. He called on all signatories to the Semipalatinsk Treaty to complete their ratification process. It was important for States developing civil nuclear programmes to have access to nuclear fuel sources in a predictable and sustainable manner, towards which his country was committed to hosting the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Bank; it anticipated the conclusion of a host country agreement on the matter this year.
MIKHAIL ULYANOV, Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Federation, said that his country had been fulfilling all its obligations under the NPT, including under article VI. It had reduced stockpiles to a minimum level and planned to continue to work in that area to maintain a balance between developing a peaceful course of action and strengthening the non-proliferation regime. There could be no doubt that maintaining and strengthening the NPT regime met the fundamental interests of all parties. The purpose of the Conference was to reaffirm the commitments of all NPT States parties, based on the 2010 Action Plan. The consensus provisions contained in that Plan should be fulfilled, and he hoped that the current review would also develop new decisions not yet fleshed out in the previous document.
The Russian Federation, he said, was firmly committed to nuclear disarmament, as evidenced in its consistent fulfilment of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. The priority was to reach the level of warhead and delivery vehicles agreed in 2008 by February 2018. Discussions on those issues needed to be serious without any double standards, and could only be effective when abiding by the principles of not doing harm to the security of other nations. However, he was currently seeing the opposite trend, which was negatively impacting prospects.
Following the statement made by the United States, he said he was forced to say that, according to Washington, the United States was open to discussion on nuclear warhead reductions, and that the Russian Federation was a hindrance to that. Indeed, the United States policy was a serious obstacle to further disarmament; its pursuit of a “stubborn policy” was shattering global stability with its unilateral establishment of a global system of missile defence. The purpose was to try to discredit Russia as a country that was violating international obligations and to distract attention away from the United States. The Russian Federation was committed to observing its commitments under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and stood ready to remove any concerns arising from the other side, in the face of allusions to “unreliable sources” coming from the United States, a country that had its own long list of unreliable sources, including the claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, said those countries remained committed to the NPT and its grand bargain between nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation obligations and the inalienable right to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Today, however, while the non-proliferation pillar of the Treaty had worked well in limiting the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons, the commitments embodied in the disarmament pillar remained unfulfilled. Positive developments had been made since the last Review Conference, but those fell short of meeting the article VI obligations and had brought the world no closer to good-faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament. Nor did they signal fulfilment of “action 5” on that process in the 2010 Action Plan, the implementation of which was underwhelming at best.
She said that the New Agenda Coalition did not ascribe to the view put forward by some that the 2010 Action Plan was a “road map for long-term action”, particularly if that was intended to imply that its implementation would not be completed, or in the case of some actions, even commenced. The Coalition regretted that the world continued to face reluctance by the nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their nuclear disarmament obligations. That reluctance was obvious in attempts to defend the modernization of nuclear arsenals and to praise the purported effectiveness of nuclear deterrence — not despite the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, but because of it. The international community’s understanding of those consequences had increased exponentially since the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, with a number of key findings emerging from the evidence presented at conferences in Norway, Mexico and Austria. In that light, States parties bore significantly heightened responsibility to ensure that this Review Conference actively pursued the NPT’s nuclear disarmament objectives.
Pending the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, she said the Coalition also believed the international community needed to reduce the risks of nuclear weapon detonations, whether intentional or accidental. Nuclear-weapon-free zones would make a valuable contribution to enhancing global and regional peace and security. The world could no longer afford a selective approach to the implementation of the NPT, and States parties must accelerate implementation of all agreements and undertakings made at successive NPT Review Conferences.
ALFREDO LABBE, Director General of Foreign Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, associated with the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, the 156 States who aligned with the Humanitarian Coalition, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. He said that while the NPT remained the “central plank” of international order, it was unfortunate that more than four decades since its entry into force, there had not been balanced progress in the instrument’s three pillars. He was concerned that nuclear-weapon States had not eliminated their arsenals and were instead taking steps to modernize them. Underscoring the importance of the principles of transparency and verifiability, he said the more information there was on State implementation, the greater the confidence in the NPT regime.
Highlighting some of his country’s efforts, he said Chile had always defended the work of the review process to ensure that the commitments made in 1995, 2000 and 2010 remained politically binding. Chile, together with New Zealand and a number of other States, was a proud member of the de-alerting group set up to reduce the operational availability of nuclear weapon systems. It also had a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA and was a State party to the Additional Protocol. Further, it had participated in the three meetings of the nuclear security summit process aimed at strengthening global commitments. Regarding the contribution of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said those recognized and verified the political and legal commitment of the majority of Member States.