Even amidst a shifting global paradigm, established rules and norms that the world had patiently built over decades continued to play a vital role in disarmament efforts, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it continued its general debate.
Invoking a fragile balance at play, several nuclear-weapon States called for the preservation of existing international regimes that outlined important obligations and safeguards. Some speakers said the context of the current rules-based international order was changing while new challenges and opportunities were being created by the growing role of non-State actors, the impact of technology and shifts of economic wealth.
Nevertheless, the representative of the United Kingdom pointed out, the rules-based international order had always relied on the contribution of all States and on the ability of institutions to adapt. That, in turn, had helped to maintain its effectiveness and legitimacy. Some powerful States and non-State actors, however, were increasingly ignoring international norms they believed ran contrary to their interests, he said, noting that those same rules and norms had played a vital role in the maintenance of international security.
Echoing those sentiments, the representative of France said the current context required all stakeholders to be clear sighted. Any attempt to ignore strategic balances was bound to fail, she said, emphasizing that a safer world could not be achieved by ignoring the role of deterrence policies and the security context in which they played their part. The various international regimes that the global community had built together over the past few decades had to be preserved and fully implemented and the integrity of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must be guaranteed.
Some speakers expressed concerns about an imbalance on the disarmament playing field. The representative of Guatemala, while praising the international community’s renewed interest in disarmament, cautioned against a small number of nuclear-weapon States determining when and how nuclear disarmament should take place.
Others pointed to challenges unique to their regions. Some speakers underlined the importance of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones and the treaties establishing those areas, highlighting a need for nuclear-weapon States to sign and ratify respective protocols. “We have to be optimistic,” said the representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, hoping that States that had yet to ratify the Treaty, particularly the remaining eight Annex 2 countries, did so at an early date. He encouraged nuclear-weapon States to recognize nuclear-weapon-free zones and emphasized the importance of full operation of Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok.
Raising another regional issue, speakers from the Middle East expressed concern at delays in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Qatar’s speaker said multilateralism was the only way to address the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation. The representative of Israel said arms control and disarmament processes must be formulated in a way that addressed prevailing circumstances and that any initiative pertaining to a regional dialogue must emanate from the region.
Also speaking were the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Brazil, Viet Nam, Zambia, Italy, Lebanon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Venezuela, Maldives and Norway.
The representatives of Romania, Iran, Syria and Libya spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on 6 October to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israel’s opposition to the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was unfortunate. The failure of the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons had also disrupted efforts to establish such a zone and had spread doubts about the instrument’s credibility while encouraging a nuclear arms race among countries in the region. Welcoming the reports of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, he demanded that those responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria be held accountable. He reiterated the importance of implementing Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) in order to limit terrorist organizations’ access to weapons of mass destruction. Turning to the issue of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said Saudi Arabia had taken a series of administrative precautionary measures.
SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) said the two nuclear tests and numerous ballistic missile trials that had been conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea represented a threat to both the non-proliferation regime and international security. She urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respect relevant Security Council resolutions and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, the challenges posed by nuclear weapons were not limited to the Korean Peninsula. There were worrying developments in the security situation between certain nuclear-weapon States at a time when programmes were being implemented to modernize arsenals while progress was lacking in key areas, including nuclear doctrines. Those aspects highlighted once again how important it was to move as quickly as possible towards a nuclear-weapon-free world by fully implementing the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
MATTHEW ROWLAND (United Kingdom) said that the context of the current rules-based international order was changing, driven by developments including the growing role of non-State actors, the impact of technology and longer-term shifts of economic wealth to the southern and eastern regions of the world. Such changes had created both new challenges and opportunities. To maintain its effectiveness and legitimacy, the rules-based international order had always relied on the active participation and contribution of all States and on the ability of institutions to adapt in order to reflect the changing landscape. For its part, the United Kingdom would continue to work with its partners to adapt the rules-based international order to meet those new challenges.
Some powerful States and non-State actors, however, were increasingly ignoring international norms that they believed ran contrary to their interests or favoured the West, he continued. Rules and norms to counter the proliferation of illicit arms and weapons of mass destruction played a vital role in international security. The United Kingdom had devoted substantial efforts to tackle proliferation and would continue to do so. At the same time, his Government would continue to build trust and confidence between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States and to take steps towards a safer and more stable world, where countries possessing those arms would feel able to relinquish them. As a responsible nuclear-weapon State, the United Kingdom was committed to the long-term goal of a world without those arms and had recognized its obligations under all three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. With that in mind, it would work with partners and allies to adapt existing institutions and rules so that they remained representative and effective, he concluded.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating himself with the New Agenda Coalition, supported the Open-ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in recommending that the General Assembly convene a conference in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting those weapons. While such a treaty would need to be complemented by other measures, it would send a strong message that nuclear weapons could no longer be considered legitimate. The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force should be the first priority of States purporting to be concerned by that instrument. Attempts to impose further obligations on countries that had ratified the Treaty could only weaken prospects of it ever becoming law. In that regard, Brazil considered Security Council resolution 2310 (2016) counterproductive, he said, disapproving of the Council’s meddling in a matter dealt with by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Brazil encouraged Member States to consider adopting a “no-first-use” norm with regard to offensive operations using information and communications technologies.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) underscored the need for more international cooperation to raise awareness about the threats weapons of mass destruction posed. The capacity of developing countries to implement their obligations and commitments also needed to be strengthened. She underlined the importance of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones and the need for nuclear-weapon States to sign and ratify respective protocols. Viet Nam reiterated the legitimate right of States to manufacture, trade and retain conventional weapons for self-defence purposes. As a country heavily affected by cluster munitions and other kinds of unexploded ordinance, Viet Nam supported the humanitarian goals of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, including the establishment of cooperation mechanisms and international assistance to address the aftermath of war.
MOSES PHIRI (Zambia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said nuclear weapons had no legitimate military utility and did not address any current security threats, such as terrorism, climate change, extreme poverty, over-population and disease. Zambia continued to cooperate with international partners on the safe exploitation of nuclear technology and had renewed its commitment and efforts toward the fight against and reduction and eradication of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as demonstrated by its ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in May. Since then, Zambia had enacted appropriate national legislation and had worked on capacity building for various institutions dealing with arms, enhancing interagency coordination and developing an awareness of Treaty obligations and its application.
MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it was the international community’s duty to ensure the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty. “We have to be optimistic,” he said, hoping that States that had yet to ratify the Treaty, particularly the remaining eight Annex 2 countries, did so at an early date. He encouraged nuclear-weapon States to recognize nuclear-weapon-free zones and emphasized the importance of full operation of Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok. Thanking States and international organizations that had assisted his Government with clearing unexploded ordnance, he said completing that task would take a long time and require immense resources. Political will and flexibility on the part of Member States were essential to make progress on disarmament and non-proliferation and to overcome the challenges posed by the existence of nuclear weapons.
ALICE GUITTON (France) said it was essential to restore a clear understanding of the world’s shared goals, particularly the strengthening of international peace, stability and security. Yet, the fact that the international environment had become less predictable and cooperative meant that efforts were all the more necessary to address the issues of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. The current context required all stakeholders to be clear sighted and any attempt to ignore strategic balances and their consequences, or which dismissed regional and national interests, was bound to fail. Meanwhile, proliferation risks remained serious and required a firm response from the global community. In particular, the increasing number of “irresponsible, unjustifiable and destabilizing acts” by the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea was worrying and demonstrated that country’s determination to obtain a nuclear and ballistic arsenal, in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions. The threat of those provocations was a problem for all and defied the global security architecture by undermining the non-proliferation regime. On that note, she urged Member States to speak up and not allow the development of proliferation programmes to become commonplace.
The various international regimes that the global community had patiently built together over the last few decades had to be preserved and fully implemented, she continued, adding that the integrity of the Non-Proliferation Treaty must be guaranteed. The obligations and safeguards pursuant to the Treaty were irreplaceable and it would be a mistake to doubt its credibility or effectiveness as a result of the inconclusive outcome of the 2015 Review Conference. As such, France would vigorously oppose any attempt to weaken the non-proliferation regime through the promotion of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Indeed, we would not achieve a safer world by ignoring the role of deterrence policies and the security context in which they played their part.
VINICIO MATI (Italy) said his Government was committed to creating the conditions for a nuclear-weapon-free world in accordance with the goals of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He urged all States, in particular those whose ratification was essential for the Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force, to sign and ratify it without delay or condition. Pending that instrument’s entry into force, he called on all States, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to respect the moratorium on nuclear test explosions and refrain from any action that would undermine the objective and purpose of the Treaty. He reiterated a call on that country to abandon development of all existing nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. For its part, Italy had fully cooperated with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fulfil inspections on its territory and had actively contributed to the successful removal of the remaining chemical weapons precursors in Libya.
AHMAD MOHAMED AL-THANI (Qatar), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said nuclear proliferation was a cause for concern for everyone. Four decades after the adoption of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, threats remained and nuclear-weapon States must abide by their Article VI obligations. Current stockpiles remained a threat to humankind. He reaffirmed Qatar’s support for the inalienable right of countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in abidance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and verification standards. He expressed concern at the lack of progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, adding that multilateralism was the only way to address the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation. For its part, Qatar sought to abide by all its disarmament obligations, adding that it had hosted and financed a number of disarmament-related events and meetings.
MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s goals and commitments remained pertinent despite the failure to reach an outcome at the 2015 Review Conference, particularly on a concrete road map to implement the 1995 resolution on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone the Middle East. In the Middle East, Israel was the only non-party to the Treaty and it continued to threaten regional peace and security by amassing nuclear weapons and refusing to place its facilities under IAEA safeguards. She reiterated Lebanon’s engagement towards the Convention on Cluster Munitions and, based on its continuous experience as a victim of such weapons since 2006, it condemned any use of them and called for the instrument’s universalization.
EYAL PROPPER (Israel) said his Government supported the vision of a Middle East free of war, hostility and weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, arms control and disarmament processes must be formulated in a way that addressed prevailing circumstances. Any initiative pertaining to a regional dialogue on arms control and disarmament must emanate from the region. Iran’s development of ballistic missile capabilities was a troubling situation for both the region and international security, he said, recalling that in March, Iran had tested a missile with a threat to annihilate Israel inscribed on its surface. He called upon the international community to unequivocally condemn such tests and show zero tolerance towards Iran’s behaviour.
The international community, he said, must also clearly and unequivocally address the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. There should be no doubt in Syria’s mind that the international community would not close the Syrian file as long as fundamental question marks remained. Citing a number of concerns, he pointed to the use of chemical weapons by terror organizations and the erosion of regional borders. A more secure and peaceful Middle East required all States in the region to engage in direct and sustained dialogue to address the broad range of current security challenges. Meanwhile, Israel would continue to adopt, wherever possible, arms and export control agreements.
MILOŠ VUKAŠINOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), associating himself with the European Union, said that as a member of the IAEA Board of Governors for 2013 to 2015, his Government had supported all decisions contributing to strengthening nuclear stability and security and to the technical, financial and human resources of the Agency. As a post-conflict society, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced a number of challenges relating to the control of small arms and light weapons. In line with the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, it had formed a national coordination committee and implemented strategies aimed at controlling such weapons. As a result of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was also facing the problem of anti-personnel mine fields and cluster munitions. Significant progress had been achieved in implementing the National Mine Action Strategy, but limited funds had delayed its full implementation, he said, emphasizing that success in that endeavour would largely depend on donor funding, which continued to be reduced.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the lack of progress made in nuclear disarmament was unfortunate, noting the stalemate at the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Another discouraging aspect was the fact that the Test-Ban Treaty had not yet entered into force. While the international community had expressed a renewed interest in a nuclear-weapon-free world, he cautioned against a small number of nuclear-weapon States determining when and how disarmament would occur. Turning to another issue of concern, he said the spread of small arms and light weapons fuelled conflict and exacerbated violence. Fighting that scourge was a top priority of his Government as the impact on its society had been immeasurable. In that vein, Guatemala fully supported the Programme of Action on Small Arms and hoped that efforts made during the Committee’s current session would result in concrete actions on the ground.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said progress on disarmament and elimination of nuclear weapons was Venezuela’s first priority. According to recent scientific evidence, even a regional nuclear war using 100 devices the same size that had been used on Hiroshima would not only kill millions of people, but also create severe climate consequences. He hoped that a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons could be formally adopted in 2018 on the occasion of a United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament. Prohibition would be an important step forward, but until the world was free of all such weapons, a number of sustaining measures would need to be adopted. They included, among others, an international instrument by which nuclear-weapon States would guarantee never to use or threaten to use such arms against non-nuclear weapons States. There should also be no delay in convening an international conference on establishing a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone. Venezuela condemned the use of chemical weapons by anyone and the transfer of all weapons to non-State actors. It was entirely predictable that drones would be used in an irresponsible and illegal manner by Governments and non-State actors, including terrorists, he said. The same would happen with nanotechnology, robotics, virtual reality and genetic manipulation unless controls were urgently established.
AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said significant progress had been made towards global disarmament over the past few decades, yet recent actions had threatened those advances. Nuclear weapons testing was a considerable step backwards, being a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to the non- proliferation of such weapons. Those States aspiring to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes must adopt all necessary measures to prevent proliferation and comply with international law. In that regard, he noted with despair that not all Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories had reduced their stockpiles in accordance with relevant provisions. On the current global security landscape, there was an ever growing risk that such weapons could fall into the wrong hands. Turning to the trafficking and proliferation of small arms, he stressed that their size did not negate the active threat they posed to human life and to global peace and security. Cognizant of its commitments, Maldives had ensured that the illicit trade in arms did not occur within its borders.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway) said creating a nuclear-weapon-free world was the overall objective. In April, Parliament had unanimously adopted a motion, calling on the Government to promote the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in Oslo in 2013, had launched a practical and fact-based approach, he said, stressing that a legally binding framework would eventually be required. While the issue had been discussed in the Open-ended Working Group, there were still divergent views with regard to the content, format and scope of legal measures. “Full elimination could only be achieved through the active engagement of those States that possess nuclear weapons,” he emphasized. As non-proliferation was an integral part of efforts to achieve global zero, Norway considered the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement as the current verification standard. In that regard, all supplier countries had a responsibility to uphold strict conditions of supply and ensure that the transfers were solely for peaceful use. Among other things, he expressed concern about the indiscriminate effect of certain conventional weapons and underscored the need to uphold the fundamental norms set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Convention.
Right of Reply
The representative of Romania, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, referred to the representative of the Russian Federation’s written statement. The anti-ballistic missile system situated in Romania was purely defensive in nature, was in accordance with international law and was not directed at Russia, she said.
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of Israel regime had made baseless accusations regarding Iran’s missile programme. Iran was fully entitled to develop its conventional defence capabilities, including its ballistic missile programme as part of its ongoing effort to strengthen those capabilities. Iran would not start a war, but would seek to defend itself. If under attack, Iran should be able to retaliate. Recalling that an Israeli official had threatened to use nuclear bombs against Iran, he said the Israeli regime was the only one in the Middle East in unlawful position of such arms and the only obstacle to establishing a regional nuclear-weapon-free zone.
The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to statements made by some delegations regarding the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s latest report. That report was not final and Syria had several observations, including the fact that it had provided no material evidence regarding the use of chemical weapons. The report had also based itself on eyewitnesses that had been provided by armed groups or belonging to communities that had hosted such groups. Syria had sent several messages to the Security Council, the Joint Investigative Mission, the Secretary-General and the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) about the many times in which chemical weapons had been used by terrorist armed groups against civilians and the Syrian armed forces. Nobody, however, wanted to investigate those incidents. He asked that the representative of France read the book Les Chemins de Damas, which stated that a former French Minister for Foreign Affairs was behind the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area in August 2013. Some delegations who had mentioned Syria today had been involved in providing terrorist armed groups with chemical weapons and expertise.
Expressing surprise at the Israeli representative’s erroneous accusations and hypocrisy, he said everyone knew that the Israeli regime had introduced terrorism in the region, represented by weapons of mass destruction. The Israeli regime was providing support, weapons and intelligence to different terrorist organizations and groups in Syria, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and the Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahl al-Sham, and was violating all relevant Security Council resolutions on fighting terrorism. Turning to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said that countries including Germany and Australia were violating that instrument with the presence of nuclear weapons which they themselves did not possess.
The representative of Libya, in exercise of the right of reply, responded to remarks about the transfer of chemical weapons to Turkey. He stressed that chemical weapons in Libya had been put under international protection, with their destruction controlled by a Libyan agency and OPCW.