Against a backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, speakers in the General Assembly today emphasized the urgent need for firm political will to advance towards the total elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Ministers and representatives of 46 Member States, delegations, the United Nations system and civil society took the floor during a day-long General Assembly high-level meeting held to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
“The only world that is safe from the use of nuclear weapons is a world that is completely free of nuclear weapons,” said Secretary‑General António Guterres, recalling that nuclear disarmament had been a principled objective of the United Nations from the very first Assembly resolution in 1946 to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which had opened for signature on 20 September.
In opening remarks, he noted, however, that the universally held goal of disarmament had been challenged of late, including by a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Unequivocally condemning Pyongyang’s actions, he welcomed the Security Council’s firm response and its desire for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution.
He went on to note significant steps by nuclear-weapon States — especially the Russian Federation and the United States — to cut back their arsenals. However, subsequent expensive modernization campaigns and the absence of planned arsenal reductions made it hard to see how disarmament could move forward, he said.
General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) described the Treaty as a sign of determination. Pledging to do everything possible during his term in office to realize the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world, he said discussions that had led to that instrument’s adoption should continue to ensure that all the differing views of Member States were properly addressed.
In the ensuing debate, speakers underlined the humanitarian and environmental consequences of an accidental or deliberate detonation of nuclear weapons, with some highlighting how money spent on producing, maintaining and modernizing them could be better invested in sustainable development.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, urged Member States to support the convening of an international conference on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations no later than 2018. “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of proliferation exists”, emphasizing the need for a new comprehensive and systematic approach to disarmament, he said.
Numerous delegates condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for violating international law and ignoring Security Council resolutions in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Many appealed for dialogue and a diplomatic solution, and for all sides to refrain from rhetoric that might inflame the situation.
Japan’s delegate, recalling the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests were not only a grave and imminent threat, but also a challenge to the disarmament and non-proliferation regime.
Two of the five nuclear-weapon States shared their perspective, with China’s representative saying disarmament efforts must proceed in a step-by-step manner through existing mechanisms to ensure the participation of all countries.
His counterpart from the Russian Federation, asserting that the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had been developed in haste, said nuclear-weapon States had had good reasons for not attending the recent conference. The instrument ignored the existing reality and the opinion of nuclear-weapon States, he said, noting that it should have been adopted by consensus instead of through a vote. The focus now should be on creating a favourable atmosphere for progress towards disarmament on the principle of equal, indivisible security for all States without exception.
Raising another concern, he voiced regret over recent attempts to torpedo the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, stressing that all parties should continue to implement the agreement in good faith. The same approach must be taken with regard to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the cause of which was not only Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons, but the absence of an overall security mechanism for the region as a whole, he said.
Germany’s representative, underscoring his country’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said disarmament efforts could only succeed if they took the prevailing security environment into account. With like-minded partners, Germany advocated a step-by-step approach, with the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the core of an effort that would include a fresh nuclear arms control agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, which together controlled 90 per cent of the world’s estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons.
The representative of South Africa, which had voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, said there were “no safe hands” when it came to weapons of mass destruction. He expressed deep concern about the catastrophic consequences of detonating atomic bombs, a point highlighted in three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
Turning to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, several speakers appealed for the remaining Annex II countries that had yet to sign or ratify that instrument to do so. Delegates from the Middle East, noting that Israel was not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, expressed frustration that a nuclear-weapon-free zone had yet to be established in the region.
Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Guyana, Indonesia, Maldives, Iran, Philippines, Cuba, Algeria, Turkey, Thailand, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Austria, India, Costa Rica, United Republic of Tanzania, Jamaica, Libya, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Argentina, Samoa, Guatemala, Ireland, Timor-Leste, Malaysia and Sweden, as well as the Holy See and the League of Arab States. Also speaking were representatives of two civil society groups: Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
Iran took the floor in exercise of the right of reply.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said nuclear weapons were still part of our world, posing a real threat. Since the General Assembly had adopted resolution 68/32 establishing the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, three tests had been conducted. “One nuclear test was too many,” he said. “Six nuclear tests in the twenty-first century were alarming.”
Pointing at a recent change in dynamics, he recalled that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had opened for signature on 20 September and despite disagreements, it was a sign of determination. Pledging to do everything in his power as Assembly President to realize the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world, he said discussions that had led to that treaty’s adoption should continue to ensure that Member States’ different views were properly addressed. In addition, he emphasized that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty should enter in force as soon as possible.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that in recent months, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons had been forcefully driven home, making today’s high-level meeting timelier than ever before. The horrific humanitarian and environmental consequences of their use would transcend national borders and every State had the right to demand the elimination of those uniquely destructive weapons. Emphasizing that nuclear disarmament had been a principled objective of the United Nations for more than seven decades, from the very first General Assembly resolution to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said: “The only world that is safe from the use of nuclear weapons is a world that is completely free of nuclear weapons.”
While that goal was universally held, it had recently been challenged, he said, including by a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which had heightened tensions and highlighted the dangers of proliferation. Condemning those acts unequivocally, he welcomed the Security Council’s firm action and desire for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution. He acknowledged significant efforts that nuclear-weapon States — especially the Russian Federation and the United States — had made to reduce their arsenals and the role of nuclear weapons in their security. However, it was difficult to see how disarmament could make progress amid expensive modernization campaigns and the absence of planned arsenal reductions beyond the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty).
However, deep fissures remained between States over how to achieve nuclear disarmament, he said, underscoring that two decades of stagnation at the Conference on Disarmament were exacerbating those rifts. Unhelpful rhetoric and misguided assertions did not help, either. “We live in challenging circumstances, but this can be no excuse for walking away from our shared responsibility to seek a more peaceful international society,” he emphasized, adding that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would strengthen norms, but inclusive dialogue, renewed international cooperation and practical measures for irreversible, verifiable and universal disarmament were also needed. “There are multiple pathways to a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said, with States possessing them having a special responsibility to lead by taking concrete steps, including those agreed to at review conferences of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A world free of nuclear weapons was a global vision that required a global response, he said, noting that the United Nations was ready to work with Member States to that end.
JORGE ARREAZA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, urged Member States to support convening an international high-level meeting and a conference on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations no later than 2018. Emphasizing a need for a new comprehensive and systematic approach to disarmament, he said: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of proliferation exists.” Because any use of nuclear weapons was a crime against humanity, he said their total and absolute elimination must be achieved.
The Non-Aligned Movement, since its creation, had stood at the forefront of nuclear disarmament, he said, underlining its strong condemnation of the development of nuclear weapons programmes. In making efforts to stop their spread, he reaffirmed support for using multilateral diplomacy in the negotiations to reach disarmament and non-proliferation goals.
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), considered verifiable and complete disarmament to be an absolute priority. Calling the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a break from the status quo that bolstered non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, he urged all States that had not yet signed that instrument to do so and to ratify it.
Appealing to nuclear-weapon States, he called on them to withdraw all interpretative declarations to additional protocols to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco). Further urging them to uphold their disarmament commitments, he said the Non-Proliferation Treaty provided no rights for the possession of nuclear weapons by any State. He also urged all States to refrain from conducting explosive and non-explosive nuclear tests and from using digital means to improve such weapons. Those actions contravened the Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermining its objective, he said, noting that for CELAC member States, the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was their complete prohibition and elimination. Having demonstrated responsibility in building a safer world, CELAC members encouraged others to follow suit.
CARL GREENIDGE, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guyana, noting that his country was the first Member State to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, said those arms provided a false sense of security to States possessing them while simultaneously provoking fear and anxiety at the prospect of their use. Emphasizing the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, he said their continued existence was an affront to development. Money spent to produce, maintain and modernize nuclear weapons could be better directed towards sustainable development, he said.
RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said today’s high-level meeting offered a reminder of commitments made to eliminate nuclear weapons and a platform for leaders to amplify their political support for a nuclear-weapon-free world. Disarmament initiatives must be a primary catalyst to finally rid the world of nuclear weapons, he said, calling on States possessing them to reduce the role such arms played in their security doctrines. Nuclear disarmament discussions must keep humanitarian considerations at the forefront, he said, emphasizing the significance of efforts towards the entry into force of relevant instruments.
MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that as the world had seen an increase in the development of dangerous weapons and growing risks of nuclear bomb detonation, whether accidental or intentional, and of terrorist groups acquiring those arms, both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States should collaborate to stop proliferation and testing, and work towards their total elimination. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had violated international law, he said, calling on the international community to find a lasting solution to that issue. Underlining the importance of engagement in disarmament efforts, he pointed at recent drives to sign and ratify relevant instruments with that goal in mind.
M. JAVAD ZARIF, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, cited a range of alarming trends, including that a nuclear-weapon State had recently announced intentions to strengthen and expand its nuclear arsenal to ensure its place “at the top of the pack”. That was a clear indication of, and an explicit invitation to, the start of a new arms race, he said, pointing out other concerns, including ongoing efforts by almost all nuclear-weapon possessors to modernize their arsenals, and one nuclear-weapon State’s development of “mini-nukes”. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would reinforce the disarmament regime, he said, emphasizing that non-nuclear-weapon States would not remain indifferent towards nuclear-weapon States who failed to comply with their explicit disarmament obligations. Noting that Iran was a long-standing member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said every effort must be made to ensure that instrument’s universalization. Only one country in the area was not party to that Treaty, namely Israel, which had continued to threaten the region and beyond.
ENRIQUE MANALO (Philippines) said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons constituted a collective expression of frustration towards a lack of meaningful progress on disarmament. The instrument, which complemented the existing disarmament architecture, “expressly delegitimized” nuclear weapons and the concept of deterrence and had been crafted to be balanced, robust and forward looking. Commending its inclusion of verification mechanisms and pathways for nuclear-weapon States to become signatories in the future, his delegation remained committed to supporting global efforts to make meaningful progress towards achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.
RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) said that with 15,000 nuclear weapons threatening humankind, it was unacceptable that millions of dollars were being spent on arms instead of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The international community’s endorsement of the legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons demonstrated its firm conviction that those arms were not only inhumane but soon illegal. Condemning the existence of nuclear weapons and their testing, Cuba was proud that Latin America and the Caribbean region was free of nuclear weapons and a zone of peace.
ABDELKADER MESSAHEL (Algeria) urged the international community to prioritize the promotion of peace, security and stability. Despite Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, nuclear weapons continued to be used as deterrents in international security, he said, urging parties to adhere to the instrument’s provisions. There was an urgent need to establish a legally binding international instrument to provide security measures to non-nuclear-weapon States, speed up the Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force and create nuclear‑weapon‑free zones throughout the world. The political will of all States was essential to establish the necessary conditions to overcome obstacles on the path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
İSMAIL ALPER COŞKUN, Director-General for International Security Affairs of Turkey, emphasizing an urgent need for high-level political will in the disarmament arena, underlined the importance of exchanging views and bridging positions on banning nuclear weapons. Nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its threat to use those arms violated relevant Security Council resolutions and challenged regional and global peace and security. The upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference was an opportunity to strengthen that instrument. Regretting the postponement of an international conference to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he said the Non-Proliferation Treaty must be made universal and be fully respected, adding that any initiative that excluded nuclear-weapon States would be ineffective.
VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said the path to the elimination of nuclear weapons was clearer following the adoption of the Treaty for their prohibition. Thailand was among the first to sign it, but much work remained to be done to achieve the total elimination of those weapons. Still, the instrument was a great achievement that must embolden Member States to further their pursuit of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said complete disarmament had not yet been achieved and thousands of nuclear weapons still existed. Noting that not a single nuclear weapon had been destroyed in recent years, he said nuclear-weapon States had in fact continued modernizing their arsenals. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s breach of international law and Security Council resolutions, he called on that country to adhere to the provisions of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. For its part, Peru had renewed its commitment to support all measures and initiatives that were legally binding with the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC and with the Declaration of Member States of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, said disarmament progress had been extremely limited. International security was being weakened by nuclear-weapon States indefinitely postponing compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and ongoing discourse in favour of nuclear weapons, as reflected by the determination of “some States” to maintain arsenals. Urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, he asked all actors involved to show restraint and responsibility. The movement declaring the unacceptability and illegitimacy of those arms had been addressed by the conferences on their humanitarian impact and the historic approval of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which complemented the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Expressing hope that the upcoming session of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) would fulfil its tasks, he reiterated that a United Nations high-level conference on nuclear disarmament in 2018 would be an appropriate venue to follow through with measures towards common goals.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), noting that several recent natural disasters in the region had left many people dead and homeless, said the accidental or deliberate detonation of nuclear weapons, however, would create a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale and incalculable damage to all of humankind. Mexico condemned any form of nuclear weapons testing and their deployment as part of any security doctrine. Given the current international context, and growing tensions resulting from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s actions, he underscored a need for progress on disarmament in order to free humankind from the shackles of those cruel weapons and their consequences.
JAN KICKERT (Austria) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities was a wake-up call that existing non-proliferation efforts were not enough. Non-proliferation must be paired with bolstered nuclear disarmament efforts. Drafters of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty seemed to have understood a need to pursue both non‑proliferation and disarmament more fully than some of today’s promoters of halting the spread of nuclear weapons. Welcoming the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said a growing number of Member States were signing the instrument, which established a clear legal norm against nuclear weapons and laid a necessary foundation for their future elimination. Noting that some had claimed that nuclear disarmament was impossible in the current international landscape, he said they ignored the risks nuclear weapons posed, including by unintended explosions and the possibility of falling into the hands of terrorists.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated his country’s commitment to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. “There is a need for a meaningful dialogue among all States possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence” and to reduce the salience of such weapons in international affairs and security doctrines, he said.
The Conference on Disarmament was the only appropriate platform for such negotiations, he said. India stood ready to commence talks within that body aimed at developing a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention along the lines of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. India also supported beginning talks on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Noting that increasing restraints on the use of nuclear weapons would reduce the probability of their use — whether deliberate, unintentional or accidental — he pointed out that India’s resolutions in the First Committee on measures to reduce nuclear danger and on a convention on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons had received broad support among Member States.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a milestone of hope. Calling on all States to adhere to the instrument, he said nuclear disarmament was a matter of concern to humankind. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent testing activities, he urged all parties to cease belligerent rhetoric. International peace and security could not be underpinned by those arms being used as a deterrent, he said, emphasizing that dialogue and diplomacy were fundamental to achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said his country was deeply concerned about the catastrophic consequences of detonating atomic bombs, a point highlighted in the three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Also worrying was the continuation of qualitative improvements and modernization of nuclear arsenals and their means of delivery, which contradicted the spirit of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the rising tensions caused by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities, he called on relevant stakeholders to exercise restraint and refrain from making statements and taking actions that exacerbated the situation. South Africa reiterated its call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to discontinue its nuclear weapons programme and rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As a country that had voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, South Africa held a firm view that there were “no safe hands” for weapons of mass destruction.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said nuclear weapons would not create a stable world nor would they be determinants of development. Member States had to direct technical innovations and skills towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, not towards building nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a clear sign the international community would persevere in its quest to eliminate such arms, he said, calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately halt their programme. No matter where nuclear weapons were located, they posed a threat to all of humanity, he emphasized, encouraging the peaceful use of nuclear technology to advance development objectives.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, amid current nuclear threats, his delegation was participating in the high-level meeting “with a sense of urgency and even greater conviction that nuclear weapons should have no place in our global security framework”. The role of such weapons must be diminished and ultimately eliminated from security doctrines. Recent events had shown that they only compounded regional crises, deepened mistrust, reduced opportunities for meaningful cooperation and increased the prospect for humanitarian catastrophes. Voicing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an important addition to the world’s existing disarmament instruments, he called for a United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament to be convened no later than 2018. He also cited the additional risks posed by non-State actors with the means, resolve and determination to secure of weapons of mass destruction.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), expressing concern at the slow pace of disarmament, said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a step in the right direction, urging all States to sign and ratify it so that it could enter into force. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was both the cornerstone of disarmament and the bedrock for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he said, reiterating Libya’s commitment to international agreements regarding weapons of mass destruction. Genuine political will and international cooperation were crucial for meeting disarmament goals, he said, emphasizing that any use of nuclear weapons was a violation of the United Nations Charter and a crime against humanity.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that in an interdependent and connected world, nuclear weapons were no longer an asset, but a danger. As a country that had closed its test site and renounced its arsenal, Kazakhstan was deeply concerned about testing activities conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the only country in the twenty-first century to carry out such trials despite international condemnation. Such activities should compel States to ensure the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty, he said, calling on the Annex 2 States to ratify that instrument without further delay.
Kazakhstan intended to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said, highlighting the opening in August in Astana of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) low-enriched uranium bank that would ensure the safe supply of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. At its opening ceremonies, the President of Kazakhstan had underscored the harmful consequences of nuclear weapons for humanity, he said. Of the thousands of existing nuclear weapons, 0.5 per cent would devastate the climate and cause a global famine. That, in other words, meant self-destruction, he said.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concerns over repeated nuclear weapons testing by a Member State in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions. He urged all concerned to scale down provocations and de-escalate tensions in the interest of finding solutions through dialogue and negotiations. Bangladesh was also concerned by the slow pace of disarmament and a lack of initiatives by nuclear‑weapon States to reduce their arsenals. Raising other concerns, he warned of the threat of nuclear weapons and material falling into terrorist hands and the devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences of the use of such arms due to accidents, miscalculation or brinksmanship.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), recalling that the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 had claimed millions of lives and caused incomparable human suffering, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests now posed the most grave and imminent threat to international security. They also presented a challenge to the disarmament and non-proliferation regime. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should abide by all relevant Security Council resolutions and abandon its missile and nuclear weapons development immediately.
For its part, he said, Japan had established an international group of experts to provide recommendations for effective nuclear disarmament, to be presented at the 2020 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. With that in mind, Japan intended to present a draft resolution to the First Committee proposing practical and concrete measures to promote nuclear disarmament. Japan would also continue to serve as a bridge between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States in building confidence and work towards the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said his country had abandoned its nuclear capability, acceding in 1994 to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and in 2012, removed existing stockpiles of highly enriched uranium from its territory. It had consistently advocated for reducing arsenals, halting modernization programmes and decreasing the role of those arms in military doctrines. Its decision to renounce nuclear weapons was largely based on written security guarantees in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Now, Ukraine faced aggression by a nuclear‑weapon State, with the Russian Federation’s violation of that Memorandum. Urging nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their existing security assurance commitments, he called on countries that had not yet done so to sign or ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, especially the remaining Annex 2 States, and expressed support for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
CHRISTOPH ANTON (Germany) said his country had always been engaged in pursuing disarmament based on a pragmatic step-by-step approach, but the reality today was gloomy, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s illegal quest for nuclear weapons posing a real and grave threat. While such developments made it harder to convince States to further reduce their arsenals, that should not deter further disarmament progress. “The key question is how to achieve concrete, verifiable nuclear disarmament steps in a difficult, even conflict-ridden environment, not only in Asia, but also in many other parts of the world,” he said. Disarmament could not be achieved without considering the existing security environment, he added, emphasizing that Germany stood fully by its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commitments in that regard.
With a group of partners, he said, Germany supported a step-by-step approach toward effective, verifiable and irreversible disarmament, with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament structure. The next step would involve another substantial nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation, which together controlled more than 90 per cent of global stockpiles. Parallel to that would be concrete steps on the multilateral disarmament agenda, including the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty and negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. A robust and credible disarmament verification regime would also be needed, as well as a multilateral instrument on security assurances by nuclear-weapon States to the non-nuclear-weapon States. A step-by-step approach to disarmament could not count on quick success, but Member States should be united in their commitment to make progress, jointly try to overcome the current deadlock and bring closer a world without nuclear weapons.
DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), associating himself with CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 2017 marked a “before and after” in the quest for a nuclear-weapon-free world. Ecuador had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the understanding that States possessing nuclear weapons would begin negotiations for their elimination, he said, voicing a rejection of any interpretation of the instrument that gave any State the right to possess nuclear weapons indefinitely. Condemning recent nuclear tests in the strongest terms, he said there were no good or bad possessors of nuclear weapons. He expressed regret that the General Assembly had been forced to hear threats of the total destruction of entire countries, and appealed for an immediate halt to such threats.
BASSEM HASSAN (Egypt) said eliminating nuclear weapons hinged on nuclear Powers implementing their obligations to Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and leading efforts to achieve universal adherence to that instrument. Honest, inclusive discussions must be held on the validity of “construed conceptions” of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Current challenges stemmed from the existence of those weapons and a discriminatory nature of the non-proliferation regime. “It is quite elusive to address non-proliferation while disregarding disarmament,” he said, adding that non-nuclear-weapon States had grown impatient over the need to address gaps in the prevailing regime. Noting that Egypt was carrying out its Non‑Proliferation Treaty obligations, he said Arab countries in the Middle East were frustrated by repeated failures to establish a regional nuclear-weapon-free zone. He expressed disappointment over the decision to block consensus on the final document of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.
KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) said global efforts to regulate, reduce and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons were facing serious challenges. Lack of progress among nuclear-weapon States had negatively impacted global disarmament efforts, eroding international consensus on related issues, as evidenced by the failure of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament.
For its part, Pakistan was fully committed to disarmament, he said, emphasizing that progress could be achieved by applying genuine political will. Asking the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully comply with all Security Council resolutions and to abandon its nuclear programme, he said recent nuclear tests underscored a global need to restrain all such activities. Regretting to note the failure, despite his country’s efforts, to create a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the region, he called for additional non-proliferation criteria and the Test-Ban Treaty’s accelerated entry into force.
SUN LEI (China), reiterating his country’s commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world, pointed out the current uphill battle in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation. Nuclear weapons were like the sword of Damocles hanging over the world and it was imperative to ban them. Calling on all sides to embrace a security vision that included cooperation and the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he said China’s nuclear strategy was based on the principle of self-defence while respecting a moratorium on testing and a no-first-use commitment. China’s principled position was in line with the purposes of a prohibition treaty, but disarmament efforts must not diminish the security of States. Rather, disarmament must proceed in a step-by-step manner through existing disarmament and non-proliferation mechanisms to ensure the participation of all countries. Going forward, China would promote disarmament that was carried out in a rational, pragmatic and orderly fashion.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that, more than ever before, the world seemed to be on the brink of a nuclear disaster, with the spectre of atomic war at the highest level since the end of the cold war. Nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were unacceptable and reprehensible. Even worse, criminal groups and fanatics were on a quest to acquire nuclear bombs and material, augmenting the risk of deliberate or accidental explosions. Adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was an encouraging step, but their total elimination could not be carried out only by States that did not have such weapons. Nuclear-weapon States were indispensable to all disarmament initiatives and without their involvement, no progress would be made. Efforts towards sustainable development, combatting climate change and restoring peace in the world would come to naught if the planet remained threatened by atomic pulverization. Countries possessing nuclear weapons must understand that nuclear deterrence offered a false sense of security and that peace could not be founded on mutually assured destruction.
MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), emphasizing the importance of the General Assembly holding a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament in 2018, said complying with all United Nations resolutions on eliminating weapons of mass destruction was the only way to guarantee the non-use of these weapons. Urging the international community to redouble efforts to completely eliminate nuclear weapons and guarantee a safe and secure future for all generations, he outlined the General Assembly’s resolution 71/258 and the importance of taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament through negotiations, noting that the Conference on Disarmament was the sole multilateral negotiation body within the United Nations. Efforts must also be made to speed up the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty, he said, calling on all Annex 2 countries to ratify the instrument as soon as possible. Condemning the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear tests, he called on all States to respect the current moratorium on nuclear weapons explosions.
VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the total elimination of nuclear weapons remained the only viable approach to ensure international peace and security. Nigeria was proud to have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said, underscoring the many benefits of nuclear disarmament and emphasizing that Member States should demonstrate sincerity and commitment to the goal of the total elimination of such arms.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said security and stability would not exist while countries possessed weapons of mass destruction. He stressed the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and embrace existing relevant treaties. Saudi Arabia supported efforts to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone and called on Israel and Iran to cooperate in that process. He expressed optimism that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would strengthen international peace and security while reaffirming the right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), expressing his country’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons, said it had, over the last 30 years, actively participated in the nuclear disarmament process, including through “real progress” on a bilateral basis with the United States. He also described unilateral measures it had taken in that regard, including the development of more stringent storage measures and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the national security doctrine.
However, the nuclear-weapon States had had good reasons for not attending the recent conference that had negotiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said. Indeed, the question was how and when to introduce complete prohibition, he explained, emphasizing that the development of a legally binding instrument at the present stage was “clearly premature”. The Treaty had been developed in haste and its provisions would create risks for the established system, and generating mistrust among States. It also ignored existing reality, he said. The Treaty should have been adopted by consensus instead of through a vote, and the opinion of nuclear-weapon-States had been ignored.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said an increase in nuclear weapons testing in recent months had threatened peace and stability of the region and beyond. The risks rose when considering chances of accidental, mistaken or unauthorized use, the threat of their vulnerability due to technical failures, human error and cyberattacks and the danger of nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands, which could lead to unthinkable consequences. Nuclear weapons testing and use had disproportionately affected innocent women and children in many parts of the world and had contaminated water and food sources. The total elimination of nuclear weapons would be the only absolute guarantee against the grave danger they posed to humanity, he said, emphasizing that the international treaty framework remained the most effective and legally binding means to address disarmament and non-proliferation.
CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of a nuclear detonation would affect the planet as a whole, regardless of where it took place. “We have lost our patience” with the global disarmament machinery, he stressed, adding that Colombia was a party to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which had been a regional pioneer that had made an invaluable contribution to peace and non-proliferation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Noting that an ongoing dialogue with nuclear-weapon States would be critical, he said that while all nations bore a collective responsibility for global disarmament, nuclear-weapon States bore a special responsibility to disarm. “We have to move forward and make possible the impossible,” he concluded.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, recalled that his delegation had devoted many of its interventions in recent years to exposing and denouncing the existence of some 15,000 atomic weapons. He expressed regret over the paralysis of the global disarmament machinery. “To this dark background is added the recent nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 3 September”, as well as its recent ballistic missile launches over the territory of Japan. Despite that complex international context, Chile maintained its conviction that coexistence in a world without nuclear weapons was possible, and that maintaining peace and security without resorting to nuclear deterrence was not only possible, but an ethical imperative. Chile had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last week, he recalled, noting that the new instrument would open a promising new path to the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free planet. While it would not lead to the automatic elimination of nuclear weapons, the Treaty would create a rule to stigmatize their possession, thereby laying the groundwork for further negotiations.
IRMA ROSA (Honduras) said her country had worked to promote public awareness and education on the need for total elimination of nuclear weapons, adding that civil society and media had played an important role. Complete nuclear disarmament was the focus of efforts by the General Assembly, she said, commending the significant efforts of Member States to mobilize the international machinery to that end. However, more must be done to dismantle nuclear arsenals, she emphasized, describing the Treaty as a significant step towards safeguarding future generations. She called upon States that had not yet done so to sign up to it, and on Member States in general to exercise the political will to move forward towards the goal of nuclear disarmament.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said his country’s nuclear programme was strictly for peaceful purposes and in line with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. Voicing support for the adoption of concrete measures by nuclear-weapon States to make progress towards a world free of those arms, he said related talks must take place on the basis of broad global agreement. Noting that Argentina had voted in favour of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said his country would host the next meeting of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. States must meet their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and all relevant safeguard agreements, he said, including under the auspices of the IAEA. Such verification was critical to prohibit the hostile use of nuclear energy, he said, adding his strong condemnation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent activities in that regard. All States would need to show political will and flexibility in order to make progress towards complete global disarmament, with the early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty helping to build trust along the way.
MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said Pacific countries stood united against nuclear weapons. Scars and fear that had been caused by nuclear weapon tests in the region would never fade, she said. With no army or military affiliation, Samoa relied on the protections afforded by the rule of law. The mere existence of nuclear weapons made peace unattainable, she noted, calling for logical solutions to completely eliminate them. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reflected Samoa’s aspirations for a nuclear-weapon-free world, a mission that called for a sense of urgency and cooperation.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said his country strongly supported nuclear disarmament efforts, and highlighted the active part it had played in the Treaty’s elaboration. Guatemala was firmly committed to ensuring that nuclear weapons would never be used again. The Treaty demonstrated the steadfast political will of States to break with the status quo, he said, adding that the media had also played an important role in raising awareness of the nuclear disarmament issue. He condemned provocative actions by countries armed with nuclear weapons, saying they were threatening global peace and stability.
BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland) said his country had been among the first to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The impetus for that instrument and the Non-Proliferation Treaty had stemmed from the international community’s awareness of the risks and catastrophic consequences of the use of those arms. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear testing, he said those activities had highlighted the urgent need for the implementation of the Test-Ban Treaty. Recalling a meeting he had had last week with representatives from Nagasaki, Japan, he said he had heard their testimony on why the international community must strive for a world free of nuclear weapons. With that in mind, he called for a redoubling of efforts towards that common goal.
Mr. GONÇALVES (Timor-Leste), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country looked forward to a secure world free of all nuclear weapons. Today’s world was facing numerous challenges and injustices, including threats from such weapons, which were “part of our daily reality”. The use of nuclear weapons as security deterrents was both dangerous and unsustainable, he said, warning that they could fall into the hands of non-State actors and threatened the very existence of humanity itself. Recalling that the world had once witnessed the catastrophic effects of the use of nuclear weapons, he stressed that all methods should be employed to ensure that they were never used again, emphasizing that both dialogue and prevention would be critical in that regard.
NUR ASHIKIN MOHD TAIB (Malaysia), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasized her country’s strong belief that the existence of nuclear weapons was incompatible with elementary considerations of humanity, and that their total elimination would be the only guarantee that they would never be used. Malaysia had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on that basis, and remained convinced that the political and legal impact of that instrument would lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty would also send a powerful message that nuclear weapons were unacceptable, strengthen global norms, and stigmatize nuclear weapons, while providing openings for other States to sign up in the future. The signing of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons also reflected Malaysia’s commitment and support for the principle of general and complete disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament and measures towards realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world, she said.
IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden) said that instead of delivering on disarmament commitments, nuclear-weapon States were modernizing or expanding their arsenals, and some even spoke of using them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must refrain from further illegal nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches and choose a path of credible and meaningful dialogue and negotiation. While past years had seen a serious and dangerous loss of momentum on disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, one notable exception had been the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, which must be respected by all parties. Moving towards the next review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2020, “we all have a responsibility not to repeat the failure of the 2015 conference”, she said, adding that nuclear-weapon States must first and foremost finally deliver on their commitments flowing from article VI of that instrument. “Nuclear weapons are the most inhumane of all weapons,” she stressed, calling for practical measures towards total nuclear disarmament and expressing hope that the First Committee would “make a true difference” in its work during the Assembly’s seventy-second session.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, having signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, said no nuclear-weapon State could be persuaded to eliminate its nuclear arsenal unless there was a general and complete disarmament process. That process would be needed to avoid an imbalance of conventional forces, he added, encouraging States that had not yet ratified relevant disarmament treaties to do so and thus enable their entry into force. Highlighting the disarmament-development nexus, he urged Governments to reallocate saved resources to sustainable development.
DENNIS KUCINICH, Basel Peace Office, said the international community must insist upon structured, legally affirmed treaties to compel non-violent conflict resolution. Technology created a “global village”, but in terms of nuclear weapons, the line between deterrence and provocation was a thin one. “An aggressive expression of nuclear sovereignty is suicidal,” he said, adding that now was the moment for citizens of the world to use social media to insist on nuclear disarmament and nuclear abolition through non-violent conflict resolution, while affirming technology’s evolutionary potential for peace. He emphasized that the world’s security would only be enhanced when each Member State of the 193‑strong General Assembly had a vote in the Security Council. He urged individuals to disarm and abolish any destructive force that could breed domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, gun violence and racial violence. He called for the elimination of destructive “words of mass destruction” that could unleash weapons of mass destruction, stressing that nations must abandon “designs for empire and dominance”.
MARZHAN NURZHAN, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said his country, Kazakhstan, had inherited 1,500 nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union, which had given it possession of the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. Kazakhstan had rejected the weapons, however, due to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear testing carried out by the Soviet Union at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site from 1949 to 1989. The fallout from those tests had contaminated the Semey region and led to the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement that had resulted in the test site’s closure. The Government’s renunciation of nuclear weapons had in turn led to negotiations on a nuclear-weapon-free Central Asia, the establishment of the “ATOM project” and an agenda for eliminating nuclear weapons by 2045.
He called on Governments to recognize the importance of engaging young people on the issue, and for their implementation of Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on reducing military spending and re-investing resources to address social and economic needs. He also expressed hope that the Security Council and the General Assembly would “take up the call” by President Nursultan Nazarbayev for 1 per cent of all military spending to be redirected to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. He said youth around the world would participate in “Reach HIGH for a Nuclear-weapon-free World”, and called upon Governments also to “reach high” and announce their attendance at the 2018 United Nations High-level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament. He noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had adopted resolutions in support of that event and called for the inclusion of high-level parliamentarians and youth in Government delegations.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ, League of Arab States, spoke on behalf of the bloc’s Secretary-General, reiterating the importance of a nuclear-weapon-free world and of complete nuclear disarmament. It was also important that nuclear-weapon States participate in the process, accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and place international interests above national interests, he emphasized. Underlining the Arab League’s commitment to the Middle East as a zone free from weapons of mass destruction, he expressed regret that Israel did not support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. To that end, he urged Israel to give control of all their nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and engage with the international community on efforts to prohibit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Despite progress on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, the League had been abiding by their commitments and was stressing the need for such zones, as they were the cornerstone of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said today’s meeting had proved that the international community of States was more determined than ever to establish a nuclear-weapon-free world. He expressed regret that allegations had been levied against his country, saying it was ironic that Iran had been told to respect human rights by a “medieval regime” that, in the twenty-first century, was celebrating granting women the right to drive.