Making Economic Case for Disarmament, First Committee Delegates Issue Calls to Trim Soaring Military Budgets, Reinvest Funds in Vital 2030 Agenda Goals

GA/DIS/3598
9 October 2018
Seventy-third Session, 3rd Meeting (AM)

Making Economic Case for Disarmament, First Committee Delegates Issue Calls to Trim Soaring Military Budgets, Reinvest Funds in Vital 2030 Agenda Goals

Amid increases in global military expenditures, nuclear weapons acquisitions and stock modernization, delegates stressed that there would be “no winners” in any kind of nuclear weapon confrontation and this funding would be better spent on achieving vital development objectives, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate today.

That sentiment was shared by Thailand’s delegate, who made an economic case for eliminating nuclear weapons, saying that “freeing up national budgets used to maintain the operational status of nuclear weapons is smart, valuable and beneficial”.  These funds can be diverted to poverty reduction, universal health care and other important development goals.

Indeed, money saved during the disarmament process should be effectively integrated into nationally owned and driven programmes that enhance socioeconomic development, Kenya’s representative said, echoing concerns raised during the day about the rising costs of defence spending.  Several delegates representing non‑nuclear‑weapon States agreed, with some recommending that instead of growing arsenals, they should invest in efforts towards meeting the goals and targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Highlighting that the 2030 Agenda provides the road map to a peaceful and prosperous world, the representative of Maldives declared that his country has never produced any armaments or weapons.  Improving the quality of life of its people had in fact made it more secure, he added.

Dismayed by the unfettered access of a broad range of conventional weapons by unauthorized non‑State actors, several delegates also highlighted the continued risk of illicitly procured or transferred arms that are fuelling atrocities and carnage around the world.  Sounding that alarm, Chile’s representative said the illicit trade in small arms, light weapons and their ammunition is “a scourge whose destructive effects are immeasurable, surpassing the sphere of international security”.

Imagining a threat of an even bigger scale, the representative of the Philippines said an atomic bomb in terrorist hands would be the “ultimate nightmare”.  He emphasized the importance of halting the spread of nuclear weapons to non‑State parties through stable as well as unstable States.

While many old disputes continue to fester, new conflicts are constantly emerging, said Pakistan’s representative, warning of a steady rise in the quality and quantity of armaments as ever more deadly weapons are being developed.

Several speakers also expressed concern about the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria, as well as in the United Kingdom earlier in 2018.  Citing recent positive developments, several delegates also expressed hope for a path towards peace on the Korean Peninsula, while pressing for legally binding commitments.

Concerns about a host of other pressing disarmament and international security issues also shaped the debate, include the weaponization of outer space, a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test-Ban Treaty.

Also speaking were the representatives of Germany, Brunei Darussalam, Ukraine, Nigeria, Norway, Egypt, Poland, Sweden, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Estonia, Japan, Russian Federation, Viet Nam and Argentina.  Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the Russian Federation, United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Japan and Syria.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.

Statements

RÜDIGER BOHN (Germany), concerned that positive global developments could be reversed amid rising tensions, deadlocked conflicts and international agreements under pressure, said the undisputed success of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons meant that the international community must constantly protect and strengthen it.  Also, the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty was a major step in the direction towards a world free of nuclear weapons, he said, calling on the remaining Annex 2 States to sign and/or ratify the Treaty.  While he welcomed the promising diplomatic discussions between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States, he called on the international community to maintain pressure on that country until verifiable steps are taken to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement is another important contribution to the global nuclear non‑proliferation architecture and Germany remains committed to its implementation, calling on Iran to cooperate.  On other weapons categories, he voiced support for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, and called for improved control of small arms, light weapons and their ammunition.  Regarding the use of lethal autonomous weapons, Germany and France suggested adopting a political declaration as a first step to commit States to the principle of human control over future lethal weapons systems.

AZLAN GHANI (Brunei Darussalam), associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that in the current, unpredictable security environment, multilateral cooperation and partnership are key to global disarmament and non‑proliferation.  Asserting that disarmament of weapons of mass destruction is indispensable in that context, he welcomed the Secretary‑General’s agenda on the topic.  His country will support the agenda, has signed onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in September and has supported nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, working with ASEAN to ensure that status for the region.  Reiterating his Government’s strong position against the use of chemical weapons, he added said Brunei Darussalam is using a whole‑of‑Government approach to bolster the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.  He pledged to work constructively during the session with all countries and relevant bodies to attain positive and tangible outcomes in these areas in the First Committee.

KATERYNA BILA (Ukraine) said that despite the Russian Federation’s aggression, her country continued to fully implement international arms control regimes, including the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  At the same time, the entry into force of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons without the participation of nuclear‑weapon States would weaken the Non‑Proliferation Treaty regime itself.  She went on to note that negotiating a fissile material cut‑off treaty within the Conference on Disarmament is essential to advancing the goal of nuclear disarmament, while acknowledging the importance of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, including in the Middle East.  She also recognized the role in addressing post‑conflict remedial measures to minimize the occurrence, risk and effects of the explosive remnants of war that is played by the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  However, she expressed alarm over the Russian Federation’s militarization of Crimea, including reports of the placement of nuclear weapons in the territory, and more recently, its military expansion in the Sea of Azov, which has implications for maritime trade.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said anti‑personnel mines pose great danger to soldiers and civilians and continue to hinder his country’s social and economic development.  Since becoming a State party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Thailand has worked diligently to return safe land to its people through a collaboration among Government, local communities and civil society.  His delegation also supports the central role of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and encourages constructive dialogue among States parties under the Chemical Weapons Convention.  In September, Thailand ratified the Test‑Ban Treaty, cementing its long‑standing commitment to ending nuclear test explosions.  Making an economic case for eliminating nuclear weapons, he said “freeing up national budgets used to maintain the operational status of nuclear weapons is smart, valuable and beneficial,” adding that these funds can be diverted to poverty reduction, universal health care and other important development goals.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria) highlighted the astronomical proportion of global defence budgets, including the enormous resources devoted to the maintenance and upgrading of nuclear arsenals by nuclear‑weapon States, as well as unfettered access to a wide‑ranging collection of conventional weapons by unauthorized non‑State actors.  Illicitly procured or transferred arms by non‑State entities have enabled atrocities and the carnage has become phenomenal from Africa to the Middle East, across Europe to the Americas and Asia.  Recalling the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said Nigeria was among its first signatories.  As a State party to the African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, Nigeria welcomes the establishment of such zones in many parts of the world, he said, adding that his delegation will submit two draft resolutions on behalf of the African Group related to the continent’s nuclear‑weapon‑free zone and to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, as well as one resolution in its national capacity on the United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services.

ATLE MIDTTUN (Norway), said chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Iraq, the United Kingdom and Kuala Lumpur.  As such, those responsible must be held accountable, he said, voicing support for a decision taken in June by the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to determine who used those weapons.  While Norway fully supports the goal of ridding the world of atomic bombs, it will not sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons because the Non‑Proliferation Treaty continues to be the cornerstone of common efforts on disarmament, non‑proliferation and peaceful uses of related technology.  Norway is seeking the presidency of the Mine Ban Convention for 2019 and plans to use the forthcoming review conference to draw renewed political attention to the need to further strengthen the instrument, he said, adding that “a mine‑free world by 2025 is still our ambition.”

THOMAS AMOLO (Kenya) expressed support for the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy, as well as working towards complete nuclear disarmament.  As a party to the Test‑Ban Treaty, he called on countries that have not yet ratified the instrument to ensure its entry into force.  He reiterated concern regarding the continued increase in global military expenditures, nuclear weapons acquisitions and stock modernization, noting that there would be “no winners” in any nuclear confrontation.  Praising the important work of both the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission, he said disarmament can have a significant positive impact on development.  In that vein, resources saved during the disarmament process should be effectively integrated into nationally owned and driven programmes that enhance socioeconomic development.

BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt) said that considering increased challenges facing the disarmament and non‑proliferation regimes, the First Committee has twin responsibilities in tackling these developments in a neutral manner as they have a direct impact on international security.  Noting that great Powers are denouncing their commitments to the international disarmament regime, he expressed concern at a lack of progress in nuclear disarmament and achieving universality for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, noting also the international community’s failure to meet its commitments to the 1995 Review Conference that would have led to establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.  Going forward, resolutions are needed to make tangible steps towards that goal.  In that context, he called for a negotiating conference in 2019 to reach a legally binding agreement by consensus that would respond to the free will of countries in the region.  While respecting a country’s sovereign right to defence, he expressed support for efforts to combat the illegitimate trade of weapons, calling on Member States to address those parties who are supplying weapons to terrorists.  On preventing an arms race in outer space, he looked forward to a binding legal instrument to fill current gaps and a consensus on the issue that would give equal security to all.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, said the progress achieved so far on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will come to naught if the international community falls short on disarmament and international security.  Expressing concern over the modernization of nuclear arsenals by the nuclear‑weapon States, he said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons does not replace the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, but rather serves as a capstone of the nuclear disarmament architecture.  An atomic bomb in terrorist hands is the “ultimate nightmare”, he said, emphasizing the importance of halting the spread of nuclear weapons to non‑State parties through stable as well as unstable States.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda, he said Member States must work together to ensure the success of the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

MARCIN WRÓBLEWSKI (Poland), expressing a commitment to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty goals, said the instrument has been the cornerstone of the global regime for nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament and the essential part of the modern collective security system.  In 2017 and 2018, as Chair of the work of The Hague Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation, Poland supported the instrument as a major tool for transparency and confidence‑building measures.  His delegation will introduce a draft resolution on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  While it is important that the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda is an initiative that comes from the top of the Organization, it is not universal in character and should be applied to the needs and expectations of individual States.  In this context, he said Poland will look forward to the implementation plan to be presented by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

FARUKH AMIL (Pakistan) lamented the declining international security situation, characterized by growing instability and mistrust.  While many old disputes continue to fester, new conflicts are constantly emerging, he said, highlighting the steady rise in the quality and quantity of armaments as ever more deadly and sophisticated weapons are being developed.  Marked by one country’s quest for hegemony, such trends are most pronounced in the South Asian region.  Security dynamics are further complicated by discriminatory exemptions made by certain States to supply advanced military hardware.  Such actions sidestep non‑proliferation considerations.  He renewed his Government’s proposal for a bilateral arrangement between Pakistan and India on a nuclear test ban, which he said would go a long way in strengthening the global norm against the practice and promote regional stability.  Concerning the disarmament machinery, he said the attempt by some States to divert attention from the non‑fulfilment of their obligations by proposing additional non‑proliferation measures — ones that are completely cost‑free for them, but carry huge implications for the security of others — is no longer working.

MILENKO SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), recalled that his delegation signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, demonstrating its commitment to disarmament and non‑proliferation.  Moreover, the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the disarmament and non‑proliferation regime.  Turning to other concerns, he said the illicit trade in small arms, light weapons and their ammunition is “a scourge whose destructive effects are immeasurable, surpassing the sphere of international security”.  In this context, Chile is ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.  Turning to the responsible management of the Internet, he emphasized that international cooperation is essential to maintaining a free, open and secure cyberspace based on international regulation.

ANDRES JATO (Sweden) underlined the importance of disarmament verification, which offers a promising avenue for cooperation.  The safeguards system offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is indispensable, and it is necessary to give political and financial support to the Agency, which is much more than a nuclear watchdog.  It makes crucial contributions in areas such as health, food, agriculture and water purification.  For its part, Sweden will chair the 2018 and 2019 work of The Hague Code of Conduct, which is a voluntary arrangement that aims at, among other things, countering the spread of ballistic missile technology.  As for the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must translate commitments into legally binding undertakings, including through signing and ratifying the Test‑Ban Treaty.  Importantly, IAEA should be given a role early in the verification of the denuclearization and disarmament process.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said his delegation attaches great importance to the creation of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as it has significantly contributed to the strengthening of the global nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime, as well as the enhancement of regional and global peace and security.  His Government supports preserving South‑East Asia as a region free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  Raising other concerns, he said cluster munitions were heavily used during a nine‑year‑long war in his country.  Pointing out that it would take many years to clear the unexploded ordnance and huge resources are needed to support that work, he said his Government added one national goal to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals — “SDG 18” on lives safe from unexpected ordnance.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) expressed concern about the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria, condemning their use in the United Kingdom earlier in 2018.  Both attacks were confirmed by OPCW and are in grave violation of international law.  As such, he welcomed the decision made by the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to enhance OPCW capacity to identify perpetrators and develop a universal attribution mechanism.  Estonia also supported both 2016 resolutions on a fissile material cut‑off treaty and on nuclear disarmament verification, he recalled, reiterating a request to participate as a full member of the Conference on Disarmament.  He also expressed concern about the financial difficulties faced by several disarmament conventions, calling on all Member States to honour their financial responsibilities.

NOBUSHIGE TAKAMIZAWA (Japan) said nuclear weapons have not been used for 73 years, but threats from these armaments still exist.  “We need to seek security and nuclear disarmament simultaneously,” he said, stressing a need to strike a balance of these two.  The necessity of restoring “civility in discourse” and respect for divergent views must be emphasized in those discussions.  Japan will submit a resolution titled “United Action with Renewed Determination towards the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”, and reaffirms its strong commitment to the goal of achieving complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all nuclear weapons, existing nuclear programmes, related facilities and ballistic missiles of all ranges in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Disarmament and non‑proliferation education has an important role to play in cultivating critical thinking.  With less than two years before the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, efforts must centre on the implementation of practical measures, initiatives to facilitate constructive dialogue and interaction of all stakeholders.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) described ways his Government has been making a large‑scale contribution to the reduction of strategic offensive arms over the past 50 years.  Moscow reached a threshold in February marking an 85 per cent reduction of its nuclear arsenal from the peak of the cold war, as outlined in 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).  While his country is ready to explore a five‑year extension of this Treaty, the United States must resolve all outstanding issues.  “We need an interested and responsible partner,” he said, underlining the crucial principle of the mandatory simultaneous strengthening of the security of all the participants to the process of eliminating nuclear weapons.  He warned against the updated United States nuclear doctrine leading to lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, as well as unrestricted developments of a global missile defence system.  He also expressed concerns over Washington’s on‑the‑ground installation of MK‑41 universal launchers in Romania and Poland, contrary to the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as well as over the involvement of non‑nuclear‑weapon States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in planning and training operations, in direct violation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  The Russian Federation remains in the vanguard of multilateral efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space by elaborating a legally binding agreement and promoting any related initiatives.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said a peaceful and prosperous world can only be achieved through disarmament, divesting in arms production, reducing poverty, adapting to climate change and guaranteeing fundamental human rights.  While it may sound utopian, it is the only realistic way forward, he said, noting that the 2030 Agenda provides the road map.  In that context, the First Committee’s work must be closely aligned with that of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).  To achieve greater synergy in shaping recommendations, there is also a need for closer collaboration with the Sixth Committee (Legal).  Noting that his country has never produced any armaments or weapons, he said improving the quality of life of its people made Maldives more secure and stronger.  To achieve a world without nuclear weapons, countries that possess such weapons must dismantle their related programmes and renounce their possession.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) said the role of the disarmament machinery was ever more important given current global security challenges.  In that context, he welcomed both the Secretary‑General’s new disarmament agenda and efforts made towards resolving non‑proliferation issues on the Korean Peninsula.  In addition to addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, progress in disarmament must be made, particularly towards the goal of general and complete disarmament.  Meanwhile, he called on States to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty to ensure its entry into force.  Sharing concerns about the spread of conventional weapons, he reaffirmed the sovereign right of nations to acquire, manufacture and retain such arms for national self‑defence and security.  In that vein, the Arms Trade Treaty needs to strike a balance between regulatory purposes and avoiding unnecessary burdens.  Technical assistance should also be available to help countries to address the illegal arms trade.  Concerning anti‑personnel mines, he lauded humanitarian initiatives that help States to address the aftermath of war and thanked international partners for their support of Viet Nam in that regard.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, which pose an existential threat to all of mankind.  Advocating for the non‑militarization of outer space, he noted that on 7 October, Argentina put into orbit the most modern satellite of its kind, one that has applications that can help to monitor and mitigate natural disasters.  Highlighting Argentina’s candidacy to chair the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, he called on Member States to tackle constructive ideas based on consensus.  At the same time, there is a need to continue working towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, which is why his Government supported the adoption of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Argentina is now analysing the impact it would have on other non‑proliferation regimes and nuclear energy.  Achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free world depends on convening a constructive dialogue between non‑nuclear‑weapon States and possessor States.  Regarding other concerns, he called on all States to adhere to Chemical Weapons Convention obligations, adding that a new consensus is needed on how the deployment of such arms can be dealt with to prevent a resurgence of that threat.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, saying his counterpart from Ukraine fabricated the truth, expressed condolences to the Ukraine people who are enduring a most difficult time, following the bloody coup in Kyiv supported by the United States and the European Union.  On Crimea, residents there complied with international norms and conducted a referendum.  About 93 per cent of residents voted and of them 95 per cent were in favour of returning to the Russian Federation.  Crimea had always been part of the Russian Federation.  The poll was conducted in a democratic manner, with not a single shot fired and not a single person hurt.  Kyiv has yet to implement the Minsk agreements, which were created with mediation provided by Germany, France and the Russian Federation and were endorsed by the Security Council.

The representative of the United States rejected “outrageous” accusations made yesterday by Syria’s delegate that Washington, D.C., is providing chemical weapons to terrorists in that country.  Today, the Russian Federation’s delegate had a laundry list of things to complain about concerning the United States.  But, the United States is in full compliance with the New START Treaty, whose extension can be explored at an appropriate time.  Washington, D.C., is concerned about Moscow’s behaviour and breaches of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and other conventions, including the production of cruise missiles with an operational range beyond 5,500 kilometres, he said, adding that NATO member countries do nothing that violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said Japan is the only country that is uncomfortable with the positive developments on the Korean Peninsula.  All other delegations expressed support and hope for peace and reconciliation there.  It is none of Japan’s business to interfere in the denuclearization of his country.  Norway’s delegate is ignorant about the long history of nuclear programmes in his country, he said, wondering why Norway has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The representative of Ukraine pointed out that the Russian Federation is placing nuclear facilities in Crimea and it is the only delegation who speaks in a disrespectful manner.

The representative of Japan urged his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to carefully examine the difference between his remarks last year and this year.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he is bringing issues with the United States to the First Committee because problems have always existed between both sides and there should be no avoidance of difficult topics.  The United States interprets the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a way beneficial to them.  Denouncing the installation of MK-41 missiles in Romania and Poland, he said NATO-organized deployments constituted a violation of articles 1 and 2 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he does not see any substantial change in the statements made by Japan’s delegate last year and this year.  Japan should first face its past of wrongdoing.  Any United Nations Member State should contribute to creating conditions conducive to lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

The representative of the United States said it has been extremely difficult to have the Russian Federation admit that missiles with an operational range beyond 5,500 kilometres have been tested in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  “Our patience is not infinite,” he said, urging Moscow to “come back into compliance”.

The representative of Syria said his delegation has provided information to the Security Council and its Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).  That included information on the existence of a United States-manufactured chemical agent in the hands of terrorists in Syria.  Further, his Government has the names of United States chemical experts who travelled to Syria to teach terrorists how to use chemicals as weapons.  So far, the United States has failed to respond.

For information media. Not an official record.