Member States must pump new life into the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s only permanent multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body, which has failed to produce concrete results for more than two decades, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today, continuing its general debate.
“We can no longer engage in past repetitive activities that have not brought the Conference closer to an agreement on a programme of work,” said South Africa’s delegate, calling on Member States to show increased flexibility and a willingness to move beyond narrow interests to ensure progress.
Speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), El Salvador’s representative also expressed regrets that the Conference has not been able to fulfil its mandate for two decades. He urged the start of substantive work, including negotiations on treaties addressing negative security guarantees and the prohibition of further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. Similarly, Venezuela’s delegate also supported efforts in the Conference to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space, welcoming the related Chinese‑Russian draft treaty.
However, some delegates said the integrity of the Conference is at stake. “The Conference on Disarmament’s dismal failure to adopt a programme of work continues to diminish its credibility,” Mongolia’s representative said, adding that its shortcomings lie fundamentally in irreconcilable differences among its Member States. However, there is a glimpse of hope in 2018, he said, highlighting the Conference’s success in February in establishing five subsidiary bodies to engage in substantive discussions for the first time in 20 years.
Several speakers exchanged views on nuclear deterrence. Citing rising tensions around the world, the United States’ delegate said security challenges that cause States to rely on nuclear deterrence must be addressed. Because the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is not “a silver bullet” that offers solutions to these challenges, her Government submitted the working paper to the recent Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, she said, inviting all States to engage in realistic dialogue about the security environment.
France does not intend to accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, its representative said, explaining that for many States in Europe and Asia, nuclear deterrence continues to play a role in preserving regional and international stability and security.
Reflecting the view of Latin American countries, Cuba’s delegate expressed a deep concern at the very existence of 14,400 nuclear weapons on Earth, rejecting military posturing and doctrines based on deterrence.
The representative of Kazakhstan said that while some States believe the establishment of peace is the primary condition for nuclear disarmament, others maintain that nuclear disarmament is sine qua non for achieving global peace. “Disarmament and peace should and can be pursued in parallel, based on mutual trust,” he stressed.
Other topics discussed today included the need to bring to justice perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks, the effectiveness of establishing nuclear‑weapon‑free zones in the drive towards the total elimination of atomic bombs as well as the need to prevent the spread of small arms and light weapons that continues to fuel armed conflicts.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Ireland, Brazil, Uruguay, Hungary, Australia, Paraguay, United Republic of Tanzania, Qatar, Kuwait and New Zealand. The representatives of Iran, China, Russian Federation and the United States spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 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 information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the region has a long‑standing tradition of disarmament and non‑proliferation, holding comprehensive and complete disarmament as the highest priority for the international community towards a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. In this regard, the Community opposes upgrading and modernizing weapons, he said, calling for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) will contribute to achieving these objectives. The Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the cornerstone of the global disarmament and non‑proliferation regime, he said, calling on States to accede to it without delay if they have not already done so. CELAC looks forward to achieving positive outcomes at the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
The Community welcomes the suspension of nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the ongoing diplomatic efforts, he said, expressing hope for lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. He also welcomed the outcome of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, but much remains to be done, including adopting a legally binding instrument on marking and tracing. The Arms Trade Treaty is an effective response to trafficking, especially by non‑State actors and transnational crime organizations. But, a balanced implementation of this Treaty is important to respect States’ sovereignty and right to self‑defence. The Conference on Disarmament must agree on a balanced substantive work programme to break its 20‑year deadlock, as it is the only body for treaty negotiations, including on a legally binding instrument on negative security guarantees and a fissile material cut‑off treaty.
ORLAITH FITZMAURICE GRAY (Ireland) called on Member States to recommit to sustainable peace and security given recent violations of international humanitarian law, political stalemates and challenges to norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction. More broadly, the unrestricted spread and use of any weapon threatens human rights, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the very future of the planet, she said. While the deteriorating international security environment continues to be cited as a justification for slow progress on disarmament, the global security environment is not an excuse for inaction, rather it reinforces the need for urgency. Her Government would welcome a focus on risk‑reduction measures such as de-alerting. The entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty also remains a top priority for her delegation.
ANDREA THOMPSON (United States) recalled that her country’s nuclear stockpiles are at their lowest point since the 1950s as it continues to abide by the relevant treaties regarding a moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. Further, the United States submitted the working paper “Creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament” to the 2018 meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, inviting all States to engage in realistic dialogue about the security environment. The First Committee is an ideal venue for that discussion, she added. Citing rising tensions around the world, she said there is “no silver bullet” for disarmament, and that the security challenges that cause States to rely on nuclear deterrence must be addressed. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons does not offer solutions to these security challenges. The United States’ initiative on creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament offers a practical way forward, she said, inviting States who share the goal of realistic dialogue and disarmament to join. While the United States supports the goal of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, she rejects efforts to use the First Committee forum to dictate the terms of that initiative.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the New Agenda Coalition, recalled that his delegation was the first sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the ratification process is under way. After years of paralysis, the Conference on Disarmament was able to conduct substantive work in 2018 in the context of four subsidiary bodies whose reports were adopted by consensus. In terms of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, however, he expressed frustration over the failure, so far, to convene a conference on the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. As a member of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Brazil will continue supporting the establishment of such zones around the world. His Government also developed a successful model for regional cooperation and confidence‑building with Argentina in the form of the Brazilian‑Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials. Moreover, Brazil, Austria and Chile have proposed a mandate to establish a legally binding positive obligation with regard to human control of autonomous weapons systems with regard to 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.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) expressed support for the total elimination of nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, without preconditions and within an agreed time frame. Nothing justifies their use and States must dispense of them within their military doctrines and strategies. He urged nuclear‑weapon States to redouble efforts to reduce their arsenals and called on Annex 2 States to sign the Non‑Proliferation Treaty without further delay. The total elimination of chemical and biological weapons is also Uruguay’s priority as it represents a serious violation of international and humanitarian law. He encouraged States that possess such weapons to abide by relevant conventions. Turning to conventional arms, he said Uruguay favours the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty and urges States to ratify the instrument immediately. The cost of armed conflicts in human lives is high, he said, especially for women and children. States that produce and trade such weapons bear a responsibility in controlling access to them, given their use by terrorist groups and the real possibility that weapons of mass destruction could also fall into their hands.
YANN HWANG (France) said the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is greater than ever before. Condemning the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria, as well as the use of the nerve agent novichok in the United Kingdom, he said resignation to the current situation is not an option. Expressing regret at the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement, he reiterated France’s continued commitment to the deal and encouraged Iran to exercise restraint in its response to the United States’ decision. Beyond proliferation issues, he highlighted the deterioration of the international strategic environment. Affirming that France does not intend to accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said for many States in Europe and Asia, nuclear deterrence continues to play a role in preserving regional and international stability and security. Nevertheless, France remains committed to the objective of a world without nuclear weapons, when the situation allows, with undiminished security for all.
GYÖRGY MOLNÁR (Hungary) expressed support for efforts to start negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for a fissile material cut‑off treaty, as such a ban is a concrete step towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Regretting to note a breaking point concerning the use of chemical weapons in various parts of the world, he said the continued violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction must be a matter of grave concern to the whole international community. However, enormous progress came after a recent decision of the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to enhance the capacity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to identify perpetrators using such armaments.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed a deep concern at the very existence of 14,400 nuclear weapons on Earth. Further, some nuclear‑weapon States lowered the threshold for the use of such weapons. Such military posturing and doctrine based on deterrence are unacceptable. Each year, millions of dollars are spent in the military industry, resources that could be invested in social and economic development. Nuclear‑weapon States should fulfil their responsibility, especially when the Non‑Proliferation Treaty approaches its fiftieth anniversary. She also expressed concerns over cyberattacks and the use of other new technologies, including “killer robots” and drones. Denouncing unilateral sanctions, she said Cuba will continue to defend multilateralism.
ARSEN OMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that while some States believe the establishment of peace is the primary condition for nuclear disarmament, others maintain that nuclear disarmament is sine qua non for achieving global peace. Disarmament and peace should and can be pursued in parallel, based on mutual trust. Disputes between countries should not be resolved by military means, he said, noting that the main pillars of the global security architecture are being jeopardized by world Powers seeking confrontation. Indeed, the world is now on the edge of a new cold war that threatens achievements made over the past four decades. Underscoring the importance of confidence‑building measures, he said over the last century such measures halted an arms race and prevented a nuclear catastrophe. In this context, he called for political trust and dialogue to be brought back into international affairs. He went on to note the Central Asian States’ commitment to institutionalize the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia (Semipalatinsk Treaty), the only nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Northern Hemisphere.
IAN MCCONVILLE (Australia) said his delegation remains deeply concerned about violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and called on all States parties to assist in establishing an attribution mechanism in Syria. He encouraged States to support the Test‑Ban Treaty and noted that the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is an opportunity to strengthen the instrument. He welcomed dialogue efforts involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and voiced support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Regarding terrorism, he called for a multifaceted approach that starts by addressing the drivers of violent extremism. On other matters, he said the new Australian Space Agency is committed to strengthening norms of responsible behaviour and international rules for space and, on international cyberissues, expressed support for the continued expert discussion in the United Nations.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said the Conference on Disarmament’s dismal failure to adopt a programme of work continues to diminish its credibility. Its shortcoming lie fundamentally in irreconcilable differences among its Member States. However, there is a glimpse of hope in 2018, as the Conference established five subsidiary bodies in February to engage in substantive discussions for the first time in 20 years. Committed to maintaining international peace and security in the world, including in Northeast Asia, Mongolia has, since the early 2000s, been pursuing a policy of avoiding the isolation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The recent positive developments on the Korean Peninsula attest to the effectiveness of this policy. Mongolia’s two‑decade‑long nuclear‑weapon‑free status demonstrates that it is an effective way to ensure the national security of States. In this vein, his delegation will submit to the First Committee the draft resolution “Mongolia’s international security and nuclear‑weapon‑free status”.
JOHANN KELLERMAN (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition, said that while his delegation remains committed to a functioning Conference on Disarmament, the 22‑year‑long deadlock is regrettable. “We can no longer engage in past repetitive activities that have not brought the Conference closer to an agreement on a Programme of Work,” he emphasized, calling on Member States to show increased flexibility and a willingness to move beyond narrow interests to ensure progress. Regarding the Non‑Proliferation Treaty review cycle, any future outcome must not roll back or reinterpret agreements reached during past review conferences. The Treaty’s vitality and relevance depends on the extent to which States parties implement their obligations and commitments. He also expressed concern at reports of the rising number of victims from anti‑personnel mines, improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordinances and other explosive remnants of war, calling on States to join relevant instruments without delay.
JULIO CESAR ARRIOLA RAMIREZ (Paraguay) said disarmament and non‑proliferation should continue to be debated in the General Assembly. Urging Member States to pursue related initiatives through multilateral frameworks, he rejected unilateral acts geared at undermining such negotiations. Meanwhile, he expressed support for the exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes, as well as the effective implementation of policies aimed at preventing cyberthreats and attacks. In that regard, his Government supports instruments that regulate advancements in information and communications technology. Noting that nuclear disarmament must be transparent and irreversible, with effective verification mechanisms based on a legally binding framework, he called for resources earmarked for upgrading nuclear weapons to be transferred towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He went on to call for the broadening of nuclear‑weapon-free zones, particularly in the Middle East, and advocated for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Expressing support for the Arms Trade Treaty, he called for Member States to include ammunition in the regulation of such arms.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed regret that the Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference was unable to agree on a final outcome document despite concerted efforts led by non‑nuclear‑weapon States. He called on all States to work together towards realizing an outcome document in 2020. No rule or principle of international law should be interpreted in a manner inhibiting the inalienable right of States to peacefully use nuclear technology. His delegation has invested in such uses, with the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission laboratory complex installing modern equipment to address the beneficial applications of nuclear technology in agriculture, livestock development, health, water resources, mining and energy. Turning to small arms and light weapons, he said his Government has taken a number of steps, including regional efforts and mechanisms to halt trafficking and the establishment of a focal point office within the national police force to coordinate activities to prevent, combat and eradicate the proliferation of these weapons. Despite such initiatives, his Government still faces challenges in controlling their spread due to insufficient funds and the influx of refugees.
HENRY SUAREZ (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said multilateralism has been undermined by a lack of progress in disarmament, warning against threats of the illegal use of force against sovereign countries and attempts to overthrow a legitimate Government. Unilateral action contradicts the principles, including non‑interference in domestic affairs, enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The existence of more than 14,000 nuclear warheads and attempts to upgrade them and develop new weapons are unacceptable. Nuclear‑weapon States must make genuine efforts to reverse this trend. He rejected the continued reliance on nuclear deterrence, in particular the United States’ policy. The Conference on Disarmament should start negotiations on a legally binding agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space, he said, welcoming the related Chinese‑Russian draft treaty.
TALAL RASHID N. M. AL-KHALIFA (Qatar) said that amid conflicts and crises threatening international security, warring parties do not limit themselves to conventional weapons, but use chemical weapons and threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction. Security and prosperity are priorities and existing tensions must be alleviated. All stakeholders must engage in dialogue on matters that threaten international peace and security. An absence of dialogue increases division, fuels arms races and exacerbates instability. Investing in prevention helps, allowing Member States to redistribute financial and human resources now allocated to arms to more important causes. Raising a number of concerns, he regretted to note that the Middle East still is not a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone. Meanwhile, cybersecurity remains a major global challenge to the international community, with serious attacks affecting the computer systems of States. The international community needs to prevent this type of crime and strengthen cooperation, he said, underlining that the maintenance of international peace is a shared responsibility.
MESHARI SALEH AL-MUZAINI (Kuwait) emphasized the importance of treaties and conventions to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons, particularly the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. More specifically, there is a need to address the three pillars of the Treaty, especially the right of States to develop nuclear energy peacefully. He expressed concern about a lack of progress in the implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and in the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. The region is far from achieving this goal as Israel continues to possess such weapons and has not joined the Treaty. He called for immediate steps to establish such a zone in the region and across the world. He also condemned the unprecedented ballistic missile attacks by the Houthis targeting civil and religious sites in Saudi Arabia. His Government attached importance to the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said, welcoming the outcome document adopted at its third review conference.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) said that as a non‑possessor of nuclear weapons, her country has spared no effort to advance the disarmament cause, including, most recently, via the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. At the same time, New Zealand, as a member of the De-Alerting Group, maintains its long‑standing advocacy for the adoption of transitional steps towards the elimination of these weapons. Turning to the use of chemical weapons, she endorsed the Secretary‑General’s proposals regarding the establishment of an investigative capacity into allegations of use of biological weapons and expressed strong support for recent OPCW efforts to work towards a mechanism for formally identifying perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks so that they can properly be held to account. Noting that the Secretary‑General intends to address the United Nations fragmented and limited efforts to address the spread of small arms and light weapons, she said her Government announced a contribution of NZ$100,000 to a new fund as a single platform for international assistance to control these armaments.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the United States’ foreign policy is addicted to imposing sanctions and the current Administration has become addicted to withdrawing from international agreements and institutions. It takes that approach because it does not want to comply with its obligations, be held accountable or be judged by an international court. In its calculation, international disorder better serves the United States’ national interests. Surprisingly, it is now forcing other countries to become addicted to withdrawal and disobedience as well. After its unlawful withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it openly invited States to disobey Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) or face punishment. Instead of acting responsibly, it accuses others and covers up its isolation. But, it is doomed to fail. The United States was totally isolated in the Security Council meeting presided over by its President, which was essentially designed to isolate Iran. The United States has no eligibility to judge the nuclear programme of any country, including Iran. Only the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can do that and it has never reported the diversion of such materials by Iran. The United States needs to uphold its obligations under article 6 of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Iran has been a victim of weapons of mass destruction supplied by the United States to the former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Iran does pursue a ballistic missile programme that acts as a deterrent against foreign threats, and it will continue to exercise its right to do so.
The representative of China said it is the only nuclear‑weapon State to commit to not be the first one to use such weapons and to refrain from using them against non‑nuclear weapon States. It has maintained a nuclear arsenal at a minimal level for national security purposes. China opposes the weaponization of outer space and called upon the international community to start negotiating a legally binding instrument. In contrast, others were adopting a zero‑sum mentality. One country is developing its nuclear arsenal rapidly and building a separate space force, and is not in a position to point fingers at any other country. China will uphold multilateralism and a law‑based international order.
The representative of the Russian Federation wondered about the surreal manner in which the issue of chemical weapons is being interpreted. Those parties attempting to blame their sins on the Russian Federation chose a nice town called Salisbury and found the right site. Summarizing the incident, he said a spy that left the service a long time ago was poisoned, a clamour ensued and the media tried to bring down the high rating of President Vladimir V. Putin and force North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to show blind solidarity against the Russian Federation. But, his country did not admit to that role and refuses to kow-tow and shed tears. It is clear that there is nothing to investigate in Salisbury because everything has been faked, he said. Poisoning with a small amount of chemicals and miraculously finding the antidote to them is one thing, but using weapon‑grade material is another thing altogether, he said, adding that the Russian Federation will not forget this and will continue to ask questions.
The representative of the United States said to her counterpart from the Russian Federation that she prefers non‑fiction to fiction. When China can have a frank discussion on its use of anti‑satellite weapons, it will be possible to discuss its related treaty. She reiterated that her Government will not support an instrument that is not verifiable. Turning to her counterpart from Iran, she said the United States has an addiction to hold accountable those who violate international norms and agreements. The only victims are those of the State‑sponsored terrorism supported by Iran, especially in Yemen.