China’s Foreign Minister ‘Fully Rejects’ United States President’s Allegation of Interference in Upcoming Elections
Against the backdrop of mounting chemical weapons attacks, disagreement over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and continuing denuclearization talks on the Korean Peninsula, Heads of State and Government, as well as other senior officials convened in the Security Council today to present their visions of peace, security and a world ultimately free of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.
Throughout the debate — chaired at the Head‑of‑State level by the United States in its capacity as Council President for September — many speakers emphasized the need to preserve the global non‑proliferation architecture so painstakingly built over many decades. A number of them cited recent violations by both State and non‑State actors, expressing concern at the deterioration of critical international norms. Meanwhile, several speakers accused the permanent Council members of interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations, while their counterparts categorically rejected such allegations.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States outlined his country’s long‑standing leadership of international efforts against the scourge of chemical warfare, most recently by twice imposing sanctions against the Government of President Bashar Al‑Assad in Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians. Noting that the Russian Federation and Iran enabled those attacks, he said the latter continues to spread prohibited weapons across the Middle East and must never be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. It was for that reason that the United States decided to withdraw from the “horrible, one‑sided” Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said.
The deal provided Iran with cash that it has since used to support terrorism, build missiles and impose chaos across the region, he continued, adding that sanctions imposed on that country will be fully in force by November, with new measures set to follow. He warned: “Any individuals who fail to comply with these sanctions will face full consequences.” He went on to express concern over recent findings that China is interfering, against his administration, in the upcoming midterm elections in the United States. “They do not want us or me to win because I am the first [United States] President to challenge China on trade.” He also outlined historic efforts to open new pathways to peace on the Korean Peninsula, saying: “I think you’ll have some very good news… in the coming months and years.”
Wang Yi, China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, fully rejected those allegations, emphasizing that his country has never deviated from the United Nations Charter principles of sovereignty, unity and respect for the domestic affairs of States. The Council must act in a just and fair manner, abiding by the Charter and the rules governing international order, he said. Stressing the importance of setting geopolitical interests aside, he said every country must honour its international agreements, and not indulge in double standards. He recalled that China undertook unremitting efforts to facilitate recent dialogue on the Korean Peninsula, adding that it continues to support efforts towards denuclearization and lasting peace at an early date.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Federation’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed concern about the decisions by the United States to withdraw from the JCPOA; the possibly indefinite postponement of its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty; and its lack of support for efforts to create a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. He also rejected as unfounded the allegations levelled against Syria on the use of chemical weapons, stressing that President Assad’s Government fully destroyed its chemical weapons arsenal as demanded by the Council several years ago.
Of further concern, he continued, are attempts by some Western Powers to infringe on the Council’s functions in the area of biological weapons as well as escalating ideological rhetoric over the Salisbury affair in the United Kingdom. Recalling that the Russian Federation and the United States once stood together at the inception of efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists, he cautioned: “Let us not sacrifice this [goal] on the altar of momentary considerations.”
President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia urged all Council members to sign and ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the best way to contain the threat of nuclear weapons and a moral duty that “we owe to the future generations”. Condemning the historical and repeated meddling in Iran’s internal affairs by the United States, he said that since the beginning of the present century, Washington has also committed several unjustified acts of aggression against countries in the Middle East — including its invasion of Iraq, its overthrow of the Government of Libya and its sponsorship of terrorists in Syria’s civil war. Stressing that the United States is not interested in multilateralism and does not promote democracy, he cited the latter’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and its other recent unilateral actions.
Other Council members underlined the importance of maintaining the organ’s unity on nuclear issues in light of the divisions within its 15‑nation membership on certain related matters. President Emmanuel Macron of France underlined the need for mutual trust and a multilateral approach to security, stressing: “We owe this to our people, we must preserve this approach, especially at a time when it is tested.” Welcoming the direct dialogue between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and between the latter country and the United States, he nevertheless warned that “we should not lose sight” of the need to maintain sanctions until Pyongyang’s commitments are translated into action. Despite Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA — a deal he described as an “imperfect but a decisive step” — he said France supports the agreement, adding that a long‑term solution, not just sanctions, is also needed.
Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom cited recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria, Malaysia and her own country, warning that there is now a very real risk that the international regime around those weapons could fall. Urging all States to counter that trend, she said that while the JCPOA offers the best chance to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, its other actions — including the provision of weapons to Hizbullah and the Houthi militia in Yemen — require urgent action by the Council. She expressed regret that the Russian Federation continues its obstruction in that regard, noting that Moscow wielded its veto to prevent the Council from punishing the Assad regime and committed a nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom. “We cannot let the [global non‑proliferation] framework be undermined today by those who reject the values” and the rules that have long kept the world safe, she stressed.
Also participating today were Heads of State and Government as well as Ministers representing Poland, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Netherlands, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden.
The meeting began at 10:21 a.m. and ended at 12:28 p.m.
DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the world’s nations have long recognized that some weapons are so dangerous that all bear the obligation to prevent their spread and use. Spotlighting the critical threat posed not only by nuclear weapons but also biological and chemical ones, he said that since the First World War, the United States has led international efforts against the scourge of chemical warfare, most recently by twice imposing sanctions against the regime of President Bashar Al‑Assad of Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians, enabled by the Russian Federation and Iran. The latter continues to spread prohibited weapons across the region, he said, emphasizing that such a regime must never be allowed to possess nuclear weapons.
Recalling his Administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, he declared: “That horrible, one‑sided deal allowed the Iranian regime to continue its path” towards obtaining nuclear bombs, while also providing cash that it used to support terrorism, build missiles and impose chaos across the region. Following the Administration’s withdrawal from the deal, the Government of the United States began imposing nuclear‑related sanctions on Iran, he said, adding that the measures will be in full force by November, when it will impose further sanctions. “Any individuals who fail to comply with these sanctions will face full consequences,” he warned.
He went on to thank the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey for their successful recent efforts to slow down imminent attacks on Syria’s Idlib Governorate, while calling on all parties to continue to exercise restraint since “the world is watching”. However, he expressed concern over recent findings that China has been interfering in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections against his Administration. “They do not want us or me to win because I am the first [United States] President to challenge China on trade,” he said. He then outlined historic recent efforts to open new pathways to peace on the Korean Peninsula, pointing out that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since September 2017 and that the remains of United States service members killed during the Korean War are now returning home.
Spotlighting his recent summit with that country’s Chairman Kim Jong Un, he recalled that the latter reiterated his commitment to complete denuclearization in a letter addressed to President Trump last week. “I think we will make a deal,” he said, while emphasizing that, meanwhile, Council sanctions must remain in place. Some countries have been violating those sanctions, he said, emphasizing that the world’s safety depends on their strict implementation. While noting that he has “gotten to know and like” Chairman Kim in recent months, he said much progress is being made behind the scenes. “I think you’ll have some very good news coming from North Korea in the coming months and years,” he added. Stressing that all diplomats at the United Nations seek to pursue peace for their peoples, he declared: “Acting together, we can replace the horrors of war with the blessings of safety and the promise of peace.”
EMMANUEL MACRON, President of France, stressed first the importance of unity among Security Council members on nuclear issues, given the divisions within its 15‑nation membership on certain nuclear issues. Highlighting the need for mutual trust and a multilateral approach to security, he said “we owe this to our people, we must preserve this approach, especially at a time when it is tested”. Council members must be exemplary, he emphasized. Concerning the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he welcomed the direct dialogue between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and between the latter and the United States. However, “we should not lose sight” of the fact that Pyongyang’s nuclear programme poses a threat to international peace and security, he cautioned, emphasizing that until its commitments are translated into action, dialogue must be accompanied by sanctions.
He went on to underline that despite Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, “we, all of us, still retain the same objectives — that is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons”. Describing the deal as “imperfect but a decisive step”, he said that a long‑term solution, not just sanctions, is needed beyond the JCPOA. The threat of chemical weapons has re‑emerged, he said, noting that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) used such weapons in Iraq and Syria. Also, a family member of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leader was poisoned to death in Malaysia, he said, adding that the responsibility for the use of such weapons in the United Kingdom rests with the Russian Federation. France, alongside the United States and the United Kingdom, will continue to work against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he pledged. Warning against the potential dangers of new technologies, he stressed the importance of mobilizing international cooperation to prevent the spread of ballistic missile and nuclear weapon technology, adding that France will bring that issue to the table during its presidency of the next Group of Seven meeting in 2019.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, expressed concern that “the current situation is not encouraging”, noting that the world is witnessing the progressive decomposition of the existing international order — including the non‑proliferation and arms control regimes. Non‑State actors pose a threat, but so too do individual States, he said. “Let me be clear: every use of a chemical weapon is a crime,” he said, stressing that perpetrators must be brought to justice. “Brutal attacks, directed mostly against civilians, all have the same aim — to intimidate the international community.” The world community and the United Nations cannot accept such methods, and their inaction will only encourage perpetrators, he warned. In that context, Poland hopes that the finalization of the new European Union sanctions mechanism — completed within the framework of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — will allow the bloc to exert appropriate pressure on current and future perpetrators while deterring them from unacceptable actions.
Calling upon all States to stand firmly behind the Chemical Weapons Convention and other critical international rules and norms — which form the pillars of the international order — he said that, as in previous years, Poland plans to introduce a draft resolution on the Convention’s implementation during the current session of the General Assembly. Nuclear weapons must not be introduced into the free market, he warned, emphasizing that every act of proliferation is a failure by the international community and the rules‑based world order, involving not only the State that develops nuclear capacity but also those who provide it with the means to achieve its goals — technology, materials and resources. It is of the utmost importance that every agreement aimed at controlling nuclear programmes guarantee that they are used for solely peaceful purposes, he stressed.
Warning States not to turn their eyes away from those who act against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — commonly known as the Non‑Proliferation Treaty — he said all counties must uphold effective export controls as well as efforts to maintain appropriate control over dual‑use goods. Welcoming efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strictly monitor and verify Iran’s nuclear commitments, he also welcomed the prospect of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, citing such encouraging developments as the recent summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim. However, there is still a need for the latter to take decisive steps leading to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, he emphasized.
Turning to the situation in Ukraine, he expressed regret over the breach of the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing the latter’s territorial integrity in exchange for its peaceful and voluntary denuclearization. He called for full and firm implementation of well‑established and widely recognized international norms and treaties; support and full confidence for the work of the international mechanisms responsible for preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction; and proactive and constructive engagement in initiatives aimed at fighting weapons proliferation while also promoting transparency and verification. “Non‑proliferation is a collective effort,” he said, adding that upholding the international security architecture built over recent decades is critical to preventing the nightmare of recurring use of weapons of mass destruction. All parties, without exception, must commit to that goal, he stressed.
TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, recalled that non‑proliferation was the focus of the Council’s very first resolution more than 72 years ago. “Once again, the world is caught up in an arms race” that has led countries to feel compelled to obtain new weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, he said. Noting that Equatorial Guinea has never possessed such weapons and will never feel compelled to do so, he said it is among African States that have signed up to the Pelindaba Treaty establishing an African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone. Citing long‑standing resistance on the part of nuclear‑weapon States to abide by the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he pointed out that their efforts to maintain and modernize those their nuclear arsenals eclipse the military expenditure of all other nations overall.
Pursuing the implementation of and compliance with international non‑proliferation treaties as well as Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) remains critical, he continued, spotlighting the need for action to ban the testing of any nuclear weapons, and to implement joint verification, inspection and oversight systems for nuclear facilities, in conjunction with IAEA. There is also a pressing need for negotiations to ensure that the arsenals of the nuclear‑weapon States are fully secured and that they rule out the use of such weapons under any circumstance. However, he also underlined the need to uphold the right of all nations to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
He went on to cite a “paradox” between the United Nations and the rhetoric of some States that speak only about their own sovereignty, saying many States seem to have decided to pursue the path of arms, contrary to the spirit of the United Nations. Against that backdrop, Equatorial Guinea remains determined to continue working towards the negotiation and adoption of legally binding instruments that will lead to total global nuclear disarmament, he said. Expressing concern about the impacts of any accidental or deliberate nuclear detonation, he stressed the need of greater efforts to ensure that non‑State actors are never able to get their hands on nuclear weapons. He also recalled the enormous bloodshed and loss of life across the African continent caused by the spread of conflict and conventional weapons, asking Member States to help finance African Union‑mandated peacekeeping operations on a case‑by‑case basis.
EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, noted that his country hails from a nuclear‑weapon‑free region, and urged all Council members to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in 2017. This is the best way to contain the threat of nuclear weapons and a moral duty “we owe to the future generations”, he emphasized. Members of the Council must abide by the United Nations Charter and resolve disputes through peaceful means, he said, adding that the International Court of Justice has made significant contributions in that regard. It is also crucial to discuss the root causes of conflict, he said, recalling that in 1953, the United States sponsored a coup in Iran. He added that, following the latter country’s 1979 revolution, Washington imposed economic sanctions on Tehran.
The Government of Bolivia condemns such meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, he emphasized, recalling also that since the beginning of the current century, the Middle East has seen three acts of unjustified aggression by the United States. They include its invasion of Iraq, its overthrow of the Government of Libya and its sponsorship of terrorists in Syria’s civil war. The United States is not interested in multilateralism and does not promote democracy, he said, citing its withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and its other unilateral measures. On the other hand, he praised other countries that have held firm on the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement in defence of multilateralism.
MARTÍN VIZCARRA CORNEJO, President of Peru, welcomed the focus of today’s meeting on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Throughout its history, it has been the Council’s task to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, he said, adding all States must sign the underpinning binding instruments, including the most recent one, the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Describing his country as a staunch supporter of the non‑proliferation regime and relevant Council resolutions, he said the best way to eliminate the risk of nuclear weapons is to ensure there are no such weapons on the face of the Earth. In that regard, disarmament and non‑proliferation must go hand in hand, he stressed. Peru hailed the high‑level diplomacy between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while advocating the need to preserve the JCPOA endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2231 (2015), he said, while also expressing regret over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and in Salisbury, United Kingdom.
DANIEL KABLAN DUNCAN, Vice‑President of Côte d’Ivoire, said that, despite all the international community’s efforts over many decades, the threat posed by nuclear and chemical weapons persists. Huge amounts of money continue to be spent on modernizing nuclear arsenals, while very little is allocated to denuclearization efforts. Meanwhile, non‑compliance by some nuclear‑weapon States with their global disarmament and non‑proliferation commitments pose a serious risk and could lead to non‑State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, he warned. Citing allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen and other recent incidents, he emphasized that such serious events have compelled the global community to accord non‑proliferation the highest priority once again.
Calling for full implementation of relevant Council resolutions and for all States to abide by global legal instruments in the area of non‑proliferation, he asked nuclear‑weapon States in particular to consider a more effective approach than the current “step‑by‑step” paradigm. Côte d’Ivoire supports the creation of a legally binding mechanism to prevent an arms race in outer space, as well as a universal and non‑discriminatory instrument to provide for the security of non‑nuclear‑weapon States, he said. In addition, the mandate conferred on OPCW to identify and bring the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria to justice could contribute to a critical resolution of differences on that matter. He also called upon signatories to the JCPOA to stand by the agreement, which helps to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East. As for the Korean Peninsula, he hailed the “milestone” meeting between Chairman Kim and President Trump, and asked all parties in the region to reject the use of any weapon of mass destruction under any circumstance.
THERESA MAY, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said of today’s meeting: “These issues matter to every man, woman and child around the world.” The international community has invested huge amounts of energy in building a strong global non‑proliferation regime which has been a major success, paving the way to arms control agreements and disarmament. Global stockpiles have been reduced by more than 80 per cent compared with cold war peak levels, she said, noting that thousands of weapon stockpiles have been destroyed, and no country today openly professes to possess chemical weapons. However, their use has been witnessed in Syria, Malaysia and the city of Salisbury in the United Kingdom in recent months, she said, warning that there is now a very real risk that the international regime around chemical weapons could fall away.
Urging all States to combat that trend, she welcomed the Council’s efforts — as well as those by the United States — to push the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to end its nuclear programme. She also called for continuing collaboration on those issues, saying that, in the case of Iran, the JCPOA offers the best chance to prevent that country from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In that regard, the United Kingdom supports the efforts of IAEA and its various monitoring mechanisms, she said, adding that her country will continue to support the Iran deal as long as Tehran continues to abide by its terms. However, Iran’s other actions — including the proliferation of weapons to Hizbullah and to the Houthi militia in Yemen — risk dangerous escalations and require urgent action by the Council, she said, adding that it remains regrettable that the Russian Federation continues its obstruction in that regard.
On Syria, she recalled that the Russian Federation has repeatedly wielded its veto to prevent the Council from holding the Assad regime to account, and has even blocked the Council’s deployment of a fact‑finding mission related to the use of chemical weapons. In that context, she welcomed OPCW’s mandate to identify perpetrators, while warning that the Assad regime’s backers must use their leverage to ensure that chemical weapons are not used again, and that action will follow if they are. Recalling that chemical weapons were also recently used in the United Kingdom against former agents of the Russian Federation — an action which the latter continues to deny — she said all Council members must fulfil their responsibilities under international law and the organ should act if Moscow fails to do so. “We cannot let the framework be undermined today by those who reject the values” and the rules that have long kept the world safe, she stressed.
MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said that 2018 — with several occasions when weapons of mass destruction endangered international security, undermined international stability and caused terrible suffering — “has made the importance of non‑proliferation abundantly clear”. Emphasizing that multilateral institutions have a major role to play in that arena, he expressed his country’s continued support for a rules‑based international order and multilateral cooperation, saying they require active support from all — including, and especially, on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. For 50 years, the Non‑Proliferation Treaty has kept the number of States possessing nuclear weapons under 10. “We can only imagine how much conflict, instability and violence this has prevented,” he said, expressing appreciation for the continuing support for the Treaty on the part of the United States, Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, in particular.
The year has also seen some positive non‑proliferation steps by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he continued, noting that the ultimate goal of the related joint efforts is to ensure that Pyongyang abandons its ballistic missile capabilities and its programmes related to weapons of mass destruction in a comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible manner. Welcoming efforts by the United States and President Moon Jae‑in of the Republic of Korea for a nuclear‑weapon‑free Korean Peninsula, he said that challenge can only be resolved peacefully. On the other hand, the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme, endorsed by the Council in resolution 2231 (2015), remains a good example of how the organ and the rest of the international community can work hand‑in‑hand on non‑proliferation, he said, pointing out that IAEA has concluded in 12 reports that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the agreement.
“As long as this continues, we will also uphold our commitment to the deal,” he said, while nevertheless expressing concern about Iran’s role in the region, its ballistic missile programme, human rights record, support for Hizbullah as well as its role in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. He said the repeated use of chemical weapons remains deeply alarming, warning against allowing impunity for such attacks. “All of us, both within and outside this Council, bear a responsibility” to counter such threats, he stressed, recalling that — due to the stalemate in the Council over the issue — OPCW has been tasked with investigating and identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons. Member States cannot sit back, he said, emphasizing that they must speak up, take action and support OPWC in order to help in bringing perpetrators to justice. “Indecisiveness by countries that claim to support the principles of disarmament and non‑proliferation could ultimately have disastrous consequences,” he warned.
SHEIKH SABAH KHALID AL HAMAD AL SABAH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, said that his country strongly condemns the launch of missiles by Yemen’s Houthi militias targeting civilian and religious sites in Saudi Arabia. While Iran continues to implement Council resolution 2231 (2015), Kuwait is concerned about independent United Nations reports indicating Iran’s continuing support and financing of militia and other armed groups in Arab countries, he said, citing in particular Iran’s interference in Yemen.
He went on to note that the resolution adopted by the League of Arab States on 11 September 2018 calls upon Iran to cease actions that adversely affect the security and best interests of the region. Kuwait and other Arab countries reaffirm their absolute faith in multilateral action under the umbrella of the United Nations, while also stressing the importance of achieving universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. The commitment demonstrated in confronting the challenges posed by weapons of mass destruction is not limited to today’s meeting, he said, adding that it is also to be seen in the current diplomatic efforts to ease tension and achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
WANG YI, State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that his country shares the Security Council’s responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council must act in a just and fair manner, abide by the United Nations Charter and the rules governing international order, while respecting each country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Noting that many tools are available for the maintenance of international peace and security around the world, he said they include peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development and preventive diplomacy through good offices.
Emphasizing the importance of setting geopolitical interests aside, he said every country must honour its international agreements, including the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, other conventions and Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), which provide the requisite legal foundations. No double standards should be allowed, he said, stressing that States bear the primary responsibility for non‑proliferation. Describing the JCPOA as a hard‑won multilateral deal, he said that while there is no perfect treaty, the Iran deal is a viable one.
As for the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said China made unremitting efforts to make the ongoing dialogue happen and supports efforts towards denuclearization and lasting peace at an early date. China has fulfilled its international responsibility and upheld the principle of non‑interference in any country’s domestic affairs. Underlining that his country has never deviated from those principles, he fully rejected the allegations levelled against it today. In that respect, all nations should abide by the United Nations Charter, he emphasized, while warning against interference in China’s internal affairs.
SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, underlined the importance of abiding by Council resolution 1540 (2004) and other texts related to keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of non‑State actors while also prohibiting the transfer of related materials. Reiterating the Russian Federation’s long‑standing commitment to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and to reducing the global nuclear threat, he cautioned nevertheless that attempts to ban such weapons separately from that Treaty will not be successful. Expressing support for the JCPOA signed with Iran, he said the unilateral withdrawal from that agreement by the United States creates a serious threat to the global non‑proliferation regime, especially since Tehran is abiding strictly by its terms. Dismantling the Iran deal will also be counterproductive for current efforts to ensure the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he warned.
He went on to voice concern about the decision by the United States to postpone — perhaps indefinitely — ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and its lack of support for efforts to create a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. In addition, he continued, unfounded allegations levelled against Syria on the use of chemical weapons also pose a threat, he said, stressing that the Government of that country fully destroyed its chemical weapons arsenal, as per the Council’s call. The Russian Federation has repeatedly offered to help in developing a comprehensive counter‑terrorism strategy — including the prevention of chemical and bioterrorism attacks — he said, expressing concern that certain countries have blocked its efforts.
Indeed, some Western Powers are trying to infringe on the Council’s functions in that area, he continued, while also voicing concern about escalating ideological rhetoric over the Salisbury affair. Western countries refuse to cooperate in a joint investigation of that case, as proposed by the Russian Federation on many occasions, he said, asking: “Does this mean they have something to hide?” Recent attempts to manipulate the status of the Chemical Weapons Convention also called into question the status of international agreements on biological weapons, he said, adding in that regard that the Russian Federation is concerned about the desire of the United States to “have their hands completely free” with regard to biological weapons. He recalled that Washington and Moscow once stood together at the inception of efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists, cautioning: “Let us not sacrifice this [goal] on the altar of momentary considerations.”
WORKINEH GEBEYEHU NEGEWO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said that, from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Iran nuclear issue to chemical attacks in Syria and the Salisbury incident in the United Kingdom, “proliferation risks have become one of the most serious challenges of our time”. The international non‑proliferation regime is under serious challenge and “global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the cold war”, he said, citing the Secretary‑General’s words. The Government of Ethiopia strongly hopes for a comprehensive, peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized.
Turning to the Iran nuclear issue, he said that his country’s Government believes the JCPOA represents a significant achievement for multilateralism. While recognizing the withdrawal of the United States presents a serious challenge, the commitment of the remaining participating countries is critical for the full implementation of the agreement, he emphasized. The 1540 Committee continues to play a significant role in addressing the proliferation risk posed by non‑State actors, he said, adding that multilateral agreements such as the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Non‑Proliferation Treaty continue their immense contributions to non‑proliferation and to efforts for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, stressed the importance of confidence‑building measures in efforts for the non‑proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The President of Kazakhstan noted in January that the largest nuclear Powers should be in the vanguard in advocating for a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and lead by example in reducing their weapons of mass destruction, he recalled, adding that the President also called upon all United Nations Member States to build a nuclear‑weapon‑free world by 2045. Good examples of confidence‑building measures include the inter‑Korea thaw and the summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Singapore, he said. The world needs a stronger international legal framework against weapons of mass destruction, and the role of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty should not diminish in that process.
The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty should become one of the most important building blocks of the global non‑proliferation architecture, he continued. To realize that goal, “we must not stop struggling for a legal ban on nuclear weapons”, he stressed, adding that the Council must maintain its unity. He recalled that his country’s President has suggested that withdrawal from the Non‑Proliferation Treaty should be made extremely difficult, possibly by crafting a special Security Council resolution. The President also proposed the development of a legally binding system of guarantees that nuclear Powers would provide to States that voluntarily renounce their nuclear weapons as well as those with non‑nuclear status, as an incentive for the latter not to acquire such weapons. The President also proposed strengthening cooperation among nuclear‑weapon‑free zones by organizing a high‑level inter‑zone meeting in Astana in 2009. He emphasized the necessity for all in the Council to demonstrate responsibility, political will and wisdom in order to make a quantum leap forward of great historical significance. “We need the moral compass to go from narrow national interests to a greater vision of a safe and secure world,” he added.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said “close multilateral cooperation” is the answer to all the questions discussed in today’s meeting. The world would certainly be a much more dangerous place without the existing treaties and agreements of the global disarmament and non‑proliferation regime, she added, emphasizing that “I find it especially worrisome that the United States — which we have always seen as an important partner — have withdrawn or shown lacking interest in several of these frameworks and agreements”. The Iran deal is a historic achievement, which aims to prevent nuclear proliferation in Iran, but also to avoid ripple effects in the region, she said, adding that Sweden, alongside other members of the European Union, deeply regrets Washington’s unilateral withdrawal — a decision with far‑reaching consequences that “makes our world more unsafe”.
She went on to describe the progress in the inter‑Korean dialogue as “very encouraging”, and the summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as “indeed significant”, emphasizing that all parties must work to maintain the momentum. For the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that means translating its commitments into legally binding undertakings, she emphasized. As for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, a serious violation of international law, she said the Government of Sweden supports the decision to task OPCW with identifying the perpetrators. Only through multilateral solutions, including by the Security Council, could the use of those repugnant weapons be effectively prevented, she said, stressing that the multilateral non‑proliferation and disarmament framework is also a key pillar of the international rules‑based order. “We owe this to the survivors and victims of past attacks, and we owe it to future generations,” she emphasized.