Opening First Committee's General Debate, Delegates Warn of Fragile Security Landscape Laced with Looming Nuclear Threats, Unregulated Weapon Innovations

GA/DIS/3624
10 October 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 3rd Meeting (AM)

Opening First Committee's General Debate, Delegates Warn of Fragile Security Landscape Laced with Looming Nuclear Threats, Unregulated Weapon Innovations

The international disarmament machinery is a barometer of global security, but with the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and the United Nations Disarmament Conference in New York both at a standstill, it is more urgent than ever for the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) to achieve truly meaningful outcomes this year, the United Nations top disarmament official said today as the Committee began its annual general debate.

The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs said a toxic mix of dangerous rhetoric, qualitative weapons development, eroding relations between nuclear‑weapon States and the progressive unwinding of former arms control agreements means the perils of atomic bombs are present and real — and for that reason, their total elimination remains the Organization’s highest disarmament priority.

“Member States of this Committee have a clear choice before them,” she said.  “They can either work together to prevent the continued erosion of the disarmament and arms control regime, or they can allow our collective security to be further imperilled by these potentially existential weapons.”

In this vein, she said called on States to take action in several areas of concern.  Member States should encourage the parties to 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) to extend that instrument as a prelude to talks on additional reductions.  She also called upon States to redouble efforts to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty into force and to find common ground on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles.  Hopefully, progress on non‑proliferation under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme can be preserved and key parties to the situation on the Korean Peninsula will work to resolve outstanding issues.  In the meantime, States must come together to bring accountability to those who dare use chemical weapons.

In the ensuing debate, delegates touched upon the many issues facing the Committee — from nuclear disarmament and the global trade in small arms and light weapons to cyberattacks and the potential militarization of outer space — as Member States prepare to negotiate a raft of draft resolutions to be taken up by the General Assembly during its ongoing seventy‑fourth session.

Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said nuclear‑weapon States must eliminate their arsenals and do so in a transparent, irreversible and verifiable manner.  High priority must also be given to finalizing a legally binding instrument to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States that atomic warheads will not be used against them.  Recalling the General Assembly’s adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, he also called for convening of an international conference on nuclear disarmament.

Similarly, Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, said the existence of some 15,000 nuclear devices around the world weakens international peace and security, aggravates global tensions and conflict and jeopardizes both the well‑being of all States and peoples as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Nearly five decades after the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons came into force, the status quo is unacceptable and States must show political will to eliminate nuclear weapons, he declared.

The United States representative, calling for a “new era” in arms control, said his country wants serious measures that deliver real security, with China and the Russian Federation at the negotiating table and prepared to reduce nuclear risks.  As it now stands, Beijing and Moscow are determined to undermine the liberal democratic order established in the wake of the Second World War, he said, urging Member States to reconsider the traditional dividing lines in multilateral disarmament fora.  He described Moscow as a serial violator of its own commitments to arms control and European security, and called on all like‑minded States — allies and non‑allies alike — to persuade China and the Russian Federation to change their course and cease their aggressive policies.

Speaking for the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Kingdom’s delegate reaffirmed their joint commitment, as the nuclear‑weapon States, to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  He noted that they met in New York on 8 October to discuss the 2020 Review Conference of that treaty alongside ways to contribute to its success.  He also reaffirmed the importance of in‑depth dialogue on national nuclear doctrines and policies to enhance mutual trust and confidence.

Tunisia’s delegate, on behalf of the Arab Group, was among several speakers to press for the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons — the topic of a conference at Headquarters to be held in November.  Meanwhile, El Salvador’s representative, speaking for the eight‑country Central American Integration System, said the group is keen to focus on ways to stop weapons from falling into the hands of non‑authorized actors often linked to organized crime.

Speaking at the outset of the meeting, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande (Nigeria) underscored the close connection between disarmament and development.  When insecurity prevails, there can be no progress on eradicating poverty and hunger, improving education, confronting climate change and promoting inclusion.  “No one wins in a nuclear war,” he said, adding that the use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe.

First Committee Chair Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) spelled out the disarmament challenge in figures.  Worldwide, military spending in 2018 totalled $1.8 trillion, while the volume of international arms transfers is on the rise over since 2014.  At the same time, concerns are growing about the validity and trustworthiness of the international arms control architecture, he said, with the Conference on Disarmament at an impasse for two decades and the Disarmament Commission unable to do substantive work in 2019.  In such a context, the Committee’s work is even more relevant and important than ever before, he stated.

The Committee had been scheduled to begin its work on 7 October, but only agreed by consensus to adopt the general debate portion of its programme of work on 8 October amid differences among delegations over the host country’s issuance of visas. (See Press Releases GA/DIS/3622 and GA/DIS/3623.)

Also speaking today were representatives of Myanmar (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Sweden (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), Zambia (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico and Germany, as well as the European Union.

Representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will reconvene on Friday, 11 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its general debate, scheduled to run through 16 October, on all agenda items before it.  For background, please see documents A/74/27, A/74/29, A/74/77, A/74/90, A/74/96, A/74/97, A/74/98, A/74/99, A/74/110, A/74/112, A/74/114, A/74/155, A/74/116, A/74/117, A/74/118, A/74/120, A/74/122, A/74/140, A/74/141, A/74/154, A/74/157 (Part I), A/74/157 (Part II), A/74/158, A/74/180, A/74/187, A/74/201, A/74/211, A/74/218 and A/74/247.  Also before the Committee were documents A/C.1/74/1, A/C.1/74/INF/2, A/C.1/74/INF/3 and A/C.1/74/INF/4 pertaining to its organization of work.

Opening Remarks

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Chair of the First Committee, emphasized that there is currently a global increase in military spending, unscrupulous trade in weapons and use of technology in the service of death.  Worldwide, military spending in 2018 totalled $1.8 trillion, up 2.6 per cent from 2017 and 5.4 per cent from 2016.  Amid a high number of armed conflicts, the volume of international arms transfers has increased 7.8 per cent over the last five years.  Meanwhile, there is growing concern about the validity and trustworthiness of the international arms control architecture, he said, describing as alarming the ongoing erosion of disarmament and arms control agreements.  The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been at an impasse for two decades, while at Headquarters, the Disarmament Commission failed to do any substantive work in 2019.

Such a situation makes the Committee’s work even more relevant and important, he said.  Echoing the Secretary‑General’s call to put people at the heart of the Organization’s work, he encouraged delegations to consider, during their negotiations, what their draft resolutions will mean for people and how they can allay their fears regarding international peace and security.  As representatives of their Governments, delegations must protect their respective national interests, but in an interconnected world, global security can only be achieved through joint action.  He went on to underscore the importance of equitable participation among all 193 delegations as they carry their responsibility to protect international peace and security.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD‑BANDE (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, said disarmament and international security underpin the priorities on the agenda of the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.  In a world of insecurity, there can be no progress in poverty eradication and zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion, or indeed on the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Given the gravity of international security threats, consensus must be found to ensure that the disarmament machinery can keep the world safe, he said, commending States that have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and urging others to follow suit.  The 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is an opportunity to recommit to common goals and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  “No one wins in a nuclear war,” he said, adding that the use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe.

Looking ahead to the seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, he urged Committee members to address all aspects of conflict prevention.  He also called upon them to ensure the full and equal participation and leadership of women.  He drew attention to the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda and the Assembly’s two new processes facilitating discussions the issue of security in the use of information and communications technology — the Open‑Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts.  “Do no harm” should be the first and foremost principle governing cyberspace and to make that a reality, he said, Member States and stakeholders must take reasonable steps to exchange information, promote inclusion and reduce inequalities.

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, echoed the concerns raised at the start of the Assembly’s general debate about conflicts persisting, terrorism spreading and the risk of a new arms race growing.  Military spending, weapons transfers and the incidence of armed conflict worldwide all remain high, while the international security and arms control architecture are showing signs of unravelling.  The Secretary‑General’s Securing Our Common Future:  An Agenda for Disarmament aims to put disarmament at the centre of global efforts to maintain and promote international peace and security, she said, expressing appreciation for the 19 Member States and one regional organization that have shown their commitment.  But, more remains to be done.

The existential threat posed by nuclear weapons should motivate the international community to take new and decisive action leading to their total elimination, she said.  However, a toxic mix of dangerous rhetoric, qualitative weapons development, eroding relations between nuclear‑armed States and the progressive unwinding of former arms control agreements means the perils of atomic weapons are present and real.  For that reason, their total elimination remains the Organization’s highest disarmament priority.  “Member States of this Committee have a clear choice before them:  they can either work together to prevent the continued erosion of the disarmament and arms control regime, or they can allow our collective security to be further imperilled by these potentially existential weapons.”  She hoped that Member States will encourage the parties to 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) to extend that instrument as a prelude to negotiations on further reduction measures.  She also called upon States to redouble efforts to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty into force, together with a treaty to prohibit the production of weapon‑grade fissile material.

While she welcomed the commitment shown by States supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said disarmament cannot be achieved without the engagement of States possessing those arms.  Common ground must be found on such issues as the vulnerabilities of emerging technologies and building shared verification capacities.  Such work will help to set the stage for the 2020 Review Conference and to ensure that this instrument remains the load‑bearing pillar of disarmament and non‑proliferation efforts.  Turning to regional concerns, she hoped that progress on non‑proliferation represented by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme can be preserved.  In addition, the first session of a conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, to be held in November at Headquarters, should, if successful, have a positive impact on the 2020 Review Conference while also contributing to regional peace and security.  Key parties to the situation on the Korean Peninsula must capitalize on the current diplomatic opening to resolve outstanding issues.  States must meanwhile work together to bring accountability to those who dare use chemical weapons, she said.

Worldwide, 50 million people today are affected by armed conflict, she continued, citing data from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and welcoming the determination of States to develop a political declaration on protecting civilians in urban warfare.  The Programme of Action on Small Arms, to be held in 2020, represents an opportunity to focus on national target‑setting and on addressing recent technological developments.  Her Office, together with the Peacebuilding Support Office and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are finalizing plans for the Saving Lives Entity, a facility that will take a programmatic and holistic country‑level approach to addressing armed violence and illicit small‑arms flows.  There is also a clear opportunity for progress when a group of governmental experts meets in 2020 to discuss conventional ammunition.

She warned that emerging technologies could have negative consequences on collective security if safeguards are not in place.  Many such impacts are already being felt, she said, pointing to the fast‑growing number of cyberattacks and the deployment of armed unmanned aerial vehicles.  Her Office and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) have suggested measures for greater transparency, accountability and oversight of unmanned aerial vehicles.  She looked forward to a joint panel discussion with the First Committee and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) on security in outer space and encouraged all States to deepen engagement on the issue.  On artificial intelligence, she reiterated the Secretary‑General’s view that machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law.  Such issues will only grow in importance for the Committee, which should partner with the private sector and research communities to address them.

The underrepresentation of women and women leaders in disarmament forums and decision‑making remains a problem, she said.  While it is heartening to see the Committee give more prominence to gender issues, more can and must be done to address the gendered impact of weapons, promote women’s full and equal participation in disarmament and to strive for gender‑related language in draft resolutions.  The disarmament machinery is a barometer of international security, yet in 2019, for the first time since 2005, the Disarmament Commission was unable to hold its substantive session.  It is also no secret that efforts to commence negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva are stumbling.  It is therefore more urgent and more important than ever before for the Committee to achieve truly meaningful outcomes this year.

Statements

PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern at increased military spending worldwide at a time when resources should be going towards sustainable development.  The Movement calls on nuclear‑weapon States to eliminate existing arsenals in a transparent, irreversible and internationally verifiable manner while ceasing their modernization and extension.  In the interim, high priority must be given to concluding a legally binding instrument that would assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States that atomic bombs will not be used against them.  Recalling the General Assembly’s adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, he said a high‑level international conference on nuclear disarmament should also be convened.  He went on to call on all States in the Middle East to participate in the first‑ever conference on establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region, to be held in November and chaired by Jordan.  Non‑proliferation policies should not undermine the right of States to nuclear material and technology for peaceful purposes, he said, calling also for the full implementation by all its participants in the Joint Plan of Action.

He underscored the Movement’s concern at the negative security consequences of strategic missile defence systems and its rejection of a declaration by the United States that space is “the next battlefield”.  The Movement also strongly rejects the illegal use of information and communications technology to the detriment of Member States, he said, adding that there is an urgent need to pursue a legally‑binding instrument on lethal autonomous weapons systems.  In addition, no undue restriction should be put on the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import or retain conventional arms.  More broadly, he remained seriously concerned at the erosion of multilateralism in the field of disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control.  With political courage and by working together on the basis of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) can make a tangible contribution towards a more secure and peaceful world.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed his support of collective measures to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.  As such, initiatives and discussions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are needed to better understand the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons, both on humanity and the environment.  He called on signatories of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty to renew their commitments and fully implement their obligations, especially those under article IV.  Calling for the creation of more nuclear‑weapon‑free zones on the planet and especially one in the Middle East, he urged all parties involved in negotiations on the Korean Peninsula to continue to participate in dialogue and work towards lasting peace and security alongside full, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the area.

Reaffirming every State’s right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, especially for economic and social development, he called for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  He also called on States to closely cooperate with each other while also involving industry, academia and civil society to achieve the goals driving the non‑proliferation regime.  In the same vein, he also highlighted the threat and danger of chemical, biological and radiological weapons, calling for universal adherence to applicable international legal instruments prohibiting these arms.  Even though the road ahead is long and arduous, he said that only through constructive political dialogue, negotiations and engagement can the international community build a secure and peaceful world.

ORDELL CEDRIC BARMAN (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored his support for the Secretary‑General’s Agenda for Disarmament and the Committee’s potential contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing the value of multilateral response strategies, as well as the threat posed by the proliferation of illegal weapons in the Caribbean, he highlighted the critical importance of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument in curbing their illicit trade.  CARICOM welcomes the outcome document of the 2018 Review Conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and looks forward to the next biennial meeting of States parties in 2020.

Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he said it must be implemented in good faith by all States parties, including the major manufacturers, exporters and importers of conventional weapons.  Commending support Member States receive from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, he raised several security concerns.  Foremost, the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity and a violation of international law, he said, adding:  “We are all too aware that an unchecked nuclear arms race could potentially put the world on a path to catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”  In this regard, he encouraged all States to abide by the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  He noted that four of CARICOM’S 14 Member States have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with another four being signatories and more expected to follow.  Turning to the significant growth of cybercrime in the Caribbean, he said urgent attention is needed to avoid potentially devastating effects on social and economic development and national security.  As such, CARICOM welcomes continued capacity‑building efforts and international assistance.

BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, said there has been insufficient progress in recent years on nuclear disarmament and on implementing the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  The global security environment is not an excuse for inaction.  What is lacking is not favourable conditions, but political will.  Recalling that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly, he said any use of such arms would be contrary to international humanitarian law.  To continue to rely upon them in security doctrines and concepts is indefensible and only fosters proliferation.  The existence of an estimated 15,000 nuclear devices weakens international peace and security, aggravates global tensions and conflict and jeopardizes the well‑being of all States and peoples as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Given that almost five decades have passed since the entry into force of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said, the status quo on nuclear disarmament is unacceptable.  It is time for States to deliver on their commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons, in line with their Non‑Proliferation Treaty obligations and to safeguard future generations from the danger they pose.  This is the only way to maintain the integrity and sustainability of the nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime.  Noting the significant contribution of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones to disarmament efforts, he recalled General Assembly resolution 73/546 that entrusted the Secretary‑General with convening a conference to elaborate a treaty to establish such an area in the Middle East.  In addition, nuclear‑weapon States must implement their disarmament commitments in a manner that enables States parties to regularly monitor progress, thus enhancing trust among all countries.

MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said peace, security and stability cannot be achieved as long as nuclear weapons exist.  A multilateral framework under the umbrella of the United Nations is the only sustainable means to deal with disarmament and international security questions.  He expressed grave concern at the lack of progress in atomic disarmament, implementing common commitments and achieving universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, as nuclear‑weapon States attempt to avoid setting any timelines for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  Moreover, Israel’s continued refusal to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and to submit its related facilities for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) represents a grave threat to regional and international peace and security while defying relevant Security Council resolutions.

Emphasizing the need to immediately establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, he said the Arab Group will submit a related draft resolution during the current session and looks forward to all Member States supporting it.  He also appealed to all invited parties to fully participate in the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, to be held on 18 to 22 November at Headquarters with a view to negotiating a binding treaty.  He also anticipated clear outcomes from the 2020 Review Conference.  Raising other concerns, he said outer space is the common heritage of humankind that must not become the scene of an arms race.  A legally binding instrument to prohibit the deployment of space weapons is needed, as such arms would have catastrophic ramifications.  Turning to conventional weapons, he spotlighted the importance of promoting the Programme of Action on Small Arms, especially given the flow of such weapons to terrorists and illegitimate armed groups.  Turning to cybersecurity issues, he highlighted the importance of promoting international cooperation and bolstering security for information and communications technology to protect States and build their capacity to combat subversive attacks, and anticipated that the Open‑Ended Working Group will produce robust recommendations in this regard.

HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, reiterated his commitment to disarmament, non‑proliferation and to never using or threatening to use force violating territorial integrity of States.  Raising concerns about the challenges posed by violence, organized crime and arms trafficking, he pledged to remain focused on prevention efforts, including combating the diversion of these weapons to non‑authorized actors, who are often linked to organized crime groups.  In this light, he called for a balanced application of the instruments available, including the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  

Reaffirming the right of States to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in line with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he anticipated that the agreement’s 2020 Review Conference will yield a document that supports common commitments and obligations.  Condemning any kind of nuclear weapon testing, he called on all States to immediately halt such activities.  In addition, all biological and chemical weapons must be eliminated because the grave consequences of their use undermine development, he said, urging Member States to join any related treaties and conventions that seek their total eradication.  Alarmed by increasing global military spending, he called for the reduction and diversion of these resources to efforts to advance progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Highlighting the relationship between disarmament and development, he called for the implementation of related programmes that address violence in the urban contexts and, at the same time, promote health, well‑being and quality education, tackle gender‑based violence and corruption, and reduce poverty levels and inequalities.

ANDRÉS JATO (Sweden), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, said that with multilateralism under stress, disarmament diplomacy is facing great challenges.  The gradual downward trend in global nuclear disarmament has ebbed out and States must avoid an arms race.  Progress requires global cooperation and multilateral solutions, together with respect for the international rules‑based order.  Emphasizing the gender perspective, he said the Nordic countries will give it high priority during the current session and beyond.  He added that the pathway to a world free of nuclear weapons goes through the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, but it cannot be taken for granted.  The 2020 Review Conference of this agreement must chart a course forward underpinning its fundamental roles and taking steps towards its implementation.  Achieving this will require constructive engagement by both nuclear‑weapon and non‑nuclear‑weapon States.  The Test-Ban Treaty is vital for safeguarding international peace and security, and given global security developments, its entry into force is more urgent than ever before, he said, adding that all existing moratoriums on testing must be maintained.  Recalling that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty came to an end in 2019 due to non‑compliance by the Russian Federation, he urged Moscow and Washington, D.C. to agree on an extension of their New START Treaty.  He also spotlighted the importance of the IAEA safeguards regime and strengthened cooperation on nuclear security.

Emphasizing that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is violating Security Council resolutions with its nuclear and missile programmes and threatening non‑proliferation efforts and international peace and security, he called for ongoing diplomatic efforts.  Calling on Pyongyang to sign and ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty, he said sanctions should remain in place until the international community sees verifiable and non‑reversible denuclearization.  Voicing steadfast support for the Joint Plan of Action, he regretted to note that the United States withdrawal from the agreement and urged Iran to reverse steps it has taken and to renew cooperation with IAEA.  Describing as appalling the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, he noted the measures taken since 2018 to give the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the ability to identify perpetrators of such criminal acts.  Impunity for the use of such weapons cannot be tolerated and those responsible must be held accountable.  On cyberactivities, he said everyone agrees that international law applies online and offline and that bad behaviour must be called out and action taken when necessary.  Twenty years on, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction remains highly relevant, he continued, stressing the need for more progress on mine clearance and welcoming the introduction of the gender perspective in that work.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored the validity of multilateral diplomacy as the only approach to address disarmament, non‑proliferation and international security issues.  As such, he called on Member States to sign the landmark 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, an agreement that has 79 signatories, including 21 African States.  Underlining the central role played by nuclear‑weapon‑free zones in this regard, he urged regional Member States to meet under the auspices of the United Nations to negotiate the establishment of such an area in the Middle East, adding that he will submit a draft resolution on the African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba.  Emphasizing that areas like outer space must be kept free of this type of armament, he called on nuclear‑weapon States to stop modernizing their arsenals and highlighted the importance of achieving universal adherence to all provisions of the Test‑Ban Treaty.

Pointing out that the Conference on Disarmament which, despite its impasse, remains the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, he called for it to resume work without delay.  He urged Member States to implement the Arms Trade Treaty and reaffirmed that each country has a right to acquire, manufacture, export and import conventional arms for their domestic needs and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  Nevertheless, he expressed concern over the illicit trade, transfer, manufacture, possession and circulation of small arms and light weapons in many parts of the world, especially in Africa.  In this vein, he underlined the African Group’s commitment to fully implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Similarly, the Group’s members have committed to the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, he said, calling for concerted efforts by all members of the international community to lend their support towards that goal.

JACEK BYLICA, European Union delegation, emphasizing that current international and regional tensions are jeopardizing the international non‑proliferation and disarmament architecture, called for an advancement in this area to ensure peace, security, human rights, prosperity and sustainable development.  In the face of the 2020‑Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which also marks its fiftieth anniversary, he called for a reinforcement of this instrument and for its universalization, underlining a need to implement all obligations that stem from it, especially those under article IV, with the ultimate goal of totally eliminating nuclear weapons.  Asking Member States who have not signed the Test‑Ban Treaty to do so, he called on States to hold a moratorium on such activities.

Raising several concerns, he said all relevant agreements must be fully complied with and enforced to ensure accountability and end any impunity, and called for accountability for the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria.  As for the Joint Plan of Action, he regretted to note the withdrawal of the United States and related sanctions.  Measures taken by Iran are inconsistent with its nuclear‑related commitments under the agreement, he said, urging Tehran to reverse these steps and refrain from taking further action in this regard.  Calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to end its launches and take concrete and credible steps to abandon all its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programmes, he supported existing sanctions until this happens.  Underscoring that the United States and the Russian Federation, as the two States with the largest nuclear warhead arsenals, carry a special responsibility in the area of disarmament and arms control, he encouraged them to seek further stockpile reductions and pursue discussions to build confidence.

AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russian Federation, United States and his country), reaffirmed the commitment of all five of the nuclear‑weapon States to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, as the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force approaches in 2020.  This landmark treaty has provided the essential foundation for international efforts to stem the spread of atomic bombs across the globe and a structure within which the peaceful uses of nuclear technology can be promoted and shared to benefit humanity.  He remains committed, under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, to pursue good faith negotiations on effective measures related to nuclear disarmament, adding that the group, known as the “P5”, met in New York on 8 October to discuss prospects for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and how to contribute to its success.

He reaffirmed the importance of in‑depth dialogue on countries’ respective nuclear doctrines and policies to enhance mutual trust and confidence between the five nuclear‑weapon States.  Outlining the group’s recent activities, he said it reviewed its engagement with ASEAN countries on the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok, and welcomed China’s ongoing leadership of the second phase of work on the glossary of key nuclear terms.  He commended discussions among P5 delegations in Vienna on ways to strengthen cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, nuclear security and nuclear safety ahead of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  The group also welcomed France’s initiative to convene the first meeting of P5 experts on fissile material cut‑off treaty‑related technical issues in Paris, held on 19 September, and looks forward to additional discussions at that level to contribute to progress on a related convention at the Conference on Disarmament.

MARÍA ANTONIETA SOCORRO JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said it is unacceptable that humanity lives under the threat of the existence of more than 14,000 nuclear warheads.  At the same time, some States boast about their arsenals, protective capacities and usefulness, she said, warning against the normalization of this perspective.  Pointing out that the 2020 Review Conference marks the seventy‑fifth anniversary of both the United Nations and of the devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she said the best tribute to the victims of these nuclear attacks is to completely ban and eliminate those weapons.  Recalling the mass shooting that occurred in El Paso, Texas, in August, she regretted to note that the easy accessibility of small arms and light weapons makes them “the perfect instrument” for those committed to philosophy of hate or of racial or religious supremacy.  She urged the General Assembly to conduct a substantive and constructive debate and accomplish disarmament, not as an end, but as a means to creating a safe and peaceful world.

PETER BEERWERTH (Germany) associating himself with the European Union, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty stands at a crossroads and must be reinvigorated in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.  He urged all nuclear‑weapon States to maintain a moratorium on testing or any kind of action contrary to the spirit of the Test‑Ban Treaty.  Strongly condemning recent testing by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called on Pyongyang to start the process of full and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear programme.  As for the Joint Plan of Action, his delegation remains fully committed to it and regrets the United States withdrawal and reimposition of economic sanctions against Iran, who should also refrain from and undo any initiatives that violate the agreement.  Highlighting the challenges posed by such new technologies as weapons systems featuring autonomous functions, cyberinstruments or new missile innovations, he proposed to initiate an international dialogue to better address this phenomenon.  Turning to concerns about chemical weapons, he said their use is totally unacceptable under any circumstances, and international rules must be enforced, with perpetrators held accountable.

THOMAS DINANNO (United States), noting that the working group on Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament is the latest innovation in its field, said his delegation seeks serious arms control that delivers real security.  As such, he called for a “new era” of arms control with China and the Russian Federation at the negotiating table and willing to reduce nuclear risks.  As it stands, Beijing and Moscow are determined to undermine the liberal democratic order established in the wake of the Second World War.  As such, United Nations Member States must reconsider the traditional dividing lines in multilateral disarmament fora, he said, highlighting the relationship between disarmament and democracy, especially in the case of China and the Russian Federation.  Moscow is a serial violator of its own commitments to arms control and European security and has invented new weapons, including atomic‑powered, nuclear‑armed underwater drones designed to destroy cities and ports with radioactive tidal waves.  Turning to other concerns, he underlined the importance of adhering to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, known as the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.  With this in mind, he said Bashar Al‑Assad’s regime’s pattern of chemical weapons use against its own people in Syria cannot be tolerated.  Pointing at China’s military expansion, he said it is aimed at establishing regional dominance and global influence, having amassed a vast missile arsenal under no international restraints.  He called on all like‑minded States, allies and non‑allies alike, to persuade China and the Russian Federation to change their course and cease their aggressive policies.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, totally rejected statements by his counterparts from the European Union, Sweden and Germany.  If the European Union and those two countries are interested in resolving the problems of the Korean Peninsula, they should urge the United States to take corresponding measures in response to Pyongyang’s many initiatives.  They should also ask their allies possessing nuclear weapons to set an example for others by eliminating them.  He went on to say that sanctions cannot solve problems.  The bigger the pressure, the stronger the will of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be to pursue development on its own and to achieve progress and prosperity.

The representative of Syria said it was a mistake for the United Nations to grant observer status to the European Union, whose representative today shamefully levelled falsehoods against his country.  He could have focused on the fact that Israel possesses and uses chemical and biological agents and that it is the only State in the region that possesses nuclear weapons and threatens to use them.  Perhaps he also conveniently forgot that several European Union member States have engaged in sending terrorists to Syria and that some European airports are centres for smuggling weapons to terrorist organizations on Syrian territory.  Some of those States have also supplied such groups with toxic chemicals.  Syria has had all its stockpiles destroyed outside its borders and remains committed to all provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

He went on to say that the representative of the United States should be the last to speak about non‑proliferation commitments.  That country used nuclear weapons in Japan as well as chemical and biological weapons in Viet Nam and other places.  The Government of Syria has provided the Security Council and the Secretary‑General with information about the transfer of toxic chemical agents and the provision of experts from the United States to groups inside Syria.

For information media. Not an official record.