14 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 6th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Mark Obstacles on Road to Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, Citing Strategic Policies Shaped by Deterrence, as First Committee Continues General Debate

No ‘Vaccine’ Will ‘Save the World’ if Global Security Remains in Jeopardy, Canada’s Delegate Cautions

Delegates discussed a variety of non‑proliferation efforts and obstacles on the road towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, with some States declaring deterrence as a factor shaping security strategies, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate today.

The representative of Canada expressed her delegation’s support and understanding of the use of nuclear deterrence in strategic security policies, but said Ottawa will not stop advocating for policies and practices to eliminate atomic bombs entirely.  Indeed, there is no “vaccine” that will save the world if international peace and security are placed in jeopardy, she cautioned.  Espousing similar views, Ghana’s delegate urged nuclear‑weapon‑possessing States to comply with non‑proliferation commitments, warning that the detonation of even a single atomic bomb, whether by accident or by design, will have unbearable consequences and “open the flood gates of hell on Earth”.

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, said what is standing in the way of the full implementation of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is not an absence of favourable conditions, but of political will.  Also speaking out for complete nuclear disarmament, Kazakhstan’s delegate said his region still suffers from the horrors of 40 years of atomic testing.  More broadly, the COVID‑19 pandemic has made it all too clear that resources allocated to massive military budgets would be far better directed to global public health, climate mitigation and sustainable development.

Several representatives drew attention to activities of some Member States that seem to chip away at non‑proliferation efforts and ambitions.  Iran’s delegate said the United States weapons exports to countries in the Middle East represents a major destabilizing factor in the region, underscoring that such actions only hamper disarmament initiatives.

Representatives of India and Pakistan outlined differing perspectives on their region’s security landscape.  India’s delegate said that his was a responsible atomic‑weapon State fully committed to maintain credible, minimum deterrence with a policy of no‑first‑use and non‑use against nuclear‑weapon‑free States.  Meanwhile, Pakistan’s representative said there is no credence to India’s no‑first‑use policy, calling attention to aggressive tactics unfolding in Jammu and Kashmir, including Indian forces that are targeting civilians.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, several delegates exchanged views on regional disputes and security concerns.

The First Committee will reconvene on Thursday, 15 October, at 10 a.m., to continue its general debate.

General Debate

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, recalled that the group was established in reaction to the threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons, underlining the importance of multilateral diplomacy to eliminate them.  Advocating for the implementation of all commitments in line with the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, she voiced concern over the slow pace of progress.  What is lacking is not favourable conditions, but political will, she said, emphasizing that it is time for States to deliver on commitments to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, in line with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.

The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that upholding the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s credibility depends on its full implementation.  However, the United States, possessing the world’s largest atomic arsenal, continues to threaten non‑nuclear‑weapon States and irresponsibly lowers the threshold of their use.  Further, the United States withdrawal from global agreements caused immense damage to international non‑proliferation and nuclear disarmament efforts.  Iran reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to acquire, manufacture, import and retain conventional arms for its legitimate security needs, he said, also pointing to the United States weapons exports to countries in the Middle East as a major destabilizing factor.

The representative of India, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his delegation is committed to the goal of universal, non‑discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament.  India’s call for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons through a step‑by‑step approach “has a wide resonance and continuing relevance”, he said.  As a responsible nuclear‑weapon State, India is committed, as per its nuclear doctrine, to maintain credible minimum deterrence with the posture of no‑first‑use and non‑use against non‑nuclear‑weapon States.  India also supports the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament of a fissile material cut‑off treaty and a legally binding instrument to prevent an outer space arms race.

The representative of Pakistan, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that key arms control agreements are being undermined while a qualitative and quantitative arms race is under way.  The aggressive policies and military posture of the largest state in South Asia, which is now ruled by a neo‑fascist regime, pose a threat to peace and security.  On 5 August 2019, India took measures to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir, adding 200,000 troops, imprisoning political leaders, abducting 13,000 youth and imposing collective punishments.  Indian forces resort to targeting innocent civilians, accompanying these provocations with threats of aggression.  Pakistan has acted with restraint, but will respond decisively to any Indian aggression “with the full force of our capabilities,” he said, adding that India’s no‑first‑use policy lacks credence.

The representative of Ghana, associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said multilateral diplomacy is the most sustainable pathway to address non‑proliferation issues.  She urged nuclear‑weapon‑possessing States to adopt urgent practical measures and to comply with their arms control and non‑proliferation commitments.  The possibility of the accidental or deliberate use of atomic bombs, or even of the detonation of a single weapon, will have unbearable consequences and “open the flood gates of hell on Earth”.  Encouraged by the number of signatories to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she expressed hope that it will soon enter into force.

The representative of Kazakhstan, associating himself with the statement delivered by Kyrgyzstan on behalf of the member States of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, known as the Semipalatinsk Treaty, said his region still suffers from the horrors of nuclear testing carried out between 1949 and 1989.  To facilitate recovery, he invited Member States to support and sponsor the draft resolution on efforts aimed at the rehabilitation of the population of the Semipalatinsk region in Kazakhstan.  The current realities of COVID‑19 have confirmed the United Nations critical stewardship for global approaches and has brought to the fore the flawed logic of enormous military expenditures, when it is obvious that resources should be given to global public health, climate mitigation and sustainable development.

The representative of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union delegation, cautioned Member States that the security landscape is deteriorating and reaffirmed support for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s three pillars - disarmament, non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  To ensure sustainable progress, the best approach is a process of gradual reductions of nuclear arsenals, taking into account legitimate national and international security concerns.  Acknowledging that strategic arms controls agreements must consider changing realities, he urged Moscow and Washington, D.C., to include China in discussions of an extension 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).

The representative of Bangladesh, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the promise of disarmament remains elusive and the world lives in fear of a nuclear catastrophe.  Pledging a commitment to general and complete disarmament, she underscored the importance of developing countries benefiting from the peaceful use of nuclear technology.  Turning to regional security issues, she expressed concern over the use of anti‑personnel mines in Myanmar against the displaced Rohingya community.  “The pandemic has taught us that it is development, not armament, that can ensure global peace and security,” she concluded, calling on States to redirect resources from weapons programmes to sustainable development initiatives.

The representative of Canada said there will be no vaccine to save humanity if international peace and security slip away.  “Canada supports and understands the need for nuclear deterrence, but this does not stop us from advocating tirelessly for policies and practices to eliminate nuclear weapons,” she said, calling for advancements in risk reduction measures and verification, and the launch of negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty.  The impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic reinforces the need to mitigate biological threats, she said, noting that Canada is working with more than 20 countries to strengthen safeguards for related pathogens.  She concluded by voicing support for equal participation and leadership opportunities for women and men in disarmament fora.

The representative of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union delegation, said nuclear capabilities are being developed in parallel with the endangering of landmark treaties that have regulated weapons of mass destruction for decades.  “Our collective goal of a world free from nuclear weapons seems further away than in a long time,” she stated.  Noting that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will likely enter into force in the near future, she said Sweden decided against signing or seeking ratification of the text due to shortcomings in its current form.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plays an indispensable role in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, promoting safety and facilitating the use of related technology, including in health, agriculture and water sectors, she said, calling on States to ensure the Agency has the adequate inspection tools to continue its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of Yemen, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the war in Yemen stems from an Iranian‑backed Houthi coup.  Tehran finances terrorist groups in Yemen and has blood on its hands.  “Crocodile tears shed by Iran for the people of Yemen are unconvincing,” he said.

The representative of India said Pakistan encourages sectarian violence and spreads lies within the United Nations.  “It is time to hold Pakistan to account and not let it use the United Nations to spread misinformation,” he said, adding that Pakistan is “the largest destabilizing force in the world”.

The representative of Pakistan said India’s hegemonic pretentions and history of aggression present a clear danger to international security.  India’s illegal actions in Jammu and Kashmir further compound regional security concerns, he stated, adding that India engages in irresponsible rhetoric against Pakistan.

The representative of Iran said he regretted to note that Yemen invited another country to bomb its territory.  Meanwhile, Iran’s defensive posture emerges from regional security concerns and its missile defence system was developed to ensure the safety of its population.

The representative of Saudi Arabia reiterated calls for Iran to ensure transparency and fully cooperate with IAEA.  He further called on Iran to stop sponsoring terrorist groups.

The representative of Yemen, taking the floor for a second time, said everyone knows that Iran lies, calling on Tehran to stop playing a destructive role in the region.

The representative of Iran, in a second intervention, rejected allegations raised by Saudi Arabia and Yemen, adding that the United Nations identified the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, taking the floor for a second time, said that if Iran directed one tenth of the resources it devotes to destabilizing the region towards development, its people would prosper.

Also delivering statements today during the general debate were representatives of Bahrain, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Sri Lanka and Senegal.

For information media. Not an official record.