Viet Nam Notes Continuing Insecurity of Non-Weapon States, as South Africa Says Meeting Must Not Roll Back Agreements Already Reached
The upcoming conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force — will be an opportunity not only to celebrate that instrument’s many achievements, but also to ensure that it remains the lynchpin of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council today.
“We cannot skate over the fact that the world is a very different place than it was in 2015, let alone 2010,” Izumi Nakamitsu told members, referring to the years in which the two previous review conferences were held, as the Council considered the next gathering of States parties, in New York from 27 April to 22 May.
Failure to secure a successful outcome from the Review Conference will not doom the Treaty, but it will undermine the value that so many Member States place on it, she said, urging States parties to aim for high-level reaffirmation of their commitment to the Treaty, recommit to the norm against the use of nuclear weapons, develop a package of risk-reduction measures, and endorse the Treaty’s Additional Protocol as the standard for nuclear safeguard inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Also briefing Council members, Gustavo Zlauvinen (Argentina), President-designate of the 2020 Review Conference, expressed hope that it will produce an outcome document that takes into account not simply the immediate context — with its limitations and opportunities — but also medium-term and future aspirations. “We need to be ambitious and aim for progress in every possible area,” he emphasized, agreeing with the High Representative that all States parties must recommit to full implementation of the Treaty and to strengthening it with a forward-looking perspective.
In the ensuing debate, Council members acknowledged the Treaty’s contribution to international peace and security while stressing the need to remain focused on nuclear developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran. However, views diverged on the way forward, with nuclear-weapon States reiterating their opposition to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, signed by 81 countries so far.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, called for practical measures to reduce nuclear risks, rebuild trust and improve verification. Reporting on the 25 February meeting held in Berlin by supporters of the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament, he said the United States and the Russian Federation must demonstrate leadership by extending the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). “We must attain a world without nuclear weapons [and] no one bears greater responsibility than the members of this Council,” he emphasized.
The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that non-proliferation and arms-control mechanisms have broken down owing to the desire of one State to impose its own rules on others. Forceful actions by the United States, and its threats against the Russian Federation, only make it harder to free the world of nuclear weapons, he said, adding that Washington has been weakening the defensive capacities of States by illegitimate means.
The representative of the United States said it has been possible for her country and the Russian Federation to reduce their nuclear arsenals to levels not seen since the 1950s, thanks to the easing of cold war tensions. However, the advance towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons must take the global security environment into account, she said, emphasizing that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons deliberately ignores the security challenges that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary.
China’s representative urged States possessing the largest nuclear arsenals to make further drastic cuts, adding that countries should promote political solutions to hot-spot issues and fully tap the potential to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy — an inalienable right that the Treaty confers upon States parties.
Viet Nam’s representative pointed out that the only thing that remains undiminished 50 years after the Treaty’s entry into force is the insecurity of non-nuclear States that have implemented their obligations in good faith. Recalling that five of the nine previous review conferences failed to reach consensus, he stressed the need for confidence-building measures as well as full implementation of non-proliferation obligations.
South Africa’s representative said while non-proliferation measures have been strengthened over the years, similar progress has been lacking in the area of disarmament. “This state of affairs places the [Treaty] and its review processes under increasing pressure,” she noted, stressing that the Review Conference should not roll back or reinterpret agreements reached since 1995.
Representatives of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Indonesia, Niger, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Estonia, France and Belgium also delivered statements.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:50 p.m.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons continues to exemplify the value of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation as supporting pillars of international peace and security, “no matter the climate of the day”. It continues to constrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons through a verifiable safeguards system, she added, recalling that when the Treaty was negotiated, it was predicted that there might be about 20 nuclear-armed States by 1975. The Treaty has also functioned as a de facto negotiating forum, producing important confidence-building and transparency measures, she noted. The 2020 Review Conference — which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force and the twenty-fifth anniversary of its indefinite extension — is therefore an opportunity not only to celebrate its many achievements, but also to ensure that it remains the lynchpin of the disarmament and non-proliferation regime and continues to enhance the security of all its States parties, she said. While emphasizing that failure to secure a successful outcome of the Review Conference will not doom the Treaty or the non-proliferation regime, she cautioned that it will undermine the value that so many Member States place on it. That in turn will devalue the influence of the Review Conference not only to strengthen implementation of the Treaty, but that of the regime as a whole, she said, pointing out that it could also further entrench divisions within its adherents, with long-term ramifications.
“We cannot skate over the fact that the world is a very different place than it was in 2015, let alone 2010,” she continued, citing the last occasions when a review conference produced a forward-looking outcome document. Relationships between nuclear-weapon States are fractured and so-called Great Power competition is the order of the day, while division, distrust and the absence of dialogue are increasingly the norm, she noted, stressing that for the first time since the 1970s, the spectre of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over the world. Warning of a qualitative arms race based not on numbers, but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons, she said that, at the same time, regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening and proliferation challenges are not receding. Hopefully, those issues can be discussed constructively during the Review Conference in ways that can move them forward, she said. A consensus outcome should include a high-level reaffirmation of commitment to the Treaty and all its obligations; a recommitment to the norm against the use of nuclear weapons; the development of a package of risk-reduction measures; and an endorsement by States parties of the Additional Protocol as the standard for safeguards. She also held out the hope that the Review Conference can be a springboard for thinking on how to address today’s nuclear weapons challenges. By reaffirming its support for the Treaty, the Security Council can provide a significant boost to the Review Conference’s prospects, she said, expressing hope that Council members will work towards that goal in light of the stakes.
GUSTAVO ZLAUVINEN (Argentina), President-designate of the 2020 Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, said the instrument has proven crucial for the maintenance of international security for almost 50 years. It is incumbent upon all States parties to ensure that the international cooperation for which the Treaty provides continues, he emphasized, expressing hope that they will agree on an outcome document that offers a way forward, taking into account not simply the immediate context — with its limitations and opportunities — but also the medium-term and future aspirations.
The Review Conference arrives amid growing concern and uncertainty, with increasing national and regional expectations, as well as tensions old and new, converging on the Treaty as though it were a magnet, he continued. “We can clearly see that the Treaty has successfully overcome many times of tension and times of change in the past,” he said, emphasizing that its unique achievements in establishing an efficient non-proliferation system and underpinning technical and scientific cooperation are underplayed. Indeed, while those achievements are now taken for granted, 50 or even 25 years ago, they seemed like unattainable dreams — a point worth considering as States undertake their responsibilities during the Review Conference.
“We need to be ambitious and aim for progress in every possible area,” he declared, stressing that the Treaty’s three pillars must be considered in a balanced manner in order to meet the shared goal of a comprehensive, forward-looking outcome. In that context, he called for “levelling up” consideration of peaceful nuclear energy uses — a set of issues that are fundamental to the development of global societies, yet for too long have been relegated from the debate. The fiftieth anniversary calls upon all States parties to recommit to full implementation of the Treaty and to strengthen it with a forward-looking perspective, he said, underlining that the outcome of the Review Conference will depend on the resolve demonstrated by all States parties when the time comes for compromise and agreement. He said that as President-designate, he will encourage all to engage in an open and frank exchange about implementation, and to strengthen their commitment to the Treaty’s legally-binding provisions, which are the basis for international cooperation in the fields of peaceful use, nuclear science, technology and applications.
HEIKO MAAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said that despite its valued achievements, the Treaty is facing serious setbacks, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill, new technologies creating dangerous strategic imbalances and proliferation crises demanding full attention. The only realistic way forward is a two-track approach, with pressure on the one hand and diplomatic engagement on the other. The international community should stand together in supporting the United States in its efforts to conduct serious negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, adding that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the only promising tool to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Summarizing a political declaration adopted on 25 February in Berlin by supporters of the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament, he proposed a set of practical measures to reduce nuclear risks and rebuild trust, as well as a focus on verification efforts. For their part, Moscow and Washington, D.C., must show leadership by extending 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). It is also high time to start negotiations on a treaty to prohibit the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and for all States that have not signed and ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to do so. “We must attain a world without nuclear weapons [and] no one bears greater responsibility than the members of this Council,” he said.
JOHANNA ELIZABETH MARAIS (South Africa) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Treaty, emphasizing that its objectives — disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy — are inextricably linked. Indeed, disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes. However, while non-proliferation measures have been strengthened, similar progress has not been made in the area of disarmament, where such efforts should be verifiable and irreversible, she emphasized, expressing grave concern over the lack of urgency and seriousness with which such undertakings are approached, as well as attempts, since 1995, to negate or reinterpret disarmament initiatives. “This state of affairs places the [Treaty] and its review processes under increasing pressure,” falling far short of Article VI obligations, she said, stressing that reneging on commitments made at the 2010 Review Conference is not an option. The success of the 2020 edition hinges on the extent to which those pledges are being honoured, she said. It is essential that the outcome reaffirm the unequivocal actions of nuclear-weapon States, she added, emphasizing that it should not roll back or reinterpret the agreements reached since 1995.
ISIS AZALEA MARIA GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that geopolitical tensions are made worse by the existence of nuclear weapons. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is a significant step in the total elimination of that threat, she said, emphasizing the need for multilateral cooperation and for nuclear-weapon States to build trust by engaging in dialogue on their respective nuclear doctrines and policies. The pursuit of non-proliferation must not undermine the right of States to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Hopefully, the Review Conference will yield success, but nothing said in the Council today should prejudge or pre-empt its outcome, she said, stressing that the General Assembly is mandated to deal with the issue.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled that nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki one week after the Charter of the United Nations was signed, launching the arms race. Describing the Treaty as a cornerstone of the world order, he said its unlimited extension, achieved in 1995, offers proof of its importance. Yet, internationally accepted non-proliferation and arms-control mechanisms have broken down owing to the desire of one State to impose its own rules on others at the expense of international law, he said. All mechanisms that hinder its attempts at domination are declared obsolete and ineffective, he added, recalling that the United States exited the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and tore up the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 under a bogus pretext. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies have ignored the Russian Federation’s proposed moratorium on ballistic missile systems, he said, adding that such conduct confirms that the reason for the agreement’s collapse is not linked to the Russian Federation at all.
Expressing concern for the future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), he said its extension could help to prevent the deterioration of strategic stability, thereby avoiding a full collapse of arms-control mechanisms. Appeals that the Russian Federation extend START are misguided, he said, recalling that President Vladimir Putin has already proposed an extension and is awaiting an answer. He went on to describe the nuclear agreement with Iran as a huge success, recalling that the Council endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in resolution 2231 (2105) and that breakthroughs were made when States parties were willing to listen and take mutual interests into account. However, the present era of diplomacy is threatened by the refusal of the United States to uphold its legal obligations to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he said, emphasizing that instead, it deploys weapons on the territory of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, thereby lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons.
He went on to cite nuclear missions carried out in contravention of articles 1 and 2 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and exercises by the United States and its European allies involving the possible use of nuclear weapons on Russian territory. One-and-a-half years ago, the Russian Federation proposed that the United States strengthen the “Gorbachev-Reagan formula”, he recalled, noting that it has not yet received an answer. Washington’s forceful actions and threats against the Russian Federation only make it more difficult to free the world of nuclear weapons, he said, adding that consistent approaches are needed to advance disarmament. Efforts by the United States to limit the deployment of anti-missile defence systems while developing strategic offensive weapons undermine international agreements, he said, adding that Washington also weakens the defensive capacities of States through illegitimate means and imposes illegitimate sanctions outside the Council’s purview.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) emphasized that growing tensions and the very existence of nuclear weapons underscore the imperative for a successful Review Conference. Noting Indonesia’s participation in preparations for the event, he pressed nuclear-weapon States to uphold the Non-Proliferation Treaty in its entirety, calling for balanced, comprehensive and non-discriminatory implementation of all three of its pillars. To single out any one pillar would dilute the Treaty’s aims and undermine support for an agreement that enjoys wide support, in part because it allows the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he pointed out. Disarmament must be complete, verifiable and irreversible, with States fulfilling their article 6 obligations, he stressed, expressing serious concern about the growing prominence of nuclear weapons in national security doctrines, including those on modernization. All nuclear-weapon States, including non-signatories to the Treaty, should place their facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, he said. Underlining that establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone is integral to the Treaty’s extension, he called for early accession to the Bangkok Treaty Protocol.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) noted that the only thing that remains undiminished 50 years after the Treaty’s entry into force is the insecurity of non-nuclear States, especially those that have implemented their non-proliferation obligations in good faith. Five of the nine previous review conferences failed to reach consensus, he recalled. Emphasizing the stressed the need for confidence-building measures and full implementation of non-proliferation obligations, he said nuclear-weapon States must do more to implement Article VI of the Treaty, including by adhering to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He went on to call upon nuclear-weapon States to sign the Protocol to the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (Bangkok Protocol).
NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) noted the grey areas surrounding implementation of the Treaty, expressing indignation over the modernization of nuclear arsenals. He called for strong cooperation among States parties as well as strict respect for international obligations. By ratifying the Treaty in 1992, Niger demonstrated its commitment to the instrument’s goals, he said, emphasizing that the African Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) demonstrates a strong consensus across the continent on that issue. On the eve of the Review Conference, Niger calls upon the nuclear Powers to demonstrate greater responsibility for sparing humanity the anguish of another nuclear slaughter, he said, underlining that everything must be done to preserve the neutrality and impartiality of the IAEA.
WU HAITAO (China) emphasized the utmost importance of implementing the Treaty’s three pillars in a balanced manner amid intensifying differences over disarmament and the politicization of peaceful nuclear energy. The global order must be safeguarded on the basis of international law, with a sustainable security concept taking into account the concerns of all countries, he said, stressing also the importance of protecting arms-control and disarmament mechanisms while opposing withdrawal from the Treaty. Advocating concerted efforts to draw up rules, including for cyberspace and outer space, and to reduce risks, he said nuclear-armed States should reduce the role of those weapon in their security strategies and reiterate that a nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought. Those with the largest nuclear arsenals should make further drastic cuts, he said. Furthermore, countries should promote political solutions to hot-spot issues and fully tap the potential to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which is an inalienable right that the Treaty confers upon States parties.
MADELIN ESTHER LUNA (Dominican Republic) emphasized that the elimination of nuclear weapons, or the threat thereof, is the only guarantee against their use. Expressing concern over the termination of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the nuclear situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and challenges confronting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she voiced hope that new efforts will be taken to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and that Iran will continue to comply with its commitments, with the other parties ensuring that it receives the agreed benefits. Concerned that some nuclear weapons are on full alert and that the security doctrines of many countries include a policy of nuclear deterrence, she pressed States to comply with their obligations under the 1995 Review Conference, including on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, while calling upon Annex II countries to accede to and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said his country will submit a report at the Review Conference detailing its implementation of the Treaty. Noting the United Kingdom’s role as coordinator among permanent Council members on nuclear issues, he said the “P5” is working together to enhance the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. While acknowledging current challenges, he emphasized that any meaningful discussions on disarmament must take the increasingly difficult security environment into account. He went on to state that the United Kingdom will not sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but it will continue to promote a step-by-step approach, including by ensuring universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty and the development of a fissile material treaty.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) reiterated the importance of universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the dire need for all States parties to make good on pledges made during previous review conferences. “The failure of the 2015 Review Conference must not hold back our efforts,” he emphasized, pointing out that the decision to establish a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction was part of the 1995 agreement to extend the Treaty indefinitely. Nuclear-weapon-free zones led to the implementation of disarmament and non-proliferation objectives while also promoting peace and security at the regional and international levels, he noted. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons supports the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, stressing that the Conference on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction is the proper framework for constructive dialogue on all non-proliferation challenges in the region. Responsibility for a Middle East free of such weapons is a collective international responsibility, he said, calling upon all parties concerned to participate.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) described the Treaty as the “agreement of greatest adherence in the field of arms control”, having significantly helped to contain the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the number of stockpiles. The 2020 Review Conference will take place in a complicated security environment and increasing strain on the non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, he noted. Progress on the Treaty’s implementation remains a challenge, with non-compliance and the risks of proliferation causing the most serious concern. He went on to emphasize that the violation of Council resolutions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be tolerated, saying that country must return to full and verifiable compliance with all its Treaty obligations. “Until then, sanctions must be enforced by all States,” he asserted, also expressing deep concern that Iran has taken steps that are inconsistent with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Estonia advocates the realistic and responsible pursuit of a progressive approach to disarmament and non-proliferation, he said, calling for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and for all States, particularly Annex II countries, to sign and ratify it without delay. It is also important that all States parties follow the highest safety and security standards, he stressed.
NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France) called for a robust response to nuclear proliferation, whether addressing the crisis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. The IAEA must have the necessary means to carry out its activities, he said, encouraging all countries to adhere to the Agency’s Additional Protocol on the system of guarantees. He went on to call for greater efforts to counter nuclear and radiological terrorism, beginning with resolution 1540 (2004), and to promote a pragmatic approach to disarmament, since decreeing it will not ensure strategic security. Emphasizing that his country will not join any nuclear weapons ban that weakens Treaty standards or the non-proliferation regime, he said France attaches itself to progressive disarmament — an approach requiring that the United States and the Russian Federation reduce their nuclear arsenals as well as the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the launch of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. France will play its full part in reducing strategic risks and is prepared to participate in talks with the four other nuclear-weapon States on the priorities for disarmament, confidence-building and transparency, he said.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) said there is unwavering international consensus on the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for international peace and security because it serves the fundamental common interest in curbing the world’s most dangerous weapons. Thanks to the easing of cold war tensions, it has been possible for the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce their nuclear arsenals to levels not seen since the 1950s, she added. However, advancing towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons must take account of the global security environment, she said, emphasizing that the development of “exotic” delivery systems must not be overlooked.
It is for that reason, she explained, that the United States launched the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative with more than 40 international partners, which has already met twice and will meet again in April to foster a constructive dialogue on disarmament challenges. That initiative stands in stark contrast to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which deliberately ignores the security challenges that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary.
Concerning the 2020 Review Conference, she said the United States will seek a positive outcome that reflects a broad consensus, but that will only be possible if States parties focus on the big picture. She went on to urge States to support universal adherence to the Additional Protocol on the IAEA’s verification of the peaceful use of nuclear materials, adding that nuclear supplying States should make adherence to the Additional Protocol by recipient States a requirement for nuclear exports.
She went on to emphasize that the international community must remain committed to a bright and peaceful future for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea if that country fulfils its nuclear commitments and ensure that Iran never gains a path to nuclear weapons. While the United States is optimistic that the Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain at the centre of international security, that outcome is not guaranteed, she cautioned, urging the international community to ensure that the instrument will still be in force 50 years from now.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing that although the international consensus on disarmament is breaking down, current challenges are no excuse for inaction. The ultimate goal should be a world free of nuclear weapons and that can only be achieved through full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, stressing that specific responsibility falls on the five permanent Council members, which are also the five nuclear-weapon States recognized by the Treaty. The Russian Federation and the United States — holding between them 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons — have a duty to avoid military and nuclear competition, he said, while welcoming efforts by the United Kingdom and France to reduce their nuclear stockpiles and expressing hope that China will follow suit.