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Debating a range of legally binding measures and norms for advancing nuclear disarmament today, speakers in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) discussed the future of a fissile material cut‑off treaty and other instruments as building blocks towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.
The Chair of the High‑level Fissile Material Cut‑off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group briefed the Committee on the work of the body, which was tasked by the United Nations Secretary‑General to make recommendations on elements of a future non‑discriminatory, multilateral and international and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Negotiating a convention governing fissile material was more relevant now than ever before, said the Chair Heidi Hulan, particularly as the debate on nuclear disarmament had become increasingly polarized. While the Expert Preparatory Group was not a panacea for the current dysfunction in the disarmament machinery, it provided an effective forum to reduce tensions and engage in much needed bridge-building.
Hungary’s delegate said the start of negotiations on a cut‑off treaty was a concrete step towards a world free of nuclear weapons and a significant contribution to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Echoing that sentiment, Italy’s speaker said the immediate commencement of negotiations for such a treaty was a key priority.
Other delegates reiterated the continued relevance of cut‑off treaty negotiations. Meanwhile, some stressed that such an instrument would be insufficient unless it covered existing stockpiles of such material.
Pakistan’s representative expressed support for negotiations on a fissile material treaty based on a programme of work through the Conference on Disarmament, objecting to any steps taken outside that process. A vital and indispensable part of the disarmament machinery, it was the sole multilateral negotiating forum, he said, underscoring that initiatives launched outside the Conference on Disarmament ignored the fundamental security considerations that underpinned nuclear disarmament and would not lead to any real change on the ground.
Yet, a number of speakers, including the representatives of Algeria, Indonesia and Spain, highlighted the need for legally binding and universal security assurances for non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by nuclear‑weapon States. The delegate from Bangladesh expressed concern that work on such a legally binding instrument had been held hostage to the overall dynamics in the Conference on Disarmament.
Representing the only voice of a nuclear‑weapon State participating in today’s debate, China’s delegate said his country had proposed a common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable approach to establish global security. Expressing concerns over the recent adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said that achieving nuclear disarmament required the international community to maintain security while moving gradually within the existing frameworks.
The Committee also heard the introduction of several draft resolutions, including on a nuclear‑weapon free Southern hemisphere and adjacent areas and on the conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non‑nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Also participating in the thematic debate were the representatives of Israel, Finland, Brazil, Guatemala, South Africa, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Iraq, Samoa, Cabo Verde, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Portugal, Thailand and New Zealand.
Representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 16 October, to conclude its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard a briefing from the Chair of the High‑level Fissile Material Cut‑off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group and continued its thematic debate on nuclear weapons. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.
HEIDI HULAN, Chair of the High‑level Fissile Material Cut‑off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, said the General Assembly resolution leading to its establishment had marked the start of a significant process, one that could be a catalyst in the negotiation of such an instrument. The Expert Preparatory Group had been tasked with considering and making recommendations on elements of a future non‑discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Discussions on a cut‑off treaty process ran parallel to the negotiation and adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said. Concrete steps, including an effective legal prohibition on the production of the materials required to make nuclear bombs, remained indispensable to progress on nuclear disarmament. Despite discussions on the continued relevance of a cut‑off treaty in the context of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said negotiating a convention governing fissile material was more relevant now than ever before, as the debate on nuclear disarmament had become increasingly polarized.
While the Expert Preparatory Group was not a panacea for the current dysfunction in the disarmament machinery, she said it provided an effective forum to reduce tensions and engage in much needed bridge‑building. The informal consultative meeting held in March had been critical to ensuring that the General Assembly remained engaged in the necessary diplomacy required to hold the Conference on Disarmament to account for the negotiation of the treaty. Emphasizing the importance of inclusivity to the 25‑member Expert Preparatory Group, she expressed commitment to ensuring that the views of the entire international community were taken into account in its work, she said, noting that the first session in July and August had been substantive and highly interactive.
Further, the Preparatory Group had succeeded in distilling a concise menu of potential treaty provisions across all treaty aspects, including its definitions, scope, verification and legal and institutional framework, she said. A comprehensive sense of what options existed for treaty provisions in those areas, and how they intersected, was now in place. Conveying the regret felt amongst many experts that such a treaty had not already been negotiated, she said that in the absence of an agreement within the Conference on Disarmament on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work that included the negotiation of a cut‑off treaty, the Preparatory Group would continue its current deliberations and submit a report to the Secretary‑General. In that context, she looked forward to convening another informal consultative meeting in February 2018.
The Chair then opened the floor to delegates for an informal discussion.
FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that as global awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons expanded, the world became more sensitized to the risks of their inadvertent use due to an accident or miscalculation. Moreover, the threat of nuclear weapons and related materials falling into the hands of terrorists deepened concerns over the existence of those weapons of mass destruction. While all responsible Member States shared a firm commitment to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, divergent views existed on the ways, means and pace of achieving that objective. He condemned the proliferation of a number of exclusive initiatives that tended to prescribe the norms and standards for nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation, maintaining the so‑called prerogatives of the nuclear‑weapon States. Regarding negative security assurances, he was particularly concerned that the work on a legally binding instrument providing assurances to non‑nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by nuclear‑weapon States remained hostage to the overall dynamics in the Conference on Disarmament. He then reiterated the continued relevance of commencing negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on an effective, non‑discriminatory, legally binding and internationally and effectively verifiable fissile material cut‑off treaty that included existing stocks.
WANG QUN (China) said his country had proposed a common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable approach to establish global security. Expressing concerns over the recent adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said that achieving nuclear disarmament required the international community to maintain security while moving in a gradual manner, by consensus and within the existing framework of non‑proliferation and disarmament. The new instrument was in conflict with the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and jeopardized its authority. Furthermore, it did not constitute new customary international law and it was not legally binding to any of the State parties. China supported the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and remained committed to the international nuclear disarmament efforts and to the moratorium on nuclear testing.
ERAN YUVAN (Israel) said his country maintained a policy of responsibility and restraint in the nuclear domain in accordance with the goals and principles of the non‑proliferation regime. However, cases of non‑compliance with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty had emanated from the Middle East with Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria breaching its provisions. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s non‑compliance with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and for being “heavily involved with proliferation in the Middle East”, he said Israel did not sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons because the instrument hindered the disarmament process and global security. Israel was committed to the process of direct dialogue and confidence‑building especially in the Middle East, and for that reason it had expressed concerns over the introduction of the draft resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
JARMO VIINANEN (Finland), condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s testing activities, highlighted the importance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and called on all nuclear‑weapon States to take concrete actions towards disarmament. Finland was particularly concerned about the thousands of tactical weapons stationed in Europe, which were not covered by any agreement. Urging all States that had not yet done so to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty without delay. The High‑level Expert Preparatory Group was a positive step and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a major multilateral achievement that should continue to be implemented.
ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), associating himself with the New Agenda Coalition and the Union of South American Nations, expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which contributed to the implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and strengthened the existing non‑proliferation and disarmament regime. He then introduced a draft resolution on a nuclear‑weapon‑free Southern hemisphere and adjacent areas. The draft text welcomed the adoption of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East while encouraging efforts to reinforce coordination among other such zones.
BENARD ESTRANA (Guatemala), associating with himself the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had not been implemented in a balanced way. However, while a step‑by‑step approach was not being implemented by nuclear‑weapon States sufficiently, he said the new instrument was a mark of hope for the international community and bridged a legal gap to categorically prohibit such weapons. Guatemala advocated for complete and verifiable disarmament and was proud to be a party to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), which served as an example to other regions. Calling for the universalization of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he urged States not party to it to accede to the instrument. Guatemala also supported the General Assembly in convening a high‑level conference on nuclear disbarment in 2018 to review progress made.
SIMBONGILE MANCOTYWA‑KUMSHA (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group, the Non‑Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition, welcomed the adoption and opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Beyond its entry into force and universalization, efforts must ensure the full implementation of commitments made by States parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, particularly those regarding nuclear disarmament which had been neglected for too long. Moreover, a treaty banning the production of fissile material should remain a priority for the international community. Such a ban would represent a step towards a world free of nuclear weapons and reinforce the ideals of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty while complementing the Test‑Ban Treaty. In that vein, South Africa would table a draft resolution on ethical imperatives for a world without nuclear weapons, she said, calling for its support.
MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said as long as nuclear weapons existed, the risk of their use exposed humanity and the environment to catastrophic consequences. He expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, calling for its early entry into force. Going forward, he said the international community must fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Another way was through ensuring the entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty, which all States that had not yet done so should sign and ratify. He also expressed strong support for the preservation of the Southeast Asian region as a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone that was also free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok) and ASEAN Charter.
MICHAEL TENE (Indonesia) expressed hope that the Treaty on the prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would break the stalemate in the nuclear disarmament machinery. Indonesia’s commitment to the new convention did not diminish support for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which, however was an indispensable instrument to prevent the spread of such weapons. Emphasizing the importance of establishing a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, he underscored the need to bring the Test‑Ban Treaty to enter into force. In addition, non‑nuclear‑weapon States should be given legally binding and universal security assurances. Raising concerns that some States’ security doctrines still relied on nuclear weapons, he said modernization programmes did not comply with disarmament commitments. To address the unacceptably slow progress in advancing disarmament goals and related issues, he urged Member States to redouble their efforts to achieve the shared goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.
MOHAMAD REDA (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the universalization of all treaties and conventions on nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction and the global respect of them was the only way to guarantee that those arms would never be used. Expressing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said its adoption had been the outcome of Member States’ continuous efforts over the past 20 years. Iraq also promoted efforts to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, which would strengthen regional and international peace and security. For that reason, Israel should eliminate its nuclear weapons and adhere to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear State. He called for an international legally binding instrument offering safeguards to non‑nuclear‑weapon States that nuclear‑weapon States would not use their weapons. Given that nuclear terrorism was a major threat to international peace, measures were needed to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining related material.
ALI’IOAIGA FETURI ELISAIA (Samoa) recalled that nuclear testing in the Pacific Region that had taken place in the 1970s had made his and other countries in the region, strong advocates for disarmament, as illustrated by South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga). Samoa continued to demonstrate its commitment to that cause by becoming a party to the Test‑Ban Treaty and the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Magnified by recent events in the Korean Peninsula, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons marked a breakthrough in nuclear disarmament.
MARÍA PALACIOS PALACIOS (Spain), saying that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s testing activities posed a grave threat to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, called on that country to take clear steps to reduce tensions, including a moratorium on future tests, and on all States to strictly implement related Security Council resolutions. Turning to Iran, Spain strongly supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which demonstrated the will of the international community to resolve a serious security matter through diplomatic means. While calling on nuclear‑weapon States to fulfil their responsibilities, she disagreed with the approach of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as nuclear‑weapon States’ security interests must be considered. Meanwhile, she called on countries to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty, expressed support for a fissile material cut‑off treaty and asked nuclear‑weapon States to strengthen negative security assurances provided to non‑nuclear weapon States.
FARUKH AMIL (Pakistan) said that amid a worsening international and regional security environment, the goal of nuclear disarmament seemed ever more elusive. That lack of progress was primarily due to nuclear‑weapon States in fulfilling their disarmament obligations, while constantly shifting the goal posts towards additional non‑proliferation measures that were cost‑free for their own strategic gains. In addition, double standards in the application of non‑proliferation norms for the sake of political expedience and economic benefits endangered strategic stability in the South Asia region and beyond.
Turning to the Conference on Disarmament, he expressed regret that it had fallen short of expectations in fulfilling its raison d’etre of nuclear disarmament. The frustration brewing over the slow progress had boiled over, giving rise to an initiative launched outside the Conference on Disarmament to ban nuclear weapons, which had subsequently faltered by ignoring the fundamental security considerations that underpinned nuclear disarmament. While his Government empathized with the sense of disappointment that propelled the proponents of such a ban, he said such initiatives would not lead to any real change on the ground. For its part, any treaty that failed to improve security for all States was a non‑starter, as evidenced by the failure of the fissile material cut‑off treaty negotiations to begin. Similarly, a treaty that only resulted in a cut‑off in the future production of fissile material would jeopardize Pakistan’s security and bring no added value to the cause of disarmament. He then presented a draft resolution on the conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of those arms.
Ms. BARRETO (Cabo Verde) reiterated her country’s commitment to the African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), expressing support for other such zones, including in the Middle East, as an important measure of nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation. Cabo Verde had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which presented a “high point of international cooperation” and a significant step in the history of non‑proliferation. Her country also remained committed to other related conventions, including the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the Test‑Ban Treaty.
GYORGY MOLNAR (Hungary) condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s testing activities, urged it to comply with all relevant obligations under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Nuclear disarmament could only be achieved through a gradual and inclusive process, engaging nuclear‑weapon States and considering the international security context. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not meet those requirements, he said, adding that it only created an unnecessary and divisive duplication, weakening the existing multilateral disarmament framework. A concrete step towards a world free of nuclear weapons would be starting negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty, which would constitute a significant contribution to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty by banning the production of such components.
ROBBERT JAN GABRIËLSE (Netherlands), aligning himself with the Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent tests had destabilized the region and were a threat to regional and global peace and security. He called on the regime to fully comply with its international obligations. Raising concerns about current tensions between nuclear‑weapon States and disagreements on how to make further progress on disarmament and ensure non‑proliferation, he said even the goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world was at risk of being obscured. Calling for the international community to redouble its efforts on nuclear disarmament, he said more than ever before, an honest dialogue about nuclear weapons, disarmament and international security was needed, including acknowledging different perspectives on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and finding a way to deal with them.
MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and the African Group, reiterated that nuclear disarmament could not happen unless the world rid humanity of the danger of their use. The presence of such weapons continued to pose the greatest threat to humanity and still, they remained the backbone of many States’ military doctrines. Expressing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he congratulated the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts. Going forward, a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances was needed, he said, calling also for the early entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty. On the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he supported the right of all States to do so as a path to advance national development goals. Algeria also supported the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. Genuine political will and the preservation of current momentum would enable the international community to overcome the existing stumbling blocks toward achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.
MOHAMED ESSA BOAUSAIBH (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Arab Group, the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Non‑proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was the cornerstone of the nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament regime. He expressed hope that positive steps would be taken to implement the outcome of the 2010 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which would ensure that the conference on the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East would be convened. The United Arab Emirates affirmed the importance of the Test‑Ban Treaty’s entry onto force, he said, calling upon Annex 2 countries to sign and ratify it as soon as possible. He expressed concern over Iran’s continued nuclear activities, and hope for implementation of the nuclear agreement and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said the current geopolitical tensions in various regions and the belligerent rhetoric were exacerbating the risk of nuclear war. Nuclear‑weapon‑States should stop exposing humanity to the risk of extinction and violating international law, he said, emphasizing that no security doctrine could justify destruction of the planet. Despite those risks, little progress had been made so far, he noted. That was why Venezuela had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and urged other countries to do the same. The Test‑Ban Treaty should also enter into force since it was a fundamental pillar and complementary to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the new Treaty. He urged balanced implementation of the three pillars of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, and said he favoured dialogue and cooperation in seeking the pursuit of complete and effective nuclear disarmament.
CRISTINA PUCARINHO (Portugal) condemned the recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and urged that country to cease all such activities. She also underlined the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and the urgency of its early entry into force. Meanwhile, she praised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saying it had been reached through political will and in good faith. No violation of any of its commitments had ever been reported, she noted. Portugal supported the moral imperative of pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons, and understood the frustrations that had led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said, adding however, that she was not convinced that it represented a realistic way to achieve that common goal. Portugal supported a process of gradual reduction of nuclear weapons, taking legitimate national and international security concerns into account, she emphasized.
KARIN KUNJARA NA AYUDHYA (Thailand), associating with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized that human rights, development and peace were mutually reinforcing concepts, as well as the cultivating grounds for security. Thailand had participated actively in the process leading to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which had strengthened the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s provisions. In particular, the new instrument bolstered the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s safeguard system under the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Thailand also shared in the international community’s grave concern over heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, he said, expressing hope that all parties could use peaceful means towards peace and stability.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) said the historic nature of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had been recognized in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the civil society movement instrumental in bringing about that convention. Criticism that the new instrument had created divisions within the international community overlooked the long‑standing dissatisfaction many shared regarding progress on nuclear disarmament. The instrument represented a symptom of that division, rather than its cause. In addition, criticism about its failure to permit reservations and at its inclusion of a withdrawal clause had ignored the fact that those aspects essentially followed the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s approach. Recalling questions regarding the language contained in Article 18, she pointed out that States parties had undertaken to reinforce obligations set out in the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Further, the claim that the new instrument might somehow complicate the entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty was especially far‑fetched. Obstacles to that instrument’s entry into force flowed from the text of the Test‑Ban Treaty itself and from domestic processes for its ratification.
VINICIO MATI (Italy), associating him with Australia, reaffirmed the centrality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the international regime for disarmament and non‑proliferation. Calling on all States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty, he added that another key priority was the immediate commencement of negotiations for a fissile material cut‑off treaty. Reiterating support for the convening of a conference on the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, he also condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear testing activities.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to remarks made by his counterparts from Finland, Hungary, Netherlands and Spain, saying the issue on the Korean Peninsula was a confrontation between his country and the United States. To the representative of Israel, he said Israel was “a symbol for non‑compliance with international legal obligations” and the only opponent to establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. He urged Israel to implement international law.
The representative of the United States said the Korean Peninsula issue was not an issue between his country and the Pyongyang regime, but rather between the international community and that regime. He recommended the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to look at its own non‑compliance with international legal obligations when calling on other States to do the same.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the Korean Peninsula issue was between the United States and his country.