Calling for Greater Disarmament Efforts, Speakers Exchange Prescriptions on Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, as First Committee Debate Continues

Continuing its general debate against the backdrop of an increasingly challenging security environment, delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today stressed the importance of enhancing collective disarmament efforts, while offering prescriptions on how to realize and maintain a nuclear weapon free world.
The Committee heard from representatives of a number of non nuclear weapon States, many of whom praised the progress demonstrated by the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Some expressed support for the global agreement and hope that it would, over time, delegitimize such weapons and strengthen the legal and political norms against their use.
Ecuador’s delegate said that landmark instrument had finally “brought democracy to disarmament”. Meanwhile, the representative of the Philippines described the adoption of the Treaty as a cure to decades of “nuclear narcolepsy”, while calling for all non proliferation and disarmament treaties to be universalized.
Other speakers stressed the need to work through the current disarmament regime and defended their reasons for withholding their signature on the legally binding agreement. Speaking from the perspective of a nuclear weapon State, the representative of the United States said it would be irresponsible for her Government to subscribe to the instrument as it was “counterproductive” and served to reinforce political divisions in existing bodies, while hindering the non proliferation and disarmament system.
The representative of another non signatory, Norway, underscored the need to build the confidence needed for balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable reductions of nuclear arsenals. Success would depend on the active participation and cooperation of both nuclear weapon States and non nuclear weapon States, she said, adding that the process required persistence, realism and patience.
Regardless of the approach taken towards disarmament, the international community still had some soul searching to do, the Committee heard, with the Austria’s speaker asking the Committee to use the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula to reflect on why States pursue nuclear arms in the first place.
Indeed, the illusion of security provided by nuclear weapons must be exposed otherwise other countries might be tempted to develop them, said Brazil’s representative, adding that it was unacceptable that nuclear arsenals continued to have such an important role in military strategies.
While many speakers condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear and ballistic missile development programmes, several cited Iran as an example of how to deal with the escalating situation. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Germany) had demonstrated the potential of multilateral diplomacy, noted Sweden’s delegate. In response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear weapon tests, several delegates called for swift action to ensure that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty soon entered into force.
A host of other pressing concerns were raised throughout the debate, including the illicit trade of conventional arms, the impasse in the disarmament machinery, the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East and the alleged use of chemical and biological weapons in that region.
Also speaking were the representatives of Peru, Jamaica, Honduras, Israel, Belarus, Cuba, Australia, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Argentina and South Africa.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria, the United States, Venezuela and Israel.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 October, to continue its general debate.
Background
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.
Statements
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, expressed commitment to 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 and called for work to be continued in a transparent and non discriminatory matter. Highlighting Latin America’s designation as a nuclear weapon free zone, he said Peru was among the region’s first promoters of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) and expressed support for developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear tests, which contravened international law and Security Council resolutions, he demanded that the country cease its nuclear weapon testing and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities. Because reactivating the Conference on Disarmament was a priority, he called on all Member States to show stronger political will. On the Disarmament Commission, he appreciated recent progress.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the New Agenda Coalition, said nuclear weapons were the sole anthropogenic factor that could instantly destroy humanity and irreversibly change the Earth. They were incompatible with international law and were the only type of weapon not explicitly prohibited by a legal instrument. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represented a remarkable step forward. The illusion of security provided by nuclear weapons must be exposed otherwise other countries might be tempted to develop them, he stressed, adding that it was unacceptable that nuclear arsenals continued to have such an important role in military strategies. On outer space, he said Brazil stood against weaponizing the domain, which was incompatible with long term activities, and had supported its peaceful and secure use by co authoring a related draft resolution. Turning to biological weapons, he supported the strengthening of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction and decisions that would bring the convention to the same institutional level as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.
ANITA E. FRIEDT (United States) provided a national snapshot of disarmament, saying the total nuclear stockpile was down 87 per cent since its cold war peak and it expected to meet the central limits of 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) when they took effect in February 2018. While those actions made clear the United States’ commitment to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the current security environment was challenging.
Pointing to several challenges, she said the single greatest security threat was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. Supporting a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the United States did not seek a “regime change” nor “an excuse” to send its military north of the Korean demilitarized zone. While the United States remained committed to defending itself and its allies, she said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s provocative actions underscored the need for every country to apply diplomatic and economic pressure. Turning to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, she said the Bashar Al Assad regime must fully declare its chemical weapons programme and cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism. On the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said that “it would be irresponsible for the United States to subscribe to it”. The instrument was “counterproductive” and served to reinforce and widen political divisions in existing bodies, while hindering the existing non proliferation and disarmament system.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would, over time, delegitimize such arms and strengthen legal and political norms against their use. He also welcomed the Disarmament Commission’s adoption of recommendations on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. More broadly, efforts to promote the maintenance of international peace and security must be informed by the root causes of conflict, he said, emphasizing that greater attention must be paid to the links between disarmament and development. Hailing the invaluable support of United Nations regional centres for disarmament, he said his region had benefitted from legislative, policy and capacity-building assistance in a range of areas related to the implementation of international instruments on conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction. In that vein, he called for financial and in kind contributions to support the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean’s operations and programmes.
EVA WALDER (Sweden), associating herself with the European Union and the Nordic countries, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s provocative actions must not be followed by any other Member States. In stark contrast to that situation, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme had demonstrated the potential of multilateral diplomacy. The Russian Federation and the United States must take the lead in restarting efforts aimed at the reduction of nuclear arsenals. A difficult relationship was no excuse not to act, she said. Applauding OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s work, he renewed a call for accountability. Calling for better control of small arms and light weapons, she encouraged all States to join the Arms Trade Treaty.
TATIANA ZELAYA (Honduras), endorsed the Non Aligned Movement’s statement and recognized the efforts being made by the international community to prevent conflict and attain the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Honduras was proud to be part of the first nuclear weapon free zone in the world, which had provided a solid basis for the development of a universal ban on those arms. Having implemented Security Council resolutions, Honduras also promoted diplomatic channels for world peace. Signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was an important step forward in achieving a world free of those arms. Aware of the threat of biological weapons falling into the hands of non State actors, she appealed to all stakeholders to strengthen the regime to ban those arsenals. Because her region was affected by illicit trafficking in weapons, she asked all countries to sign the Arms Trade Treaty.
ALON ROTH-SNIR (Israel) said fulfilling a vision of a peaceful Middle East depended on mutual recognition, reconciliation and the cessation of all acts of terrorism, aggression and hostilities. Since the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran had conducted more than 20 ballistic missile tests, violating Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). He went on to note the prevalent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which was deeply concerning in light of terrorist ambitions to acquire and use those capabilities in the future. While some actors in the region claimed that a comprehensive security architecture could be established in the Middle East without directly engaging Israel, that position was untenable. Regional dialogue must aim at addressing the concerns of all regional States on an equal footing and in an inclusive manner.
NIKOLAI OVSYANKO (Belarus) said, given the current landscape, the Non Proliferation Treaty was a central element of the security system and its review process would promote an inclusive process for overcoming challenges. Further, IAEA must remain an objective, technical and reliable instrument for safeguarding nuclear security. Calling on States to respect the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which was the only system for banning nuclear testing, he condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile tests. Standing against such “military hysterics”, Belarus called for a dialogue to settle the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Turning to the Conference on Disarmament, he urged all States to address the current impasse. On conventional weapons, he expressed great concern about the uncontrolled production, transfer and spread of small arms and light weapons, adding that addressing that issue should be a key method to combat their illegal trade.
MIRTA GRANDA AVERHOFF (Cuba), welcoming recent progress, said additional efforts were needed to achieve a nuclear weapon free world. The proposed high level conference to be convened by the General Assembly in 2018 must make further progress, she said, noting that it was unacceptable that millions of dollars were spent on nuclear weapons instead of mobilizing resources toward the 2030 Agenda. Cuba did not possess weapons of mass destruction and fully supported eliminating them as the sole effective guarantee to prevent their use by terrorists. Rejecting the use of any weapons of mass destruction by anyone, she emphasized the importance of OPCW and its work in eliminating chemical weapons. In that regard, the adoption of a legally binding protocol strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention was essential to exclude the possible use of bacterial toxins as weapons. At the same time, urgent action was needed to prevent the covert and illegal use of computer systems of other countries for aggressive purposes that could provoke international conflicts. With sanctions and belligerent rhetoric abound, respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter was needed, as was using more investment to bolster development than to fuel the war industry.
TEODORO L. LOCSIN, Jr. (Philippines), describing the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a cure to decades of “nuclear narcolepsy”, said non proliferation and disarmament treaties must be universalized. Global disarmament would remain an elusive goal, with the number of nuclear weapon States growing, he said. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula, generated and sustained by the reckless and roguish behaviour of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, posed a clear and present danger, he said, calling for dialogue to ultimately resolve that problem and for the Test Ban Treaty to enter into force soon. Regarding new technologies, he said the United Nations must develop new instruments and frameworks to contain the threat they posed.
ROBERT GERSCHNER (Austria), cautioning that the danger of nuclear war was still hauntingly close, said it was never too late to do the right thing. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s activities, he called on Pyongyang to change course. Although the crisis was racing toward its culmination, the Iranian agreement offered an inspiration for a solution to the problem. Indeed, the non proliferation regime needed to be strengthened, he said, calling for countries that had not already done so to sign the Test Ban Treaty and for attention to be paid to why a State would decide to go down a nuclear path in the first place. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea believed it needed nuclear weapons to strengthen its security, however, as long as those arms existed, the security of all States was in danger. Having taken pride in its role in helping bring about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Austria believed that States were realizing that their security was better served without nuclear weapons. On conventional weapons, he said the biggest success of the century was the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. Unfortunately declines in anti personnel mines use had come to a halt given the activities of some non State actors and victims were currently feeling the impact in Iraq, Myanmar and Syria.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) stressed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes directly challenged the established disarmament and non proliferation architecture and the Security Council’s authority. Considering the risk of growing multilateral polarization borne of impatience with the pace of disarmament and disagreement over how best to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, she called on States to remain committed to a cooperative and collaborative approach. Australia shared the goal of a nuclear weapon free world, but simply declaring them unlawful without a buy in from nuclear weapon States would not bring that goal closer. She called instead for a renewed pursuit of the essential building blocks of nuclear disarmament. Those included the entry into force of the Test Ban Treaty, the negotiation of a legally binding and effectively verifiable ban on the production of fissile material and for advancing nuclear verification. Furthermore, while the United Nations disarmament machinery had struggled over the years, Australia had been heartened by the 2017 consensus outcome of the Disarmament Commission, breaking a nearly two decade long impasse.
DIEGO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador) said the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had finally brought democracy to disarmament. The United Nations had long made disarmament and the elimination of arsenals one of its priorities. Despite some achievements, many felt frustrated because the world was still far from complete disarmament. However, the international community should not give up on the United Nations role in disarmament and must redouble its efforts, which was necessary for the survival of humanity. In that context, it was important to avoid any appeals to set aside disarmament efforts with the view that there were more productive aims to be pursued. That ran counter to the expectation of the peoples, he said, adding that multilateralism was the guiding principle for disarmament and arms control. There was no such a thing as good or bad possession of nuclear weapons, he concluded, adding that their mere existence should be condemned.
ROBBERT JAN GABRIËLSE (Netherlands), condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s provocative behaviour, said Pyongyang must comply with Security Council resolutions and its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty. Emphasizing the Netherlands’ commitment to a world in which nuclear weapons had been abolished, he said the Non Proliferation Treaty was the legal basis for shared commitments on disarmament. Member States might disagree on how to reach a nuclear weapon free world, but it was crucial to stay focused on that shared goal. Further, he called upon all parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to adhere to commitments and for Syria to fully comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to cooperate fully with OPCW requirements and to be completely open about the full scope of its chemical weapons programme.
NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non Aligned Movement, said for the First Committee to complete its important task of moving the global non proliferation and disarmament agenda forward, it must uphold multilateralism as the core principle of negotiations and as an effective tool for building trust among countries. Regional and international cooperation needed to be increased to assist States in the implementation of their respective non proliferation obligations and commitments. Expressing concern over the danger caused by the illicit trade of conventional arms, she acknowledged the right of States to manufacture, trade and retain such arsenals for national self defence and supported the effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
ATLE MIDTTUN (Norway) called for fostering the confidence needed for balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable reductions of nuclear arsenals. That would enable the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, regulated by a legal framework. Success would depend on the active participation and cooperation of both nuclear weapon States and non nuclear weapon States, requiring persistence, realism and patience. For that reason, Norway would not sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, standing firmly behind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) statement of 20 September. Norway also had a particular focus on minimizing and eventually eliminating the use of highly enriched uranium in the civilian sector, facilitating the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. He went on to express disappointment with the outcome of the eighth review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, the credibility of which was at stake. He expressed hope that the forthcoming meeting of States parties would enable the improvement of preparedness for suspicious outbreaks, address relevant developments in the life sciences and consider emerging challenges.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) said the international community must make decisions together in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear weapons testing and the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. On a regional level, the Latin American and Caribbean countries had adopted the declaration of the member States of Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. The Non Proliferation Treaty remained the cornerstone for action, she said, reaffirming Argentina’s political commitment to the adoption of security measures by nuclear weapon States to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The international community should be constructive in addressing that issue with a broad consensus and dialogue. Raising concerns about such weapons falling into the hands of non State actors, she said Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) was a clear response to that threat. Highlighting another concern, she urged countries to stop arms transfers to Venezuela, in accordance with provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group, Non Aligned Movement and New Agenda Coalition, expressed concern about the continuing impasse in the United Nations disarmament machinery, noting that the two decade long stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament had had a negative impact on multilateralism. The disarmament and international security landscape had seen progress since 2016, with the adoption and opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Turning to other concerns, he noted that the Programme of Action on Small Arms represented the central, universally agreed set of undertakings to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in such weapons. Apart from national efforts, the full implementation of that instrument, including provisions related to international cooperation and assistance, remained of critical importance.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected allegations made by the United States, a country that first produced nuclear weapons and the only one that had actually used them. If the United States had not threatened his country with nuclear weapons, the issue would never have been borne. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “is a responsible nuclear weapon State,” he said, adding that its nuclear weapons would never be a bargaining chip under any circumstances. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supported the total elimination of nuclear weapons throughout world. However, as long as the United States threatened and blackmailed his country and rejected the Non Proliferation Treaty, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not in a position to accede to that instrument.
The representative of Iran said his counterpart from Israel had made unfounded allegations meant to divert attention away from expansionist policies and brutalities of the “Zionist” regime. That regime had waged 15 wars, invaded all of its neighbours, even countries beyond the region, and continued to commit and sponsor terrorist acts, including its support of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh). It also continued to produce weapons of mass destruction and was the only non party to the Non Proliferation Treaty in the Middle East.
The representative of Syria said comments made by the representative of the United States were filled with contradictions and untruths while excluding acts of terrorist groups with respect to chemical weapons. The United States should await the results of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, he said, emphasizing that Syria respected international law. Responding to comments made by his counterpart from Israel, he said that country was responsible for the entry of terrorism into its region. Reports and analyses had affirmed that Israel was using chemical and biological weapons against people in the region and had provided assistance, arms and intelligence to terrorist groups in Syria, including Nusrah Front.
The representative of the United States, responding to comments made by his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that country had violated countless Security Council resolutions, which had confirmed that their actions were a threat to international security. The United States would never recognize the regime in Pyongyang as a nuclear weapon State, he said, adding that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the country blackmailing the international community. Responding to his Syrian counterpart, he said Syria had used chemical weapons against its own people and needed to be held accountable.
The representative of Venezuela rejected the statement made by Argentina’s delegate, saying had questioned the right of any country to buy weapons for its legitimate defence. The statement was interventionist and ran counter to the spirit of dialogue and cooperation that prevailed in the First Committee. The internal situation was being resolved by Venezuela following the rule of law and was up to the Venezuelans to find solutions to their own problems.
The representative of Israel, replying to comments made, said the Syrian Government had violated commitments to the Non Proliferation Treaty and committed war crimes against its people and Iran had trained terrorists and used Hezbollah as its proxy while supporting the Assad regime, threatening its neighbours and destabilizing the region.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the delegate from the United States had made provocative allegations. If the United States regime wished peace and security in the world, they would have eliminated all their nuclear weapons. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ultimate goal was to establish a balance of power with the United States regime, and they would contribute to safeguarding world peace and security by doing so.
The representative from Syria said the United States’ delegate had attempted once more to evade the issue of its involvement in chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The United States was a perpetrator of transferring chemical weapons in Syria used against civilians and his delegation had repeatedly asked, and had yet to receive an answer, about the origin of 100 barrels containing napalm, manufactured in the United States, that had reached the province of Idlib. The United States had also been involved in training terrorist organizations on the use and preparation of chemical materials being transformed into weapons.
The representative of the United States said his Syrian counterpart’s allegations were preposterous.

Source: United Nations

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