CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS FROM DIGNITARIES FROM KAZAKHSTAN, JAPAN, CANADA, HUNGARY, CZECH REPUBLIC AND QATAR
4 March 2014
The Conference on Disarmament continued its high-level section this morning under the presidency of Italy, hearing from dignitaries from Kazakhstan, Japan, Canada, Hungary, Czech Republic and Qatar. A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in response to some statements.
Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said Kazakhstan supported the signing of a legally binding instrument to provide security assurances by nuclear powers to countries without nuclear weapons and to set up a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia. He also said it was time to move from statements to concrete measures to liberate mankind from the nuclear weapon stockpiles in all countries without exception, including those located outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Hirotaka Ishihara, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, spoke about the importance of raising awareness of promoting nuclear disarmament among the younger generation. The Minister also said that as the only country ever to have suffered nuclear bombings, Japan knew from its own experience the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, and those consequences should be a driving force for efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons.
Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said nuclear disarmament did not and could not take place in a vacuum, and the continued non-compliance by a small minority of States, including by Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with their Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations only served to make it more difficult to achieve an end to nuclear weapons. The gravity of the threats posed to all countries by the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, including by non-state actors, demanded ongoing collective action.
Szabolcs Takács, Deputy Secretary of State and Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said Hungary was convinced the reasons for the continuation of the stalemate in the Conference were political, not procedural. Collective efforts were needed to save this important piece of the disarmament machinery from fading into total irrelevance. Mr. Takács also announced that Hungary would ratify the Arms Trade Treaty this year.
Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said expansion of the membership of the Conference could help to regain its credibility by transferring it into a universally represented body. The Minister said the situation in Ukraine represented a serious challenge to European and international security and stability, and strongly supported a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs, said Qatar deeply regretted the postponement of the Helsinki Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, due to Israel’s refusal to comply with international will and its desire to maintain its monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region. The utmost international pressure should be exerted on Israel to ensure its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea clarified its position on its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, spoke about the causes of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and its desire to resume the six-party-talks to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and to realize de-nuclearization through dialogue and negotiation.
The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will take place on Wednesday, 5 March at 11 a.m. when dignitaries from Finland, Spain and Latvia will address it.
Statements by Dignitaries
YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the Conference on Disarmament was the single standing multilateral forum in the area of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control and any change to its rules of procedure should be weighed carefully. The principle of consensus should remain unchanged, as it ensured that the interests of States were protected, regardless of their size. Kazakhstan firmly supported expansion of the membership of the Conference, and welcomed the establishment of the Informal Working Group with the mandate to develop a programme of work. Kazakhstan supported early work on the development of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Discussions on the draft treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) must be intensified by engaging with other international bodies working on space exploration. With its dynamically developing space programme and as a host of the ‘Baikonur’ cosmodrome, Kazakhstan believed compliance with the principle of peaceful activities in outer space should continue to be a central issue of the Conference.
Kazakhstan supported the signing of a legally binding instrument to provide security assurances by nuclear powers to countries without nuclear weapons and to set up a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia, and strongly supported the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East. The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was a necessary condition towards nuclear disarmament. Under the initiative of Kazakhstan in 2009 the General Assembly proclaimed August 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Kazakhstan had also launched the ATOM project (‘Abolish Testing: Our Mission’) which aimed to inform world public opinion about the documented catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons tests.
Over 20 years ago the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nazarbayev, closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and Kazakhstan withdrew from its territory the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. In that regard President Nazarbayev, speaking at the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 proposed the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of a Nuclear Free World, which would be an important step towards the adoption of a convention on general and complete prohibition of nuclear weapons, which was now being actively debated in the United Nations. It was time to move from statements to concrete measures to liberate mankind from the nuclear weapon stockpiles in all countries without exception, including those located outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
HIROTAKA ISHIHARA, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, regretted that the distinguished body which produced the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty remained mired in an 18 year standstill. It must end the stalemate quickly in order to meet the expectations of people worldwide for a safer world free of nuclear weapons, he said. As one of the six Presidencies of 2014, Japan would spare no effort to break through the impasse. In parallel, Japan would contribute to the Group of Governmental Experts on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) which would meet for the first time in Geneva at the end of the month. In January this year the Foreign Minister of Japan, Mr. Fumio Kishida, delivered a speech on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in Nagasaki, in which he explained that Japan’s position was built on two notions: first, a clear understanding of the humanitarian aspect of nuclear weapons; and second, an objective assessment of the reality of the increasingly diverse nuclear risks faced by the international community today. Steady and tireless efforts to build up practical and concrete measures were the shortest path to achieve our common goal, the Vice-Minister said.
In particular, Japan believed that raising awareness among the younger generation was important in promoting nuclear disarmament. In that regard Japan established a group of Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons, and hoped contributions from the younger generation would spread over the world. On 11 and 12 April, 12 cross-regional members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative would meet in Hiroshima, where Japan hoped they would see directly the realities caused by the atomic bombings. In 2015 Japan would commemorate 70 years since the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As the only country ever to have suffered nuclear bombings, Japan knew from its own experience the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, and those consequences should be a driving force for efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons.
LYNNE YELICH, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Canada, quoted the words of former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker from 1960 “Today over mankind hangs this nuclear fear. What is our stand? We have continued to press for disarmament without which there cannot be survival, for sooner or later if the armament race continues, either by calculation, or miscalculation, war must almost inevitably follow. We have taken a stand for the end to nuclear weapons, an end of testing, an end to the production of existent fissionable materials to peaceful purposes”. She said it was Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s concern over the risk of nuclear weapons which led Canada to participate actively in all multilateral disarmament bodies since 1946. Canada recognized the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation, but believed that progress would require consideration not only of the humanitarian dimension but security dimensions as well. Nuclear disarmament did not and could not take place in a vacuum, the Minister emphasized, saying the continued non-compliance by a small minority of States, including by Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with their Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations only served to make it more difficult to achieve an end to nuclear weapons.
The gravity of the threats posed to all countries by the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, including by non-state actors, demanded ongoing collective action. The next logical step would be to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Canada hoped that all States would seriously consider the best interests of the international community alongside their own national interests, recognizing that such national security concerns could only truly be addressed through negotiation and engagement. Arguments to the contrary lacked credibility and belied other motivations. Canada continued to believe in the potential contribution of the Conference on Disarmament but that did not mean it would provide unconditional support. The procedural hindrances that contributed to the on-going deadlock must be considered, including the rule of consensus for procedural issues, the rotation of the presidency and the position holder itself. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iranian presidencies of 2011 and 2013 did more disservice to the Conference. The credibility of the Conference was damaged when the presidency was assumed by those found by the Security Council to be in non-compliance with their non-proliferation obligations.
SZABOLCS TAKÁCS, Deputy Secretary of State and Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, recalled the unsuccessful efforts of the Hungarian and subsequent presidencies in 2013 to come up with a draft programme of work acceptable to all. Hungary was convinced the reasons for the continuation of the dreadful stalemate were political, not procedural. Collective efforts were needed to save this important piece of the disarmament machinery from fading into total irrelevance. Hungary fully supported the recently established Informal Working Group, which it hoped would draft a programme of work that allowed for the beginning of negotiations on a treaty on fissile materials. Hungary said its efforts to bring more voices into the inter-sessional meetings of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) had already yielded initial results in terms of strengthening the regime banning biological weapons. International efforts to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile of Syria highlighted the continuing significance of the Organization on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); while the OPCW needed to adapt itself to new realities, the Syrian case clearly demonstrated that its traditional tasks were still in high demand.
An outstanding issue of the current review cycle of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was the convening of a conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Hungary hoped the meetings in Glion in the coming weeks would lead to success in that process. Hungary attached great importance to the preservation of the integrity of the Non-Proliferation Treaty framework, including all relevant agreements and other instruments aiming to further its goals: the importance of those, such as the Budapest Memorandum, especially these days, could not be underestimated and further efforts need to be made towards their implementation. Given the number of State signatories the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) represented a near universal norm, but its entry into force remained elusive. That promoted Hungary to undertake, with Indonesia, the duties of Article XIV co-ordinator between 2013 and 2015. A successful Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty would strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty and bring tangible progress to nuclear disarmament. Finally, Hungary said it would soon submit its instrument of ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty to the United Nations Secretary-General and expected the treaty to enter into force this year.
LUBOMÍR ZAORÁLEK, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said the Czech Republic had always strongly advocated for the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination but believed that right should be fully exercised only while adhering to all non-proliferation obligations. The Czech Republic was convinced that the future Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty would constitute a significant achievement in nuclear disarmament in accordance with Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such a treaty would also contribute to regional stability, in particular in South Asia, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East. It would also reduce the risk of transfer of fissile material to terrorist groups, an increasingly pertinent consideration in today’s security environment where the risk of nuclear terrorism had become a global challenge. The Czech Republic supported the establishment of a Group of Governmental Experts on that issue.
The Arms Trade Treaty was welcomed with great appreciation by the Czech Republic, which was taking all necessary measures to ratify it this year. Furthermore, the efforts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to ban or restrict the type of weapons that were considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately were appreciated. The Czech Republic was profoundly interested in becoming a member of the Conference on Disarmament, which had not expanded its membership since 1999. Expansion could help to regain the credibility of the Conference by transferring it into a universally represented body and grant all United Nations Member States an equal possibility of participating as fully-fledged members in disarmament negotiations and to share the common responsibility of achieving disarmament goals.
The Minister turned to the current situation in Ukraine which he said represented a serious challenge to the European and international security and stability. The Czech Republic had always been concerned about the breach of international legal norms and violations of international obligations. It advocated that no member of the international community may be exposed to any threat to its national sovereignty or territorial integrity. Therefore it strongly supported a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs, said Qatar was committed to ensuring the security and stability of the world and had joined and ratified many international disarmament conventions. In 2004 Qatar established a National Committee on Arms Embargo, it had hosted many international conferences on disarmament and in 2012 it inaugurated the Doha Regional Centre for training on Conventions on Weapons of Mass Destruction, the first of its kind in Asia. Qatar called on all Member States of the Conference on Disarmament to continue efforts to reach agreement on programme of work and emphasized the importance of political will and flexibility to break the deadlock. No expansion of membership of the Conference had taken place since 1999, and Qatar believed it was high time for the Conference to consider the issue to enable it to take advantage of the new ideas and visions that would contribute to its work in order to achieve disarmament goals and share the common responsibility of addressing threats to international peace and security. Qatar called on all Member States to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on expansion of membership.
Regarding the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, Qatar said it deeply regretted the postponement of the Helsinki Conference scheduled for December 2012. The continuous delay of the conference was a breach of the conference conveners’ obligations before the international community with regard to the implementation of the outcome document of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The excuses to justify its postponement were unacceptable. The postponement was due to Israel’s refusal to comply with international will and its desire to maintain its monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region. Given the negative implications of that delay on regional and global security, Qatar look forward to the conference conveners setting a new date for the conference as soon as possible. The utmost international pressure should be exerted on Israel to ensure its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as it was the only country in the region that had not joined it; to place all of Israel’s nuclear facilities under comprehensive safeguards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to compel it to participate in the conference and ensure its commitment to its outcome.
A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took the floor to clarify its position on some issues raised in some statements delivered this morning. The withdrawal by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from the Non-Proliferation Treaty was a legitimate self-defensive measure undertaken to protect it from the increasing nuclear threat from the United States. On the Korean Peninsula, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was unable to foil nuclear weapon deployment by a State which possessed the largest nuclear arsenals. Nobody could criticize the legal right of sovereign States.
The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula had entirely originated from the hostile policy and nuclear threats of the United States against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was, therefore, the key party responsible and capable of addressing the root causes. More than half a century had passed since the end of the Korean War, no peace mechanism had been established so far, but there still existed the outdated armistice regime which was a Cold War legacy. Therefore the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States were in a state of war, in legal and technical points. As long as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, direct parties to the Korean armistice agreement, stood hostile and levelling guns at each other, their mutual distrust could not be removed, nor could the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula be achieved, indefinitely.
As was well known, at the beginning of 2010 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea proposed to conclude a peace agreement. That proposal was the most effective confidence-building measure to remove the mistrust between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States. The conclusion that peace agreement would be a driving force in achieving the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The position of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was to resume the six-party-talks without conditions and discuss the implementation of the joint statement adopted on 19 September 2005 on the principal of simultaneous action. Nonetheless, delays in resumption of the talks were due to the United States which created artificial obstacles while raising unreasonable pre-conditions. The prospect of resumption of the talks entirely depended upon the attitude of the United States and the positive efforts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and to realize de-nuclearization through dialogue and negotiation.
Finally, the representative referred to Canada’s remarks on the rotation of the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. During the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Presidency in 2011, Canada was the only country that boycotted the plenary. The representative wondered whether Canada’s act contributed to a favourable atmosphere or brought about a negative impact in the multilateral forum of the Conference on Disarmament. Canada would be wiser to consider the impact of its actions taken before blaming others. It would be better to try to respect and understand others in order to build trust and confidence.
For use of the information media; not an official record