CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HOLDS THEMATIC DEBATE ON ASSURANCES FOR NON-NUCLEAR-WEAPON STATES
12 June 2012
The Conference on Disarmament today continued with its schedule of activities to discuss the core issues on its agenda and held a thematic discussion on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Ambassador Kari Kahiluoto of Finland, President of the Conference on Disarmament, read out a background note prepared by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and said there were divergent views on whether there should be a blanket or qualified extension of negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapons States, and on the exceptions associated with the right to self-defence. Despite the Conference’s current longstanding deadlock over its programme of work, it was not thought that any Conference Member State officially opposed the establishment of a working group or other subsidiary body on negative security assurances.
In the discussion most delegations agreed that the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was their complete elimination, and pending achievement of that objective, States not possessing nuclear weapons had a legitimate right to be forearmed against the use or threat of use of these weapons through negative security assurances. One State said that the principle of non-use of force or threat of use of force, as laid out in the United Nations Charter, applied to the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore entry into a legally binding agreement on negative security assurances was an obligation and not an option. Another State said it was not persuaded that a global convention on negative security assurances was practical or achievable but was willing to engage in a substantive exchange of views on the issue. The most appropriate way was to adhere to the relevant protocols attached to the treaties establishing Nuclear Weapon Free Zones. Many delegations pointed out the importance of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones around the world, and in particular of establishing such zones in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula. Many countries welcomed the progress made towards the signing and ratification of the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty establishing a Nuclear Weapon Free Zones in Southeast Asia, and expressed hope that the planned conference on establishment of a Nuclear and Mass Destruction Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East, to be hosted by Finland, would go ahead in 2012.
Speaking in the discussion were Denmark on behalf of the European Union and other countries, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, United States, Philippines, Belarus, France, China, India, Ireland, Indonesia, Australia, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Japan and Algeria.
The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 10 a.m. to discuss revitalization of the Conference. A second special thematic debate on negative security assurances will be held on 7 August 2012.
Presentation by the President of the Conference
Ambassador KARI KAHILUOTO of Finland, President of the Conference on Disarmament, read out a background note prepared by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Since the negotiation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons during the last 1960s, many of the non-nuclear-weapon States, especially those of the Non-Aligned Movement who were not covered by any military alliance and were not in receipt of security guarantees under such alliance, expected that in return for agreeing to renounce nuclear weapons they should receive legally binding ‘security assurances’ that they would not be left vulnerable to attacks by countries that still had them. Since 1978 the Conference on Disarmament had included the topic of negative security assurances in its annual agenda. In 1998 the Conference on Disarmament reconvened the ad hoc committee on negative security assurances, which held nine meetings in total. The committee had not since been reconvened, leaving negative security assurances to be addressed in thematic debates such as this one. Despite the Conference’s current longstanding deadlock over its programme of work, it was not thought that any Conference Member State officially opposed the establishment of a working group or other subsidiary body on negative security assurances.
There had been divergent views on whether there should be a blanket or qualified extension of negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States, and on the exceptions associated with the right to self-defence. Unilateral declarations from 1995 led to the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 984 to the effect that non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty would receive assurances that “the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members, will act in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations” to protect non-nuclear-weapon States against attacks or threats of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used”. Those unilateral commitments were a part of efforts to secure the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. However the nuclear-weapons States were unable to agree on the final outcome document of the Review Conference, so instead the Conference adopted a recommendation that “further steps should be considered to assure non-nuclear-weapon States party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. These steps could take the form of an internationally legally binding instrument”. Aside from Security Council resolutions, negative security assurances were also included in protocols of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free-zones. Although the Non-Proliferation Treaty nuclear-weapon States expressed support of those treaties, only one – the Treaty of Tlatelolco – had had its protocols ratified by all five nuclear weapon States.
Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and other countries, said in contribution to global efforts to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons objectives, the European Union recognized the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in receiving unequivocal and legally binding security assurances from nuclear-weapons States. The European Union attached great importance to the development of internationally recognized Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, which enhanced regional and global peace and security and were a means to promote nuclear disarmament, stability and confidence. The European Union called on nuclear-weapon States to reaffirm, in the appropriate fora, existing security assurances and to sign and ratify the relevant protocols on Nuclear Weapon Free Zones. It welcomed the recent progress of negotiations between ASEAN Member States and the P5 States on the South-East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. The European Union reiterated its commitment to a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and regarded the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East as a means of enhancing security and stability in that region. It looked forward to contributing to the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Iran spoke about the history of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Security Council resolution 984, and how non-nuclear-weapon States had joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty despite its discriminatory nature. It was extremely dangerous that some nuclear-weapon States saw a possibility of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Of even greater concern were the threats and dangerous doctrines of the high-ranking officials of nuclear weapon States. The international community should not wait until such weapons were deployed before it acted. Such a policy would seem to show no lesson had been learned from the massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which should be condemned and not repeated. Those assurances were morally incontrovertible. Iran remained convinced that the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was their total elimination through transparent, verifiable and irreversible measures. Pending achievement of that goal, nuclear-weapon States must provide legally binding, credible and effective security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States as a matter of priority. Iran proposed that the Conference on Disarmament established an ad hoc committee to negotiate a draft of a legally binding instrument on the illegality of use of nuclear weapons and providing unconditional security assurances by the nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a matter of urgency.
Russia said it was prepared to work towards a global agreement on assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States. Of great importance was the question of security assurances in relation to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Russia consistently supported the right of non-nuclear-weapon States to receive such assurances, which would enhance confidence among States. In 1995 Russia, along with other nuclear-weapons States, was a co-sponsor of Security Council resolution 984. The obligations of nuclear-weapons States for negative security assurances had already been given a legally-binding character through protocols on creating Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, some of which had been signed and ratified by Russia. Assurances had also been given to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus under the Budapest Agreement. Russia respected the non-nuclear state of Mongolia. To date Russia had provided legally-binding negative security assurances to 120 States around the world, a number which would increase in future. Russia welcomed the decision of Central-Asian States to create a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone there, and called upon all nuclear-weapon States to support that. Russia believed establishment of a Nuclear and Mass Destruction Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East was a priority task and said the conference on that task was an important international event that should take place by the end of 2012. December would be an acceptable date for the conference. All countries in the Middle East, without exception, must contribute to creating a regional zone of non-proliferation. Talk about postponing the conference until the Middle East region was fully stable was erroneous and counter-productive. Dialogue could be an important measure to strengthen confidence and create a more favourable atmosphere in the Middle East.
Kazakhstan said that as the country that voluntarily relinquished the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world by closing down one of the largest nuclear test sites at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan believed that the total elimination of all nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of those weapons. Kazakhstan joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon States at a time of great expectation. Today, the world had to admit there had been no serious progress in that direction. Negative security assurances were crucial to global security. Given contemporary global concerns, Kazakhstan strongly supported the resumption of meaningful work within the Conference to find a new framework for negative security assurances. The establishment of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones would be a practical way to address the issue in the meantime. Creation of such zones could not replace a universal and binding agreement, but was an additional tool to provide assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States. The Semipalatinsk Treaty on the establishment of a nuclear free zone in Central Asia entered into force in 2009 and was still awaiting assurances from nuclear-weapon States. Kazakhstan updated the Conference with the news that it had been authorized by Central Asian States to hold preliminary consultations with the Security Council P5 to that end.
Turkey said it supported legally binding negative security assurances and over the years had repeatedly called for such assurances. The issue of negative security assurances was firmly anchored in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons regime. Nuclear Weapon Free Zones played a significant role in enhancing regional and consequently global peace. Such initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Africa, South East Asia and Central Asia were admirable. Being in one of the most dynamic and volatile regions in the world, Turkey believed that such a zone in the Middle East was vital. It hoped to see early debate in the conference and a successful result at the earliest opportunity. Turkey’s two priorities were to hold a conference on a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East this year and to ensure that all Middle East States participated in it. Bearing in mind current issues in the region, the success of that conference could possibly create positive developments on other matters in the region.
United States said it was not persuaded that a global convention on negative security assurances was practical or achievable but was willing to engage in a substantive exchange of views on the issue. The United States had long supported properly crafted Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, which when rigorously implemented under appropriate conditions could contribute to regional and international peace, security and stability. The United States had been doing its part to extend negative security assurances using the valuable instrument of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones and was pleased to report that they had concluded consultations with ASEAN States to allow the United States, along with the other P5, to sign the protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok on a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in Southeast Asia. Arrangements for a signing ceremony this summer were being finalized. The United States welcomed Mongolia’s declaration of its nuclear-weapons free status and supported its measures to strengthen that status, reflecting its unique geographic position. The United States continued to support the goal of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, the impetus for which must come from the region since it could not be imposed from outside. The United States fully supported the conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone and said regional states now had the primary responsibility to ensure that conference could be carried out in an unbiased and constructive manner to allow the participation of all their neighbours.
Philippines said they had worked closely with their ASEAN partners to strengthen the Bangkok Treaty establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in Southeast Asia. The Philippines welcomed the progress made towards the next major step in their area, namely the signing and ratification of the Protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok. The Philippines hoped that this would be done this year, as there were already agreements in principle of nuclear-weapon States to sign that Protocol. The Philippines would also support the realization of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and on the Korean peninsula
Belarus said that the issue of negative security assurances was one of the key points listed in the agenda of the Conference. Belarus believed that the spread of nuclear weapons and technologies needed for their development was one of the great challenges of our time, especially in the context of contemporary terrorist threats. There needed to be a legally-binding international treaty to provide negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.
France stressed the progress achieved by signing of the Bangkok Treaty to establish a Non Nuclear Weapon Zone in Southeast Asia, which France would sign in the next few months. Following a ten-year deadlock, agreement was made possible by discussions that took place in Geneva, and would allow the States benefiting from Non Nuclear Weapon Zones to number more than 100. France had already signed the relevant protocol treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga and Pelindaba. The French Doctrine of Deterrent was strictly defensive and fully aligned with the safety guarantees of France. The Doctrine’s sole aim was ensuring protection of France’s vital interests. Excluding that, nuclear weapons could be considered weapons of battle only as part of a military strategy and were reserved for extreme situations of self-defence, in light with the United Nations Charter.
China said the demand for legally-binding security assurances by non-nuclear-weapon States were fully justified and reasonable. The complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons was the fundamental way to resolve problems related to negative security assurances. Pending realization of that ultimate goal, the nuclear-weapons States should commit themselves not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time under any circumstances. The nuclear-weapon States should effectively lower the rule of nuclear weapons in their national security policy and refrain from listing any country as a target of nuclear strike. The Conference on Disarmament should carry out substantive work on negotiating and concluding an international legal instrument on negative security assurances as soon as possible. Ever since the first day when it came into possession of nuclear weapons, China committed unconditionally not to be the first to use such weapons at any time and under any circumstances and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or Nuclear Weapon Free Zones. China supported the early start of substantive work in the Conference to conclude an international legal instrument on negative security assurances.
India said it consistently supported global disarmament and a nuclear weapon free world. In the absence of global nuclear disarmament and within the framework of its doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrent, India acceded to the doctrine of non-first use of nuclear weapons against nuclear-weapon States and non-use against States that do not have them. India was willing to translate those commitments into multilateral legal arrangements. India supported the conclusion of a universal and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances. States not possessing nuclear weapons had a legitimate right to be forearmed against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Ireland said that for States like itself which had voluntarily taken on a binding legal obligation never to acquire nuclear weapons, it was considered logical to expect a guarantee that such weapons would never be used against them. However, with the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in receiving unequivocal and legally binding security assurances being so widely acknowledged and recognized, Ireland found the absence of an instrument troubling, and the failure to even start negotiations on one disturbing. The 1995 declarations were insufficient. Ireland welcomed the significant progress by nuclear-weapon States towards ratifying the protocols to the Treaty on the South East Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone but was concerned that in several cases the signature or ratification of other such protocols by nuclear-weapon States had been accompanied by reservations which appeared to be designed to retain the possibility of using nuclear weapons in certain circumstances.
Indonesia stressed that achieving global nuclear disarmament remained its highest priority. Pending the achievement of that objective, Indonesia’s demand to benefit from negative security assurances remained valid. While no State objected to the concept of negative security assurances, no legally binding instrument to provide such guarantees was in progress. Given geographical limitations, neither the establishment of Nuclear Weapons Free Zone nor the unilateral declarations issued by States with nuclear weapons sufficed to ensure security assurances, and could not serve as a substitute for universal legally binding security assurances designed to convince States not to pursue the nuclear weapons option. There was an urgent need for an early agreement on a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument to assure non-nuclear-weapon States, and the establishment of an ad hoc committee or working group within the Conference to attain that objective was pertinent.
Australia said it would welcome stronger negative security assurances from nuclear-weapon States without caveats. As a State party to the Treaty of Raratonga, which established the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, Australia was a strong supporter of such zones which were important means by which negative security assurances could be provided. Australia welcomed the United States’ Senate’s consideration of the Raratonga Principles for ratification and continued efforts to implement a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East. Australia stood ready to work with the Conference on related actions.
Pakistan said that while for many decades the Conference had discussed the need and urgency for concluding negative security assurances it was lamentable that it were as distant from that important goal as it was half a century ago. Pakistan considered the issue of negative security assurances second only to nuclear disarmament in terms of importance. Pakistan believed the responses of some of the nuclear weapon States to the long-standing demand contained in Security Council resolution 255, and the declarations of four of the five nuclear weapons States in Security Council resolution 984, were insufficient as they contained qualifiers which could be interpreted by the State making the declaration. For example, if a nuclear weapon State could reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in case of “an invasion or any other attack” as their unilateral declarations state, did the non-nuclear weapon States also have the right to build nuclear weapons if they were faced with a threat of invasion or any other attack? Pakistan urged the Conference to immediately establish a subsidiary body to negotiate effective international agreements assuring non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. In that regard substantive work could commence on the basis of either of the draft texts submitted by Pakistan to the Conference in 1979. Negotiations on negative security assurances would also serve to break the deadlock in the Conference that had prevailed for over a decade. States that opposed the establishment of a subsidiary body to negotiate negative security assurances should take responsibility for the on-going stalemate in the Conference. The Conference should analyse why some States opposed legally binding instruments on negative security assurances. If they did not want to unconditionally and legally relinquish their right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States, how would they possibly relinquish the nuclear weapons at all? Without unequivocal and legally binding negative security assurances, how were they contributing to the cause of non-proliferation, which they so clearly espoused?
United Kingdom recalled that as recently as last month the P5 made a statement reflecting its position on negative security assurances. The new United Kingdom Government elected in 2010 had conducted a study of its nuclear deterrent which resulted in updated security guarantees. The United Kingdom also reiterated that it operated a minimal credible nuclear deterrent; its weapons had a delay of several days before firing, and were not directed at anyone. The United Kingdom saw Nuclear Weapon Free Zones as a vehicle for providing negative security assurances and was very pleased to see agreement on signing the protocol for such a zone in South East Asia was close. The priority of the United Kingdom remained the start of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, but negative security assurances were a very legitimate discussion subject for informal meetings. As co-conveners of the Conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone, the United Kingdom reiterated its support to hold the conference in 2012.
Japan said nuclear-weapon States must not have recourse to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States, and Japan fully supported negative security assurances. It was fundamentally important for all States possessing nuclear weapons to diminish the role of those weapons in their national security strategies. Japan believed that the establishment of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones was a practical step to implementing legally-binding negative security assurances, and was pleased with the progress on the treaty for such a zone in South East Asia. Nuclear Weapon Free Zones had also been established in the South Pacific, Africa and Central Asia, and Japan urged all parties to work together to bring into force the respective protocols of each zone.
Algeria reminded the Conference that negative security assurances were at the core of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and were drawn from the Charter of the United Nations, in particular the principle of non-violence in international relations. Algeria, as a non-nuclear-weapon State, fully assumed its responsibility as such, and was entitled to request nuclear-weapon States to also assume the responsibility incumbent on them to assure non-proliferation in all forms and make headway on the path of disarmament. Algeria was very pleased to hear nuclear powers today reaffirm their unilateral commitments within the framework of those taken earlier. However, current measures and declarations did not meet the negative security assurance requirements of non-nuclear-weapon States, as they could be renounced at any time for national security interests, self-defence measures, vital interests and other reasons. Self-defence should not be exercised in an abstract way disregarding humanitarian needs. Algeria called for a multi-lateral legally binding instrument to ensure the security of non-nuclear-weapon States. The only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons was their elimination.
Pakistan, in response to a comment made by the United Kingdom, said Pakistan did not in any way diminish the importance of regional negative security assurances. The point was that if those kind of assurances could be given regionally, why was a universal assurance not possible? Several States, including Pakistan, who were not part of the P5 major nuclear weapon States, were ready to give unqualified guarantees of assurances of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States, so if they could do that why couldn’t the traditional P5 holders of nuclear-weapons?
Statement by the President of the Conference
The President of the Conference, speaking in his capacity as Ambassador of Finland to United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Facilitator of the 2012 Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which would be hosted by Finland, had indicated to the Preparatory Committee of the Conference that it continued to do its upmost to ensure the Conference would be held in 2012. Finland was willing to host that Conference at any time in 2012.
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