CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES NEGATIVE SECURITY ASSURANCES
7 August 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 Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France, President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened today’s meeting by recalling the last thematic discussion by the Conference on negative security assurances, held on 12 June 2012. The President noted that 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.
The first delegation to take the floor in today’s discussion was Japan, which spoke about the sixty-seventh anniversary, this week, of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the occasion of the commemoration of those events, the Ambassador of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament reiterated Japan’s desire to see a world free of nuclear weapons and called upon the Conference to overcome its current deadlock.
In the ensuing discussion many delegations agreed that the total elimination of nuclear weapons remained the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of these weapons 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. Some speakers 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 Helsinki Conference on establishment of a Nuclear and Mass Destruction Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East, to be hosted by Finland later in 2012, would be a success.
Speaking in today’s plenary discussion were Japan, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Algeria, United States, South Africa, Republic of Korea and Nigeria.
The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public on Tuesday, 14 June at 10 a.m. The President of the Conference also announced that, due to schedule adjustments caused by the official United Nations holiday falling on Monday, 20 August, the public plenary meeting of Tuesday, 21 August would be held at 3 p.m. on that day.
Opening the discussion, Japan recalled that 67 years ago yesterday, on 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, on 9 August 1945, another was dropped on Nagasaki. As a result a great number of people were killed and injured, and even today, many of the survivors continued to suffer in pain. Since the bombings, Japan had had an unshakeable resolve to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Japan once again appealed to the Conference to overcome its stalemate of 15 years. Already 67 years had passed since the bombings, and Japan considered the education of youth – the future generations – in disarmament and non-proliferation to be immensely important, in order to prevent the memories of those tragedies from fading away and to contribute towards maintaining international momentum towards nuclear disarmament. In collaboration with the United Nations, Japan would this week host a conference in Nagasaki called ‘the Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education’. From the end of August the United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Programme would recommence; so far 761 diplomats from various countries taking part in the Programme had travelled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Furthermore, last year a permanent exhibition on the atomic bombings was established in the Palais des Nations, and the Ambassador encouraged everyone to visit it. Japan concluded by saying it believed that the commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices was the next logical step, and the step called upon by the vast majority of the international community.
Cuba reiterated that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of those weapons. Until that objective was reached it was urgent to agree on a universal and legally-binding instrument that protected States without nuclear weapons against the use or threat of use of those weapons. Cuba recalled that the International Court of Justice had stressed the need to commence negotiations in good faith toward nuclear disarmament under strict international control. Cuba was also concerned about the existence of some nuclear strategic defence doctrines that involved unjustifiable concepts on international security, based on the promotion of nuclear deterrence policies. On the other hand, Cuba did not share the view that the security guarantees should be offered only in the context of nuclear weapon-free zones.
Indonesia said it regretted that despite committing to pursuing negative security assurances towards non-nuclear weapon States, the nuclear weapon States had not yet supported concrete advancement on a universal, explicitly clear and legally-binding instrument on negative security assurances. The delegate summarized the status of consultations between nuclear-weapon States and parties to the South East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and said it hoped that the signing of the protocol would be realized soon. It also underscored the urgency of establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. It emphasized the urgent need for an early agreement on a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument to assure States that did not possess nuclear weapons against their use or threat of use. Establishment of an ad-hoc committee or a working group dealing with negative security assurances was pertinent.
Iran recalled the history of developments related to negative security assurances, and their links to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and said the reluctance of some nuclear-weapon States to start negotiations on negative security assurances was evidence of their duplicity in following nuclear disarmament. It was deplorable that 32 years after the issue was first presented to the Conference a treaty on negative security assurances was still elusive. The international community should not wait for the deployment of such weapons to react: lessons from the massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should have been learnt. As the initiator of the proposal of the establishment in the Middle East of a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone, Iran firmly supported the speedy establishment of such a zone. However, Iran was seriously concerned by the high levels of discrimination and double-standards shown by some nuclear-weapon States in generously rewarding the only non Non-Proliferation Treaty party of the Middle East region while exerting the highest pressure and threats against Non-Proliferation Treaty parties. Consequently that non Non-Proliferation Treaty party felt no pressure to establish a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East.
Iraq said the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions concerning positive and negative security assurances represented an effort to strengthen that procedure. Unfortunately, the arsenals remained and new weapons were being developed. It was time to move towards a universality of disarmament, and no longer categorize disarmament to one region. Despite the proposal to create a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East, there had been no progress, as seen in other regions, due to the complexity of the region and of the political relations between regional States, as well as due to outside intervention which had led to instability. Nobody denied that a region as unstable as the Middle East was dangerous, and it was vital to establish a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone there in order to prevent further destruction. Iraq welcomed the Helsinki Conference and thanked Finland for its tireless efforts to ensure its success.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea said it was estimated that there were 20,000 nuclear weapons in existence today. The State with the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons, having designated specific countries as the targets of pre-emptive nuclear strikes, had drawn up an operational plan for nuclear attacks and was conducting nuclear war exercises under that plan in an undisguised manner. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea held that nuclear-weapons States should revoke nuclear threats towards non-nuclear weapon States and provide them with an unconditional and legally-binding security assurance. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea supported the immediate establishment of a subsidiary body to negotiate effective negative security assurances. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s nuclear deterrent served as a reliable guarantee for protecting the supreme interests of the State and the security of the Korean nation from the outside power’s threat of aggression and firmly safeguarded peace and stability in the region.
Egypt expressed its greatest sympathies and solidarity to the people of Japan on the anniversaries of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and committed to using the anniversary to reflect on how the Conference could most effectively eliminate nuclear weapons forever. The request for legally-binding negative security assurances was not new, it even preceded the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Recent years had seen many changes in the activities of nuclear-weapon States with regard to negative security assurances, which must be encouraged. However, any change that was not legally binding would not be enough. The Conference had been addressing the issue of negative security assurances for some time, indeed a subsidiary body in that regard was first formed in 1988. Egypt believed that Nuclear-Weapon Free Zones were complementary to legally-binding negative security assurances, but could not take their place. The establishment of such a zone in the Middle East would directly contribute to improving peace and security for all countries in the region. Egypt welcomed the forthcoming 2012 Helsinki Conference and underlined that a successful conference would indicate the seriousness of the international community on the issue.
Algeria stressed that negative security assurances were essential for the security of non-nuclear weapon States and were therefore not a favour that could be given to them.
Obviously, the total elimination of nuclear weapons remained the only effective safeguard against the use of nuclear weapons. Unilateral declarations made by nuclear-weapon States were not legally binding instruments and were also subject to conditions. Algeria was firmly attached to the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East, although it said that the guarantees offered by such zones were also subject to conditions and, moreover, did not cover all regions of the world. Algeria commended the forthcoming 2012 Helsinki Conference. The United Nations Charter, signed in 1945 in San Francisco, gave Member States the legitimate right to self-defence. Algeria understood that any given instrument on negative security assurances could run contrary to that. However the right to self-defence could not serve as a pretext as the right to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, which was not only contrary to international humanitarian law, but in denial of it.
United States recalled its statement on negative security assurances made on 12 June 2012 and reiterated its belief that the most appropriate way of implementing legally-binding negative security assurances was through adherence to the relevant protocols to establish nuclear weapon free zone treaties. As a member of the P5, the United States remained strongly committed to signing the Protocol of the Treaty of Bangkok establishing a South East Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. It continued to support the goal of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and recognized that the impetus for that must come from the region since it could not be imposed from outside. The United States lent its full support to the organizers of the Helsinki Conference. The delegate offered a special salute to Mongolia in the twentieth anniversary year of its declaration of its nuclear-weapons free status and supported the measures taken by Mongolia to consolidate and strengthen that status, reflecting its unique geographic position. Finally, the United States noted that its Ambassador to Tokyo had this week attended the commemorations of the anniversaries of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which he described as ‘moving and powerful’. The United States stood in solidarity with all victims of war.
South Africa said since becoming a state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991, South Africa had argued that true nuclear security could not be achieved by the nuclear-weapons States abandoning their nuclear programmes alone. Total elimination of nuclear weapons remained the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The events of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, commemorated this month, provided a vivid reminder of the unacceptable consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, and why those inhumane instruments should never again be used. Together with its partners in the New Agenda Coalition, South Africa submitted a working paper that provided a draft treaty of Negative Security Assurances. Nuclear-weapons States sometimes claimed they had already granted security assurances to non-nuclear-weapons States, either by way of bilateral assurances or by nuclear weapons free zones. If that was true, they should have no objections to agreeing to legally binding negative security assurances in an international treaty. South Africa remained convinced of the necessary of such a framework.
Chile said it was not easy to actually pinpoint any additional ideas to what had already been said in the Conference’s 12 June discussion on the same thematic issue. The value added today was probably in emphasizing positions. Chile paid tribute to the commitment of Japan in educating people on the subject of negative security assurances. Reaching a binding commitment continued to be a challenge, and more of a political than a legal challenge, as it became clear every time the Conference discussed the subject. It was clear that the Conference needed to discuss the subject with realism. Ambiguity was still an integral part of the deterrence. There was a lot of value in the Security Council resolutions, although they had well-known limitations. Nuclear weapons free zones could contribute to regional security; they were an effective multilateral effort that provided confidence, and little by little were being interpreted as a part of negative security assurances. There were divergent views on that, however it must be remembered that the zones could not replace a binding agreement on negative security assurances.
Republic of Korea said nuclear weapons free zones were one of the most effective ways of providing assurances, and it welcomed the establishment of such zones around the world. However, negative security assurances should be provided only to non-nuclear weapon States parties that fully complied with their non-proliferation agreements. In response to the statement by the delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea reminded them of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 which stated that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea could not have nuclear-weapon State status, and that it should abandon all existing nuclear programmes and weapons in a complete, verifiable and universal measure.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in response to the intervention by the delegation of the Republic of Korea, said that their words were an act of inciting hostility between their States in an international forum. If there were any threats on the South Korean peninsula they were a result of South Korea’s adherence to the powerful force that was pursuing hostile policies against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s nuclear deterrent was not for recognition, it was purely to defend the country against that outside force. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea had never recognized Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1784.
Iran said as it was the holy month of Ramadan and spirituality was very high, it would like to use the occasion to sincerely thank God that the Republic of Korea was not a nuclear weapon State with that kind of mentality.
Nigeria recalled the words of its Foreign Minister who said in March 2007 that ‘non-nuclear weapons States that upheld the non-proliferation regime deserved to be awarded with negative security assurances. Denying negative security assurances encouraged proliferation’. Nigeria had consistently supported a legally-binding instrument for negative security assurances.
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