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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT OPENS 2018 SESSION

Hears Statement by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
23 January 2018

The Conference on Disarmament opened its 2018 session today under the presidency of Sri Lanka, hearing a statement by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu.

The President of the Conference, Ravinatha Aryasinha, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his opening statement, noted that given the two-decade long impasse, many appeared to be disenchanted over the prospects of the Conference. With global anxieties about nuclear weapons at their highest since the end of the Cold War, it was now imperative to accelerate the pace of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation, taking into account the security interests of all States on the basis of the principle of undiminished security for all. Stressing the importance of establishing a programme of work early on, the President said that it should evolve through an expeditious process of consultations and consensus making, and then proposed to revisit a number of sound proposals presented over the past several years which had failed to sustain momentum due to circumstances.

The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu welcomed the progress made this month in the inter-Korean talks, which she said must still be translated into the resumption of sincere dialogue leading to sustainable peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The signs that nuclear disarmament commitments might no longer be valued were deeply troubling: active consideration of increasing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines; the continued pursue of programmes for upgrading, enhancing and extending nuclear arsenals; and fractured consensus over the right approach for nuclear disarmament, while global military expenditure now exceeded Cold War levels.

The time had come to ask once again what this Conference and the entire United Nations disarmament machinery was prepared and able to do to effectively address the challenges posed by this state of affairs, Ms. Nakamitsu said. The Secretary-General’s commitment to the Conference and to considering how to give new momentum and impetus to global disarmament efforts was not only a reflection of the current international situation which underscored the need to reframe and modernize long-standing disarmament and non-proliferation priorities, but also a recognition that deepening divisions and persistent stagnation in this field were exacerbating international tensions and creating new dangers.

In the general debate which ensued, delegations agreed that it was a high time for the Conference to fulfil the role it had been created for and to bring about real progress on disarmament. Member States could break the deadlock that had paralysed it for far too long, some delegates said, calling for the focus on what could be achieved and not allowing unrealistic expectations to be the enemy of the common good. The Conference must adopt its programme of work, which could be done by building upon the constructive discussions held in last year’s Way Ahead Working Group, and by transforming proposals and creative ideas into real constructive work that would advance multilateral disarmament in a united and effective manner. A number of speakers noted that the immediate priority was to commence negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, preserve and strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, and promote universalisation and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Several speakers suggested that the Conference should take necessary measures and decisions to review its membership which currently did not respond to international reality, and update its working methods and adopt a mechanism that allowed direct and active participation by civil society.

Speaking in the general discussion today were Peru, Bulgaria on behalf of European Union, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Turkey, Romania, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Italy, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, France, United Kingdom, Belarus, Netherlands, Indonesia, Chile, and China.

Speaking in right of reply were the United States, Republic of Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China and Russia.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Conference adopted its agenda and agreed on requests by a number of countries to participate in the 2018 session of the Conference as observers. The countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Czechia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Guatemala, Holy See, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Oman, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Uruguay.

The next public plenary of the Conference will take place on Tuesday, 30 January at 10 a.m.

Statement by the President of the Conference

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Conference, welcomed the delegates and proposed the draft agenda for the 2018 session of the Conference contained in the document CD/WP.603, and the presidential statement, similar to those of the previous 20 years, for adoption. The Conference then proceeded to adopt the two documents. The Conference decided to invite States which were not Members of the Conference who wished to participate in the work of the Conference as observers during the 2018 session to do so, in accordance with the rules of procedure.

Mr. Aryasinha said that Sri Lanka was honoured to resume responsibilities as the President of Conference on Disarmament which was yet another manifestation of its consistent engagement in the field of disarmament over several decades. To enhance international security, the pace of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation must be accelerated, taking into account the security interests of all States and on the basis of the principle of undiminished security for all. Many appeared to be disenchanted over the prospects of the Conference on Disarmament, given the two-decade-long impasse. The underlying factors for this long stalemate were connected to the complex global security environment, and the situation was further complicated by the increasing threat posed by non-State actors, with global anxieties about nuclear weapons at their highest since the end of the Cold War. Still, there were reasons to be hopeful, as the Conference was able to make progress on important issue areas, and it was the forum where all key stakeholders were available to engage, and this critical composition was lacking in other disarmament initiatives outside the Conference.

Turning to the consultations conducted since the completion of the 2017 session, the President said that one significant point that had emerged was the need for greater coordination among the P-6, as four weeks was not sufficient for any President to bring about a meaningful result. Sri Lanka fully acknowledged the importance of establishing a programme of work early on and believed that it should evolve through an expeditious process of consultations and consensus making. The President proposed that the Conference revisited a number of sound proposals that had been presented over the past several years but which had failed to sustain momentum due to circumstances, and said that this could be done through the stock-taking exercise.

Statement by the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, welcomed the progress made this month in the inter-Korean talks and all other efforts that had contributed to easing tensions, and stressed that such engagement must still be translated into the resumption of sincere dialogue leading to sustainable peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. While Russia and the United States appeared to be on track to accomplish agreed reduction of their nuclear arsenal by next month, there appeared to be no new negotiations for further reductions beyond the expiration of New START in 2012. Other nuclear-armed States, despite unilateral measures some had enacted, remained unconstrained by similarly binding constraints or verification. The signs that nuclear disarmament commitments might no longer be valued were deeply troubling, said the High Representative, especially as there was active consideration of increasing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. Programmes for upgrading, enhancing and extending nuclear arsenals continued to be pursued; consensus over the right approach for nuclear disarmament remained fractured; and global military expenditure now exceeded Cold War levels.

The time had come to ask once again what this Conference and the entire United Nations disarmament machinery was prepared and able to do to effectively address the challenges posed by this state of affairs, said Ms. Nakamitsu, who went on to reiterate the commitment of the Secretary-General to the Conference on Disarmament and to considering how to give new momentum and impetus to global disarmament efforts. This decision reflected a belief that the current international situation underscored the need to reframe and modernize long-standing disarmament and non-proliferation priorities as well as tackling new challenges. It was also a recognition that deepening divisions and persistent stagnation in this field were exacerbating international tensions and creating new dangers.

A fresh perspective on traditional disarmament objectives from the lens of contemporary concerns could give new momentum and impetus to global disarmament efforts at a time when the need for disarmament was once again at the forefront of international attention, said the High Representative. Such were the over-accumulation and proliferation of arms which remained among the largest factors driving the potential for international armed conflict; new attention on the growing impact of the use of conventional weapons on civilians and civilian infrastructure; and the important relationship between disarmament and development and the need to strengthen links between the various disarmament objectives and many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Nakamitsu was committed to pursuing a multi-stakeholder approach in working to develop the Secretary-General’s agenda for disarmament, which he would outline in the first half of 2018. In his recent remarks to the Security Council during its open debate on addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, the Secretary-General had made three points which were particularly salient to the present conundrums: a qualitative and quantitative change in threats to international peace and security which involved the perils of nuclear weapons, escalating cybersecurity dangers, and the surge of armed conflicts in the Middle East and parts of Africa; the need to rethink approaches to conflicts; and that prevention must be at the centre of everything the United Nations did. This perspective could be part of the solution that unlocked the path towards a safer and more secure world, concluded the High Representative.

General Debate

Peru said that this was an opportunity to renew the efforts for international peace and security and give an impetus for the renewed work of this forum which had allowed the achievement of substantive progress in the area of nuclear disarmament despite the frustrating paralysis. This should not discourage the seeking of tangible results and Peru hoped that 2018 would be the year in which the Conference would resume its work and address the priority issues of nuclear disarmament, the prohibition of production of fissile material and negative security assurances. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Peru would be promoting the implementation of a new sustainable peace approach to respond better to new challenges in the area of peace and security, which meant addressing the root causes of conflicts, as well as emphasizing preventive diplomacy to banish the perceptions of insecurity and mistrust which often preceded armament.

Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern about the current challenging security environment that was marked by international tensions, military build-up, regional conflicts and the global threat from terrorism. All those were putting a strain on the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, and it was imperative to restore dialogue and trust and move from confrontation to cooperation. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programme represented a serious threat to international peace and security and the European Union stressed the need to foster trust and de-escalate tensions and achieve the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and the European Union aimed to uphold, preserve and strengthen this treaty as a key multilateral instrument for reinforcing international peace, security and stability. Another top priority was promoting universalisation and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which was of crucial importance for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

The European Union was deeply concerned by the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament and its persistent failure to agree on a programme of work, and it encouraged the delegates to build on substantive discussions held in 2017 in the Way Ahead Working Group, as the technical nature of those exchanges was useful for better understanding of various positions and concerns with the aim of building common ground for substantive work on all core items. The immediate priority was to commence negotiations in the Conference on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, said Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, noting that it would provide support to African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries to facilitate their participation in the fissile material cut-off treaty consultative process.

Germany concurred on the urgent need for a multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, not only to overcome the current deadlock in many areas but to defend it and make it fit to cope with new challenges in the twenty-first century. Germany called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take decisive and irreversible steps to denuclearize, stop its ballistic missile programme and respond positively to the various offers of dialogue to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Despite growing challenges, the Iran nuclear deal continued to be fully implemented by all sides, said Germany, noting that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a major achievement of nuclear non-proliferation and an important asset for regional and global security, despite Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its problematic regional activities. Germany was deeply committed to the goal of preserving and strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and was set to continue pushing for tangible progress on nuclear disarmament on the basis of a concrete step-by-step approach which must be agreed with the nuclear weapon States and take into account the prevailing security environment. Another key to progress in nuclear disarmament was to elaborate mechanisms for the verification of nuclear disarmament and while Germany preferred that the important processes to this regard were a part of the Conference, the current deadlock should not prevent the continued substantive work towards a common shared objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Norway was deeply concerned about the current proliferation threats, particularly by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the more prominent place of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, and that the world might face a new nuclear arms race. The world still faced considerable challenges in the field of nuclear security, said Norway, noting that the objective of a world without nuclear weapons could not be achieved unless all stakeholders were at the table. There was no fast track towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Irrespective of positions on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, everyone must start working together to realize the vision of “global zero”. This Treaty remained the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts and it was vital to bring the current review cycle to successful conclusion in 2020. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, although not in force, remained a key deliverable of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime, which had established a norm against nuclear testing. Starting negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was the logical next step, and the only way to resolve differences on its scope, definitions and support functions could not be addressed unless the work on developing the treaty had started. Such a treaty could limit a future arms race, foster enhanced confidence between the parties, and lead to actual disarmament by gradually placing stock under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

Brazil said that the Conference on Disarmament must respond to the challenges which it had been set up to address, and it must react to developments in the real world. The cycle for review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which would culminate in 2020, was not hopeful nor promising, said Brazil, while the progress on the negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty remained outside of the purview of the Conference. Brazil was willing and open to having discussions on all issues related to the nuclear disarmament agenda and to reshaping the Conference on Disarmament. Brazil remained ready to back this commitment with deeds and active engagement.

Sweden said that it was high time for the Conference on Disarmament to fulfil the role it had been created for, to bring about real progress on disarmament, and urged all to set aside all mantras and direct the focus of the work on what could be achieved and not allow unrealistic expectations to be the enemy of the common good. Members of the Conference could break the deadlock that had paralysed it for far too long. It was possible to build upon the constructive discussions held in last year’s Way Ahead Working Group and transform some, and other proposals and creative ideas, into real constructive work that would advance multilateral disarmament in a united and effective manner.

Mexico noted that today, the world was facing the most complex and demanding security situation since the end of the Cold War. For the first time in decades, the media was referring to the possible use of nuclear weapons and the narrative by some countries showed the willingness to resort to them. The uncertainty that prevailed was unacceptable and it was essential that nuclear weapon States conducted themselves in a responsible manner and honoured the commitments they assumed before the international community. In 2018, it was imperative for the Conference to adopt its programme of work, take necessary measures and decisions to review its membership which currently did not respond to international reality, update its working methods, and adopt a mechanism that allowed direct and active participation by civil society.

Turkey said that the Conference on Disarmament had a very unique place and a very special responsibility in international fora, and there was an increasing urgency to address the new challenges of the day. The Conference possessed the mandate, rules of procedure and membership to perform its duties; what was lacking was the strong political will to resume its fundamental task: to negotiate legally binding international treaties. The achievement of a world without nuclear weapons depended first and foremost on the successful and universal implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons regime, and it was crucial that this Treaty and its current review cycle were not undermined by efforts undertaken elsewhere. An early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the commencement of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiations were crucial for the global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.

Romania stressed that this unique multilateral disarmament negotiating body held much potential and that strong political will and understanding were essential for moving forward. Peace and security must be addressed from a global perspective, and Romania strongly supported the Conference on Disarmament as the major framework for nuclear issues. The Conference on Disarmament must take immediate action in order to retake its place as a relevant negotiating body, and the commencement of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiations was the next logical step for advancing nuclear disarmament and preventing proliferation. Further efforts were needed to achieve universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and to maintain this issue high on the international political agenda. Romania advocated for an inclusive disarmament process and a progressive approach, and stressed the importance of maintaining the viability of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Canada offered assurances of its continued flexibility on all Conference on Disarmament agenda items and its willingness to examine other subjects of importance to international security and disarmament, as long as their relevance for the Conference was clear and there was no duplication of effort between this body and others. Decades of inaction had left this forum with little to offer but dispirited, mechanical statements, and Canada was concerned that this year would see more of the same. Those States continuing to defend the utility of the Conference should show concrete leadership in support of the work of the six Presidents. There were initiatives which could be advanced in the Conference, and the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was a priority for Canada, and many other States inside and outside the Conference.

Australia noted that over the next 10 years the world would face new proliferation challenges due to emerging technologies with weapons of mass destruction and conventional applications. Australia advocated a patient and pragmatic approach in a complex security environment, and urged the political will to find areas of agreement of where progress could be made in the Conference on Disarmament in a way that took account of security interests of all States. Australia suggested to build on the work of previous Conference sessions, noting that last year’s Way Ahead Working Group was a welcome step at improving continuity. It was important to avoid being trapped by process and be wary of doing things the same way, just because it had always been so. The rules of procedure were there for good reason, and the consensus rule protected interests of all countries, but it must be used responsibly.

Spain remarked that the expectations of action from this Conference were not optimistic, particularly in the light of the actual context and the great differences that existed between members of the Conference in the matters of the programme of work. A practical solution might be to discuss the future contours of the negotiating mandate, with a priority on creative and flexible analysis of the proposals in the first instance. Negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was a priority for Spain and the “Shannon mandate” allowed for discussing the proposals in the most flexible manner, which would satisfy all parties. The area of verification could be another area in which mutual trust could be established. It was vital to strengthening the credibility of the multilateral disarmament system which would allow it to look at the future with hope, and through a step-by-step approach. Spain reiterated its call to all States which had not done so to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and urged Russia and the United States to strengthen confidence-building measures and commence the negotiations for the new START agreement.

Belgium recalled the key role played by the Conference on Disarmament as the international community’s only multilateral forum for nuclear disarmament and said that it was crucial to generate the vital political will to put an end to the long-standing stalemate. It was therefore important not to put all the effort on the adoption of the programme of work, but also continue with the stocktaking exercise that had already started and imagine the work of this year in the spirit of the Way Ahead Working Group. It was essential to preserve and reinforce the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the collective work from which everyone benefited. The 2010 Action Plan was a concrete guide for the progress to be achieved on the three pillars of the Treaty. Belgium was ready to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve the world free from nuclear weapons, but it could not subscribe to the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons as it lacked the support of key stakeholders, lacked a verification regime, while its claim of primacy over other international disarmament treaties risked weakening them.

Japan said that 2017 had been a year in which the international security environment had become increasingly severe. Over the past two years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had carried out three nuclear tests and launched 40 ballistic missiles, and it had become evident that the nuclear and missile development of that country was a grave and imminent threat to the international community. Japan wondered why the Conference on Disarmament, the only multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiating forum, had stagnated for more than 20 years, and stressed that a strong sense of urgency was needed to move the Conference forward. In order to advance the Conference, there must be an agreement on the implementation of the programme of work. Japan proposed that Member States considered programme of work proposals based on an inclusive method, exercising maximum flexibility with a spirit of compromise. For Japan, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was among the key issues, and it was ready to respond flexibly to other agenda items.

Italy said that the current security situation characterised by growing tensions, new conflicts, arms proliferation, and a fast-changing environment, added a new sense of urgency, and in those, the Conference remained crucial. Italy deplored the more than two decades of deadlock and said that it supported the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and the resumption of substantive discussions on negative security assurances, within the context of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work. Italy wondered whether the Conference could become the forum where the impact of emerging technologies could be addressed, together with other contemporary issues affecting international peace and security, especially as the agenda of the Conference was inclusive, comprehensive and flexible enough to allow it to deal with all relevant security issues.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regretted the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament for over two decades and said that this year, it must adopt a comprehensive and balanced programme of work based on the security concerns of each Member State. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was ready to make a positive contribution to achieving this objective. The legacy of the Cold War era still existed in the Korean Peninsula, and events last year had clearly demonstrated who desired peace and who disturbed international peace security. It had proven that the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to strengthen its self-defence nuclear force was absolutely the right choice to protect its right to self-determination and to protect itself from the hostility of the United States, including the fabrication of four international resolutions against it which threatened the right to existence of its people. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea now possessed a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing could reverse. Its nuclear force was capable of frustrating and countering any nuclear threat from the United States, which constituted a powerful deterrent that prevented the United States from starting an adventurous war. The proactive initiative and peace efforts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea this year resulted in a dramatic change in the situation on the Korean Peninsula, with a high-level dialogue with the Republic of Korea regarding the twenty-third Winter Olympics which fostered the atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation. The reckless military exercises led by the United States against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were the key factor in escalating the tensions, and this factor must be eliminated. The United States must stop the hostile policy against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stop joint military exercises and decrease the number of nuclear warheads at the doorstep of the country.

Right of Reply

United States, speaking in a right of reply, said that the decision by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to establish nuclear weapons was the wrong decision, and that the country was not safer today because of its nuclear force. The United States was not going to recognize this country as a nuclear-weapon State. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must take steps toward denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in order to return to the good graces of the international community. The international pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was profound and intense and it would continue, while the commitment of the United States to its allies in the Asia-Pacific region was ironclad.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that the international community had stated through multiple Security Council resolutions that it would never accept the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme and that this country must take the path of denuclearisation. The Republic of Korea was keeping the positive momentum of the North-South dialogue and would work with the international community on establishing a lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that whatever the United States tried, including the full blockade, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a full-fledged nuclear power. It would be wise for the United States to acknowledge the strategic status of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and find a wy to co-exist with this country which now possessed a powerful nuclear deterrent.

General Debate

France said it was concerned about the deterioration in the international security environment and said that as a result of its strategic review of this environment, France had put in place a strategic framework for the elaboration of the law of military programming, which would take the military spending to 2 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2025 to enable it to respond to the contemporary challenges. The strategic review emphasized that the international system was undergoing fundamental changes marked by unpredictability and the emergence of new military powers, which was going hand in hand with a new balance of power, and a high risk of escalation of conflicts. Only consistent international efforts to ensure the respect for international norms could bring the common aims of nuclear disarmament to fruition. In 2018, France would make an active contribution to the work of the Conference, including to strengthening and protecting the non-proliferation regime, particularly in view of actions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in violation of a number of Security Council resolutions. France would be active in the promotion of a progressive and pragmatic vision of nuclear disarmament, taking into the account the security context, and it reiterated its objections to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which had been hastily negotiated last year. France outlined other areas of concern where action was needed, including the use of chemical weapons with impunity, the use of biological weapons, strengthening the respect for international humanitarian law, and the unlawful use of conventional weapons.

United Kingdom said that the defining purpose of the United Nations was to defend international peace and security and achieve international cooperation in solving problems, and noted that today’s global security environment posed a serious challenge to those principles. The nuclear tests and fierce rhetoric by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was one such challenge to international norms and more pressure must be put on this country to engage in dialogue and find a diplomatic solution. The strictest sanctions in a generation imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the United Nations were necessary; their effects were being increasingly felt by the regime, which had put the country on its current path, but it was the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who would suffer most. The world must stand united in urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea along a path to dialogue. The United Kingdom stressed that all newly produced fissile material must only be used for non-weapons purposes. Finally, the United Kingdom stressed the importance of putting the women, peace and security agenda at the centre of all peace and security work, including disarmament.

Belarus said that it was in favour of re-establishing the viability of the Conference on Disarmament and believed that the Way Ahead Working Group had a positive impact on this process, as it enabled Member States to resume substantive discussions on some agenda items. Still, the progress was lagging on something that was supposed to be a technical document, the programme of work. Belarus believed that the Conference must continue with its substantive work and that prerequisites were in place to start negotiations, which would give reassurances to non-nuclear States, and also progress the discussions on the arms race in outer space, and on cybersecurity.

Netherlands said it was of the view that the Conference on Disarmament remained the best vehicle to deal with multilateral disarmament, and was cognizant that, due to the two decades of deadlock, disarmament discussions were ongoing in other fora. There must be flexibility on the scope of issues to address and on the outcome of negotiations; the broadening of involvement of other stakeholders in order to respond to the realities of the world today; and there must be building on substantive discussions that had taken place in 2017 in the context of the Way Ahead Working Group. The Netherlands emphasized that sanctions were not a punitive measure but sought to bring the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the negotiating table and in this context, the recent progress in relations between the two Koreas was welcome.

Indonesia expressed regret that, for the past 20 years, every progress in disarmament had been made outside of the Conference on Disarmament, and that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the last substantive outcome of the Conference, had not yet entered into force. Indonesia reiterated its call for the Conference to adopt and implement a programme of work and to intensify efforts to find common ground and show flexibility. Indonesia welcomed the United Nations General Assembly’s action on follow up to the 2013 high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament and looked forward to participate in the Conference in New York this coming May. A strong proponent of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was opened for signature in September 2017, Indonesia would intensify its work to ensure that the Treaty entered into force at the earliest possibility. Indonesia would continue its support and constructive engagement for the forthcoming Second Preparatory Meeting for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to be held in Geneva in May 2018. As a State that had renounced nuclear weapons, Indonesia emphasized that its demand for security assurances remained valid and legitimate; in this context, it was crucial to maintain Southeast Asia free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear-weapon States should sign and ratify the protocol of the Bangkok Treaty at the earliest possibility.

Chile viewed with great concern high levels of anxiety in connection with nuclear weapons and noted recent positive developments, in particular the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in which the civil society had played a crucial role. It was clear that this Treaty would not put an end to the existence of nuclear weapons, but it had filled a legal void in this domain, and had classified nuclear weapons as something that should not be seen as a symbol of prestige by States. Chile welcomed the so-called “Olympic diplomacy” between the two Koreas and hoped that it would bring the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea one step closer to abandoning its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

China said it was implementing the Security Council resolutions concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a comprehensive manner, and urged all to cherish the relaxation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the engagement of the two Koreas to improve relations. The main channel for resolving the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula remained the Six-party Conference and the Security Council, and only a dialogue that addressed reasonable security concerns of all parties could bring about a solution. Military means should not be used to resolve differences in the Korean Peninsula, stressed China. China expressed its strong support for the Joint Plan of Action with Iran and said that this initiative was in the fundamental interest of all parties, and for the fundamental interest of peace in the Middle East. A Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was relevant only to a small number of countries and an outdated item, whose significance and value was very limited, said China, particularly in the context of technological advances.

Right of Reply

United States, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Vancouver meeting of the United Nations Command had been convened to discuss ways of relieving the pressure by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to which only the representatives of the command-sending States were invited. The United States would never recognize the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a nuclear-weapon State. The United States reaffirmed that it would closely work with Russia and China in addressing the nuclear tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that the countries which had voiced concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were blindly following the United States and it was not possible to understand why those countries were bringing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the agenda while turning a blind eye to the recent military build-up by the United States. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated that the purpose of its nuclear weapons was self-defence.

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that China had not participated in the so-called Vancouver meeting and it had no appetite for it at all. In response to the United States, China noted that Indo-Pacific was such an omnipotent thing and the United States might not need China's help at all.


Russia said that it was honouring its responsibilities as a member of the Security Council and a member of the international community.

Closing Remarks by the President of the Conference

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reminded the delegates of the letter sent by the Secretary-General of the Conference and Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Michael Møller, concerning the engagement of Member States of the Conference at the ministerial level during the 2018 session. The first such opportunity would be during the high-level segment of the Human Rights Council in February 2018. Mr. Aryasinha thanked all the delegations for their expressions of support to the Presidency and said that the compilation of the progress made at the Conference over the past 20 years, circulated to the delegates last week, was not a proposal but food for thought, as it was hoped it might inspire the States to think outside of the box, innovate and find new packages and programmes which would take into account the changed context and environment.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC18.003E