Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR DISARMAMENT ADDRESSES CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR DISARMAMENT ADDRESSES CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT

Conference Hears Address by the Foreign Minister of Finland and Statements on the Latest Security Council Resolution Imposing New Sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
12 September 2017

The Conference on Disarmament this morning was addressed by Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and by Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. A number of delegations discussed United Nations Security Council resolution 2375 of 11 September that imposed new sanctions on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Mr. Soini noted that arms control and disarmament had returned to the core of the foreign and security policy and the international community must stand up to defend the international security architecture, which was the result of many years of hard negotiations. Among the most pressing issues were the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in eastern Ukraine. In this security environment, the world needed dialogue, risk reduction and confidence-building mechanisms more than ever. The work of the Conference on Disarmament was also extremely important in preparing the world for the changes to the global political environment brought about by technology and science and for the emergence of hybrid threats, and in developing new regulations and rules of the game which would engage not only governments but the private sector and academia as well. Finland was ready to consider possible ways forward with an open mind.

In her address to the Conference, Ms. Nakamitsu noted that international circumstances had dramatically changed in recent decades, and yet this Conference remained stuck on only the initial stages of a step-by-step approach dating back to 1957 and General Assembly resolution 1148. The key question was whether the States wanted to protect the machinery called the Conference on Disarmament by finding ways to compromise and return to substantive work, or they wished to increasingly innovate and make use of other mechanisms and processes that would tackle a given priority disarmament issue. Resolving this question had become an urgent matter, as the peace and security architecture was struggling to keep up with the implications of the emerging military capabilities and technology. The situation in the Conference on Disarmament would be judged not only against its ability to overcome its present stalemate, but rather against its ability to respond to new challenges and the “frontier issues” such as lethal autonomous weapon systems, cyberwarfare, developments in biotechnology and outer space activities.

Ambassador Julio Herraiz of Spain, President of the Conference, said that the delegations would continue to discuss draft annual report to be presented to the General Assembly.

Speaking in the discussion were Syria, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, United States, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Peru, China, Israel, Japan, Hungary, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa and India.

The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be announced shortly.

Opening Addresses

TIMO SOINI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said that arms control and disarmament had returned to the core of the foreign and security policy and the international community must stand up to defend the international security architecture, which was the result of many years of hard negotiations. At the same time, new kinds of threats were evolving and had to be addressed. The work of the Conference on Disarmament was extremely important and much depended on the political will and activity of Member States. Constructive ideas and concrete actions were needed and Finland was ready to consider possible ways forward with an open mind. Mr. Soini outlined the most pressing issues, including the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which constituted a major threat to international peace and security. The use of chemical weapons in Syria, a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, had shocked the world. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the situation in eastern Ukraine remained a major concern. In this security environment, the world needed dialogue, risk reduction and confidence-building mechanisms more than ever; to increase transparency and predictability to enhance stability and security; and to control arms, including their export, in order to prevent the proliferation of arms, small and big.

The Arms Trade Treaty had been one of the bright spots in recent years, said the Minister and stressed that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remained a cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, urging States to increase the efforts to close the gap concerning non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons which were completely uncovered by any binding, verifiable agreement. Non-State actors and terrorist groups getting hold of biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological weapons constituted a real threat to society, thus the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 had become increasingly relevant. The world must be prepared for changes to the global political environment brought about by technology and science and for the emergence of hybrid threats; it was imperative to develop legislation, regulations and rules of the game, which would engage not only governments but the private sector and academia as well. The Conference on Disarmament had a crucial role to fill also in this field, concluded Mr. Soini.

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noted that the closing of the annual session of the Conference on Disarmament was occurring at a particularly troubling time for the cause of disarmament, and said that the Secretary-General had strongly condemned the underground nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on 3 September, which undermined international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts and profoundly destabilized regional security. It was both notable and vital that the Security Council remained united on this matter, again confirmed last night at the adoption of its resolution 2375. The Secretary-General had observed that this unity created an opportunity to engage diplomatically to decrease tensions, increase confidence and prevent any escalation, all aimed at the previously agreed denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary-General would always stand for a peaceful solution of this situation and he remained ready to support efforts towards this end, stressed Ms. Nakamitsu. Measures for disarmament and arms control had played a crucial role in conflict prevention, risk mitigation and reduction, de-escalation and in reducing tensions. Growing tensions, simmering conflicts and the unchecked proliferation of destabilizing arms must compel the States to act with new urgency and redouble the collective efforts to uphold and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the norms against nuclear tests and the prohibition of chemical weapons. Disarmament and arms control were the other side of the same coin called “security”.

There had been many attempts to diagnose the challenges faced by the Conference for more than two decades, during which international circumstances had dramatically changed, and yet this body remained stuck on only the initial stages of a step-by-step approach dating back to 1957 and General Assembly resolution 1148. Was it the time to seriously examine how well the immediate priorities, including the core items and Decalogue, remained aligned with an effective programme leading to the ultimate objective? Disarmament negotiations at the Conference had been central to international peace and security discussions and indeed had made critical contributions, for example the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; however, this had not been the case for a long time, said the High Representative. Perhaps by necessity, the General Assembly had to take on those roles, including conducting negotiations on treaties in the areas of conventional and nuclear weapons; even the Disarmament Commission had recently been able to turn around its long-standing stalemate with the adoption of a substantive outcome earlier this year. Regardless of the ability of the Conference to break its stalemate, the work of the United Nations in the field of disarmament would and must go on, through all prudent but effective pathways available.

After 21 years of stalemate, did the Member States wish to protect the machinery called the Conference on Disarmament by finding ways to compromise and return to substantive work, and also protect the decision-making process called “consensus” which by definition required a genuine spirit of compromise and a strong political commitment to make progress? Or, did they wish to follow the current path of increasing innovation and make use of other mechanisms and processes that would tackle priority disarmament issues? Any chosen path would require vision, compromise and a strong commitment in this multi-polar world. Resolving this question had become an urgent matter, as the peace and security architecture was struggling to keep up with the implications of the emerging military capabilities and technology. The situation in the Conference on Disarmament must be judged not only against its ability to overcome its present stalemate, but rather against its ability to respond to new challenges and the “frontier issues” such as lethal autonomous weapon systems, cyberwarfare, developments in biotechnology and outer space activities.

Finally, the High Representative took up the issue of effective leadership, which was vital in making consensus-based multilateralism work in a multi-polar world as it required substantive effort, bigger ideas and vision, creativity and innovation, trust and confidence, and a stronger commitment. Effective and irreversible progress to the collective disarmament goals could only be made when those who possessed, manufactured, used and transferred were engaged and were present at the table. In conclusion, Ms. Nakamitsu expressed hope that the sombre state of affairs would create an impetus for this body to resume its proper place at the vanguard of the United Nations disarmament machinery. It seemed that all Member States of the Conference were coming to a clear consensus that something serious had to be done with this body, which was an important point of convergence that States should give some thoughts to.

Statements

Syria said that fabricated allegations about the use of chemical weapons by Syria were attempts by some States to cover their involvement in illegal military alliances in Syria which were responsible for the killings of civilians and the destruction of the Syrian infrastructure. Syria condemned the American aggression in April 2017 on an air-base which had been allegedly involved in the Khan Sheikhun incident and wondered why the United States had refused access to the air base to a competent independent fact finding mission. Categorically refusing the accusations of the use of chemical weapons which had been repeatedly made by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, the delegate said that Syria did not have any chemical weapons, that it had dismantled all installations for the production of chemical weapons and that it had removed from the country all chemical weapons and materials which had then been successfully destroyed, as prescribed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The States leading the accusations against Syria in the United Nations were those which resisted the setting up of an independent fact-finding mission, said Syria and expressed concern that they were not taking adequate steps to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring chemical weapons.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that the efforts of the Washington’s regime to obliterate the sovereignty and the right of existence of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were reaching an extremely reckless level. The regime had fabricated the most vicious ever sanctions resolution by manipulating the United Nations Security Council, whose adoption was an extreme manifestation of the intention to eliminate the ideology and the social system of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and its people. It constituted a blatant infringement on the sovereignty of the country and a grave challenge to international peace and security; it was unlawful and illegal and categorically rejected by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Instead of making the right choice with a rational analysis of the overall situation, Washington’s regime had finally opted for economic, political and military confrontation, obsessed with the wild dream of reversing the country’s development of the nuclear force which had already reached the completion phase. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea would no longer be an onlooker and would make sure that the United States paid the due price. It was ready to use any form of ultimate means, and the forthcoming measures would make the United States suffer the greatest pain it had suffered in its history.

United States said that the United Nations Security Council resolution had sent a clear message to the “North Korean” regime that the international community was tired and no longer willing to put up with the provocations of the regime. It would enable the international community to prevent the fuelling of “North Korea’s” nuclear programme through a ban on natural gas and textile exports and a prohibition of work authorization for its nationals. The international community would never accept “North Korea” as a nuclear weapons state and the United States would do its utmost to protect its allies in the Korean Peninsula. The United States hoped that the regime would take lesson from the voting record of the Security Council yesterday, whose members all voted in favour, and would choose a different path.

The Syrian propaganda was tired and old, said the United States and stressed that, with the continued use and possession of chemical weapons, Syria continued to break international norms. Syria must immediately and irreversibly destroy its chemical weapons in line with international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The United States would closely monitor the upcoming visit of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to Syria and its investigation into the use of chemical weapons in this country. The Assad regime must immediately cease the use of chemical weapons against its own people, comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution 2818 to destroy its chemical programme in its entirety.

United Kingdom said that over a week ago, “North Korea” had sent a clear message of provocation and belligerence and that the unanimous adoption of the resolution by the United Nations Security Council had sent the message that the international community would match the “North Korea’s” provocation with clear consequences and the most stringent sanction regime ever imposed on any country. The resolution would limit oil imports, textile exports and end future work authorisation for “North Korea”, all of which were feeding its nuclear programme. The international community was tightening the screw and stood ready to tighten it further, and bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang which was engaged in a dangerous game of provocation. The regime bore full responsibilities for the new measures which were a proportionate response to its provocations. There was a way out: diplomacy could bring end to this crisis and “North Korea” must step away from provocations. In Syria, the United Kingdom was supporting the demands for accountability of all those who used chemical weapons.

Republic of Korea condemned the bellicose address by the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and welcomed the Security Council unanimous adoption of the resolution 2375 in response to the six nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The resolution reaffirmed the strong resolve of the international community and the sense of urgency not to tolerate the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s reckless and irresponsible pursuit of its nuclear programme which posed serious challenge to international peace and security. The continued provocations by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would only increase its political and economic isolation, said the Republic of Korea and urged this country to take immediate steps towards denuclearization and peace, and ensure full and thorough implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Peru continued to condemn the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and said that Peru had decided to declare the Ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to Peru a persona non grata, asking him to leave the country within five days. The decision had been taken in light of the continued provocations and nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which presented a threat to the international community, and also because of the continued rejection to implement relevant United Nations Security Council resolution. Peru expressed its full support for the resolution 2375 and considered the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula essential.

China said that yet another nuclear threat by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had violated the United Nations Security Council resolutions and China expressed its full support for the latest resolution 2375, which captured the common commitment of Member States to peace and security, to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to the nuclear non-proliferation. China was closely following the developments on the Korean Peninsula and continued to be dedicated to its denuclearization, and the resolution of disputes peacefully and through dialogue. All parties must take measures to ease tensions of the Korean Peninsula and resume dialogue and negotiations. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea must abide by the Security Council resolutions and stop pushing forward its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, while the United States, Republic of Korea and other parties should avoid taking actions that further complicated the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Israel said that it had not expected to hear truth from a State that had repeatedly violated its international obligations and was engaged in committing war crimes against its own people, including through the use of chemical weapons. Israel stressed that the international community must continue to insist that Syria be held fully accountable for the use of chemical weapons.

Syria agreed on the importance of avoiding the exchange of accusations that was not worthy of professional diplomats. The United States accused Syria of denying facts, but did not offer any evidence, they only offered unfounded political accusations. Trump’s administration so far had failed to provide evidence for its claims and accusations and continued to cover up for its aggression against Syria using as a pretext the Khan Sheikhun incident. The obstacles that the United States had put in the path of the fact-finding mission by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had delayed the mission by five months.

Japan welcomed the swift and unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2375, which imposed extensive, stringent and new sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This country should heed the calls of the international community to abandon its nuclear programme and fully comply with Security Council resolutions. It was high time that all Member States made additional efforts to implement the Security Council resolution in a thorough and effective manner.

Hungary condemned in the strongest possible terms the six nuclear tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including the latest on 3 September, in blatant violations of the United Nations Security Council resolutions which reflected the views not only of the United Nations but of all the international community. The newly adopted resolution was the right step by the international community to address a threat to global peace and security. With regards to the statement by the High Representative, Hungary said that the answers to her questions were there and stressed the need for the political will by Member States.

Canada supported entirely the new Security Council resolution which was justified in the light of the provocations by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and expressed hope that peace would prevail and peaceful solution would be found. Canada thanked the High Representative for her thoughtful and provocative statement and asked about the funding situation for the Conference on Disarmament.

Russia did not recognize the nuclear status of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and said that its nuclear programme was a great violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, undermined nuclear non-proliferation, and undermined the security in Asia. The Security Council had decisively condemned the recent nuclear tests by this country through the adoption of resolution 2375 and Russia expressed its support for all resolutions which called for an end to the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It was imperative to remain calm and avoid steps that escalated tensions. It would be impossible to make progress in the current situation without diplomatic efforts, said Russia and urged all relevant parties to examine its proposal to reduce tensions, and reduce them through step-by-step approach.

United States said that the Syrian regime must understand that the international community would hold it accountable and that those responsible for carrying out vicious attacks against civilians would be held responsible. The United States called again on Syria to destroy its chemical weapons and cooperate with the Joint Investigative Mechanism instead of obstructing its work. To China, the United States said that if it wanted to see peace on the Korean Peninsula, China must use a unique leverage it had to convince the regime in Pyongyang to change course.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that the latest nuclear test was part of the process of building a nuclear force, which no one could question as it was the only way to defend the country. Sanctions and threats would not frighten the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and move it away from the path of building self-defending nuclear deterrence for the purpose of defence of its people and its sovereignty. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea asked all States present in the Conference whether they really did not know the true cause of the nuclear history of the Korean Peninsula and were blind to the history. All those wishing to see peace on the Korean Peninsula should ask the regime in Washington to abandon the long-standing and never-ending hostile policy and nuclear race against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Mexico agreed with the High Representative on the need to break the gridlock in the Conference. The nuclear capabilities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were a serious threat to international peace and security, and to the countries in the region, including Japan and Republic of Korea which were Mexico’s long-standing allies. Mexico had adopted a Presidential decree on the full compliance of all State structures with the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to Mexico had been declared a persona non grata, which was a clear message from Mexico, which would continue to work on a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Brazil thanked the High Representative for her statement which “hit the nail” in what must be considered the priorities in making the Conference on Disarmament a respectable body again. Brazil agreed that perfect verifiability of norms were not achievable but the norms were obligatory, applicable and binding for all the members. Brazil recognized the links between disarmament and the Sustainable Development Agenda and stressed the need for the United Nations to work as a system. In light of the Conference on Disarmament being stuck for a long time, Brazil agreed that it would be interesting to look at other avenues within the United Nations system, to try and make progress. States were already doing this and such new approaches might release them from the straightjacket of consensus which had caused the absolute paralysis in the Conference for a long time. Other bodies were taking decisions on the essential issues of our time and it was clear that the Conference on Disarmament had to return to relevance, including through its working group on the way ahead. It was regrettable that the recommendations of the working group could not be adopted, again because of the strictly interpreted consensus rule. The Conference on Disarmament must wake up and Brazil was fully on board with the High Representative in what she might propose in this regard.

Egypt said that key to the universalisation of all instruments for disarmament was the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and stood ready to establish a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The universalization of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was one key objective that the international community must achieve.

Republic of Korea deplored that the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was repeatedly using the Conference to broadcast its propaganda and said that the international community must – and would – fully and thoroughly implement all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

South Africa thanked the High Representative for her provocative statement which was particularly pertinent for States invested in the Conference on Disarmament, particularly small States which believed in its fundamental purpose and mandate. South Africa wondered whether the resources should be allocated for the Conference at all, and noted that in the absence of the progress on key issues, enlargement and expansion, it might not be a problem if money was not allocated to “maintain this farce”. The uncomfortable avenue external to the Conference was an attractive proposition, but it also rendered the Conference more redundant. One key question was how to hold the Conference accountable, and South Africa raised the issues of expansion of the Conference as well as its opening towards civil society.

India said that the Conference on Disarmament did not exist in a vacuum, but in a broader context of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament matters which impacted on the way the work was conducted in the Conference. The High Representative had outlined some issues of structure and process concerning disarmament machinery and had referred to old and emerging issues. The way ahead group was a good initiative, it had seen some good and in-depth discussions, unfortunately, in the last few weeks, the good dynamic had broken down and it was not possible to achieve the results. Was it the fault of the Conference on Disarmament or the lack of commitment of States to this forum? The Conference on Disarmament had adopted a programme of work in 2009 but had been unable to push it through which indicated that the issue was a lack of political will and lack of follow up. India noted that the agenda of the Conference was wide enough to enable it to take up new and emerging issues. On the rule of consensus, India said that there were bodies in New York which had tackled disarmament issues without the rule of consensus, which did not make the problems go away. Thus, the participation of militarily strong States was essential; the rule of consensus ensured that their interests and concerns were respected, it ensured that all States, big or small, had the right to be heard and express themselves. Taking away the rule of consensus was not the solutions to the problems of today.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that it was time for “South Korea” to wake up from its dream and stop being fully dependent on the United States as this only revealed its weakness.

Concluding Remarks

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, in response to questions and issues raised by the delegations, said that if she had sounded provocative, it was because she wished the Conference on Disarmament to go back to its original and intended place. The Conference on Disarmament was coming now to the point of conversion and a very clear consensus on some issues such as the decision-making mechanisms, and it was coming to the point that the body needed to go back to functioning. States had the power to go back to its substantive work. The United Nations Secretariat stood ready to fully support this endeavour. The First Committee would start its work in less than a month and would represent an opportunity to discuss the specific issues. The High Representative stressed the essential need for political will and commitment by States, to create positive energy and leadership and return to substantive work.

With regard to the funding issue, Ms. Nakamitsu said that they had studied the issue and had understood the serious problem that the Conference was facing. It was a problem of a structural nature which would not be resolved with minor and mechanical cost cutting measures. It would only be solved with the political will of States and what could help was to raise the political profile of the Conference on Disarmament.

Ambassador JULIO HERRAIZ of Spain, President of the Conference, thanked Ms. Nakamitsu for her presence in the Conference on Disarmament today and said that the next public plenary would be announced shortly.



For use of the information media; not an official record

DC/17/33E