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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES AGENDA ITEMS DEALING WITH NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

4 June 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard public presentations on items 1, 2 and 4 of the agenda, dealing with nuclear disarmament, followed by an informal discussion.

The President of the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Jorge Valero of Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), said two panellists would make presentations that would be followed by an informal discussion.

Usman Jadoon, Panellist, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan, said that during the 40 years that items 1, 2 and 4 had featured on the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda, there had been no dearth of approaches, draft treaty texts, working papers, declarations and resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, and exhortations from world leaders and civil society organizations offering different pathways for achieving the goal of a nuclear weapons free world. What was missing was the security conditions that allowed for progress on these various pathways. Sitting back and letting the course correct itself, or take a turn for the worse, was not an option. The strategic environment was not an excuse for inaction and it was incumbent upon those present to address those underlying factors that could reverse the slide. “It is our collective responsibility to preserve this unique body and utilize it to its optimum potential,” he stated.

John Borrie, Panellist, Research Coordinator and Programme Lead, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Strategic Weapons Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, presented a paper written by former United States Ambassador Lewis A. Dunn, which was presented to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters by Mr. Dunn, who was a member of the Board. The bulk of the paper discussed possible pathways forward. The first basket of such pathways involved actions by the three protagonists, namely China, the United States and Russia. They needed, on their own, to step back to ask if their own interests would be served by intensified great power competition and the end of the arms control endeavour. The second basket comprised pathways that involved not only the protagonists but also other countries, such as taking advantage of the P5 process. The third basket was comprised of action by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, such as invoking article 99 of the United Nations Charter.

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be held on Thursday, 6 June at 10 a.m., to discuss the Conference’s programme of work.

Statements

JORGE VALERO, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said this would be a thematic session related to items 1, 2 and 4 of the agenda, which dealt with nuclear disarmament. In that context, two panellists would make presentations that would be followed by an informal discussion.

USMAN JADOON, Panellist, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan, said that during the 40 years that items 1, 2 and 4 had featured on the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda, there had been no dearth of approaches, draft treaty texts, working papers, declarations and resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, and exhortations from world leaders and civil society organizations offering different pathways for achieving the goal of a nuclear weapons free world. What was missing was the security conditions that allowed for progress on these various pathways.

Sitting back and letting the course correct itself, or take a turn for the worse, was not an option. The strategic environment was not an excuse for inaction, and it was incumbent upon those present to address those underlying factors that could reverse the slide. In that context, the right of all States to equal security should be recognized, and unilateralism and the quest for hegemony should be shunned in favour of cooperative multilateralism and an equitable world order. The root causes and motives that drove States to acquire nuclear weapons, which in most cases were based on existential security concerns, must be addressed. The Conference on Disarmament should express a renewed commitment to universal nuclear disarmament, recognizing the special responsibility of States with larger military capabilities to take the lead, and evolve a criteria-based and non-discriminatory approach for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under appropriate safeguards in accordance with respective international obligations of States. Furthermore, in the Conference on Disarmament, pending nuclear disarmament, effective guarantees should be provided to non-nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons through the conclusion of a universal and legally binding treaty, and the legal regime to prevent the weaponization of outer space should be strengthened through negotiations.

As a concrete step towards nuclear disarmament, both past and future production of fissile materials should be addressed through the conclusion of a non-discriminatory Fissile Material Treaty in the Conference of Disarmament. Cyber and autonomous weapons and other new types of weapon systems should be brought under appropriate international control, regulations and prohibitions. Regional security risks should be addressed through confidence-building measures, dialogue and diplomacy — including the establishment of a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia; the creation of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East; and a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Finally, a mutual and balanced reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments should be pursued, recognizing their direct causal relationship with the continued reliance on nuclear weapons.

The Conference on Disarmament did not exist in a vacuum and could not remain immune to the strategic environment in which it operated. It had had remarkable successes in the past in concluding treaties that had been genuinely equitable and catered to equal and undiminished security for all. “It is our collective responsibility to preserve this unique body and utilize it to its optimum potential,” Mr. Jadoon stated.

JOHN BORRIE, Panellist, Research Coordinator and Programme Lead, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Strategic Weapons Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, presented a paper entitled Reversing the Slide: Intensified Great Power Competition and the Breakdown of the Arms Control Endeavour, written by former United States Ambassador Lewis A. Dunn, which was presented to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters by Mr. Dunn, who was a member of the Board. In it, Mr. Dunn argued that the slide already was well underway toward intensified great power competition as well as, on the one hand, the breakdown of over five decades of United States-Soviet/Russian arms control, and, on the other hand, the end of efforts to put in place a more informal United States-China strategic predictability, reassurance, and restraint. Such a judgment was quite close to that of the Secretary-General as outlined in his Agenda for Disarmament report.

The author fully recognized the differences between the long history of the United States-Russia pursuit of arms control as a means to regulate their strategic relationship and the more nascent efforts at dialogue, reassurance, and restraint between China and the United States.

The bulk of the paper discussed possible pathways forward. The first basket of such pathways involved actions by the three protagonists, namely China, the United States and Russia. They needed, on their own, to step back to ask if their own interests would be served by intensified great power competition and the end of the arms control endeavour. There was opportunity to strengthen emerging measures with the United States and China according to the author, who also noted that a 2017 military-to-military agreement had been signed, aiming notably to improve communications to reduce the risk of miscalculations.

The second basket comprised pathways that involved not only the protagonists but also other countries, such as taking advantage of the P5 process. In particular, building on an increasingly robust dialogue on nuclear doctrine, opportunities could be pursued to use that dialogue to help lessen mutual misperceptions and avoid missteps. Nuclear risk reduction was a promising area. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ Review Process should be used, too. The author proposed utilizing the process to identify great power transparency and confidence-building measures and to gain a commitment by the great powers to their pursuit.

The third basket was comprised of actions by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, such as invoking article 99 of the United Nations Charter. This would allow the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,” according to the author, who acknowledged that invoking article 99 was extremely rare.

Finally, the author had written that “all of these pathways cannot be pursued at once and some of them undoubtedly will prove more attractive than others to the three protagonists. What counts most is to begin talking about and then taking actions to reverse today’s slide. Success will in turn reopen other possibilities to revitalize pursuit of a longer-term vision of nuclear disarmament,” Mr. Borrie said, pointing out that such success would be relevant to the Conference on Disarmament’s prospects.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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