High-level debate continues

Gabriella Irsten and Beatrice Fihn | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

The Conference on Disarmament met on Tuesday, 28 February to hear high-level statements from Kazakhstan, Jordan, IranMalaysiaCosta RicaJapanRepublic of KoreaIndonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), and the United States.

The future of the CD
Japan’s Senior Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ryuji Yamane examined the recent development within the CD and concluded that no “effective breakthrough solution has yet to be found” and “[w]hile there is deeply rooted opposition to taking multilateral disarmament negotiations outside the CD, there is the possibility that the primary agenda items handled by the Conference could be discussed or negotiated elsewhere if this year again the Conference fails to adopt and implement a programme of work that enables the commencement of substantive work.”

The Foreign Minister of Iran reaffirmed his government’s views that the CD is the only forum suitable to deal with nuclear disarmament negotiations in light of “its special composition” and “unique rules of procedure”. Mr. Salehi also gave a list of reasons why the disarmament machinery had been paralyzed for so long, including military alliances based on a nuclear umbrella, nuclear sharing, increasing military expenditure, modernization of nuclear weapons, strategic shifts, and new military doctrines including possible use of nuclear weapons. Mr. Yerzhan Kazykhanov, Kazakhstan foreign minister stated that his government sees no value in trying to tackle some of the agenda items outside the CD. However, Mr. Kazykhanov highlighted two proposals for moving forward: appointing three special coordinators on the agenda, rules of procedure, and membership; or merging the CD and the UN Disarmament Commission into one single body.

Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Natalegawa believed that with “strong political will, we can find ways and means to move the process forward.” Mr. Natalegawa outlined several steps toward commencing work, including by adopting a balanced and comprehensive programme of work, convening a fourth special session on disarmament (SSOD-IV), making progress on inclusiveness through possible membership expansion, and increasing participation of civil society.

Mr. Anifah Aman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia presented a similar roadmap, emphasizing the need of strong political will, expansion of membership, and increased interaction with civil society. Pointing to the cases of anti-personnel landmines, small arms and light weapons, and other arms control agreements, he argued that the CD would benefit from greater inclusion of civil society.

The foreign ministers from Jordan and Costa Rica also emphasized the expansion of the CD’s membership in accordance with its rules of procedure and supported the appointment of a Special Coordinator on this topic.

Moving forwards with substance
Iran’s foreign minister emphasized that early negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) is “the urgent need of the disarmament machinery today.” According to the Iranian foreign minister, an NWC should include a “total ban on use, production, possession, development, stockpiling, deployment, and transfer of nuclear weapons, renouncing the deterrence values of nuclear weapons in the defense doctrines, irreversible elimination of all stocks of weapon grade fissile material, de- alerting of nuclear warheads and their destruction in a verifiable manner in a phased program and within a specific time frame.” Mr. Natalegawa, Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, agreed that negotiations of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, such as through an NWC, within a specific timeframe is an urgent need.

The Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan spoke briefly about the nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) in Central Asia and called for international legally-binding security assurances. Mr. Enrique Castillo, foreign minister of Costa Rica drew attention to the 45th anniversary of the Tlateloco Treaty and stated that thanks to all of the current NWFZs, a total of 114 countries are governed by limitations on the testing, use, manufacturing, and production, of nuclear weapons.

Discussion of the upcoming NPT review cycle
Mr. Ryuji Yamane of Japan mentioned the upcoming nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review cycle and the importance of “balanced” progress on the “three pillars” of the Treaty. He explained that this was one of the objectives of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) and its upcoming plans to put forward concrete proposals of implementing the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

A few delegations noted their concerns and expectations for the upcoming review cycle. Mr. Yerzhan Kazykhanov of Kazakhstan argued that concrete action needs to be taken on the development of “clear mechanisms for enforcement action against States that act outside the NPT or intend to withdraw from the Treaty.” The Foreign Minister of Iran discussed the credibility of the NPT and highlighted the “current exercise of double standards and discrimination”. Furthermore, he stated that the “three pillars of the NPT should not be narrowed down to just the non-proliferation. The two other pillars are equally important.” He stated that nuclear energy is not linked with nuclear weapons and emphasized that all states parties have the right of peaceful nuclear activities. 

Today’s challenges
Mr. Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran spoke on the interlinkages of today’s global challenges such as “nuclear weapons, climate change, outbreak of infectious diseases, economic crises and poverty,” and emphasized that no state can protect itself from all of these alone. He therefore argued that states cannot exclusively rely on the classical definition of national security, but must “join hands as to achieve Sustainable Security”. Mr. Nasser Judeh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, also pointed to the fact that the multi-faced global crises cannot be effectively addressed without genuine partnership and that “[t]he threats are global and so are the solutions.” He argued that success in the area of disarmament would also contribute to overcoming many other challenges, especially the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Middle East
Mr. Ali Akbar Salehi stated that his government does “not see any glory, pride or power in nuclear weapons, quite the opposite based on the religious decree issued by our supreme leader, the production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.” Furthermore, he expressed his support of the establishment of an NWFZ in the Middle East, and highlighted that the only obstacle standing in the way of such a zone is the “possession of nuclear weapons by the only non-party to the NPT in the region.” Furthermore, he stated, “It is a matter of more concern that in its defiance of the demands of the international community, it enjoys the full support of some nuclear weapons states.” Jordan foreign minister also addressed the creation of a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction and said that such a zone could “also contribute to the only state in the region, Israel, which has not acceded to the NPT to do so. It will also compel all states of the region that have not done so to accede to and ratify the biological and chemical weapons conventions.”

Laura Kennedy, the US ambassador to the CD, commented on the statement made by the Iranian foreign minister by arguing that it “stands in stark contrast to Iran’s failure to comply with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program.” She said that Iran is expanding its capacity to enrich uranium to nearly twenty percent, that it continues to move forward with proscribed enrichment and heavy-water related activities in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions, and the continued denial of the “transparency and cooperation necessary to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program” by the IAEA.

The Korean peninsula
Mr. Hyun Cho, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs for the Republic of Korea, argued that “the North Korean nuclear issue has long presented a serious challenge to the nuclear disarmament and the international non-proliferation regime.” Mr. Cho stated that the Republic of Korea remains committed to realizing the denuclearization of the DPRK in a peaceful manner. He also drew attention to recent bilateral discussions with the DPRK, such as the inter-Korean dialogue last July and the US-DPRK dialogue that took place last week in Beijing and expressed hope for an appropriate environment for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Ambassador So Se Pyong of the DPRK countered by stating that “the nuclear issue accompanied with the periodically explosive situation and the continuation of tension on the Korean peninsula are originated from the hostile relations between the DPRK and the US which gives rise to mistrust and confrontation.” He argued that “arms build-up and nuclear war exercises are ceaselessly conducting on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity against the DPRK” and that if the ROK is “truly interested in a dialogue […] it should immediately stop the fellow countrymen-targeted war clamour.” He also reiterated DPRK’s position on its withdrawal from the NPT and its self-defense measures undertaken to secure itself from increased nuclear threats from the United States.

The US ambassador stated that the remarks of the Ambassador of the DPRK were “incorrect and unacceptable”. She expressed disappointment “that such comments were made just a week after senior US envoys engaged with DPRK representatives in Beijing.” She concluded by hoping that the DPRK would show increased  “willingness and sincerity toward denuclearization through concrete actions, thereby creating an appropriate environment for the resumption of talks.”

Notes from the gallery                                
During the high-level segment, the real world entered the Council Chamber for brief moment, bringing pressing issues such as the Middle East and the Korean peninsula to the discussions instead of endless deliberations on the state of the disarmament machinery. Since the release of the IAEA Director-General’s report on Iran in November 2011, calls for military solutions have increased. WILPF believes that there is no military solution to this issue; war can never be a non-proliferation strategy. WILPF has recently produced a toolkit on this issue, where we encourage people to ask their governments to promote negotiations as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and to support nuclear disarmament negotiations, rather than discriminatory non-proliferation policies. 

Instead of threatening countries with military action and applying double standards, the international community must promote meaningful negotiations on the basis of reciprocity, if necessary through a credible third-party mediator, such as a neutral country or the United Nations.

In addition, the international community must seriously address the weaknesses of the NPT regime, such as that the Treaty guarantees the right of each state to develop peaceful civilian nuclear energy progammes. By continuing to rely on nuclear power as a future energy source, an inherent potential capacity and infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons constitutes a serious challenge to a nuclear weapon free world.

Next plenary meeting
The next plenary meeting will be held on Wednesday, 29 February at 3 pm.