For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/ SG/2549
Release Date:  25 April 2000
 Secretary-General Urges Member States to Reaffirm Commitment to Reduce
Dangers of Existing Nuclear Weapons, Further Proliferation

 NEW YORK, 24 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:

 I wish to welcome you to this important meeting.  At a time of extraordinary change and challenge in the relations between and within States, we meet to seek progress on a question of vital importance to our common future:  how to fulfil the promise of non-proliferation and disarmament embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  

 In an era of new threats to peace and security, we need to focus more than ever on halting proliferation and reducing those weapons of mass destruction that still threaten the very existence of human life on our planet.  

In the first year of the new millennium, the NPT is needed more than ever.  However, it stands today as a paradox.  The fact that 187 States are parties to this Treaty testifies to its global appeal.  And yet, no one can be satisfied with the degree of implementation so far.  

Your challenge today and into the future will be to embark on a process that will ensure the full implementation of all the provisions of the Treaty by all of the States parties.

While much remains to be done, I believe there has been genuine progress over the last five years -– progress that should be a source of confidence and inspiration for your efforts.  

The number of nuclear weapons has continued to drop since the end of the cold war.  Most nuclear-weapon States have declared that they are not producing fissile material for weapons.  

Former nuclear rivals are now cooperating in reducing threats posed by their weapons.  Nuclear safeguards have been enlarged.  Memberships in nuclear-weapon-free zones have grown.  A Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was negotiated, and though the treaty is not yet in force, a de facto moratorium on testing is continuing.  And only this month, the Russian Parliament ratified the Strategic Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaty II (START II) and the CTBT.  

I welcome these decisions, and hope that that they will enhance the prospects for these treaties entering into force.

This is an unmistakable record of achievement and hard-won progress.  However, this is no time for complacency when it comes to the threat of nuclear war.  Nuclear conflict remains a very real, and very terrifying possibility at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  This is the stark reality confronting you today –- a reality that imposes an obligation on all of us to use every instrument at our disposal to pursue the treaty’s non-proliferation and disarmament aims with equal and unwavering determination. 

We need look no further than to the discovery of clandestine nuclear-weapons development programmes to realize the magnitude of this challenge. 

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, remains a major threat to peace, and a major challenge to every Member State.  The fact is that compliance with the NPT's non-proliferation obligations remains incomplete and has not always been satisfactory.  Today, I call upon all parties to redouble their efforts to combat this common threat, and to sign and bring into force the IAEA’s Protocol designed to enhance assurances about compliance.  The Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in 1998 were a serious setback against the global norms against nuclear testing and nuclear proliferation, and should make clear to all the need to fight proliferation.

We also face major challenges in fulfilling the disarmament aims of the NPT.  Some 35,000 nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of the nuclear Powers, with thousands still deployed on hair-trigger alert. There have been no nuclear disarmament negotiations for many years concerning strategic or tactical nuclear weapons.  The Conference on Disarmament remains the single multilateral negotiating body for disarmament -– yet its efforts to make progress on nuclear disarmament and other issues have been frustrated by a lack of consensus.  

Quite frankly, much of the established multilateral disarmament machinery has started to rust -– a problem due not to the machinery itself but to the apparent lack of political will to use it. 

Indeed, over the last few years, we have witnessed the reaffirmation of the nuclear weapons doctrines of all the nuclear-weapon States.  Some States retain first-use nuclear doctrines and some do not exclude the use of such weapons even against non-nuclear-weapon States.  

And though some nuclear-weapon States have provided new information about their arsenals, the lack of transparency remains a problem with respect to the numbers of weapons, as well as to the amounts of nuclear material.

Let me turn to the most recent challenge facing us in the area of nuclear disarmament:  the growing pressure to deploy national missile defences.  This pressure is jeopardizing the ABM Treaty -– which has been called the “cornerstone of strategic stability” -– and could well lead to a new arms race, setbacks for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and create new incentives for missile proliferation.  

It is my hope that all States will take great care to weigh these dangers and challenges before embarking on a process which may well reduce, rather than enhance, global security.

I have pointed to these challenges not out of despair, but out of a belief that you have it within your power to meet them successfully and build on the progress achieved over the last five years.  I believe the most effective way of achieving this would be to embark on a results-based treaty review process focusing on specific benchmarks.  

One benchmark would be the entry into force of the CTBT; another, deep, irreversible reductions in stocks of nuclear weapons, wherever they may be; a third would be the consolidation of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and negotiation of new ones; a fourth would be binding security guarantees to non-nuclear-weapon States parties; and yet, another would be improvements in the transparency of nuclear-weapon arsenals and nuclear materials.

Finally, I propose that Member States reaffirm at the highest political level their commitment to reducing the dangers that arise both from existing nuclear weapons and from further proliferation.  

If we can move forward on these fronts, the treaty will have a bright future indeed.  If not, I regret to say that the new millennium will have started on an ominous note.

I wish you all success in your deliberations.

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