11 April 2006

Hearing Call for Progress in Addressing Emerging Threats, Disarmament Commission Opens Current Session

Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, Regulation of Conventional Arms Identified as Priorities for Action

NEW YORK, 10 April (UN Headquarters) -- The recent record of the Disarmament Commission was far from satisfactory, but now, more than ever, it should use the opportunity of an agreed agenda to strengthen the disarmament machinery to effectively deal with new emerging threats and challenges, the new Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuaki Tanaka, said today upon the opening of the Commission's substantive session.

"In 2006, we have to do better", he urged.  With recent developments having tested the multilateral disarmament machinery, he said that the Commission, which today began a three-year cycle of talks on recommendations for achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and on practical confidence-building measures in the conventional weapons field, should draw lessons from the setbacks of the past year.  It should also build a common understanding of the most immediate nuclear threats and, with it, produce a systematic analysis of how changing threat perceptions influenced the way the disarmament and non-proliferation challenges were addressed.

The urgency of international concern about the imminent proliferation risk was evident, but it should not be forgotten that, globally, nuclear weapons still numbered in the thousands, he said.  At the same time, the preponderant focus on the weapons of mass destruction threat should not lessen the attention to the regulation and reduction of conventional arms and armed forces.  The proliferation of those weapons still seriously threatened peace and security in too many regions of the world, and symptomatic treatment and ad hoc solutions did not yield durable results.

Commission Chairman Oh Joon (Republic of Korea), said that the agreement reached last December on the agenda for the current session had been a small but valuable step forward.  It was the Commission's responsibility to ensure that delegations built on the momentum to resume work in earnest on those important issues for the future of the international community.  Everyone knew that it would not be easy to balance interests and achieve results that would satisfy all.  But, members should not be daunted by the difficulties ahead, nor could the Commission afford to sit idle and wait for someone else to solve the problems.

In devising recommendations on the nuclear issue, Sierra Leone's representative and former Commission Chairman, Sylvester E. Rowe, said it was necessary to take into account the reality that disarmament and non-proliferation were inextricably linked; that they were two sides of the came coin.  While delegations had to reiterate their respective positions, policies and doctrines, it was time to focus attention on the way forward and, where appropriate, find new strategies to arms control and disarmament.  New questions had also surfaced, such as what should be done when binding obligations and agreed steps towards nuclear disarmament were either not implemented or treated with political callousness.

The United States' delegate said the Commission, after three years of inaction, was back to work on the basis of a balanced agenda, owing in no small part to the tireless efforts of Ambassador Rowe.  The issues to be addressed were important, and the United States was committed to working with all delegations as they sought to formulate consensus recommendations.  There were no guarantees of success, but the fact that the process had begun was a vital first step and evidence that not every part of the United Nations disarmament machinery was ossified.  Nothing pleased the United States more than to see strong support that the Commission was important and should be made as relevant to the global security needs of Member States and as effective in its operations as humanly possible.

In the exchange of views expected to run through tomorrow afternoon before the Commission deliberates on the agenda items in working groups, agreement on the agenda was seen as a welcome development, though not an end in itself.  Indonesia's speaker, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, today expressed concern at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament and pressed the nuclear-weapon States to immediately begin negotiations to implement their unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  Non-proliferation efforts should be parallel to advances in nuclear disarmament.

The European Union, Austria's speaker said, proffered a multilateral approach to non-proliferation as the best means of countering the nuclear threat to global security.  The Union paid particular attention to the need to reinforce compliance with the multilateral treaty regime by enhancing the "detectability" of violations and strengthening the enforcement of obligations.  He highlighted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s unique role in verifying States' compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation commitments and helping them tighten up the security of nuclear materials and installations.

In other business, the following delegations were elected as Vice-chairpersons, by acclamation:  Chile, Uruguay and Iran.  Coly Seck of Senegal was elected to serve as Rapporteur.  Both the Commission Chairman and the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs urged the speedy election of the Chairperson of Working Group I on the nuclear weapons-related item, so that deliberations could begin on Wednesday, 12 April, following the general debate.

Additional statements in the general debate were made by the representatives of Cuba, Guyana (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil, China, Belarus, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Viet Nam, and Japan.

The Disarmament Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its general exchange of views.


The United Nations Disarmament Commission today opened its 2006 substantive session, which is scheduled to conclude on Friday, 28 April.


The Commission Chairman, OH JOON (Republic of Korea), said that, as the session got under way this morning, he wished to remind delegations that the discussions here were of particular importance because they followed a series of setbacks in multilateral disarmament negotiations in recent years.  The Conference on Disarmament had long been stalled, and last year the World Summit had been unable to address disarmament in its outcome document.  In addition, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference last year had failed to produce a final document.  The Commission, itself, had not met for substantive work since 2003.

Under those circumstances, he said, it was clear that the agreement reached last December on the agenda for the current substantive session had been a "small but valuable" step forward.  It was the Commission's responsibility to ensure that that window of opportunity was not neglected and that delegations built on the momentum to resume their work in earnest on those important issues for the future of the international community.  Everyone knew that it would not be easy to balance interests and achieve results that would satisfy all.  But members should not be daunted by the difficulties ahead, nor could the Commission afford to sit idle and wait for someone else to solve the problems.  "It is us who must find the way forward", he urged.

As he had said at the organizational meeting on 28 March, the Commission should not be overly ambitious in setting its goals for the session.  It should be sensible and realistic.  As it began its deliberations today, he once again urged everyone to approach the discussions with a sense of responsibility, urgency, seriousness, open-mindedness and flexibility.

NOBUAKI TANAKA, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, said that the Commission met at a particularly difficult and challenging moment for disarmament and non-proliferation, and at a time of heightened international concern about weapons of mass destruction -- particularly nuclear weapons.  In addition to that, there was now the possibility of acquisition by terrorists of mass destruction weapons, as well as the all too numerous every day tragedies of deaths from small arms.  Indeed, the scale of the difficulties faced at the present time should not be underestimated.  Last year's World Summit demonstrated all too eloquently that States could not agree on the way forward on disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

He said that the words of the Secretary-General encapsulated both the nature of the present difficulties and also set them in their wider context.  In his address to the World Summit in September 2005, he had said:  "Twice this year -- at the NPT Review Conference, and now at this Summit -- we have allowed posturing to get in the way of results.  This is inexcusable.  Weapons of mass destruction pose a grave danger to us all, particularly in a world threatened by terrorists with global ambitions and no inhibitions.  We must pick up the pieces in order to renew negotiations on this vital issue... "

Recent developments had further tested the effectiveness of multilateral disarmament machinery, he said.  The Disarmament Commission played a unique role, however, the Commission's recent record had itself been far from satisfactory.  In 2003, the session concluded without reaching consensus on concrete proposals to advance nuclear disarmament or confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.  No consensus had been achieved on agenda items for its 2004 and 2005 sessions, and no substantive meetings had been held in 2005.  In 2006, "we have to do better", he stressed.  That fell in large measure to the current session to provide fresh momentum.  That opportunity should not be squandered. 

It was imperative to draw lessons from the setbacks of the past year, he said.  The lack of consensus on any text of disarmament and non-proliferation at the September Summit showed how much work remained to be done in that area.  As the General Assembly President had said, "new and creative thinking" should be encouraged in all appropriate forums.  By agreeing last December on the agenda item on nuclear disarmament, as well as on conventional disarmament, the Commission now had a substantive agenda for its new three-year cycle of consideration.  It was its responsibility, more than ever, to use that opportunity to strengthen the disarmament machinery to effectively deal with new emerging threats and challenges.  Over the next three weeks, delegations should be able to provide guidance on the fundamental question of complete nuclear disarmament.

He said that States should build common and shared understanding of the most immediate nuclear threats and with it a systematic analysis of how changing threat perceptions influenced the way the challenges of disarmament and non-proliferation were addressed.  With the NPT a landmark international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, promoting cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and furthering the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament, delegations might wish to consider what practical steps might be taken to ensure the Treaty's continuing relevance and strength.  The urgency of international concern about the imminent risk of proliferation was very evident, but it should not be forgotten that, globally, nuclear weapons continued to number in the thousands.

While the NPT review process was the important arena for assessing progress in implementing the global nuclear non-proliferation norms, the Commission had the advantage of being a fully universal deliberative body, he said.  That enabled it to complement the goals of the NPT review process.  Working in tandem, those two arenas offered great potential to move the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda forward.  He, therefore, called on all States to reflect on and implement concerted actions based on pragmatism and realism.

He said that the preponderant focus on the weapons of mass destruction threat should not lessen the attention to matters relating to the regulation and reduction of conventional arms and armed forces.  Despite that fact that much progress had been made by the international community in certain areas, such as addressing the problem of the illicit small arms trade, the proliferation of those weapons continued to pose a serious threat to peace and security in too many regions of the world.  Symptomatic treatment and ad hoc solutions could not yield durable results.  There was a need for increased openness and transparency concerning legitimate arms transfers for defensive purposes.  Such openness would promote confidence.  The challenge before the Commission was to consider and adopt measures that would contribute to reducing the threat to international peace and security posed by conventional arms, while protecting the inherent right of all Member States to self-defence.  Agreement among States on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons might alleviate pressures to acquire such weaponry and encourage responsible conduct in the transfer of major weapons systems, while reducing the risk of armed conflict.

"We meet at a time when there is a continuing -- and deeply depressing -- stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament, the single multilateral disarmament negotiating body, due to an inability to reach agreement on a substantive programme of work", he said.  It was now all the more important, therefore, to revitalize and reaffirm the deliberative function of the Disarmament Commission.

As part of the multilateral disarmament machinery, the Commission should continue to play its own unique role.  For those reasons, he strongly hoped that it would be able to commence meaningful deliberations on the substantive issues this year, so as to demonstrate its continuing potential as an important and vital forum for the discussion of disarmament issues.  He, therefore, called on delegations not to add organizational obstacles to the complexity of the issues before the Commission.  He strongly encouraged all delegations concerned to intensify their consultations on the nomination for the Chairperson of Working Group I as soon as possible so that the Commission could begin work on all substantive agenda items.  In closing, he wished members an effective, successful and productive session.

Exchange of Views

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was undeniable that the Commission had faced difficult times in the last few years, and its inability to reach consensus in the previous cycle had been regrettable.  Today, the Commission was meeting against a backdrop of setbacks in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, among other areas, as shown by the failure of the last NPT Review Conference to agree on substantive recommendations and the inability of the 2005 World Summit to make any reference to disarmament and non-proliferation in its outcome document.  Yet, when times and situations were complex, the Commission's deliberative functions became all the more important, he said.

In that regard, the Movement reaffirmed the Commission's importance as the specialized and deliberative body within the United Nations Disarmament machinery hat allowed in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues leading to the submission of concrete recommendations to the General Assembly.  And while the Non-Aligned Movement remained committed to the Commission's goals and purposes, since the 2003 session, the delegation was very concerned that the body had been unable to play its role in meeting the challenges of the current global environment.  Still, the Commission had greatly contributed to the emergence of global disarmament norms.  But as a deliberative body, it often encountered difficulties among its members, as reflected by the fact that it had taken almost three years to agree on the two substantive agenda on items for this year's meeting.

He went on to say that the Non-Aligned Movement emphasized the progress in nuclear disarmament, and non-proliferation in all its aspects was essential to strengthening international peace and security, and appealed to all States to pursue and intensify multilateral negotiations, as agreed by consensus in the SSOD-I, with a view to achieving nuclear disarmament under effective international control and strengthening the international disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation regimes.  On the Commission's first agenda item, he said the Movement reiterated its principled position on nuclear disarmament and the related issue of non-proliferation that had been fully reflected in the Movement's summits and meetings.

The Non-Aligned Movement also believed that the vision and principles contained in the Final Document of the SSSOD-I remained relevant.  He said that the Movement also maintained the need for all the Commission's members to fulfil their obligations in relation to arms control and disarmament and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects.  The Movement also reaffirmed that its efforts towards the objective of nuclear disarmament, global and regional approaches and confidence-building measures complemented one another and should, wherever possible, be pursued simultaneously to promote regional and international peace and security.  The Movement would nevertheless express its concern at the slow pace of progress towards nuclear disarmament, which was its primary disarmament objective and which remained its high priority.

Here, he underscored the need of the nuclear-weapons States to implement the unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons and emphasized, in that regard, the urgent need to begin negotiations without delay.  The Non-Aligned Movement also believed that the international community's efforts aiming at non-proliferation should be parallel to the simultaneous efforts aiming at nuclear disarmament.  It further believed that the most effective way of preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction was through the total elimination of such weapons.  That threat should be addressed within the framework of the United Nations and its Charter, as well as international law, he added.

He went on to reiterate his delegation's longs-standing position for the total elimination of all nuclear testing and to express concern over the lack of progress by the nuclear-weapons States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament and negative developments with regard to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  The total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only "absolute guarantee" against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, he said, reiterating the Movement's conviction that, pending the total elimination of such weapons, efforts to conclude a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to the nuclear-weapons States should be pursued as a matter of priority.

The Non-Aligned Movement called again for an international conference, as soon as possible, with the objective of arrive at an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, with a specified framework to eliminate such weapons, prohibit their development, production, testing acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.  He went on to say that the Movement continued to consider the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones as a positive step and welcomed efforts to establish such zones in all the regions of the world on the basis of agreement reached freely by all States in regions concerned.  The Movement would reiterate its support for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, which should include nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  He recalled that the 2000 NPT Review had reaffirmed the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT and the placement of all its facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  He went on to say that the Non-Aligned Movement States partiers to the NPT remained fully convinced that that Treaty was a key instrument in efforts to halt vertical and horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Turning to the Commission's second agenda item on confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he said the Non-Aligned Movement supported such measures as a way to strengthen international peace and security.  At the same time, it believed that such measures were not a substitute nor pre-condition for disarmament measures.  Yet, their potential for creating an atmosphere conducive to arms control and disarmament had been demonstrated in various parts of the world.  The Movement also firmly supported unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures adopted by some Governments aimed at reducing military spending.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), on behalf of the European Union, said it was timely for the Commission to explore possible recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.  While diplomatic events failed to reach consensus in the outcome text of the World Summit, there was broad agreement that the security of the international community was being challenged, both globally and regionally, by the proliferation of mass destruction weapons and their delivery means and the risk that non-State actors could gain access to those weapons.  New threats had emerged; international terrorism had shown its tragic potential; and nuclear clandestine activities had come to the surface.  The Union recognized the importance, from the point of view of nuclear disarmament, of the programmes for the destruction and elimination of nuclear weapons and fissile material, as defined under the G-8 World Partnership.

He said that the inability to agree on a substantive final document at last year's NPT Review Conference was a "missed opportunity".  His conviction, as expressed in the European Union's Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was that a multilateral approach to non-proliferation was the best means of countering that threat to global security.  The NPT must not be undermined by States parties seeking to acquire or contribute directly or indirectly to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The Union would continue to work towards universal accession to the Treaty, calling on all States not party to it to pledge commitments to non-proliferation and disarmament and calling on those States parties to the NPT to become parties as non-nuclear-weapon States.  The Union also continued to support the decisions and the resolution adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

The CTBT formed another essential part of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, he said.  With a view to its earliest entry into force, the Union reiterated its call on States, particularly those listed in the Treaty's Annex II, to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay and without conditions, and pending the Treaty's operation, to abide by a moratorium on nuclear testing.  The ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament was another matter of concern.  Current threats to peace and security required that that standstill be overcome.  The Union was strongly committed to reaching a consensus on a work programme in the Conference and welcomed the new proposals submitted in the past few years.  It again appealed for the immediate commencement and early conclusion of a fissile material cut-off treaty.

He said that the Union paid particular attention to the need to reinforce compliance with the multilateral treaty regime by enhancing the detectability of violations and strengthening the enforcement of obligations established by the Treaty regime.  Towards that goal, particular emphasis was placed on making best use of existing verification mechanisms and, where necessary, establishing additional verification instruments, as well as strengthening the role of the Security Council.  He highlighted the IAEA's unique role in verifying States' compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation commitments and helping them, on request, tighten up the security of nuclear materials and installations.  The Agency's international safeguards system was essential to the verification of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and to the success of that multilateral system.

Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, together with Additional Protocols, had a deterrent effect on nuclear proliferation and constituted the current IAEA verification standards, he said.  They also were the essential means for States parties to demonstrate their willingness to fulfil their obligations under Article III of the NPT.  The Union, therefore, reiterated its call for universal access to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols.  The European Union member States were also working towards making the Additional Protocol a condition of supply for nuclear exports.  The Union was also committed to strong national and internationally coordinated export controls to complement the obligations under the NPT.  It also supported the strengthening of the Nuclear Supplier Group Guidelines, and urged the Group and the Zangger Committee to share their experience on export controls to meet the new proliferation challenges.

He said that Security Council resolution 1540 also played a crucial role in developing effective mechanisms of prevention and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to or from States and non-State actors worldwide.  The Union also supported the Proliferation Security Initiative, or Krakow Initiative, as well as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  More broadly, the Union stressed the need for general disarmament.  As work continued in the field of conventional arms, he said that confidence-building measures were valuable tools in conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilization and rehabilitation.  Such measures, however, should not be regarded as a substitute or precondition for disarmament nor divert attention from it.  In both situations, the essential task of arms control was the creation of a positive process, where measures implemented could create confidence and security through transparency and predictability.  The confidence-building process would be facilitated by good governance and the rule of law, particularly by arms transparency, and openness and cooperation in military matters.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) said that after two years when the Commission could not play its important role, his delegation was satisfied that the body could begin its work today with two "highly relevant" substantive issues.  Now, the Commission had the responsibility to produce concrete results.  "While we are making statements in this room, out there in the real world, most of the world's population is suffering from the dizzying rise of military expenditures", he said, adding that such expenditures now exceeded $1 trillion and were ever growing.  One country, the United States, spent the same on arms as the rest of the world.  The United States also produced 60 per cent of all the world's arms.

"How much could be done if only a minimum fraction of the current military expenditures was devoted to solving underdevelopment and related problems, and to reduce the growing gap between the richest and the poorest countries"? he asked.  With the resources currently being devoted to arms, 852 million people suffering form hunger in the world could be fed for one year; or the 38 million HIV/AIDS patients could be supplied with anti-retroviral drugs for over 40 years.  Indeed, with just 10 per cent of current military expenditures, the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved.  "These are the realities that we should tackle with concrete actions.  We cannot accept passively that more resources be spent on killing than on saving lives." 

He reiterated Cuba's proposal to devote at least half the current military expenditures to meet the needs of economic and social development through a United Nations-managed fund.  Turning nuclear issues, he said that in spite of the proclaimed end of the cold war, serious estimates had shown that there were today nearly 33,000 nuclear weapons in the world, with over 13,000 of them ready for immediate employment.  "The mere existence of nuclear weapons and the doctrines that prescribed their possession and use represent a threat to international peace and security", he said, reaffirming the traditional position of the Non-Aligned Movement that nuclear disarmament was and must continue to be the highest priority in the disarmament sphere.

Cuba opposed the intentions of some who were trying to ignore or minimize the relevance of nuclear disarmament and to impose a "selective non-proliferation approach", which did not emphasize the existence of nuclear weapons, but instead focused on the "good" or "bad" behaviour of those that had them.  The only real solution was to fully eliminate those weapons, he said, reiterating that the nuclear-weapons States had a legal obligation not to pursue in good faith, but also to bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international verification.

On confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he considered that the most effective course of action would be to focus on the questions that were pending from 2003 agreements, at which time the Commission had been very close to adopting a document on that item.  Finally, he said that attributing the lack of concrete results on disarmament matters to inefficiency of the Commission's working methods was not only simplistic, but it distorted reality and was an attempt to divert attention away from the true obstacles it faced, which were, chiefly, the lack of true political will by some States which had rejected multilateralism in the disarmament sphere and turned to unilateral actions and selective non-proliferation.  Cuba would agree to discuss the Commission's working methods only so long as such discussions were not carried out at the expense of discussion on substantive agenda items.

SAMUEL R. INSANALLY (Guyana), on behalf of the Rio Group, said it was incumbent upon the Commission to approach its work with seriousness of purpose and a sense of realism.  The Rio Group supported the Chairman's emphasis on the need for a constructive, forward-looking and realistic approach.  The agenda before it covered important substantive questions on the global disarmament agenda, which warranted the most careful consideration.  The common aspiration for peace and security could only be fully realized if the world was freed of weapons of mass destruction.  The Group urged the collective engagement of the entire international community, therefore, in the prevention of nuclear proliferation and the promotion of nuclear disarmament.  Both processes were mutually reinforcing and complementary, and should be pursued with equal vigour.  The NPT should become universal, and he called for full compliance with all of its obligations.

He said the Group also urged countries with nuclear capabilities, which were not party to the NPT, to become party to the Treaty and to desist from the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.  He further called on all countries to place their nuclear installations under the safeguards of the IAEA.  The Agency itself, which had the central role in nuclear cooperation and verification of the NPT, should be strengthened, with a view to enhancing its verification capacity and to creating and effective system to ensure the physical protection of nuclear material.  Under the rubric of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, the Group underlined its conviction that internationally negotiated multilateral treaties in the disarmament field had made, and continued to make, a fundamental contribution to international peace and security.  Agreements already reached should be safeguarded and should neither be renegotiated nor reinterpreted.

In that regard, he said he was concerned by emerging academic approaches, which assumed that the world now faced a new, unique strategic scenario, and thus sought to revise, or undermine, the foundations of the disarmament and non-proliferation structure built by the world community over the past three decades.  Universal ratification of and adherence to existing legal instruments relating to nuclear proliferation were essential steps towards nuclear disarmament.  In that context, the prompt entry into force of the CTBT was critical to the fight against nuclear proliferation.

On conventional weapons, the Group believed that confidence-building measures strengthened international peace and security; improved relations among States; promoted the social, economic and cultural well-being of their peoples; and contributed to preventing war, he said.  Such measures, therefore, should be facilitated at all levels.  One aspect requiring continuing attention was the promotion of greater transparency in the global arms trade.  Control mechanisms at all stages of the process should be enhanced, and existing deficiencies in that area should be urgently remedied.  Strengthening the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms was essential to ensuring greater transparency with respect to conventional arms at the global level.  At the regional level, he highlighted the importance of the 1999 Inter-American Convention on Transparency in the Acquisition of Conventional Arms.  The Commission had already made significant progress on the issue of "CBMs" in previous deliberations.  The current session should build on that work with a view to consolidating the progress already made.

RONALDO SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the Commission met today under challenging circumstances that could result in longstanding adverse effects on the work of the United Nations.  Although it might still be too early to evaluate the impact of the international security environment taking shape, one feature stood out:  there seemed to be a growing perception that the multilateral system devoted to disarmament and non-proliferation now faced a credibility crisis.  He recalled that "owing to the lack of political will from different quarters" the last NPT Review had ended in frustration, and the 2005 World Summit had lost a valuable opportunity to reach agreement and give new guidance on disarmament and non-proliferation.  Further, this year, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament would complete 10 years of "practical impasse", unable to agree on a programme of work.

But, discouraging as all that might seem, those developments must not lead the international community away from the pursuit of disarmament and non-proliferation within the framework of the United Nations.  He said the time had come to confront the current stalemate, overcome the paralysis and embark on a comprehensive exercise for identifying the relevant elements of the security context and to map the road ahead.  "The UNDC is the proper forum for this essential exercise", he said.  And while the Commission was a deliberative body that did not negotiate legally binding agreements, it did not operate under the constraints that characterized such negotiations.  Indeed, the panel had a unique role to play in discussing the future of disarmament options and it was in no one's interest to see it fail in its mandate.

Brazil had been charged with chairing the working group on confidence-building measures in conventional arms, he said, adding that such measures were a powerful instrument in generating trust, and their implementation had a positive impact in consolidating a more cooperative environment, which was essential to the full development of national and regional potential.  But, at the same time, it was unfortunate, that the nuclear disarmament sphere was still marked by "distressing" signs.  The growing international emphasis on strengthening non-proliferation mechanisms must be accompanied by similar efforts in terms of disarmament and enhancement of international cooperation for the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

To this end, it was disquieting to see that new rationales were being sought for both the maintenance and development of new, more sophisticated nuclear weapons and for the reinterpretation of the rights to develop, research and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as recognized under the NPT.  With that in mind, he said it was all the more relevant that Working Group I seriously debate its subjects towards the formulation of a substantive document.  Finally, he said that the enormous challenges facing the Commission called for a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment to uphold the integrity of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime.  This session provided an opportunity to do just that, so "let's take it", he said, through a frank and substantive exchange of views in the two working groups, "taking into account the dynamics of the world outside this building, as well as the realities within", and the need for concrete new ideas, initiatives and proposals to further the cause of disarmament, he said.

CHENG JINGYE (China) said that, since the Commission's last three-year cycle, the international security situation had undergone significant change, with both good news and bad.  Developments indicated that resolving traditional security issues or tackling non-traditional threats called for exhaustive, concerted international cooperation and demanded the full and effective role of the United Nations and other multilateral mechanisms.  Nuclear disarmament was an important agenda item for the current session.  In recent years, there had been little progress in that area, and some tendencies had emerged, which had aroused concern and worries.

In order to promote nuclear disarmament, he wished to submit a number of aspects to be strengthened by the international community.  First, it should maintain global strategic balance and stability.  Global strategic stability was the basis of nuclear disarmament.  Relevant countries should stop research, development and deployment of missile defence systems that were disruptive to global strategic stability, and refrain from introducing weapons into outer space.  Second, the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals should further reduce their arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner so as to create conditions for comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament.  Third, nuclear-weapon States might consider taking appropriate immediate steps in nuclear disarmament on the basis of the principles of maintaining global strategic balance and stability and undiminished security for all.  Fourth, the relevant countries should sign and ratify the test-ban Treaty as soon as possible so that it could enter force at an early date.  Until then, it was imperative that they observe the bans on nuclear testing.

Fifth, he said, the Conference on Disarmament should reach agreement on a work programme as soon as possible and conduct substantive work on nuclear disarmament, security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States, a fissile material cut-off treaty and the prevention of an outer space arms race.  Sixth, the nuclear-weapon States should conclude an international legal instrument on a complete ban and thorough destruction of their nuclear weapons as early as possible.  Pending achievement of that objective, those States should, as a first step, renounce the first use of nuclear weapons and undertake not to use or threaten to use those arms against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones.

He said his country had consistently advocated a complete ban and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons and exercised utmost restraint in the size and development of nuclear weapons.  It had never been part of any nuclear arms race, and it had always pursued a policy undertaking not to be the first to use those weapons at any time and in any circumstance, and unconditionally undertaking not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones.  China acted in strict observance of its commitment of a ban on nuclear testing pending the entry into force of the CTBT, and it had signed all relevant protocols to nuclear-weapon-free zone Treaties open to signature.  It had also actively supported efforts of relevant regions to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones.

China firmly opposed nuclear proliferation in any form, he stressed.  Nuclear weapon proliferation had complex root causes and should be addressed comprehensively.  In that connection, he proposed that the following measures be taken:  countries should pursue a new security concept based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation; the international non-proliferation regime should be earnestly safeguarded and strengthened; countries should commit to nuclear non-proliferation through political and diplomatic means within the framework of international law, and proper solutions should be sought through cooperation and dialogue rather than confrontation or coercion; the relationship between non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be addressed in a balanced and harmonious manner; and multilateralism should be observed, with the United Nations and other international organizations playing their full role.

Laying out the principles for confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he said that the precondition of any "CBMs" should be undiminished security for all countries.  Different measures should be adopted in line with different regions and situations.  Confidence-building measures should be developed in a step-by-step manner.  His country pursued a national defence policy that was defensive in nature.  Over the past two decades, China had downsized its military personnel by nearly 2 million.  Such a wide scope unilateral disarmament had rarely been seen in the history of international arms control and disarmament.  China also pursued a good-neighbourly and friendly policy aimed at building friendship and partnership with neighbouring countries.  It was exploring new ways of establishing "CBMs" with relevant countries in such frameworks as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia.

SERGEI RACHKOV (Belarus) said the current stalemate in various disarmament forums was not a result of "ineffectiveness of methods of work" but rather was a result of the current mordant security environment that had lead to a lack of political will to move forward on disarmament matters.  He stressed that an honest look at existing problems in this regard should not prevent the Commission from searching for consensus solutions to the key issues in the disarmament agenda, and that further deliberations in a "free and transparent manner" were a necessary prerequisite for future success.

He went on to say that while Belarus was a strong supporter of the realistic approach, which assumed an "incremental pace" of nuclear disarmament it also believed that such an approach should not turn into a "shelter" for inertia or, conversely, for activities that were not in line with the principle of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  He stressed that, with a decision to renounce military nuclear capabilities 10 years ago, Belarus believed that its national security interest would be served only through the unconditional implementation by all State parties to their NPT obligations.  He said that ensuring non-proliferation was of the utmost importance and that nothing should undermine the role of the IAEA in ensuring the verification of States' compliance with their NPT commitments.

He stressed that further perfection and development of new types of nuclear weapons, as well as the emergence of doctrines rationalizing the use of such weapons, was not consistent with the principles of the NPT.  His delegation also attached special significance to the universality of the CTBT, but stressed that, while the voluntary decisions by some States to refrain from conducting nuclear tests were positive developments, that could not serve as an adequate alternative to a legally binding instrument.  He was convinced that it was necessary to provide legally binding assurances to non-nuclear States, and while Belarus supported efforts aimed at the elaboration of relevant international norms, it also welcomed unilateral declarations made by nuclear States regarding their policies on rejecting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States.

Belarus attached great importance to the development and elaboration of additional bilateral confidence-building measures, he said.  On related matters, he noted that Belarus fully shared the international community's humanitarian concerns about the spread of illegal small arms and weapons, a well as the issue of landmines.  Belarus had deposited its instrument of accession to the Ottawa Convention and was in the process of eliminating some 4 million anti-personnel mines.  He stressed that the most environmentally damaging munitions -- liquid explosives PFM-1 -- required cutting edge technologies to ensure safe and adequate disposal.

ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand) said that agreement on an agenda in the Disarmament Commission at the end of last year had been a welcome development, but everyone should be mindful that that did not constitute an end in itself.  Rather, that provided members with a valuable opportunity to make progress towards substantive outcomes, of which there had been "too few" in recent years in the disarmament arena.  Although the Commission's nature was deliberative, the discussions here should seek to reinforce and enhance the work of other disarmament forums in which similar objectives were being pursued.  In that context, delegations should position discussions in a way that contributed to the current processes under way in the Conference on Disarmament and wider multilateral arms-control treaty structures.

She said her delegation attached primary importance to the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  She was keen to see the debate move beyond "a clinical restating of countries' positions to active engagement" on possible ways forward.  In order to make maximum use of the time available during the current session, she suggested that the Commission build on the material produced during the recent focused thematic debate on nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament.  Several key themes had emerged as commonly held priorities for action:  the need for greater transparency; the role of nuclear weapons in military/security doctrines; the principle of irreversibility; and the need for immediate commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.  A useful outcome of the deliberations here would be further agreement on ways to achieve concrete progress on those key issues in the wider nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate.  She remained convinced that positive progress on nuclear disarmament would improve global security with respect to proliferation.

The work proposed on confidence-building measures in the conventional arms sphere could contribute to the two conventional weapon review cycles taking place this year -- the small arms and light weapons Review Conference in June and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Review Conference in November.  The Working Group II Chairman's consolidated paper on practical confidence-building measures had produced some useful findings, but agreement on further specific measures for action would be valuable.  Deliberations in this forum should incorporate consideration of work done in the intervening years, particularly in the context of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on such issues as transparency in armaments, national legislation on arms transfers, illicit trafficking, surplus ammunition, and marking and tracing.  She said she was also keen to explore ways in which the Commission's working methods might be improving, moving from a process-oriented approach to a result-oriented one.

ROMAN HUNGER (Switzerland), referring to the Commission's first agenda item, recalled that his delegation had always supported the idea that nuclear disarmament and the fight against nuclear proliferation go hand in hand.  Since the failure of the 2005 NPT Review, the major challenges facing that Treaty not only remained unresolved, but had become more complex, particularly regarding the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme -- over which there was still much uncertainty -- as well as the recent project between the United States and India in the field of civilian nuclear energy.

Switzerland believed that the NPT continued to be a fundamental tool for international stability, and consequently, considered it essential to preserve the achievements of earlier reviews, particularly those held in 1995 and 2000.  At the same time, he said Switzerland hoped that structured debate on the fissile material cut-off treaty, set to resume in May at the Conference on Disarmament, would also be characterized by "hope" and serve as an encouraging indicator for the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review, scheduled for 2007.

Turning next to the Commission's second agenda item on confidence-building measures, he stressed that, while the proposal to support the fourth revised version of the summary of the Chair's working document of the previous cycle of discussions was welcome, that document needed to be updated to facilitate the Commission's future work.

Some subjects to be addressed in the document remained topical, such as filling out the register on Conventional Weapons, while other subjects were on the verge of becoming a reality, such as the proposal to create a system of archives to provide an exhaustive list of confidence-building measures through the adoption of a relevant resolution in the First Committee.  At he same time, the document did not take into account a number of recent developments which ought to be fully integrated into the Commission's work, such as the "access to technologies" initiative and developments concerning the Hague Code of Conduct.

SYLVESTER EKUNDAYO ROWE (Sierra Leone) said he agreed with the Chairman's suggestion that the Commission not be overly ambitious, nor be daunted by the difficult task ahead.  He had also invited the Commission to look at the future, however, considering the series of disappointments in multilateralism in recent years and the continued and increasing threat posed by the accumulation and proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  "Who would blame us for seeking short-cuts, unrealistic as they may seem, to the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons?" he inquired.  Dangerous issues demanded not just ambitious decisions, but also tough ones.  While it was necessary to reiterate the respective positions, policies and doctrines on the various aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation, it was also time to focus attention on the way forward.  In other words, "we must, where appropriate, find new strategies, new approaches to arms control and disarmament", he urged.

He said that, in an effort to come up with concrete recommendations to the General Assembly, some poignant questions came to mind.  For instance, what should be done when binding obligations, commitments and agreed steps towards nuclear disarmament were either not implemented or treated with political callousness?  If indeed the world was getting more dangerous and the level of threat to human survival was increasing as a result of the development and accumulation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, what else could be done to eliminate that threat?  Complacency in arms control and disarmament was no longer an option.  That was why he continued to support efforts to find possible alternative approaches, such as the one embodied in the First Committee resolution entitled, "Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world:  accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments".

When his delegation spoke of compliance and implementation of binding obligations, commitments and agreed steps, it did so in the context of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation, he said.  It was pleased, therefore, that the title of the agenda item on nuclear weapons for the current session was "Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons".  In devising recommendations on that issue, it was necessary to take into account the reality that disarmament and non-proliferation were inextricably linked; that they were two sides of the came coin.  The Commission should come up with ideas on how to maintain the necessary balance of treatment of the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

He noted, for instance, that the problem of perceived disproportional treatment was emerging in the Conference on Disarmament in the context of the proposed ad hoc commitment on nuclear disarmament.  Apprehension had already been expressed that the committee, when established, would focus on reduction of the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear-weapon States, with little or no consideration of issues relating to nuclear non-proliferation.  To get over those road blocks, the Commission might wish to consider recommending to the General Assembly the adoption of a political declaration in which States would pledge, pending the conclusion of a legally binding instrument, not to use or threaten to use nuclear and other mass destruction weapons against any State.  He subscribed to the urgency of strengthening security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States.

In the final analysis, however, security assurances should apply, not only to non-nuclear-weapon States, but also to those that possessed and continued to develop such weapons and their new delivery systems, he said.  All States, including the so-called threshold States, had a right to be free from the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  Without prejudice to the proposal for convening a world disarmament conference or a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, the Commission could also produce a draft declaration and programme of action for another disarmament decade.  On improving the Commission's working methods, he was prepared to consider any proposals, but any major reform would have to be taken in the context of the review of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  The Commission should try to conclude consideration of that issue during the current session and make specific recommendations thereon.

CAROLINE MILAR (Australia) said that there was broad agreement that the United Nations must be responsive to the contemporary environment.  That applied to the Commission as much as any other United Nations body, which needed to show that it could address today's most pressing international security concerns.  She said there could be no doubt that the spread of weapons of mass destruction was among the gravest threats confronting the international community.  The international security environment had changed markedly since the end of the cold war.  Globalization had increased the opportunities for States to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  Moreover, with the rise of transnational terrorism, the international now faced the menace of terrorists fulfilling their desire to obtain and use such weapons.

In such a complex environment, strategies must be multidimensional and must make full use of the range of tools developed to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  She said that Australia was a strong supporter of multilateral approaches to non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament, and, like others, considered that progress on nuclear disarmament was vital to the continued political strength and vitality of the NPT.  But measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime -- which benefited all States -- must not be held hostage to movement on other NPT issues, important as they might be.  Moreover, it was impossible to conceive of a world free of weapons of mass destruction in the absence of complete and permanent assurances on non-proliferation.

She said that in a climate of concern about the prospect of renewed horizontal nuclear proliferation there should be no question of the urgency of universal application of the IAEA's strengthened safeguards system -- the Additional Protocol.  She urged all States to ratify that Protocol.  She went on to say that the uncontrolled flow of small arms and light weapons had particularly adverse and even destabilizing effects on countries and regions, and encouraged all Member States to implement the aims of the United Nations Action Plan on small arms.  Regional efforts to implement that Plan were also necessary as they could develop effective means of addressing common concerns, such as sustainable peacebuilding and security sector reform.

Although much had been done to address that humanitarian tragedy caused by landmines, much remained to be done, not only in clearing mine areas, but in rehabilitating affected individuals and communities, and preventing further use of those weapons particularly by non-State actors.  As President-designate of the 2006 meeting of States Parties of the Ottawa Convention, Australia would urge all States which had not yet done so to ratify or accede to that important instrument.

She also stressed Australia's concern about the threat to civil aviation if terrorists or other non-State actors acquired and used shoulder-fired surface-to-air-missiles, or Man-Portable Air defence Systems (MANPADS).  Australia had already played a lead role in the global effort to counter the proliferation of shoulder-fired missiles and was hoping to encourage over the next few years an international diplomatic initiative to heighten awareness to the threats posed by those weapons and to encourage States to put more controls in place.

JOHN A. BRAVACO (United States) said that, after three years of inaction, the Disarmament Commission was back to work on the basis of a balanced agenda.  The issues to be addressed were important ones, and the United States was committed to working with all delegations as they sought to elaborate consensus recommendations.  That was not an easy task and there were no guarantees of success, but the fact that the process had begun was a vital first step and evidence that not every part of the United Nations disarmament machinery was ossified.  All delegations shared in that achievement, but he wished to pay special tribute to Ambassador Rowe of Sierra Leone.  His tireless efforts in countless informal meetings and organizational sessions in no small measure had brought the Commission to this point.

He said that, in the days ahead, the United States' delegation intended to lay out its positions in detail on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, and practical confidence-building measures in the area of conventional weapons and ways to improve the Commission's working methods.  He hoped thereby to advance the collective work and to provide the fullest possible understanding of the American point of view on the issues before the Commission.

He said that, on nuclear matters, none of the objectives of the NPT could be fully achieved so long as certain States parties continued to seek to develop nuclear weapons, thereby violations their obligations under the Treaty.  Moreover, the NPT's central emphasis on non-proliferation should be the guiding principle for all States parties, as work continued to fulfil the Treaty's article VI. 

On confidence-building measures, he said that, in the last full issue cycle, the Commission had made significant progress and came quite close to agreement on what the United States and other Member States believed to be a highly useful and consolidated working paper.  The Commission should strive during this issue cycle to complete work on that document.

He said that nothing pleased the United States more than to see strong support across all regions that the Disarmament Commission was important and should be made as relevant to the international security needs of Member States and as effective in its operations as humanly possible.  He looked forward to a broad and deep discussion regarding the Commission in plenary and elsewhere to make it the best it could be, with an open mind.  He called on all to proceed in a transparent manner and on the basis of consensus. 

NGUYEN DUY CHIEN (Viet Nam) said his delegation had consistently called for the total elimination of nuclear arsenals and was committed to close cooperation with the international community to get rid of such dangerous weapons.  He stressed that it was universally recognized that the NPT was the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and reaffirmed the need for nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their obligations and commitments under that Treaty, including the 13 practical steps that had been agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, with a view to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

He said that in light of the slow progress towards disarmament in recent years, it had become more pertinent and justified that nuclear-weapon States strictly undertake their responsibilities to stop the improvement, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems, and, as interim measures, to de-alert and deactivate them and gradually reduce them.  Viet Nam was convinced that pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons, efforts towards the conclusion of a universal legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear States should be pursued as a matter of priority.

At the same time, Viet Nam would reiterate the right of all States parties to used nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination, in conformity with the NPT and IAEA safeguards.  Turning to the creation of nuclear-weapons-free zones, he said his delegation believed that such zones not only made a significant contribution towards achieving regional and international security, but also strengthened the NPT regime and overall nuclear disarmament efforts.  He stressed that one of the most important factors in the success of treaties establishing such zones was participation by nuclear-weapon States in protocols annexed to the relevant treaties.

KENTARO MINAMI (Japan) recalled the Commission's laudable record, but said that, since the 2003 session ended without the final adoption of the anticipated document on nuclear disarmament and conventional arms issues, the Commission had failed to carry out any substantive discussions.  In order to break the current deadlock, Member States must be prepared to "go that extra mile and shoulder our responsibilities".  With agreement on an agenda, the great disappointment of the past three years had now turned into great expectation.  The "UNDC" had the opportunity to "shake off its bad reputation" by utilizing the next three years for energetic debate to bring about beneficial results.

He said that Japan, as the only nation to have experienced the devastation of a nuclear bombing, earnestly desired the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.  For that lofty but achievable goal, the incremental implementation of concrete measures was needed.  The realistic approach for complete nuclear disarmament was best represented by the resolution on nuclear disarmament submitted each year by Japan to the General Assembly.  Last year, for the sixtieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the draft won the support of 168 countries, the highest number yet.  Although the NPT Review Conference and the World Summit had failed to find agreement on substantial outcome texts, the tremendous support for Japan's resolution demonstrated the international community's continuing commitment towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Currently, the NPT regime was facing a number of serious challenges, such as the nuclear issues of Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, he said.  In order to maintain and strengthen the NPT regime, the international community should demonstrate urgent efforts in that regard.  The NPT was the central foundation in support of all the other building blocks of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Both the nuclear-weapon States and the non-nuclear-weapon States, therefore, must fully implement their obligations and commitments under the NPT.  The CTBT was also crucially important as a concrete measures for avoiding nuclear proliferation, as well as promoting nuclear disarmament.  He urged those States that had not yet signed or ratified it to do so.

Further efforts to strengthen nuclear security measures were also critical, he said.  Considering the potential damage and psychological effects of nuclear terrorism, the importance of preventing it could not be overstated.  In order to avert such a nightmare, implementing necessary measures to their utmost, especially in relation to the physical protection of fissile and radioactive material, was vitally important.  The universalization of the IAEA Additional Protocol also contributed to improved nuclear security, which Japan, in cooperation with other concerned IAEA member countries, was actively promoting. Regarding conventional arms, the various developments in that sphere should yield realistic and effective guidelines that reflected the current situation.

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