Nuclear-Weapon States Justify Deterrence Policies amid Calls for Transferring Bloated Defence Budgets to Development Efforts, First Committee Hears

| October 7, 2016

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea defended its nuclear weapons programme before the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today, with its representative saying his Government had no option but to build a nuclear deterrent in response to threats from the United States.

“Going nuclear is the policy line of our State,” the representative said on the fourth day of the Committee’s general debate on disarmament and related international security agenda items.  He pointed out that Security Council resolutions and sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea constituted an abuse of the United Nations Charter.

He went on to say that neither the Charter nor international law stipulated that nuclear tests or satellite and missile launches constituted threats to international peace and security.  For its part, his Government would simultaneously promote economic construction and build up its nuclear forces “in quality and quantity” as long as nuclear blackmail and arbitrary actions continued.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United States called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea a clear and present danger on the Korean Peninsula.  Its provocations would only increase the international community’s resolve in seeking new sanctions, he said, adding that the United States remained prepared to defend itself and its allies.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the Republic of Korea’s representative said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s hostile policy against her country was being used as a pretext for its nuclear programme.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must abide by Security Council resolutions and honour its pledge as a Member State of the United Nations, she added.

Responding in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea attributed the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the United States’ long-held hostile policy dating back to the Korean War.

During the general debate, a number of speakers shared views of nuclear deterrence policies.  India’s representative said that as a responsible nuclear-weapon State, his country’s national doctrine continued to emphasize a policy of credible minimum deterrence and of non-first use and non-use against non-nuclear weapon States.  As such, India remained committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on testing.

Expressing another perspective, Cuba’s speaker rejected attempts made by nuclear-weapon States to legitimize holding such weapons and said a nuclear deterrence policy was unacceptable.  The $1.7 trillion currently being spent on the military and arms industry was also unacceptable, she said, adding that those funds should instead be allocated towards development.

Japan’s delegate, noting that his country was the only one to have experienced the use of nuclear weapons, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s claim to have successfully detonated a warhead had brought the threat to a whole new level.  In response, Japan would coordinate with others on a new Security Council resolution that would include additional sanctions.

Speakers raised other concerns during the debate.  Fiji’s delegate emphasized the risk that an accidental or intentional nuclear detonation posed to the people and environment of Pacific island nations.  The representative of Burkina Faso drew attention to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, calling it the primary threat to peace and security in Africa.

Also speaking today were representatives of Paraguay, Iraq, El Salvador, Cameroon, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Cambodia, Georgia, Botswana, Malawi and Portugal.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation and Georgia.

The Committee will meet again on Friday, 7 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its debate on all disarmament and related international security agenda items.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it.  For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.

Statements

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) called for compliance with all provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Reaffirming Paraguay’s commitment to the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he encouraged Member States to discuss the possibility of increasing such zones around the world.  Nuclear weapons threatened mankind and the principles of the United Nations Charter.  While Paraguay had advocated for the peaceful use of nuclear technologies, it believed that the production of nuclear energy could damage the environment.  States that carried out this type of production should do so responsibly and adhere to international best practices, taking into account any cross-border impacts.  Turning to small arms and light weapons, he called for a complementary framework to the Arms Trade Treaty to stop the production of those weapons and encouraged technical assistance from the international community to developing countries such as Paraguay to implement the instrument.

MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq), associating himself with Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the maintenance of international peace and security was the responsibility of all.  Concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons, he stressed the importance of prioritizing that issue until their complete elimination was achieved.  The Conference on Disarmament was the only negotiating forum for those issues, he said, expressing disappointment that it had not upheld its responsibilities for more than 20 years.  Iraq supported the Open-ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and its efforts towards creating a non-discriminatory, legally binding instrument that prevented the production, use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.  Deeply concerned about the continued failure to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he stressed the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, calling for Annex 2 countries to ratify the instrument.  Turning to other concerns, he said small arms and light weapons had catastrophic effects that did not differ from weapons of mass destruction and highlighted the need to prevent terrorist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) from gaining access to those arms.

RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador) said the elimination of weapons of mass destruction could be achieved through multilateral negotiations.  Noting that the Test-Ban Treaty was not yet in force, he urged Annex 2 countries to ratify it as soon as possible.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons jeopardized the United Nations Charter, international law and human rights.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones were a solid foundation for the universal prohibition of nuclear weapons.  It was evident that most Member States were aware of the need to negotiate a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.  In that vein, he urged all delegations to pursue discussions on the humanitarian consequences of weapons of mass destruction, highlighting the connection between human development and security.

Mr. AHIDJO (Cameroon) said that through strong political resolve, Member States would reach agreement on disarmament.  Hopefully, a General Assembly conference to start negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would lead to their complete elimination.  The quest for a safer world must be carried out comprehensively, he said, adding that Cameroon attributed great importance to multilateral disarmament efforts.  Turning to counter-terrorism, he said it was absolutely crucial to pool efforts.  Thanks to cooperation between Lake Chad Basin countries, the operations of Boko Haram had been seriously harmed.  That group had to be eradicated and reconstruction must begin.  Like its Lake Chad Basin neighbours, Cameroon would spare no effort in that regard, he said, urging a greater commitment from partners, given the scale of the need.

DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) said recent discussions had “breathed new life” into the nuclear disarmament agenda.  The Open-ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations had been dynamic, innovative and inclusive.  With all United Nations Member States invited to join proceedings, it had also forged a “new mainstream”, unifying regional groupings into a single vision set out in the recommendation that the General Assembly convene a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.  With international humanitarian law being routinely flouted in Syria and elsewhere, the international community must move forward on the promise of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by matching prohibitions on both other types of weapons of mass destruction — chemical and biological — with one now on nuclear weapons.  On the Arms Trade Treaty, New Zealand would serve on the selection committee reviewing projects for financing from the voluntary trust fund and had contributed almost NZ$100,000 to it for such initiatives in the Pacific and Africa.

RI TONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his Government fully supported the global struggle for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  Recently, the United States had announced a programme to modernize its nuclear weapons over three decades at a cost of $1 trillion, making its talk of a nuclear-weapon-free world only a screen to cover up a strategy of nuclear monopoly and world hegemony.  Actual nuclear threats came from fully operational nuclear weapons, ready to be launched at any time, and not from proliferation.  The United States was using nuclear threats against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Joint military exercises and the United States’ decision to deploy an air defence system in the Republic of Korea clearly indicated a programme envisaging a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had entered an implementation phase.  His Government’s only option of possessing its own nuclear deterrent was “a self-defensive measure to safeguard its national sovereignty and the right to existence and survival”.

The Security Council, he said, had adopted resolutions to ban his Government’s nuclear tests and satellite and rocket launches, but nothing in the United Nations Charter or international law stipulated that such actions were threats to international peace and security.  The Council had meanwhile repeatedly turned a blind eye to joint military exercises conducted every year in the republic of Korea and sanctions against Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were an abuse of power and a misuse of the Charter.  “Going nuclear is the policy line of our State,” he said, adding that as long as the imperialists continued with nuclear blackmail and arbitrary actions, his Government would simultaneously promote economic construction and the building up of its nuclear forces “in quality and quantity”.  Having declared itself a responsible nuclear-weapon State, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would not use nuclear weapons first.  At the same time, it would faithfully observe its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and to strive for global denuclearization.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said that as the entire world was geared towards implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, disarmament had assumed an “extraordinary” degree of significance.  It would therefore be imperative to divert resources from armaments to sustainable development.  In that regard, Sri Lanka believed in a sustainable plan for multilateral nuclear disarmament.  Warning of the threat posed by terrorism, he stressed a dire need to strengthen the coordination of efforts on national, subregional, regional and international levels.  On non-proliferation, he said nuclear-weapon States must continue their work on eliminating stockpiles and, equally, tests carried out by Member States must be denounced.  Concerning the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, he said eradicating that scourge required concerted efforts by all nations.

CLAUDIO NARDI (Liechtenstein) said the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had dealt an additional blow to the non-proliferation and disarmament regime under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  It was essential to achieve universality of the Treaty without delay, and, in particular, States must become serious about implementing all three of its pillars.  Liechtenstein had already prohibited all weapons of mass destruction and the financing, brokerage, development, production, acquisition, transfer, import, export, carriage in transit, storage or possession of them.  He expressed hope that other States would take similar legislative action.

TOSHIO SANO (Japan) said that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings in wartime, it was keen to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts geared towards a world free of such arms.  The engagement of nuclear-weapon States was imperative in disarmament deliberations.  The most effective way to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world was to take concrete measures that considered security considerations in regions facing challenges involving nuclear threats, such as those of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The international community must avoid further division and fragmentation and instead pursue consensus-based efforts in taking forward nuclear disarmament measures.

He condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for conducting its fifth nuclear test and urged it to immediately comply with relevant Security Council resolutions and other commitments.  In this year alone, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had launched more than 20 ballistic missiles, some of which had fallen into Japan’s economic zone, he noted.  During the latest nuclear test, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had claimed to have successfully detonated a nuclear warhead, bringing the threat it posed to a whole new level.  As a result, Japan would continue to coordinate with relevant countries towards the adoption of a new Security Council resolution that would include additional sanctions.

LUKE DAUNIVALU (Fiji) expressed serious concerns about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.  Fiji had witnessed first-hand the long-lasting effect of nuclear weapons and it was still living with the repercussions of more than 300 forced nuclear tests in the Pacific region.  Fiji supported strengthened nuclear-weapon-free zones, the prohibition on nuclear weapons and redress for those who had suffered the effects of testing.  It also supported the establishment of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.  Recalling the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said Fiji and the Pacific region did not want to be left behind due to an accidental or intentional nuclear detonation.  “An accident in our waters can wipe away our environment and our livelihood,” he said.

LILIANNE SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) said the possibility of nuclear war was ever closer and unpredictable, making it an international priority deserving of attention at the highest level.  Some 15,000 nuclear weapons existed in the world and a new generation of weapons was being developed, she said, adding that the detonation of such weapons would have disastrous effects on the planet.  In that context, Cuba would continue to advocate for the adoption of a comprehensive convention that would work towards eliminating those weapons within a defined timeframe.  In the meantime, a treaty was needed to provide security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.  She rejected attempts made by nuclear-weapon States to legitimize holding such weapons and said a nuclear deterrence policy was unacceptable.  The $1.7 trillion currently being spent on the military and arms industry was unacceptable, she said, adding that those funds should instead be allocated towards development.

VLAD LUPAN (Republic of Moldova) said widespread armed violence continued to result in civilian deaths on a daily basis and unresolved conflicts had created opportunities for the spread of illicit weapons trafficking.  Conventional arms gravely affected civilians, he said, underlining his Government’s concern that those weapons could reach unauthorized actors, thus making it even more difficult to contain wars.  That issue was of particular concern to the Republic of Moldova as it had been confronted by an unresolved conflict in the Transnistrian region, where foreign troops were illegally stationed and regularly carried out military exercises.  Other concerns included ammunition depots and the danger of “black zones” for arms control regimes that could be used both as sources and transit points for international conventional arms trafficking.

SOPHEA YAUNG CHAN (Cambodia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the importance of mechanisms to guarantee that nuclear weapons would not be used.  Pending the entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty, States should refrain from carrying out tests or other nuclear explosions.  As a post-conflict country, Cambodia still suffered from unexploded ordnance in farm lands and border areas.  While there were fewer victims than in past decades, mine clearance work needed to be accelerated.  Cambodia commended the solidarity of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  He expressed concern over the illicit manufacturing, transferring and circulation of small arms and light weapons, adding that Cambodia’s draft ASEAN convention against trafficking in firearms would complement the Arms Trade Treaty.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, called the proliferation of small arms and light weapons the primary threat to peace and security on the continent and particularly West Africa.  Burkina Faso had never wavered in its commitment to address the illicit traffic and uncontrolled trade in such weapons.  He underscored the role of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and urged all States and stakeholders to ensure their full implementation in order to combat terrorism and the socioeconomic collapse of States.  The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, known as the Pelindaba Treaty, demonstrated the will of African States to reinforce the non-proliferation regime.  Noting the link between disarmament and development, he emphasized the need to combat poverty, which underpinned conflict and the need for weapons.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said European security was challenged by the Russian Federation’s ongoing military aggression against Ukraine.  Further, 20 per cent of Georgia remained under illegal military occupation after the 2008 invasion.  As long as international mechanisms were absent in the occupied territories, there were no guarantees that the most dangerous weapons systems would not be transferred to terrorist or criminal groups.  Between 2006 and 2016, 25 cases of illicit smuggling of radioactive materials had occurred, 11 of which were from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Georgia, along with Morocco and the Philippines, had established a United Nations Group of Friends on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation and Security Governance, a forum to integrate that component into the international security architecture.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) said that as long as the world remained seized with various conflicts and threats to international peace and security, the 2030 Agenda would only be a dream.  Expressing concern about the continued existence of nuclear weapons, the scourge of international terrorism and the illicit trade and flow of small arms and light weapons, he said those realities had brought into question the commitment of nuclear-weapon States to achieve complete disarmament.  While acknowledging security concerns, he warned against the potential catastrophic humanitarian impact of those weapons.  Deeply troubling was the notion that non-State actors and radical extremists could possess such weapons, deploying them with impunity.  “Should this occur, we only have ourselves to blame,” he said.  Expressing support for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he emphasized that Botswana was proud to be associated with the Pelindaba Treaty.  He also fully supported the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument.  However, resource limitations and differing capacities of States hindered the Programme of Action’s full implementation.

D.B. VENKATESH VARMA (India) said that his Government’s support for global, non-discriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament remained firm.  That goal could be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework.  The current complex international environment was in need of measures to enhance strategic trust globally.  At the same time, the international community must stand united against those whose persistent violations had increased nuclear threats and proliferation risks, he said.  As a responsible nuclear-weapon State, India’s doctrine continued to emphasize a policy of credible minimum deterrence and of non-first use and non-use against non-nuclear weapon States.  As such, India remained committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on testing.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the statement made by her counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The so-called hostile policy against the Republic of Korea was being used as a pretext to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme, she said.  The Republic of Korea’s military exercises, which had been conducted to respond to the military threat of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, were defensive in nature and had operated in a transparent manner.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must abide by relevant Security Council resolutions and honour its pledge as a member of the United Nations.

The representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, also took the floor to respond to the statement made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Member States had witnessed a “hypocritical and delusional diatribe”, he said, adding that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea presented a clear and present danger to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.  Provocations only served to increase the international community’s resolve in seeking new sanctions.  The United States would not accept the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a nuclear-weapon State nor allow it to possess nuclear weapons, he said, noting that the United States remained prepared to defend itself and its allies.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to the representatives of the United States and the Republic of Korea in exercise of the right of reply, rejected their remarks as misleading.  The explosive situation on the Korean Peninsula was the result of the United States’ long-held hostile policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which dated back to the Korean War.  For more than half a century, they had held large-scale military exercises in the peninsula.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had no other choice but to “go nuclear” to protect its sovereignty.  Meanwhile, there was no provision in the United Nations Charter that stipulated that nuclear activity posed a threat to international peace and security.

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the statement made by the delegate from Georgia and a reference made to the events of August 2008.  He said the establishment of two new States was due to the unfriendly policy of the Tbilisi regime at the time.  Moreover, any reference to the Russian Federation’s actions in the Ukraine had brought into doubt the rest of the representative of Georgia’s statement.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, taking the floor for a second time, said the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, rather than of any outside force, were threatening peace.  By doing so, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would only jeopardize its economy by isolating itself and was in fact worsening living conditions for its people.  Nothing would be achieved by continuing provocative acts, she said.

The representative of Georgia, responding to the remarks made by the delegate from the Russian Federation, noted that the Russian Federation had not complied with the conditions of the 2008 ceasefire agreement brokered by the European Union.  The Russian Federation maintained thousands of troops in Georgia without the consent of Georgia’s Government, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to withdraw those troops without further delay.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, taking the floor a second time, rejected the remarks made by the Republic of Korea, saying they distorted realities and misled the world.  That country was a colony of the United States, which had long ago turned over control of its armed forces — a symbol of its sovereignty — to the United States.  It was moreover a servant to its master’s strategy in Asia, he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor a second time, said the second statement by his counterpart from Georgia had confirmed what he initially said.  He reminded the Committee that, on 8 August 2008, it was the Georgian authorities who had started military operations against South Ossetia that had bordered on genocide.  The then-leader of Georgia who had given the “criminal order” to begin those operations had not become the subject of an international arrest warrant, issued at the request of Georgia’s authorities.  In fact, Georgia’s authorities had recognized the criminal act that had been carried out by the former regime.  Georgia itself was guilty in terms of what had happened in 2008, making it also guilty of the consequences, namely the establishment of two independent States.

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