Bolstered Political Will Must Restart Push for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Speakers Tell High-Level General Assembly Meeting

The only way to ensure the world was safe from nuclear weapons was to eliminate them entirely, speakers said at a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly held to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Many speakers expressed frustration with the glacial pace of disarmament efforts amid fears that the risk of a nuclear detonation — accidental or intentional — was growing, not diminishing.  The meeting was the first under the terms of a General Assembly resolution (document A/RES/70/34) which called for a one-day high-level plenary meeting of the Assembly, every year on 26 September, to mark the International Day.  It also came hard on the heels of  Security Council resolution 2310 (2016), urging States that had yet to do so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and ahead of the next review cycle in 2017 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“As we scan the global horizon, we face growing nuclear dangers,” said Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the start of the meeting.  While progress on disarmament had come to a standstill, billions of dollars were being spent to maintain and upgrade nuclear arsenals, he said, emphasizing also how the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities in defiance of the will of the international community.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, echoed the concern of many delegations over the slow pace of progress towards disarmament and the lack of achievement in the total elimination of arsenals by nuclear-weapon States.  The only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons, he added, was their total elimination.  In that regard, he supported the General Assembly’s decision to convene, by no later than 2018, an international conference on nuclear disarmament.  Other speakers suggested that the conference could be the springboard towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The representative of the Dominican Republic, on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), called attention to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, emphasizing that no State or international organization had the capacity to provide humanitarian assistance and protection in the event of a nuclear blast.

The representative of the Russian Federation, one of the five nuclear-weapon States as defined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, said significant cuts had been made to its nuclear arsenals.  In his view, priority should go not to banning nuclear weapons, but rather in engaging in serious joint efforts towards “equal and fair security” for all States.  He added that it would be counterproductive to launch alternative fora to ban nuclear weapons — fora in which Russia would not participate.

His counterpart from China, another Treaty-defined nuclear State, shared another perspective.  China stood for the total elimination of such weapons and its nuclear strategy was purely defensive, he explained, adding that countries with the largest arsenals had an important responsibility and must be committed to stockpile reduction.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said criticism against his Government was a product of hostile policies coming from the United States.  Nuclear “blackmailing” had continued for half a century, leaving citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a dangerous security environment.  In the face of security threats, he added, “we have no other option but to go nuclear”.

Some speakers emphasized the environmental and public health impact of nuclear weapons, including the representative of the Marshall Islands.  He said the Marshall Islands was still living with the consequences of 67 large-scale nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958.  “The world did not listen to our experience then, and that is still a lesson for all to learn,” he said, adding that, with sufficient will, there were several possible pathways towards reducing the nuclear threat and achieving total disarmament.

The representative of South Africa said his was the only country to have developed nuclear weapons and then eliminated them.  Calling the International Day a painful reminder of unfulfilled commitments and obligations, he said it was an anomaly that nuclear arms remained the only weapons of mass destruction not subjected to a legally binding international instrument.

Taking the floor at the end of today’s meeting, Kim Won-Soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said nuclear disarmament was in the “DNA of the United Nations”.  Yet, that aim could not be achieved without the engagement of all stakeholders, including Member States and civil society organizations.  Acknowledging that the danger of nuclear weapons was still very real, he said “even one is too many”.  As such, “we must work together to break the stalemate and strengthen disarmament machinery”, he said.

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Indonesia, Nigeria, Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Philippines, Brazil, Uganda, Algeria, Germany, India, Peru, Thailand, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Chile, Libya, Ecuador, Austria, Pakistan, Norway, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Guatemala, New Zealand, Ukraine, Sweden, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nicaragua and Malaysia, as well as the Holy See and the League of Arab States.  Also speaking were representatives of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and the civil society groups International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons and Ban All Nukes Generation.

Opening Remarks

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), Vice-President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji), said that, as long as nuclear weapons existed, their threat to humanity, whether through intentional or accidental use, remained unacceptably high.  “We cannot risk the future of our world to one misstep, one poor judgement or one technical failure,” he said.  The nuclear test conducted earlier in September by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a stark reminder of the ever-present danger nuclear weapons posed and the need to keep finding ways to address the issue.

The international community, he said, must redouble its efforts to find a just and fair solution to address the differing views of Member States in order to make real progress on nuclear disarmament, and ultimately, a global consensus.  That was no easy task, but with determination, open minds and political will, it was possible.  Commitments already made must be turned into concrete action and there must be greater public awareness, particularly among younger generations, of the risks posed by nuclear weapons.  The Asia-Pacific region had been directly affected by nuclear weapons testing and it still bore the consequences on the environment and human health.  Only the total elimination of nuclear weapons would prevent their future use, he concluded.

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General, noted the recent twentieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the fiftieth anniversary next February of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first such instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons from densely populated regions.  Recalling Security Council resolution 2310 (2016), which acknowledged the commitment of nuclear-weapon States to uphold their moratorium on nuclear tests, he said that text was no substitute for the Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force.  Rather, the resolution was a wake-up call to accelerate efforts toward the Test-Ban Treaty’s full implementation.

“As we scan the global horizon,” he said, “we face growing nuclear dangers.”  Progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament had come to a standstill and tens of billions of dollars were going towards maintaining and upgrading nuclear weapons systems.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had repeatedly defied the will of the international community in the irresponsible pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.  Several countries meanwhile still included nuclear deterrence in their security doctrines, he said.

Recent developments demonstrated that nuclear weapons did not ensure peace and security, he said.  Rather, their development and possession had become a major source of international tensions.  Meanwhile, divisions on the future of disarmament were growing.  With the next review cycle for the Non-Proliferation Treaty beginning in 2017, the world could not afford another period of “dangerous inaction”.  Citing the Secretary-General, he said there were many paths to a world free of nuclear weapons if there was a sufficient degree of political will.

Statements

HENRY SUÁREZ (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over the slow pace of progress towards disarmament and the lack of achievements in the total elimination of arsenals by nuclear-weapon States.  He reaffirmed the urgent need for concrete actions to be taken by those States since they had the primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament, he said.

Raising concerns about improvements in existing nuclear arsenals and the development of new types of such weapons in some nuclear-weapon States, he said such actions violated those States’ obligations.  Any use of those weapons was a crime against humanity and the only absolute guarantee against their use was their total elimination, he said, expressing support for the General Assembly’s decision to convene by no later than in 2018 a high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament to review progress made by concerned countries.

FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the Community — a declared zone of peace — welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to hold a high-level conference no later than 2018 on measures and actions to eliminate nuclear weapons as soon as possible.  Noting the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, he commended the organization of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.  No State or international organization had the capacity to provide humanitarian assistance and protection in the event of a nuclear blast, he said, calling for the humanitarian aspect to be addressed whenever nuclear weapons were discussed.

For the majority of the international community, there was no reason not to immediately pursue a global prohibition on nuclear weapons, he said.  CELAC member States would join efforts to begin a multilateral diplomatic process leading towards a legally binding instrument for their prohibition and total elimination in a transparent, irreversible and verifiable manner and within a multilaterally agreed timeframe.  CELAC rejected the assertion made on 15 September by five nuclear-weapon States in which they stated that their stockpile maintenance and stewardship were consistent with the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Test-Ban Treaty.  That was incorrect, he said, as neither treaty granted any State the right to indefinitely possess nuclear weapons.

RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said she regretted to say the world was still far from abolishing nuclear weapons.  The world had waited too long for the Test-Ban Treaty to come into force.  Efforts should be redoubled and nuclear disarmament should the United Nations primary goal.  The current global situation should not preclude nuclear disarmament efforts, but rather serve as a catalyst to that end.  States possessing nuclear weapons should undertake such practical measures as reducing the role of such arms in their military doctrines and to reduce the number of stockpiled warheads.  Humanitarian considerations should always be at the forefront of nuclear disarmament discussions, she said.

MANSUR MUHAMMAD DAN-ALI, Minister for Defence of Nigeria, said his Government recognized the international community’s significant contributions to facilitating deliberations among nations in the realm of disarmament.  Nuclear weapons were unique in their composition and the threat they caused.  His Government remained steadfast and proactive in the fight for the total elimination of such weapons, which could potentially fall into the hands of non-State actors.  Their total elimination remained the only way to prevent extremists from obtaining and using nuclear weapons.  There were no doubts of the many benefits of nuclear disarmament, he said, adding that the international community had to remain undeterred in its efforts towards achieving that goal.

SEYYED ABBAS ARAGHCHI (Iran) said the international community must advance efforts towards the achievement of the goal of nuclear disarmament and the process must involve all States.  Nuclear-weapon States had a special responsibility, but certain States with those capacities had continued to violate their disarmament commitments.  For instance, in some nuclear-weapon States, large budgets had been devoted to the qualitative refinement of their arsenals.  There must be a change made in the attitudes of those seeking to add to their nuclear capacities, he said.  Those countries must comply and agreements must be kept.  Compliance with commitments could simply not be conditional, he stressed.  The magnitude of what remained to be done dwarfed the set of minimum steps that had been taken so far.

ABELARDO MORENO FERNANDEZ (Cuba) condemned the absurdity of a world that incurred exorbitant expenditures on armaments while asserting that there were not enough resources to promote development and combat hunger, poverty and disease.  Nothing could justify the threat that remained by the existence of nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons.  In that regard, science had reached irrefutable conclusions that it was impossible to be adequately prepared to combat or mitigate the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.  Intentional or not, the detonation of even a small fraction of the existing arsenals would have disastrous consequences for the planet.

VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus) recalled his Government’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993 as a non-nuclear-weapon State after it had voluntarily refused to develop its nuclear potential following the fall of the Soviet Union.  Pointing out that the total withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Belarus had been completed 20 years ago, he said the desire for nuclear disarmament should be based on an understanding that the world needed to become more stable.  Regretting the lack of progress on disarmament, he said nuclear‑weapon‑free zones did not cover all areas of the world.  Many countries were developing nuclear programmes and the non-proliferation review cycle had not always led to positive results.  Shifting to a more effective system would require mutual respect and understanding, he said, emphasizing that the Sustainable Development Goals would be pointless without safety and security around the world.

ARIEL Y. ABADILLA (Philippines) said urgent actions were needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons given the persistent threats of terrorism and violent extremism.  While the number of such weapons had decreased since its peak two decades ago, the fact remained that a single atomic bomb could wreak havoc on human life and the environment for years.  “With nuclear weapons, there are simply no guarantees of safety and security,” he said, stressing the need for an effective nuclear disarmament architecture.  To reach that end, it was essential to address weaknesses and fill existing gaps.  An overwhelming majority of Member States had taken a stand in Geneva at multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, he said, noting that there was no better way to reaffirm commitment than through concrete, bold and immediate actions.

FERNANDO SIMAS MAGALHAES (Brazil) said nuclear weapons fostered distrust and instability, drained the wealth of nations and were utterly incompatible with humanitarian law.  The continued reliance on such weapons by some States not only contradicted disarmament commitments, but also hampered global non-proliferation efforts.  Meanwhile, recent events in the Korean Peninsula had demonstrated just how dangerous it was to treat nuclear weapons as international policy tools.  Such weapons were destabilizing in any situation and could make already tense situations spiral out of control, he concluded.

HENRY ORYEM OKELLO, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, said the issue of nuclear disarmament remained at the top of the global agenda.  The reconvening of States around that issue offered an opportunity to raise public awareness about the threat of nuclear proliferation and for countries to reaffirm their disarmament commitments.  In that regard, three central issues must be addressed:  non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear power.  Uganda called upon nuclear-weapon States to accelerate disarmament and support the peaceful use of nuclear energy by non-nuclear States.

RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Algeria, said the commemoration of the International Day provided an additional platform to intensify the criminalization of nuclear weapons, freeing humanity from the danger of their use.  Nuclear weapons must be totally eliminated to ensure peace and stability throughout the world, he emphasized.  The Non-Proliferation Treaty partially managed to stem the spread of nuclear weapons, but in a limited number of countries.  Few achievements had been made in terms of disarmament, he said, urging all countries and all stakeholders that had not yet done so to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as soon as possible.  Weapons could only be eliminated through the banning the use and development of such weapons.

PATRICIA FLOR, Director-General for International Order, the United Nations and Arms Control of Germany, said a world without nuclear weapons was a shared vision, yet, despite all efforts, existing arsenals remained a major obstacle on the way to reaching “global zero”.  With other partners, Germany had advocated for a step-by-step approach towards effective and verifiable disarmament.  The next steps forward should include another substantial arm control agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation, which together controlled more than 90 per cent of the global stockpile.  United States President Barack Obama had made proposals in that regard, but, so far, there had been no positive response.

SUJATA MEHTA (India) associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said India had been unwavering in its support for universal and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.  It was convinced that disarmament could be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework.  Meaningful dialogue was needed among all States possessing nuclear weapons in order to build trust and confidence and to reduce the role of such weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.

Recalling India’s support for General Assembly resolutions on disarmament, she said India considered the Conference on Disarmament to be the appropriate forum for the start of negotiations through the establishment of a subsidiary body with a mandate agreed to by consensus.  She regretted to say that the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to take forward a proposal, supported by the General Assembly, for the negotiation of a convention on the prohibition and use of nuclear weapons or for a proposal for a comprehensive convention.  She hoped that today’s meeting would enhance public awareness about the threat posed by such weapons and the need for their total elimination.

ANTONIO GARCIA REVILLA (Peru) said nuclear disarmament was one of the main pillars of his Government’s foreign policy.  Peru had also been one of the first countries to promote a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America.  Recognizing the significance of the Test-Ban Treaty in preventing nuclear proliferation, he urged States to urgently ratify the instrument.  Peru supported the universalization of regimes aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  Despite growing global concern, there were still more than 17,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, and nuclear-weapon States continued to modernize their arsenals, he warned.

MORAKOT SRISWASDI (Thailand) said the conclusion of the Open-ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in Geneva was a cause for hope.  The outcome report had recommended convening a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons and leading towards their total elimination.  Regrettably, that historic achievement in advancing nuclear disarmament had not been celebrated by all, as several countries had demonstrated a desire to maintain the status quo.  In that regard, civil society organizations and parliamentarians must play a key role in reshaping public perception for the common good of mankind.  Drawing attention to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said collective disarmament efforts would contribute to their achievement, in particular the Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said his Government was committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which had an irreversible impact on the environment and human life.  Nuclear weapons were an ongoing threat throughout the world and the international community must “say no” to such arms, he stressed.  The lack of progress in disarmament meant the international community was far away from a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Therefore, it was crucial that all States respected the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and new security threats should not in any way serve as a pretext for the delay or failure to engage in the process of disarmament.  Furthermore, it was important to stop the modernization of nuclear weapons.  The ban on testing should also be irreversible and all countries should urgently ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, he said.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said it was the international community’s obligation to render nuclear weapons “redundant and meaningless” in the security doctrines of nuclear-weapon States.  Since security and development were closely related, Kazakhstan called on Member States to transfer 1 per cent of their defence budgets to the special fund for Sustainable Development Goals.  Kazakhstan also supported the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, he said, urging all United Nations Member States to take more comprehensive and decisive measures to enforce the early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said that the international community was still waiting for the Test-Ban Treaty to enter into force.  It was unfortunate that the disarmament machinery was paralysed and forced to operate under consensus rules, he said, condemning recent provocative actions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its defiance of the non-proliferation regime.  Drawing attention to the recent multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in Geneva, he noted the introduction of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.  Such a prohibition would not automatically lead to their elimination, but it would set a standard in stigmatizing their possession.

HAMZA A. B. ALOKLY (Libya), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said hindrances on the part of some countries was preventing the world from reaching the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons, which was a prerequisite for peace and stability.  He called for nuclear-weapon-free zones to be established in different parts of the world and noted that no country or organization had the capability to address the impact of nuclear weapons or assist victims.  He commended the Open-ended Working Group for its efforts, highlighting the progress it had made and the decision to convene a meeting in 2017 to start negotiations towards a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.  International cooperation and political will were the only ways to achieve disarmament, he said.

HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador) associated himself with CELAC, the Non-Aligned Movement and a statement circulated to the General Assembly by the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.  He regretted to note the absence of nuclear-weapon States from the Open-ended Working Group, but said that would not keep the international community from prohibiting such arms through international instruments.  Security Council’s resolution 2310 (2016) on the Test-Ban Treaty had shown that, once again, the body was getting involved in matters outside its mandate as defined by the United Nations Charter.  With resolution 2310 (2016), he said, the Council was getting involved in the functioning of a treaty, which was within the purview of States parties.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said the immediate long-term consequences of nuclear proliferation were more obvious presently than ever before in history, noting that the Humanitarian Pledge had been welcomed by the General Assembly in 2015.  While international peace and security was enhanced by the existence of nuclear deterrence, from a humanitarian perspective, weapons of mass destruction were unacceptable for “friends and foes alike”.  Instead, nuclear deterrence had created a “precarious illusion”, he said, pointing to recent tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  His Government called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and all other nuclear-weapon States to “do away with excuses” and ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, as those recent tests were not “theoretical, but real threats happening in front of our very eyes”, he warned.  Complete disarmament would diminish the incentive for other States to acquire such nuclear capabilities.

VLADIMIR VORONKOV (Russian Federation) said his Government had made significant cuts and reductions to its arsenals, strategic weapons and missiles, and stockpiles, and had made advances in its commitments contained in the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.  Freeing the world from weapons of mass destruction was one of the most important pillars of his Government’s foreign policy.  While the Russian Federation respected the opinion of those rejecting nuclear weapons, the central issue was to achieve stability without letting the world “fall into chaos”, he emphasized.  Anti-nuclear radicals wanted to prohibit nuclear weapons, he said.  The priority should not be a ban, but serious joint work to move towards “equal and fair security” for all States.  To that end, the international community already had all the required instruments.  The initiation of alternative fora to ban nuclear weapons would therefore be counterproductive, he said, noting that the Russian Federation would not participate in such dubious events, which would only undermine established commitments.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said that the gloomy disarmament landscape was rooted primarily in a lack of progress made by nuclear-weapon States in fulfilling their obligations.  Global efforts to regulate, reduce and prevent the spread of armaments were facing serious challenges.  It was also worrying that some exceptions were being made for “political or profit considerations”, he said.  As a result, true political will to reach a consensus on the disarmament agenda was all the more urgent.

The prime objective of the disarmament process, he said, was the attainment of equal and undiminished security for all States.  Unfortunately, some had been trying to ignore the security considerations of others by insisting on steps that had few ramifications for their own security, while having significant security implications for others.  Taking such a discriminatory approach was detrimental to global disarmament efforts, he said, adding that a breakthrough could only be achieved through genuine political will in order to advance shared goals.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway) said total elimination was the only way to ensure against the detonation of nuclear weapons.  Norway fully subscribed to that principle, with Parliament, earlier in 2016, having asked the Government to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world and to promote the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s implementation.  Concerned that the pace in the reduction of nuclear arsenals was too slow, Norway shared frustration with the Test-Ban Treaty’s failure to enter into force.  The upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty review cycle would be an opportunity to make genuine progress.  With common goals, it would be possible to overcome differences and move forward.

DOCTOR MASHABANE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his was the only State to have developed then eliminated nuclear weapons.  The International Day was a painful reminder of unfulfilled commitments and obligations, he said, emphasizing that it was an anomaly that nuclear arms were the only weapons of mass destruction that had not been subjected to a legally binding instrument.  Noting the humanitarian consequences of such weapons, he said disarmament and non-proliferation required continuous progress.  Recalling the General Assembly’s debate on the Sustainable Development Goals, he reaffirmed the inalienable right of States to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.  However, he expressed concern about the use of such technology for non-peaceful purposes.  Such a situation was neither acceptable nor sustainable in a world where the basic needs of millions could not be met.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the fact that nuclear bombs remained the only weapons of mass destruction not currently banned was unacceptable and the continued existence of testing was atrocious.  International peace and security could only be achieved by the prohibition of nuclear weapons, not the preservation of deterrence capabilities, he said, expressing an urgent appeal for a complete ban of such weapons.  Endorsing the Humanitarian Pledge to ban nuclear weapons, which had intended to fill a legal vacuum in the realm of nuclear disarmament, he expressed support for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to end their use.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) said her Government was committed to strengthening disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.  To achieve any progress, however, there had to be greater commitments from all countries, nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States alike.  Greater political priority should be given to finding legally binding instruments to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons, she stressed, regretting that the Middle East was not yet a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  Uruguay condemned recent testing conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, highlighting the security threats they posed to the global community.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) regretted to note the absence of progress in nuclear weapon disarmament processes, underscoring the importance of the Test-Ban Treaty as an important instrument to convey trust in the international system.  Condemning recent nuclear tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called for the Test-Ban Treaty’s prompt entry into force.  To advance gains, his Government supported the convening of a conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) highlighted the overwhelming and compelling evidence of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and testing on human life, the health of future generations, the environment and socioeconomic development.  Indeed, it was in the interest of the survival of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again, under any circumstances.  Since the first resolution adopted by the General Assembly, numerous other obligations had been entered into force in order to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Nevertheless, commitments continued to fall short of expectations.  Twenty years since the Test-Ban Treaty had opened for signature, it was clear that reaching that aim required more than the status-quo approach.

ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) said international cooperation must be strengthened to reinforce disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.  Due to foreign occupation of part of its territory, Ukraine regarded non-proliferation as essential.  Ukraine’s historic decision to renounce nuclear weapons had been based on guarantees contained in the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  However, one of those signatories, the Russian Federation, had violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Recent tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had demonstrated the urgent necessity to fully implement the Test-Ban Treaty, he said, adding that the establishment of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, especially in areas of tension, such as the Middle East, would enhance peace and security.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said his Government was deeply concerned by the lack of progress on disarmament.  Nuclear-weapon States were expanding and modernizing their arsenals or even talking about using them.  Such weapons were economically irrational, given shortfalls in development and humanitarian funding.  On the Treaty’s twentieth anniversary, he urged all States to sign and ratify it.  The recent Security Council resolution was a welcomed step.  At the upcoming Treaty review conference, Article VI obligations would have to be taken seriously, he said, adding that he hoped the work of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) during the current General Assembly session would make a real difference.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that a world without nuclear weapons could only happen if the will of all States was in place.  He called for the swift ratification of Non-Proliferation Treaty by all Annex 2 countries and also condemned the nuclear tests that had been carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Finally, it was important to draw attention to the fact that there was no legitimate reason for the possession of nuclear weapons.  Any use of such weapons would have irreparable human consequences, he warned.

JOEL HERNÁNDEZ (Mexico) expressed concern about existing 16,000 nuclear weapons, saying that the current discussion contributed to reshaping public opinion on their total elimination.  It was unfortunate that some States continued to allocate vast resources to modernize their nuclear weapons, threatening global peace and security.  “Nuclear disarmament is a pending goal of the humanity,” he said, noting that the Test-Ban Treaty had not been fully implemented yet.  To make progress, three conferences had been held so far to better understand such weapons’ humanitarian impact, he said, stressing that Latin America had become the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in the world.

AMATLAIN KABUA (Marshall Islands) said that, for much of the world, nuclear weapons and testing was an abstract issue.  For the Marshall Islands, however, the issue was real, with contemporary effects still being addressed today.  Between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islands had witnessed 67 large-scale nuclear weapon tests, with an average of 1.6 Hiroshima-sized explosions.  “The world did not listen to our experience then, and that is still a lesson for all to learn,” he said, stressing that those tests had had dramatic environmental and health consequences.  If the drive was strong enough, he said, there were several possible pathways to take to reduce nuclear threats and to achieve their universal elimination.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said that atomic bombs had brought untold human suffering to the world.  Recalling the thousands of lives claimed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 71 years ago, he noted that even more had died after suffering from the after effects.  Yet, today, more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remained worldwide.  Even worse, the international community continued to witness unacceptable activities such as the nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which ran entirely counter to global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

As the only country in the world to have suffered from atomic bombings, he said, Japan was more than ever before committed to a nuclear-weapon-free world.  He welcomed the Group of Seven Foreign Ministers’ Hiroshima Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation issued in April and the subsequent visit from United States President Barack Obama to Hiroshima.  Those strong messages would be a source of hope for people around the world wishing to see a real advancement in nuclear disarmament.  For that to happen, however, concrete measures based on cooperation between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States and a clear understanding of humanitarian consequences were essential.

TAREK MAHFOUZ (Egypt) stressed that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of those arms.  However, that primary objective was dependent upon universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  In that regard, negotiations of a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons should commence without further delay.  At the same time, global aspirations to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East would represent a major leap towards the universalization of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as it would supplement other efforts that were being made.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, while the international community was combating some of its most difficult challenges, nothing compared to the grave threat posed by nuclear weapons and their possible use.  Recalling the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the message from the International Day must be “never again”.  Yet, in reality, the world was far away from accomplishing a nuclear-weapon-free existence.  It was hardly encouraging that nuclear weapons continued to feature in the security and military doctrines of certain States.  He underscored the early commencement of negotiations on a convention on nuclear weapons.  In the interim, legally binding assurances and the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones were necessary.

SALAHALDIEN KHAIR (Sudan) said nuclear disarmament was the only guarantee to consolidate peace and security around the world, calling upon concerned parties to avoid the use of nuclear weapons.  Their total elimination could not take place until a comprehensive legal framework was in place, he said, noting that Sudan was among the first countries to sign relevant international instruments in that regard.  Furthermore, Sudan had been involved in regional efforts to make Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

YU PENG (China) said the elimination of nuclear weapons served the interest of mankind.  The world was undergoing profound changes and the cold war mentality on that issue must come to an end.  Efforts must be made to establish an international security environment based on trust, he stressed.  For its part, China stood for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and pursued a nuclear strategy that was purely defensive.  In that context, he pledged that China would never use such weapons on non-nuclear-weapon States and nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Countries with the largest arsenals bore an important responsibility and must be committed to stockpile reduction, he said.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), welcoming regional and international efforts towards achieving nuclear disarmament, said the existence of such weapons threatened global peace and security while undermining international law.  “No pretext can justify their use,” he said, decrying the allocation of resources to modernize nuclear capabilities.  As the ultimate goal was to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, he commended the organization of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.  However, he expressed regret about the failure of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the importance of the International Day in raising awareness of the nuclear weapon threat and renewing focus on and public awareness of the issue.  The international community must battle the fatigue of discussions and work in good faith towards positive outcomes, she said.  To that end, a key development was the Open-ended Working Group’s recommendation to convene a conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to eliminate nuclear weapons.  Malaysia looked forward to working with all in creating awareness of the nuclear weapon threat and expressed appreciation for the role played by civil society in discussions.

RI TONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the criticism posed against his Government was an outcome of hostile policies coming from the United States.  Nuclear “blackmailing” had continued for half a century, he said, emphasizing that citizens in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been living in the most dangerous security environment.  Pointing out activities carried out by the United States, he said:  “They bring different kinds of nuclear assets, including submarines and bombers.”  Their purpose was to occupy Pyongyang and change the regime in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  In the face of those security threats, “we have no other option, but to go nuclear”, he stressed.

TOMASZ GRYSA of the Holy See expressed hope that the commemoration of the International Day would contribute to breaking the deadlock that had beset the disarmament machinery for far too long.  After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pope Pius XII had demanded the proscription and banishment of atomic warfare, describing the arms race as a costly relationship of mutual terror.  The Holy See had maintained that position ever since the advent of nuclear weapons.  Nuclear arms offered a false sense of security and the uneasy peace that had been promised by nuclear deterrence was a tragic illusion.  “Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world,” he said.  “We have no reasonable or moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

AHMED FATHALLA, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, expressed disappointment in the failure of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, pointing to the absence of political will as the main cause.  The Treaty was the cornerstone of the non-proliferation system and was essential to ensure international peace and stability.  As a result, the universality of the Treaty was crucial and no country should be excluded, including Israel.  On that note, he urged Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear programmes to the international monitoring system.  Stressing the importance of regional security, he called for the establishment of the Middle East as a nuclear-weapon-free zone and urged for that milestone to take place before the 2020 Review Conference.

GENXIN LI, Director of the Legal and External Relations Division of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, acknowledged global efforts towards the elimination of stockpiles and the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Despite progress that had been made over the past years, there were still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons all around the world.  In that regard, the Test-Ban Treaty represented a significant instrument for ensuring that no nuclear test went undetected.  A total of 44 nuclear technology holders must sign and ratify the Treaty before it could enter into force, he said, adding that, to date, it remained unfinished business.

SUSAN SOUTHWARD of the International Coalition against Nuclear Weapons noted that, in the final session of the Open-ended Working Group, 107 States had supported the convening of a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons leading towards their total elimination.  Even though the last survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki were now passing away, it was important to remember the devastating effects of the atomic bombs.  “In memory of the hundreds of thousands who died 71 years ago and in the years that followed,” she said, “may their courage, strength and perseverance infuse us with these same qualities so that every nation finds within itself the courage to eliminate nuclear weapons at home and advocate for this mission across the globe.”

CHRISTIAN N. CIOBANU, a youth representative of Ban All Nukes Generation, said idealism was needed to create a sustainable and equal world for all generations.  Multilateral negotiations must be pursued in good faith according to Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  That principle required Member States to meet their obligations under the Treaty now and not later.  Welcoming the outcome report of the Open-ended Working Group, he recalled its recommendation to begin, in 2017, negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.  Current tensions among and within countries could make negotiations a difficult task, but it was task that had to be tackled by delegations and all stakeholders.

KIM WON-SOO, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said nuclear disarmament was in the “DNA of the United Nations”.  Yet, that aim could not be achieved without the engagement of all stakeholders, including Member States and civil society organizations.  Acknowledging that the danger of nuclear weapons was still very real, he said “even one is too many”.  As such, “we must work together to break the stalemate and strengthen disarmament machinery”, he said.

There was more than one path to reach the destination, he went on to say, stressing that the voicing of different views had reflected deepening differences, the inclusive engagement of all actors could help to find a common ground.  “I count on all of you,” he said, emphasizing that the world was eagerly watching.

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