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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 22, January 1998

Documents and Sources

Statements to the Conference on Disarmament

Statement by South Africa

Statement by Ambassador J.S. Selebi, 20 January 1998


"What are these 'real issues' facing the Conference on Disarmament? In the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations there was a focus on:

  • Nuclear disarmament
  • The prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS)
  • Transparency in armaments (TIA) and
  • Negative security assurances (NSA).
Nuclear disarmament is considered by all delegations to be one of the most important disarmament issues facing the international community. In fact as we are all aware, there are many delegations represented in this Conference, members and non-members alike, who regard nuclear disarmament as the priority issue. We can enter into a polemical debate about whether nuclear disarmament is the only priority or whether there are other priorities such as conventional disarmament, combating the illicit trafficking of small arms, etc. This will, however, as in the past, lead us nowhere. The fact of the matter is that this Conference cannot ignore or push the nuclear disarmament issue aside.

As South Africa's delegation to last year's First Committee stated, it is our view that the inability of the CD to reach consensus on a mechanism which would allow for substantive work on the nuclear disarmament issue can be seen as a result of two opposing views. On the one side, there is a refusal to acknowledge the multilateral dimension of nuclear disarmament and that it would deny the bilateral and plurilateral dimensions of nuclear disarmament. On the other side of the debate there are those who would seek to impose ideological concepts on and 'linkages' between the various elements of nuclear disarmament. Last year's impasse should make it clear that the solution for the CD does not lie down either of these routes. We believe that the time has come for the States trapped between these two extremes to mobilise their strength and to set an agenda for 1998 which would allow nuclear disarmament to be substantively considered while avoiding the security concerns which are so closely associated with this issue.

To this end, my delegation is submitting a draft decision and mandate for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, a copy of which we have provided to the secretariat with the request that it should be circulated as an official document of the Conference on Disarmament. The draft decision and mandate reads:

'1. The Conference on Disarmament decides to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament to deliberate upon practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons as well as to identify if and when one or more such steps should be the subject of negotiations in the Conference.

2. In discharging its function, the Ad Hoc Committee will take into account existing proposals and views, as well as future initiatives on nuclear disarmament.'

We are laying this mandate before the CD today with the purpose of providing delegations with the opportunity of studying and reflecting upon its contents. It is South Africa's intention to push this mandate forward for a decision in a plenary meeting of the CD in the near future. The issue is of too great an importance for it to be hidden in the morass of CD procedural tactics, where decisions are taken behind closed doors. We have attempted to draft this initiative carefully, so as not to raise the security concerns which are so closely associated with this issue. We believe that the necessary safeguards to achieve this have been made an intrinsic part of the wording. Nuclear disarmament is a concern of the entire international community. Substantive work in an Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament of the Conference on Disarmament would not, and should not, undermine or threaten the nuclear disarmament negotiations between Russia and the United States. These would continue to be of paramount importance to the reduction of nuclear weapons and for their eventual elimination, and so also will future negotiations involving the other nuclear-weapon States.


The General Assembly adopted the resolution on the 'Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space' which, inter alia, '(i)nvites the Conference on Disarmament to re-examine the mandate contained in its decision of 13 February 1992, with a view to updating it as appropriate, thus providing for the re-establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee during the 1998 Session of the Conference on Disarmament'. My delegation will work positively and constructively in the debate on a mandate on the outer space issue.


Humanity is faced with the daily threat of harm from the use of conventional weapons. These weapons are the source of most of the death and suffering caused in conflicts around the world today and it is our hope that the Conference will place greater emphasis on such weapons. Of particular concern is the build-up of conventional weapons beyond the level required for self-defence which is posing a threat to international peace and security. In this regard the UN Register of Conventional Arms remains an important tool in building transparency and confidence which contributes toward the easing of tensions and restraint in arms transfers. In accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution on 'Transparency in Armaments' (L43) the Conference should again consider discussing the issue of transparency in armaments. There are, however, divergent views on this subject and there is a need for clearer and more focused proposals on how the CD should address this matter.

On the issue of negative security assurances my delegation found it of note that the CD has in the past clearly demonstrated a singular lack of any progress on the security assurances issue. We also question whether this is an issue which truly belongs in the Conference on Disarmament. South Africa's view of security assurances is further that it is not a genuine disarmament measure and that it can in fact be viewed as confirmation of the nuclear-weapon status of those States which possess these weapons. Since the 1997 First Preparatory Committee meeting for the year 2000 NPT Review Conference, South Africa has adopted the position that the issue of negative security assurances should be dealt with in the context of the NPT's Strengthened Review Process as opposed to any other forum. South Africa sees security assurances as an implicit part of the NPT bargain which was struck with non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS) when they forswore the nuclear weapon option - i.e. the right of States which have given up nuclear weapons not to have nuclear weapons used or threatened to be used against them.


Before attempting to reach a conclusion about which of the abovementioned issues are realistically achievable in the CD this year, my delegation believes that any dispassionate evaluation of the prospects of substantive work needs to be taken against the backdrop of the Conference's Rules of Procedure, and more specifically taking into account the rule of consensus. Any proposals for substantive work will have to fully take into account the views of all members of the CD. Any mandate for substantive work in the Conference and for the establishment of Ad Hoc Committees will therefore by necessity need to be the result of negotiation, flexibility and compromise. If we are to make a serious attempt to break the 1997 deadlock then all delegations will not only need to carefully consider their own positions but attempt to understand and positively react to the concerns of others. South Africa's appeal is for the members of the Conference on Disarmament to look beyond the issues which divide them, for members not to adopt intractable positions insisting on the inclusion of specific national and group positions before any agreement can be reached, and to negate the re-emergence of maximalist positions which only succeed in retarding global disarmament.

Against this background, Mr. President, it is our view that with the necessary commitment to the goal of genuine disarmament, and taking into account the amount of work which the CD can feasibly undertake in a given year, that we should strive for a programme of work which does not attempt to avoid the key issues which face us. After the experiences of last year, the temptation may be great to settle for a programme of work which only includes issues which are regarded as easy to reach agreement on. It is South Africa's view that as we seek to identify the Conference's work for the future, thereby hopefully also demonstrating the CD's continued relevance as we prepare to enter the next century, we cannot avoid openly facing the nuclear disarmament issue. It is furthermore our hope that agreement on the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee on nuclear disarmament will break the 'linkages' logjam which has prevented the commencement of the fissile material cut-off (FMCT) negotiations. A commitment to which all of the NPT States parties again undertook at the 1997 Preparatory Committee meeting for the year 2000 NPT Review Conference. ..."

Statement by Canada

Statement by Ambassador Mark Moher, 22 January 1998


"Weapons of Mass Destruction

Canada's position on nuclear disarmament and on the responsibility of the CD has been stated earlier, both here in the CD and elsewhere. Essentially it remains our firm conviction that nuclear disarmament has been and continues to be a primary and priority preoccupation of the global community. Worldwide, there continues to be more than 36 000 nuclear warheads on launchers or in storage. While acknowledging progress to date, we remain committed to the promotion of continuing progressive and dynamic steps toward the elimination of these weapons. START I, which is after all the only ratified nuclear weapon reduction treaty being implemented, is not enough. START II must be ratified early in 1998 and a START III-and-beyond process must be initiated. Other measures can and should be undertaken in parallel.

In pursuing such steps, it is clear that responsibilities and activities of States vary. While we fully acknowledge that the nuclear-weapon States have particular responsibility on nuclear disarmament issues, and thus have specific contributions to make, other members of the international community have both stakes and interests with regard to these issues. These stakes and interests should not be ignored.

We all recognize the CD as the single multilateral forum for consideration and negotiation of arms control and disarmament issues. More specifically, in our view, the CD should and can be more appropriately and substantively engaged on nuclear disarmament issues. First, however, let me be very clear. Canada does not consider that the CD should be mandated to negotiate nuclear weapon reductions per se or specific operational issues concerning such weapons. In our view, the START process at this stage is rightly conducted between the USA and the Russian Federation. Together with the full and effective implementation of the NPT, the full and effective implementation of the agreements resulting from the START process is key to international efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons worldwide. As already noted, we urge Russian ratification of START II this spring we welcome the statements of both governments about START III and we hope that the START process will be widened soon to include all five nuclear-weapons States. However, it is our firm conviction that it would be inappropriate and unhelpful to multilateralize the subject matters of the START process itself.

But the CD should respond to the broad multilateral desire to support, as appropriate, nuclear-weapons States' efforts in the disarmament field. We should find a way so it can be more aware of issues and developments, to express views on developments, and, more directly, to identify and explore issues which could be negotiated at an appropriate point by a multilateral mechanism. The CD has negotiated one such issue in the recent past, i.e. the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Canada continues to consider that the CD could make a further contribution by the negotiation of an effective Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Other issues appropriate for negotiation in the CD may well emerge in the future, not least of all as the result of substantive discussions in the CD on general nuclear disarmament issues and developments.

At this point in human history and in the history of this body, it is difficult to understand why this forum, in particular, does not have a mechanism for this purpose. Our views on this matter are well known.... Appropriate CD consideration of nuclear disarmament would respond to the priority accorded to the issue by the international community. We note that such an idea would follow the precedents set by other Ad Hoc Committees of the CD. The CD has often set up Ad Hoc Committees with mandates to consider matters in a focused [sic] and substantive manner, yet not necessarily to negotiate immediately. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space was active for several years, yet its mandate did not include negotiation. The Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency in Armaments was active from 1993 to 1994 without a negotiating mandate.

We are aware that some members of the CD have suggested that this approach to dealing with the nuclear disarmament issue poses both procedural and substantive problems. We have listened carefully to these comments and would like to address them now, at this early stage in our discussions, in the hope that this might clear the way for practical consideration of our approach.

First, we have heard it said that positive action along the lines suggested by Canada would 'convert the CD from a substantive negotiating forum to a talk-shop'. A better informed CD in which substantive discussion can take place with a view to identifying one or more particular issues appropriate for negotiation is not a 'talk-shop'. Rather, it would be the fulfilment of precisely the sort of serious role and mandate to which this body should be devoting itself. Moreover could the CD not, from time to time, express a consensus political viewpoint on particularly timely issues in this field? We think it could - and various possibilities readily suggest themselves if the CD should decide it useful to do so.

Second, it has been said that such a substantive discussion process within the CD would complicate the START process and related activities. The fact is, both the USA and the Russian Federation governments are already providing extensive information on the START process to the legislatures. Both are answering questions from those bodies and from other sources, including from the media, interested publics, experts and NGOs. Finally it is clear that under any scenario those governments - and the other NWS governments - would decide for themselves what information to provide. The providing of information to an expert body like the CD would complement these bilateral activities and, indeed, could contribute to developing a considerably better informed debate at the international level on the complexities, challenges and opportunities for progress on the nuclear disarmament front.

Finally, there is a concern that the establishment by the CD of a mechanism for this purpose would be the first dangerous step on the 'slippery slope' towards negotiation in the CD of nuclear weapon reductions and other issues. Let's be serious. We have a deep respect for the ability of States members of this body to, singly and collectively, protect their security interests. We would also recall that Canada's proposal explicitly recognises that any substantive discussion process would have to be carried out subject to the CD's own Rules of Procedure. Finally, I would note that Canada has not in the past and is not now suggesting an immediate negotiating mandate or mandates.

So, here today, Canada renews its proposal as set out in document CD/1456 of 15 May 1997. We urge the CD to consider the essential core of that proposal -i.e. that the CD move now to proceed to substantive discussion of nuclear disarmament issues with a view to identifying one or more possible issues for multilateral negotiation. In our view, what a mechanism is called in this regard is less important than what it does. ...

On a separate but related issue, our views on the potential contribution of an effective FMCT are well known. We continue to believe that an FMCT negotiated on the basis of the core mandate contained in the consensus Shannon report (CD 1299) is the only broadly acceptable basis for focused CD work. An Ad Hoc Committee can and should be established to initiate negotiations on that basis. These negotiations will undoubtedly be complex and prolonged so all relevant questions will be fully addressed. To demand answers a priori is only a pretext for inaction.

That said, developments since 1995, such as the NPT extension, the ongoing START process and the CTBT, have suggested the value of considering further the context in which the core mandate is set. One possibility would be a Presidential Statement to be made in the process of a decision to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on FMCT with the core mandate from CD/1299. We have reflected on this idea and ask the Secretariat to circulate a second working paper under cover of a CD number as a contribution. We believe that the concepts therein are self-evident but would be prepared to discuss them further if the CD should so desire.


Outer Space

On a separate issue, Canada would now like to address briefly another field of interest to this body - that is, disarmament action as regards the domain of outer space. This interest on our part dates back to UNSSOD II [United Nations Special Session on Disarmament] at which then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called for work to ban the development, testing and deployment of all weapons in outer space. This call was reiterated by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1992, who stated that Canada would support and promote multilateral discussions towards that end.

In addressing this topic today, there are two key points I would like to make. First, our concern is not academic. Currently, over 30 countries are engaged in space-related activities and many more are moving in that direction. Technology continues to evolve as well, providing grounds for both optimism and pessimism. And, most importantly, the briefest of reviews of public information reveals increasing speculation about and advocacy of concepts related to the more far-reaching military uses of outer space. So - as noted - this issue is not academic. But is action timely?

We think so. We readily acknowledge that there is currently no arms race in outer space. That is not the problem we wish to address. Moreover, we recognize that outer space is already being heavily used for such military purposes as surveillance, intelligence-gathering and communications. We do not propose to roll-back that reality. But disarmament is and should be about more than rolling-back what States have already done once their military establishments have developed core security commitments and invested billions in certain capabilities. Our focus has been and is accordingly on the non-weaponization of outer space, i.e. no positioning of actual weapons in outer space. There are related activities of potential interest in this respect - and discussions in this body may bring those into play - but our current focus, I wish to emphasize, is purely on this specific aspect.

In our opening statement to the CD last year, we indicated our interest in the negotiation in the CD of a legally-binding instrument that would prevent the weaponization of outer space. We expanded on this concept during the thematic debates of the UN's First Committee this past fall. Indeed, at that time, we expressed our interest in the issue to Sri Lanka and the other co-sponsors of the outer space resolution. We indicated that, while the issue seems to us to be increasingly relevant, we believe that the resolution and - more importantly - the CD's mechanisms need to be updated to deal with the current reality. Our vote in favour of that resolution was helped, in part, by the resolution's recognition that the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee needs to [be] reviewed and updated. We support work to that end.

We obviously claim no unique awareness in this regard and realize that others may have different views. At this point, we wish to put this matter before the CD with a view to further discussion and request the Secretariat to circulate a third working paper as a contribution to such a discussion. ..."

Statement by Ireland

Statement by Ambassador Anne Anderson, 22 January 1998


"My reason for taking the floor today is to welcome the South African proposal concerning the possible future work of the CD in the area of nuclear disarmament. It is encouraging that we should have been presented with such an important and carefully-elaborated initiative at our first Plenary.

I should also like to acknowledge the thoughtful statement of the Ambassador of Myanmar in which he indicated flexibility on the issue of how the CD might consider nuclear disarmament issues.

My delegation takes it as incontrovertible that achievement of the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons will, at some stage, require multilateral negotiations.

We fully acknowledge the importance of the bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia on the progressive reduction in their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. We congratulate them on the significant progress which has been made and we note the agenda for future negotiations. We can fully appreciate why they would not wish to multilateralise their complex discussions.

Understandably, however, such bilateral processes are primarily focused on reductions. While they are important stepping stones on the way to elimination, they are not in themselves focused on achieving the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Indeed, it would be impossible for two nuclear powers or even five nuclear powers to negotiate between themselves the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Global outcomes inevitably require multilateral approaches.

If the elimination of nuclear weapons will eventually require a multilateral agreement, questions of timing and substance arise. At what point should the international community, taking account of the progress made in bilateral nuclear arms negotiations and in view of a relatively benign international security situation, begin to consider the scope, content and timing of multilateral negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons? It seems to use, Mr. President, that the South African proposal asks us to assess if now is the time to begin to consider these questions. In effect the proposal invites us to cross the threshold into the ante-chamber to eventual negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons. It asks us to step back from the hitherto relatively narrow focus of nuclear disarmament negotiations and to examine the vista ahead.

When the CD comes to decide in Plenary on the South African proposal, after a period of study and reflection, it will be a defining moment.

Let me make clear...that Ireland believes that the time has come to take a decisive step forward.

It is certainly right that our ambition should be tempered by the necessary realism. At the same time, 'realism' too often risks becoming a codeword for inaction, an indefinite postponement of multilateral action until the fruits of bilateralism and plurilateralism become apparent. For our part, we support the kind of balanced accommodation - the determined search for a middle ground - which the South African approach represents.

Last year my delegation expressed its support for the establishment of a mechanism in the CD which would permit us to examine what further multilateral work the CD might usefully undertake in support of the goal of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. We suggested that such a mechanism could take into account all relevant proposals which have been presented to the CD. Discussions under such a mechanism should not be rhetorical but pragmatic, an effort to agree an agenda of necessary future multilateral work on nuclear disarmament while taking full account of the progress made in the bilateral or plurilateral negotiations between the nuclear powers.

The history of this body in negotiating disarmament Treaties has amply demonstrated the ability of multilateral negotiations to conclude global agreements prohibiting weapons of mass destruction, not least their verification provisions.

Towards the end of the 1997 session we noted some sign of an emerging body of opinion in the CD, cutting across all regional groups, which appeared willing to explore the compromises necessary to make progress on the central issue of nuclear disarmament.

The initiative taken by South Africa brings us closer to developing a more precise map of this common ground. In our view the proposal has the potential to bring us to a reasonable compromise which could open the way to the launching of negotiations on those key issues of nuclear disarmament which might appropriately be dealt with by the CD. ..."

Statement by Japan

Statement by Ambassador Akira Hayashi, 22 January 1998


"Nuclear disarmament is Japan's invariable priority in disarmament. Let me recall that my delegation put forward a proposal last year to appoint a special coordinator on nuclear disarmament in order to identify the issues which could be negotiated in the Conference. We do not stick to a specific format how we pursue nuclear disarmament in the CD. We are open to a special coordinator, an ad hoc committee or any other mechanisms, but it is Japan's firm belief that the CD itself should make its own effort to identify possible items in the field of nuclear disarmament to be negotiated in the Conference. In this respect, my delegation welcomes very much the concrete proposal made by South Africa for the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament. It is now the time for us to seriously consider the possible way in which the nuclear disarmament is most adequately dealt with in the CD. In the meantime, it would be useful if nuclear-weapon States inform the Conference of the progress or efforts made in the process of nuclear disarmament....

There are a number of important measures in nuclear disarmament. A cut-off treaty, however, is the only one item already identified and agreed as a subject for negotiations in the CD. That is why Japan continues to hold the view that an FMCT is the next practical item for negotiations after the CTBT in the context of nuclear disarmament. That is why Japan supports the reestablishment [sic] of an Ad Hoc Committee based on [the] so-called Shannon Mandate of 1995. We sincerely hope that our wish will come true this year thanks to the spirit of cooperation in the Conference.

If it will facilitate the discussions on this issue to reach an agreement, my delegation is delight[ed] to make a contribution. If appropriate, we would propose to put an FMCT more in the context of nuclear disarmament but at the same time without being bound by the so-called time bound framework, or in case the agreement cannot be reached on commencing the negotiations, we would suggest starting some discussions on the technical aspects of a treaty together with experts. My delegation is now examining the desirability of concrete proposals and we would table them when it is appropriate to do so. ..."

Statement by the United States

Statement by President Clinton, delivered by Ambassador Robert Grey, 20 January 1998

Full Text of President Clinton's Statement

"As you resume your critical efforts to strengthen global security, I pledge the full support of the United States Delegation in taking the next steps in the nuclear disarmament process and banning anti-personnel landmines from the face of the earth. No issues are more important today to this body's work than a cutoff of fissile material production for nuclear explosives and a worldwide ban on the export of anti-personnel landmines. If the Conference can promptly conclude these accords, complementing deep bilateral reductions in nuclear arms and the Ottawa Convention, we will take important steps on the road to a world that is free of nuclear weapons and safe for children to tread. I am confident the Conference on Disarmament can meet the challenge."

Remarks by Ambassador Grey

"I begin my tenure at the head of the US Delegation with the hope that we can quickly resolve our differences and place the practical security concerns of the world's peoples at the forefront of our agenda. At the 1997 session of the United Nations First Committee, we all heard many lamentations about the inability of the Conference to do any work last year as well as fears that the Conference would fade into irrelevance if this situation remained unchanged. President Clinton's statement...points us in the right direction to correct this very unfortunate state of affairs. I hope that we can work together to achieve the goals set forth in the statement and to restore the Conference to its rightful place as an effective multilateral disarmament negotiating forum."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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