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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 29, August - September 1998

Geneva Update No. 42
by Rebecca Johnson

Conference on Disarmament: 1998 Round-up Summary

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) closed on 9 September after adopting its report to the United Nations General Assembly. There was obvious relief that this year (unlike last) the CD would be able to report establishing committees to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials and to discuss negative security assurances. At the same time, there were frustrations and disappointments: frustration, that the CD report failed even to mention the Indian and Pakistan tests, which have dominated plenary sessions after May; and disappointment that one member blocked the anticipated decision to admit five new members.

Fissban committee agreed

Just weeks before closing, the CD managed to establish a committee to start negotiations on a fissile material treaty (FMT)(1), chaired by Ambassador Mark Moher of Canada. Although he served for only three weeks and many delegations wanted the CD to make the commitment to reconvene the negotiations under 'Chairman Moher' in 1999, no decision on this was possible. To enable negotiations to get started, long-standing conflicts over stockpiles and the purpose of the measure in relation to non-proliferation and/or nuclear disarmament, which had delayed the start of the negotiations, were postponed rather than resolved. All signs point to long and arduous negotiations over several years, but at least the CD feels that it will be at work once more.

No expansion

The dispute over expanding the CD came after the Special Coordinator on this issue, Ambassador Erwin Hofer of Switzerland, crafted a proposal to admit five new members, one from each of the regions: Ecuador from Latin America, Ireland from Western Europe, Kazakhstan from the former Eastern bloc, Malaysia from Asia, and Tunisia from Africa. Though a number of delegations favoured enlarging the CD to admit all States which have applied for membership, others feared that the Conference risked becoming too large to negotiate effectively. Hofer's proposal of admitting five new members seemed a good compromise, satisfying all the regional groupings. Despite its widespread backing, the proposal was blocked by Iran. Although the official reason was lack of instructions, it now appears that Tehran sought to link its acceptance of the expansion decision with a report critical of human rights in Iran, intending to exert pressure on some of the States, notably Ireland. If so, its tactics have also inconvenienced a number of its friends and put many backs up.

Followed by the other applicant States, Ambassador Anne Anderson of Ireland made a dignified statement full of restrained anger and disappointment that more than sixteen years after applying, Ireland would still be forced to wait outside the CD. Norway sought to force the opposition to expansion into the open, prompting Morocco to suggest that the Swiss proposal should be considered again at the opening of the CD in 1999, which several delegations endorsed.

Nuclear disarmament

The outgoing and current Presidents, Ambassadors Maimeskul of Ukraine and Ian Soutar of the United Kingdom, gave brief reports on their 'troika' consultations on nuclear disarmament issues, as mandated in March. Both noted that the G-21 group of non-aligned States continues to attach the "highest priority" to nuclear disarmament, while many other delegations, including from the Western group, were supportive of the idea of establishing some form of consultative, advisory mechanism within the CD to exchange information and facilitate cooperation and accountability. Both welcomed the decision to start the fissile materials negotiations. Soutar considered that despite "expressions of flexibility and moderation" the differences were too wide and there was thus no prospect of agreeing (yet) to the establishment of a mechanism to address nuclear disarmament issues. Noting that a number of delegations had found the troika consultations useful, he recommended that they be resumed at the start of the 1999 Session.

Statements, July to September

The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan continued to take up considerable time in the plenaries, with mentions from many participants and continuing justifications, arguments, and policy updates from Pakistan and India themselves. At the plenary on 30 July (2), Pakistan announced its willingness to let fissile materials negotiations get started in the CD, which several delegations, including France, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States, Austria and Australia welcomed. The latter two countries focused the best part of their statements on the need to start FMT negotiations. Britain's Ambassador reported on the UK Strategic Defence Review, which several other delegations welcomed as an important step forwards; Brazil announced its accession to the NPT and ratification of the CTBT; South Korea spoke of its regional concerns with respect to DPRK; Germany gave an overview, emphasising the importance of the FMT and curbing small arms and light weapons; Algeria gave a general statement that introduced a two-pronged action-proposal on fissile materials and nuclear disarmament (CD/1545); Argentina introduced the political declaration of Mercosur; South Africa announced its ratification of three legal instruments regarding the prohibition of anti-personnel landmines; and France also announced its ratification of the Ottawa Treaty.

The 6 August plenary was mainly taken up with attempting to reach a decision on starting FMT negotiations. India, however, focused primarily on security assurances, giving its new policy, as stated by the Prime Minister on 4 August (see NSA, below). Italy gave a general statement on nuclear issues, backing FMT negotiations and the Belgian proposal for the establishment of a CD forum to exchange information and facilitate dialogue between the nuclear and non-nuclear countries; and Bangladesh spoke forcefully of the need for early action on FMT, characterising it as a "step both intellectually and procedurally towards nuclear disarmament" (3). The 11 August plenary was devoted to the decision to establish the committee to negotiate an FMT, and the numerous reactions and views relating to this (see FMT, below)(4).

The 13 August plenary saw statements from China on weapons and space (see PAROS, below); from Finland and France welcoming the decision to start cut-off negotiations; and from the outgoing President, Mykola Maimeskul, assessing his term and informing the CD of the presidential troika discussions on 'agenda item 1' (nuclear disarmament).(5)

The 20 August plenary was addressed by Poland, who made a general statement welcoming the FMT decision and calling for the CD to work on a global ban on the transfer of anti-personnel landmines, to which Poland attached "priority importance". Mark Moher responded to his appointment as Chair of the FMT negotiations, promising to be a fair and neutral Chair, sensitive to CD members and the committee, not withstanding Canada's own strong national positions. France spoke about nuclear disarmament. There ensued some discussion initiated by Egypt and backed by South Africa, concerning what to call the fissban committee, convened under agenda item 1 to negotiate the fissile materials ban. In essence, they objected to use of the shorthand 'FMCT committee', as it appeared to prejudge the scope, despite assurances from the UK President, Ambassador Ian Soutar, that the informal shorthand was not intended to do so. (6)

The plenaries of 27 August, 3 September and 8 September heard reports from various special coordinators and the two committee chairs, details of which are given below. The United States and Russia reported on the agreements concluded during the Summit between Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton in Moscow. Four of the initiatives, relating to disarmament and non-proliferation objectives were outlined: the management and disposition of plutonium, including each country's commitment to remove 50 tonnes of plutonium in stages from its weapons programmes; the exchange of information on launches of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, including discussion on the possibility of setting up a multilateral pre-launch notificiation regime for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles; support for the legally binding Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention currently being negotiated; and information, initiatives and cooperation to strengthen non-proliferation export controls.

Several Ambassadors took their leave, often with witty or pointed valedictory statements, notably Ambassador Martínez Morcillo of Spain, Ambassador Yosef Lamdan of Israel, and Ambassador Mária Krasnohorská of the Slovak Republic.

The Year in Brief

The year started optimistically, with adoption of the CD's agenda at the first plenary in January. Two months later, on 26 March, the Conference adopted a programme of work, although for discussions rather than negotiations. It established an ad hoc Committee on negative security assurances (NSA), consultations on nuclear disarmament-related issues under the auspices of the past, present and incoming Presidents (referred to as 'the Troika') and six special coordinators on substantive and procedural issues. May was dominated by the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, with several CD meetings -- including a special plenary called at the request of a group of CD members -- devoted to statements on the nuclear tests, the vast majority of which were condemnatory. During May, the CD also managed to appoint seven ambassadors to carry out the agreed work programme.

The South Asian nuclear crisis had the paradoxical consequence of making India and Pakistan more amenable to US-orchestrated diplomatic pressure aimed at getting negotiations underway on a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes. The breakthrough came at the 802nd plenary, on 11 August, when the CD agreed to establish an ad hoc committee under agenda item 1 to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons on the basis of the March 1995 Shannon Report. The presidential gavel, wielded by Dr Mykola Maimeskul of Ukraine, might have come down "faster than Clint Eastwood" (7), but the decision itself was a long time in the making, requiring intensive and high level negotiations to find a formula and persuade not only India and Pakistan, but also Israel, Egypt and one or two others to accept the majority will for negotiations to get underway. It took a further week before the CD could appoint the committee's first Chair, Ambassador Mark Moher of Canada.

Before the end of the session, each of the Chairs and Special Coordinators gave reports on their work. The last CD President of the year, Ambassador Ian Soutar of the United Kingdom, also reported on his troika consultations, saying that despite the constructive and forward-looking meetings, the divergence of opinion was such that there was no prospect of agreeing a mechanism for addressing nuclear disarmament. Noting that a number of delegations had found the consultations useful, Soutar recommended that the CD resume troika consultations on this issue in 1999.

The 1998 Agenda

1. Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.

2. Prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters.

3. Prevention of an arms race in outer space.

4. Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

5. New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons.

6. Comprehensive programme of disarmament.

7. Transparency in armaments.

8. Consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations." (8)

CD Presidents during 1998: Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

1998 Appointments:

Chair of ad hoc committee on Negative Security Assurances (under agenda item 4): Antonio de Icaza of Mexico;

Chair of ad hoc committee to negotiate a fissile materials treaty (under agenda item 1): Mark Moher of Canada;

Special Coordinator on Landmines (under agenda item 6): John Campbell of Australia;

Special Coordinator on Prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) (under agenda item 3): HMGS Palihakkara of Sri Lanka;

Special coordinator on transparency in armaments (TIA) (under agenda item 7); Pavel Grecu of Romania;

Special Coordinator on Improved and effective functioning of the Conference: Javier Illanes of Chile;

Special Coordinator on Review of the Agenda: Péter Náray of Hungary:

Special Coordinator on Expansion of the Membership of the CD: Erwin Hofer of Switzerland.

Adopting the Annual Report

The annual report of the CD summarised the decisions and appointments. Under the section entitled 'Substantive work of the Conference during its 1998 session' the report recalled the various resolutions from the 52nd United Nations General Assembly (adopted in December 1997) and listed the various statements and documents which had been officially published by the CD over the year, sometimes at the specific request of certain States.

No mention of the tests

A major conflict arose over lack of any mention of the nuclear tests nuclear testing conducted by India and Pakistan in May. Since the nuclear tests had dominated several plenary sessions and had been the subject of a special plenary session on June 2, a group of CD members considered that this should be recorded in the report. Accordingly, New Zealand, Australia and Canada proposed the following paragraph for inclusion in the annual report:

"In May 1998, a series of nuclear tests were carried out in South Asia, first by India and then by Pakistan. This fact led to several discussions in the Conference, including Plenary 795, during which the positions of members of the Conference were put forward, including the positions of those two countries as well as that of 47 members and observers as expressed in CD/1556. The full range of positions are duly noted in the Plenary records of this Session. In this context, the Conference also had before it the following documents."

India and Pakistan reportedly threatened to veto the entire report if the paragraph was included. Because the CD works by consensus, the proposers were then confronted with the choice of threatening to veto the report unless it mentioned the tests or dropping their proposal so that the annual report could be adopted. Although some of the group felt strongly that the report's accuracy and usefulness were significantly diminished by loss of the paragraph on the nuclear tests, they decided to withdraw their proposal. Instead, Ambassador Clive Pearson of New Zealand read a statement objecting to the omission on behalf of ten CD members: Australia, Canada, Japan, Hungary, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland Ukraine, and the United States.

This statement rejected the argument that mention of the tests or the special session could not be included because the CD had established no precedent for this: "Are we being asked to accept that the CD can only react to or record developments that have an exact parallel in the past? To do so would render this important body incapable of dealing with real issues in the real world." They particularly rejected the argument that the precedent for the South Asian tests lay in the nuclear tests conducted by France and China during the CTBT negotiations. While criticising the way in which India and Pakistan had wielded their right of veto to suppress a paragraph describing facts and events, the statement nevertheless considered that the consensus rule "provides sufficient protection for the national position of any member on substantive negotiating issues" without relying on potentially dangerous appeals to precedent..

Making clear that the ten co-sponsors accepted the deletion of the paragraph only because the rule of consensus had been evoked, the statement also sought:

"* to renew our condemnation of all nuclear testing;

* to regret the inability of this Conference in its Annual Report to deal factually with a critical development in 1998 of direct and immediate importance to the Conference;

* to record that the only basis for our acceptance of the Annual Report is the invocation by two delegations of the consensus rule;

* to reject any assertion of 'precedent' as a basis for preventing or precluding the inclusion of factual references in the Annual Report;

* and finally, to reaffirm the views put forward in the Joint Statement -- by 47 delegations and observers -- which was made at a Special Plenary meeting of this Conference on 2 June 1998."

Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan reacted angrily to this statement, essentially accusing its co-sponsors of double standards, new-found morality, and even racism. Recalling the more than 2000 tests conducted by the five nuclear-weapon States (NWS), some of which were conducted on Australian territory, Akram castigated Canada and Australia for supplying uranium that ended up in nuclear weapons, accused Canada of supplying India with its first research reactor, and criticised New Zealand for being "silent" on the qualitative development of nuclear weapons through sub-critical testing. Although Australia, New Zealand and Canada had also been at the forefront of criticisms of the recent French and Chinese tests, as well as long time opponents of nuclear testing by the other weapon states, Akram appeared to accuse them of considering some tests to be more acceptable than others. He rejected the NPT definition of a nuclear-weapon State, proclaiming: "The NPT is not the word of God -- certainly not of my god." Furthermore, he said "For the nuclear-weapon States to tell the rest of the world not to acquire nuclear weapons is like five drunkards preaching abstinence to the rest of the world." He concluded by saying that Pakistan would seek dialogue and constructive responses but "we will not accept discrimination. We will not accept moralising, and we will not accept coercion."

Ambassador Savitri Kunadi also responded, arguing that India's tests had been conducted for reasons similar to those invoked by other nuclear testing countries, i.e. national security. She pointed out that no laws had been violated, that India had announced a moratorium and that its commitment to nuclear disarmament was undiminished.

Fissile Material Treaty

The agreement adopted by the CD on 11 August 1998 consisted of a decision linked with a Presidential statement, as follows:

DECISION on the establishment of an ad hoc committee under item 1 of the agenda entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament" (9)

The Conference on Disarmament decides to establish under item 1 of its agenda entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament" an ad hoc committee which shall negotiate, on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator (CD/1299) and the mandate contained therein, a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The Ad Hoc Committee shall present a report to the Conference on Disarmament on the progress of its work before the conclusion of the 1998 session.

STATEMENT made by President following the adoption of decision CD/1547 on the establishment of an ad hoc committee under item 1 of the agenda entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament" (10)

In connection with the decision we have just taken I should like, in my capacity as President of the Conference to state that the adoption of this decision is without prejudice to any further decisions on the establishment of further subsidiary bodies under agenda item 1 which may result from the provisions of paragraph 1 of decision CD/1501, and that the Presidency will continue to pursue intensive consultations and to seek the views of the members of the Conference on appropriate methods and approaches for dealing with agenda item 1, entitled 'Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament', taking into consideration all proposals and views in this respect."

Background on FMT

After many years in which a handful of States opposed the resolution, the United Nations General Assembly reached consensus on a resolution on the 'Prohibition of the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices' in December 1993 (48/75L). Previous UN resolutions had referred to the 'production and stockpiling' of fissile materials, but to gain consensus the 1993 resolution omitted reference to stockpiles. In 1994 and 1995, CD members considered the issue and decided on a mandate according to which the CD would negotiate the measure. Until recently the proposed measure has been called a fissile material 'cut-off' treaty (FMCT), implying a ban solely on future production or the conceptually wider 'fissban' abbreviation. Objecting to the predetermined and narrow scope implied in the name 'cut-off', Pakistan on 11 August suggested the name 'Fissile Material Treaty' (FMT). On the basis that this term does not prejudge the scope and the question of existing stockpiles, Disarmament Diplomacy has decided to adopt this form in referring to the measure under negotiation.

In March 1995, just before the NPT Review and Extension Conference, the CD adopted a report agreeing to establish an ad hoc Committee to negotiate the proposed fissile materials ban. This report (CD/1299) is often called the 'Shannon Report', after the Canadian Ambassador Gerald Shannon who was appointed Special Coordinator by the CD. Several delegations, particularly Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Algeria had pushed hard for the mandate to include existing stocks (the product of past production). The nuclear weapon states and India rejected attempts to address stocks, arguing that the UN resolution was for a ban only on future production, i.e. a cut-off. In view of these fundamentally different demands and perspectives, Shannon's report established the committee with a core negotiating mandate based on the text of the 1993 UN resolution, but with an understanding that other issues, including past production, could be raised in the context of the negotiations. Shannon's clever drafting, which fudged the stocks disagreement, was sufficient to obtain consensus in March 1995, but after the NPT Conference, it became impossible to convene the actual committee and start negotiations.

From 1995 until now, the FMT issue has been blocked for two main causes: stocks and linkage with nuclear disarmament. Led by India, a number of non-aligned countries had been linking the commencement of FMT negotiations to concurrent negotiations on a time-table for nuclear disarmament, which the P-5 refused to take seriously. The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in May paradoxically opened up new opportunities to shift the political logjam. Under pressure to make concessions, India indicated that it would no longer insist on the linkage between a cut-off treaty with timebound nuclear disarmament. Subsequently, after high level meetings with Strobe Talbott, XX the United States, Pakistan announced to the CD on 30 July that it would agree to the establishment of a negotiating committee on the basis of the Shannon report. Pakistan's concession catalysed action in the CD.

The support of Egypt and other non-aligned States was achieved by establishing the committee under item 1 of the CD agenda, i.e. the item dealing with nuclear disarmament. The United States, which had long opposed proposals for an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, agreed to this for the specific purpose of negotiating the fissile materials cut-off. So that the establishment of this Committee would not be used as an excuse to do nothing more on agenda item 1, it was deemed necessary to include an understanding, in the form of a Presidential statement, that establishing the committee to negotiate the FMT would not exclude setting up other committees or subsidiary bodies to address other issues relating to nuclear disarmament if consensus was ever obtained.

Canada proposed a sentence to ensure that "both nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament objectives will be taken into consideration by the ad hoc Committee and in negotiations". It appears that this dual-purpose emphasis was intended both to prevent the one-sided pressure from those of the nuclear-weapon States who have been insisting that the measure is only about non-proliferation, and also to prevent others from claiming that since the committee is under the agenda item dealing with cessation of the arms race and nuclear disarmament, it has nothing to do with non-proliferation. The latter concern relates to two different tactics that some delegations feared might be employed: i) that having solely a nuclear disarmament designation could be used to push for stocks to be covered in the treaty scope; and ii) that India may want to use the FMT as a backdoor mechanism to overwrite the basis of the non-proliferation regime as underpinned by the NPT, and have itself acknowledged as a nuclear weapon state.

Though the majority of the G-21 group of non-aligned States (apart from India) backed the Canadian concept and the Western group agreed that they could support the Presidential statement with Canada's sentence (or without it), in the end the sentence was dropped. In addition to India's opposition, China and Russia reportedly disliked the sentence because they feared it might be used in the negotiations as a broad form of injunction -- or at least authorisation -- for addressing certain issues.

The CD decision was further delayed as Israel, which had not participated in the March 1995 decision (11), needed more time to take its decision 'at the highest level'. Israel is reportedly concerned that even the narrowest form of FMT may undermine its policy of deterrence based on nuclear ambiguity and result in pressure to reveal the quantities of fissile materials it has produced and to allow intrusive inspections at the Dimona facility in the Negev Desert. Following intense consultations with the United States, Israel decided to concur with the decision to commence the talks, but not necessarily to go along with the provisions or outcome of the negotiations. In his statement to the CD after the decision, Lamdan said that Israel did not object to this agreement to negotiate, but "reserved its position on the substance of the issues involved" (12).

It took the CD more than a week to appoint Ambassador Mark Moher of Canada as its first Chair. Although many delegations want Canada to carry on through next year, the CD was only able to appoint him to the end of the 1998 CD session (citing rules of procedure), so it is possible that there will have to be another tug of war when the CD resumes in January 1999. Egypt then raised questions about what the new ad hoc committee should be called. The NWS and allies had begun referring to it as the 'FMCT Committee'. Pointing out that the committee was convened under agenda item 1 (cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament), Egypt wants this to be part of the title, which is a mouthful.

Two serious political issues underlie these rather arcane debates about titles: i) what to call the committee -- should the name associate with nuclear disarmament, thereby overcoming the US allergy and making it possible to cite a precedent for the future, or refer only to the ban on fissile materials production? and ii) what to call the negotiations -- FMCT, emphasising cut-off, or the new acronym FMT, which does not prejudge the scope, although there is the danger that having been proposed by Pakistan it could become associated with the 'stocks or nothing' position.

FMT Annual Report

The report of the 'Agenda Item 1 committee on banning fissile material production', (13) chaired by Mark Moher of Canada listed various CD documents on the issue, but since the committee had been established so late in the year, Moher only managed two meetings and a series of consultations "as a first step towards substantive negotiations".

FMT: Recent CD Statements

Following the decision to start negotiating the FMT, there were many statements supporting or clarifying the decision, including from the G-21 Group of Non-Aligned States (read by Algeria), Britain, China, France, Russia, United States, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Syria, South Africa, Canada, Morocco, Australia, Austria, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Cuba. (14)

The P-5 all welcomed the decision, emphasising the Shannon mandate. Russia (Vasily Siderov) especially said it would have to apply to all nuclear-capable states and have effective and cost-effective verification. A number of statements recognised that the negotiations would be complex and arduous, while some gave their different interpretations regarding stocks and the relation with nuclear disarmament.

The G-21 statement emphasised that it should constitute a nuclear disarmament measure and not just a non-proliferation measure, and be "an integral step leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons". The G-21 also reiterated its hope that the Presidential consultations will lead to setting up "an appropriate subsidiary body" to deal with nuclear disarmament. Due to reported Indian opposition, the G-21 statement made no mention of stockpiles.

India (Savitri Kunadi) underlined its view that stocks should not be addressed by emphasising its support for UN resolution 48/75L. Pakistan (Munir Akram) referred to the long held understanding that the measure encompassed stocks, and said that Pakistan wanted a real ban on fissile materials for weapons, refused to endorse the loose abbreviation FMCT and warned that it would not agree to freezing unequal stockpiles.

Canada (Mark Moher) regretted the loss of its sentence relating the FMT both to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, saying that this dual purpose concept was important because it dealt with "much larger issues and challenges". Canada called for an immediate moratorium on the production of fissile materials and also said that while it recognised that direct negotiations on stocks would probably be outside the purview of the FMT, it was critical to the credibility of the measure that stocks be dealt with "appropriately".

The non-aligned states (with the exception of India) all reinforced their understanding that stocks should be addressed, with especial emphasis given by Egypt and other Middle East States. Egypt (Mounir Zahran), for example, said that it was imperative that all stocks of weapons usable fissile materials would have to be declared and be subject to inspection and inventory under international supervision and control and said that the IAEA's resources should be updated so that all fissile materials capable of being used in nuclear weapons could be placed under an updated, comprehensive safeguard mechanism. South Africa (Peter Goosen) said the FMT should be an "integral measure of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation". While recognising the difficulties surrounding stocks, South Africa intended to raise the stockpiles issue, as provided for in the Shannon report, and... "seek the most appropriate ways of dealing with the matter." Now that the start of negotiations on the FMT have been agreed, South Africa posed the question "What about nuclear disarmament?" and argued for "a subsidiary body" in the CD "where we can deliberate on the nuclear disarmament issue." Japan (Akira Hayashi) also said that the CD should seek to identify next appropriate multilateral steps which could be undertaken on nuclear disarmament.

Security Assurances

The ad hoc committee on "effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons" (negative security assurances - NSA), chaired by Ambassador Antonio de Icaza of Mexico, discussed various aspects of the issue but could not come to any consensus.

The views and national positions which had been expressed in the committee were comprehensively summarised in an annex attached to the report. (15) The need for security assurances arose from the existence of nuclear weapons. The most effective assurance was therefore the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Pending total nuclear disarmament, those States which had renounced nuclear acquisition and joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon States had a right to guarantees assuring their national safety and security. The essential question was who should give what to whom, in what form and under what conditions.

The committee considered the nature and scope of existing negative security assurances, including: UNSC resolution 984 (1995); declarations by the NWS; and the protocols to the nuclear-weapon-free-zone Treaties and their interpretative statements, as well as new developments. The committee considered the relationship between negative and positive security assurances and discussed the "common and distinctive elements", noting that several issues or definitions required clarification, notably: invasion; aggression; attack; dependent territories; security commitments; associations and alliances. The report listed relevant documents, noted that there was no consensus on approach, mechanisms or venue for addressing or negotiating further on the issue and recommended that the ad hoc committee be re-established in 1999.

Security Assurances: Recent Statements

Several statements mentioned security assurances in passing. On 6 August, Savitri Kunadi devoted her statement to this subject. She said that the issue had been "plagued from the beginning with linkage not with the objectives of nuclear disarmament but with that of non-proliferation... what the nuclear weapon States thought fit to provide at their discretion." Using the much-contested identification of India "as a responsible nuclear-weapon State", Kunadi reaffirmed that India did not intend to use nuclear weapons to "commit aggression or for mounting threats against any country". Kunadi then quoted from the statement of the Prime Minister to the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on 4 August 1998:

"India's nuclear tests were not intended for offence but for self-defence. In order to ensure that our independence and integrity are never jeopardised in future, we will have a policy of a minimum deterrent. We have stated that we will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. We are also willing to strengthen this by entering into bilateral agreements on no-first-use or multilateral negotiations on a global no-first-use. Having stated that we shall not be the first to use nuclear weapons, there remains no basis for their use against countries which do not have nuclear weapons." (16)


The Special Coordinator on agenda item 3, Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), Ambassador S. Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, introduced a draft mandate for negotiations on measures aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space, saying that there was "a wide measure of support" but no consensus. He recommended that the text, which follows, be the basis for further consultations in 1999, with a view to deciding "in due course" on re-establishing an ad hoc committee on outer space issues.

The proposed draft:

"In the exercise of its responsibilities as the multilateral disarmament negotiating forum in accordance with paragraph 120 of the final document of the first Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, the Conference on Disarmament decides to re-establish an ad hoc Committee under Item 3 of its agenda.

The Conference requests the Ad Hoc Committee in discharging that responsibility to continue to examine and to identify, through substantive and general consideration, issues relevant to time 3 of the agenda with a view to, inter alia, agreeing on a mandate for the HC to negotiate specific measures towards the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

The Ad Hoc Committee, in carrying out this work, will take into account all existing agreements, existing proposals and future initiatives as well as developments which have taken place since the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee in 1985, and report on the progress of its work to the Conference on Disarmament before the end of its 1998 session."

PAROS: Recent CD Statements

In its statement of 13 August, China (Li Changhe) called for an ad hoc committee on PAROS. (17) Li noted that the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) from the 1980s had "left the whole world anxious at the prospect of space teeming with weapons". Referring to the testing and development of weapons by 'some country' -- clearly the United States -- China identified technological and political developments on Theatre Missile Defence (TMD), Theater High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) and the weakening of the ABM Treaty as contributing to its view that the CD should address this issue without further delay. Li noted that the weapon systems under development were of various types, some intended for deployment in outer space or targeted at objects in space, some space based but providing target information for ground-based weapon systems, and so on. The danger, he said, was that in seeking to procure "absolute military superiority and absolute security" for the country concerned, they could turn outer space into a battlefield and trigger a new arms race, thereby undermining regional and global strategic stability. France had stated its backing for a PAROS committee in its statement of 11 August.


The Special Coordinator (under agenda item 6) on anti-personnel landmines, Ambassador John Campbell of Australia, reported that there was not yet consensus on his draft mandate to establish a committee to negotiate a ban on the transfer of anti-personnel landmines. (18) Claiming that two of the groups (the Western and Eastern European States) and China supported his proposals, Campbell said that it is "less... a matter of crafting the right language and more a question of winning the necessary political will to take a decision..." (19) Noting that many of the landmines now being laid or in the ground were from non-state entities, he argued that it was essential to attack both the supply and demand sides of this problem. Campbell expressed disappointment at the lack of agreement and said that a ban on the export and transfers of anti-personnel landmines which included major traditional producers and users "would add considerably to a global solution" and "bring Ottawa Convention non-signatories some way towards the norm established by that Convention rather than run the risk of being permanently alienated from it."

Transparency in Armaments

The Special Coordinator (under agenda item 7) on transparency in armaments (TIA), Pavel Grecu of Romania, reported that his consultations had covered three main aspects: the merits of TIA; the scope of possible activity on the issue; and ways of dealing with TIA within the CD. (20)

Regarding the merits, Grecu argued that by providing objective information on military policies, armaments and armed forces, TIA could reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation and the threat of surprise attack, thereby contributing to confidence-building. It was not a substitute for arms reductions and control or for removing the root causes of tension and conflict.

On scope, three issues emerged as being "of particular interest and sensitivity": work in the CD related to the UN Register for Conventional Arms, and the importance of avoiding duplication; transparency in the field of weapons of mass destruction, including calls for the nuclear-weapon States to provide information for a nuclear arms register, similar to that set up for conventional arms; and the relation between regional and global transparency approaches, with concern that the same degree of transparency would have a variable impact, due to political, military, cultural and security factors, so that transparency measures applicable to one region would not necessarily apply appropriately to others.

Grecu referred to a "largely shared view" among CD delegations about establishing an ad hoc TIA committee with a deliberative mandate to consider these proposals further and "see which ones we can usefully elaborate and negotiate towards measures at the global level."

Improving the CD

The Special Coordinator for the 'improved and effective functioning of the Conference on Disarmament' Ambassador Javier Illanes characterised his task as finding ways to streamline and improve the CD's norms and practices to facilitate its functioning and avoid stalemates, such as had prevailed in 1997. The need for such consideration was most eloquently expressed in the leave-taking of Ambassador Martínez Morcillo of Spain, when he took exception to the oft-heard saying that the CD was "the best club in Geneva". No, he averred, "after all is said and done this Conference comes across all too often, on account of the simple action of the rule of consensus, as a mere gathering of loners".

During the year Illanes had issued a questionnaire covering the key questions. From the replies, he suggested draft recommendations, but his report acknowledged that though there was considerable interest, there was not enough agreement yet to warrant proposing actual draft decisions.

One question concerned approaches for following on the previous year's work, to cut down on the time wasted if the CD is unable to agree an agenda and work programme at the beginning of a session. Suggestions included the presumption that ad hoc committees and special coordinators which had been established the previous year should resume their work until the CD decides on its agenda and programme of work. At that time, they would terminate their functions unless the CD had decided to re-establish them. In any case, they would cease to function by the last day of the first part of the session (normally the end of March) whether or not the CD had reached agreement on its work. An alternative suggestion would have the pre-existing bodies continuing work only if that had been recommended by the CD at the end of the previous year's session, and providing no delegation opposed.

A further question concerned the establishment of 'standing committees' "on a more or less permanent basis... entrusted with the ample and substantive discussion" of various issues, including technical questions. While some found the idea interesting, others considered that such committees could overload the Conference with 'make work' on ideological footballs that were not necessarily real priorities.

A different option, lying between the concept of standing committees and the demoralising stalemate if the CD cannot agree on a work programme, would ensure that any committee with a negotiating mandate would be resumed each year until it had fulfilled its mandate (i.e. concluded the intended agreement or treaty) or if the CD decided by consensus to terminate it. This option was not fully canvassed, but could prevent interruptions to negotiations, once started, without affecting decisions on other ad hoc committees or aspects of the work programme.

Illanes had also consulted delegations about the possibility of the President appointing 'friends of the President' groups or establishing informal open-ended consultations to help narrow the differences among delegations on certain issues. His consultations indicated that both concepts would meet with general approval, although some delegations wanted to accentuate the role of the 'troika' of incoming and outgoing Presidents, while others wanted to ensure that the President would consult with the CD membership before appointing 'friends'. With regard to informal consultations, delegations gave support, providing they were as "transparent and universal as possible".

The CD's Agenda

The Special Coordinator for the review of the agenda of the CD, Ambassador Péter Náray of Hungary, noted that CD delegations were showing "more flexibility and increased desire for action". He linked this positive development to the effect of two years of inaction and the perception that "if governments do not wish to lose advantages which are associated with this highly appreciated professional disarmament forum, practical arrangements should be made regarding the CD's agenda and its programme of work". He noted that opinion was basically divided between those who considered that the CD agenda should be based on the priorities identified in the UN special session on disarmament (UNSSOD I) in 1978, with negotiations on nuclear disarmament as the "absolute priority" (the majority of G-21 delegations); and those who advocated a generic agenda with three broad items, such as nuclear disarmament, conventional disarmament and 'other items'. Recognising that there was no consensus, Náray noted that a large number of delegations wanted more emphasis on conventional weapons and some stressed that the CD should examine what role it could play in addressing the threats to peace and security which result from regional conflicts. He recommended further consultations being undertaken in 1999.

Expansion of the CD

As discussed in the summary, the Special Coordinator for expansion of the membership of the CD, Ambassador Erwin Hofer of Switzerland, reported with reluctance at the final plenary of the year that there was not, after all, consensus for his widely supported proposal to admit five new members. Hofer gave a detailed overview of the range of positions and four options which had been considered: i) enlargement by all States which have applied; ii) limited extension by five States; iii) wider admittance of ten States; iv) qualified universality. Without prejudice to further enlargements or to the principle of qualified universality (favoured, among others by the European Union delegations), Hofer considered that there was sufficient support for enlarging the CD by five States to warrant a draft proposal. The groups' nominations appeared to be generally acceptable: namely Ireland from the Western group; Kazakhstan from the Eastern European group; and Ecuador, Malaysia and Tunisia from the G-21. Right up to the last day, Hofer had hoped that consensus would be reached, but the 'inability' of one State (reportedly Iran) to agree means that the decision fails for another year. It was small consolation for the five disappointed delegations that a proposal from Morocco to address the draft proposal at the beginning of the 1999 session was strongly supported. The CD currently has 61 official members, although the seats of Yugoslavia and Congo are never occupied.

Dates for 1999

The dates for the 1999 session are: 18 January to 26 March; 10 May to 25 June; 26 July to 8 September.

Notes and References

1. An indicator of deeper challenges, the CD has been unable to find convenient and accepted abbreviations for referring to the ad hoc committee or the treaty under discussion. With the four other NPT-nuclear weapon States, and India and Israel, the United States wants only a halt to future production, so coined the term fissile material 'cut-off' treaty, with the acronym 'FMCT'. This is widely used, but not acceptable to a growing number of delegations. Pakistan, which has consistently argued that existing stockpiles (past production) need to be addressed, proposed the acronym FMT instead, standing for 'fissile material treaty'. This term is gaining adherents, and on the basis that it does not necessarily prejudge the question of scope, will be used here. If, because of its origins, it comes to be regarded as meaning 'stocks or nothing', Disarmament Diplomacy will revert to the neutral abbreviation 'fissban', which we have used until now.

2. CD/PV.800
3. CD/PV.801
4. CD/PV.802
5. CD/PV.803
6. CD/PV.804
7. Robert Grey, Ambassador of the United States, 11 August, CD/PV.802
8. CD/1484, adopted at the 779th plenary, January 20, 1998.
9. CD/1547, 12 August 1998, adopted at the 802nd plenary, 11 August, 1998.
10. CD/1548, 12 August 1998, made by the President at the 802nd plenary, 11 August, 1998.
11. Israel was not at that time a member of the CD.
12. CD/PV.802
13. CD/1555
14. These statements are almost all contained in CD/PV.802
15. The report and annex are contained in CD/1554
16. Savitri Kunadi, Ambassador of India to the CD Plenary, August 6, 1998, CD/PV.801
17. CD/PV.803
18. See CD Update, Disarmament Diplomacy 27, June 1998
19. This summary is taken from the full report, to be published in CD/PV.805
20. This summary is taken from the full report, to be published in CD/PV.805

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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