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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 64, Cover design by Paul Aston

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 64, May - June 2002

CD Update

Conference Remains Deadlocked after First Part of 2002 Session

By Rebecca Johnson


The first three months of the Conference on Disarmament's (CD) 2002 session in Geneva made little headway in addressing the core political conflicts that have prevented agreement on a programme of work since 1998, when the CD managed a few weeks of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons (fissban) and discussions on other areas of its work. Somewhat ironically, it was possible to appoint special coordinators to review the CD's agenda, deliberate on its "improved and effective functioning" and consider possible future expansion of its membership, but deadlock continued to prevent any substantive progress.

In an opening statement read to delegates on January 22, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to the "lack of progress in multilateral disarmament efforts" afflicting the CD, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and warned of "a loss of credibility in the commitment to nuclear disarmament, [concerns about the] weaponisation of outer space and a tendency towards unilateral approaches to international arms issues".

Addressing the first meeting of the Conference after September 11, Annan said that those events and their aftermath "have brought home to the world the uncomfortable fact that disarmament and non-proliferation remain unfinished business, and that there is an acute need to strengthen existing measures, explore new ones for halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and step up concerted efforts to eliminate these weapons from arsenals altogether." The Secretary-General hoped the tragedies would "serve as a catalyst for the pursuit of new approaches to overcoming the stagnation in the Conference."1

Despite the best efforts of its presidents, Mohamed Tawfik of Egypt, Fisseha Yimer Aboye of Ethiopia, and Markku Reimaa of Finland, this hope looks a long way from being fulfilled.2 Despite positions appearing superficially close on substantive issues, the deadlock may be hardening, reflecting policy shifts in some of the key countries, notably China and the United States. The stalemate concerns different priorities for negotiations, setting the fissban against space weaponisation, nuclear disarmament and, of growing salience once again, legally binding security assurances from the nuclear-weapon states to the non-nuclear-weapon states. Though the fissban is losing ground to the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the hierarchy of priorities, the US and its allies still place it head of the queue. But the Bush administration's rejection of the CTBT - an objective for which the Clinton administration had declared itself to be "out front pulling" at the CD from 1994 to 1996 - does little to help the credibility of its present position on the fissban.


In March 1995, on the eve of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference, the CD agreed a mandate to negotiate a fissban. The Shannon Report, which incorporated the mandate, obtained agreement by fudging the issue of whether or not existing stockpiles would be included. After NPT extension, the CD was unable to agree on actually convening the ad hoc committee to negotiate the treaty, a deadlock that was lifted for a few brief weeks in 1998 following the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and some chequebook diplomacy from the United States.

The 1998 agreement was not, however, sustained when the CD resumed in 1999. Reacting against US missile defence plans, China began insisting that the CD should also conduct negotiations on the agenda item "prevention of an arms race in outer space". The United States, apparently intent on retaining the option to develop space weapons, remains adamantly opposed to this, although until 1994 it had gone along with discussions on PAROS in the CD.

The thirty-plus non-aligned members of the CD, coordinated through what is still called the Group of 21 (G-21), have also continued to call for a committee to be convened to address nuclear disarmament issues. There are differences of emphasis, however, within the G-21 and across the CD membership about the function of such a committee: some call for negotiations, while others would settle for discussions as a first step.

For a while, nuclear disarmament was regarded as the major stumbling block. Just as it seemed that the United States, Russia, France and Britain would finally agree to a committee to discuss nuclear disarmament issues, China's requirement that PAROS and the fissban receive equal treatment (i.e. negotiations on both or neither) became the main hurdle to western states' push for an ad hoc committee to negotiate a fissile materials cut-off treaty, in accordance with the Shannon mandate. In the wake of the January 2002 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which publicly confirmed that US nuclear doctrine included biological and chemical weapon threats as justification or cause for the use of nuclear weapons (a doctrine seemingly inconsistent with at least the spirit of existing security assurances undertaken in relation to the NPT, which in essence promise not to attack states that do not possess nuclear weapons), non-aligned states in the CD are renewing their long-time call for negotiations on legally binding security guarantees, particularly the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear armed adversaries.3

Although the United States has played its part in maintaining the years of paralysis, its newly appointed ambassador to the CD, Eric Javits, noted: "After so many years of deadlock and delay, to waste yet another year would be an evasion of our collective responsibility. History may judge at what point this comatose body actually expired, or at what stage continued inaction became dereliction of duty or even inexcusable negligence."4 Javits then assured the CD that "my government and I want the Conference at long last to adopt a comprehensive programme of work along the lines proposed by one of your most distinguished predecessors, Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil."5

Raising concerns about the CD's paralysis, the United States, Russia, Sweden, the G-21 and others put forward concrete suggestions for moving things forward. Noting that as a result of its deadlock the CD had wasted more than 2,000 hours set aside for disarmament negotiations, Ambassador David Broucher said that the UK considered the Amorim proposals to provide the best hope of agreeing a work programme, as they protected the vital interests of every CD member.6 The United States may be willing to agree something "along the lines" of the Amorim proposal of August 2000, but Javits is reportedly not authorised to accept the Amorim proposal as it stands.

The devil being, as always, in the detail, the problem facing the CD is which lines of departure from Amorim can be found that the United States and China, as central protagonists, could both accept. Reimaa, who will resume the presidency after the spring interval (during which many CD diplomats repaired to New York for the NPT Preparatory Committee), has been conducting consultations on a new approach based around the Amorim formula, which seeks to get work underway by leaving it up to the committees to determine how they will deal with their subjects (thereby avoiding the preordination of discussions, negotiations, or one leading to the other). While there is considerable interest in this approach, early indications from Washington suggest that the Bush administration's desire to see fissban negotiations get underway is rather weaker than its determination to avoid multilateral discussions - let alone negotiations of any kind - on nuclear disarmament, the weaponisation of space or negative security assurances. If that is so, no amount of ingenious procedural fix will alleviate the deep-rooted political conflicts at the heart of the CD's paralysis.

Key Issues

The major issues raised in the first part of the annual session - January 21-March 28 - were terrorism and cooperative security, the CD deadlock, and PAROS. Other issues, including negotiations on a fissban and ways of addressing disarmament and security assurances were also raised, though with less prominence.

The United States presented two policy statements to delegates. The first was delivered by John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, followed, a few weeks later, by Ambassador Javits. In statements that differed in tone, though not policy approach, Bolton gave "the fundamental elements of the Bush Administration's security policy", while Javits focussed more on issues related to the CD's work programme. For both, however, terrorism was high on the agenda. Bolton said that "the September 11 terrorist attacks have made all too clear the grave threats to civilized nations that come from terrorists who strike without warning, their state sponsors, and rogue states that seek weapons of mass destruction. We must defend our homelands, our forces, and our friends and allies against these threats. And we must insist on holding accountable states that violate their non-proliferation commitments." In the view of the United States, "with very few exceptions, terrorist groups have not acquired and cannot acquire weapons of mass destruction without the support of nation-states. This support might be technical assistance. It might be funding. Perhaps such assistance has taken the form of simply turning a blind eye to terrorist camps within one's borders. But the fact that governments which sponsor terrorist groups also are pursuing chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs is alarming, and cannot be ignored."7

Others also highlighted the importance of addressing terrorism. Recalling Russia's "immediate and full support for the antiterrorist coalition", Ambassador Skotnikov underlined that "the core of a multilateral approach to international security, arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament is that one's own security cannot be ensured at the expense of that of others".8 China's Ambassador, Hu Xiaodi, argued that "only through multilateral and collective cooperation can we eliminate terrorism, the common enemy of all countries' security".9 On behalf of the G-21, Ambassador Camilo Reyes Rodriguez of Colombia expressed concern about "the progressive erosion of multilateralism" and stressed the "importance of collective international efforts to enhance and maintain international peace and security".10

Sweden's Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, stressed that terrorist threats could only be met through international cooperation and multilateral solutions. She called for "global action" to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles, giving special mention to the necessity of bringing non-strategic nuclear weapons into disarmament negotiations. Lindh then identified several important areas requiring common responses and international cooperation, including: "to put a definite end to nuclear testing"; to ensure compliance with international disarmament and non-proliferation agreements; to implement the complete bans on biological and chemical weapons; to dismantle old weapons and not build new ones, and to address the conventional weapons that pose "an ever-present threat to the lives and well-being of people in many parts of the world".11

Evoking the symbolism of the 'Doomsday Clock' operated by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, whose hands were recently moved two minutes nearer to midnight, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bill Graham, said: "After what the world has been through with September 11, one would think... that we would see - more clearly than ever - the need for an international security system within which all people and countries might feel secure". In Canada's view, security was "the sum of many parts", based on the rule of law, with multilateral, legally binding treaties as "indispensable tools in building common security".12

Both US statements rejected criticisms of the Bush administration's "unilateralism" and "general lack of support for multilateral arms control agreements", which Javits called "lamentably mistaken". Bolton told the CD that US commitment to multilateral regimes to promote non-proliferation and international security "never has been as strong as it is today", rather contradictorily citing as evidence support for "the NPT, CFE, CWC, BWC, LTBT, PNET, and the TTBT, as well as to non-proliferation regimes like the Zangger Committee, the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group."13 Bolton tried to dodge the unilateralist-multilateralist dichotomy by stating: "Our policy is, quite simply, pro-American, as you would expect." For some, this statement confirmed their worst fears, while others sought comfort in the fact that any sensible pro-American security policy would necessarily rest on a foundation of multilateral agreements and international security. Javits, perhaps playing "good cop" to Bolton's more bluntly confrontational "bad cop" persona, fed this hope by quoting UN General Assembly resolution 56/24 T, that multilateralism is "a core principle in negotiations in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation with a view to maintaining and strengthening universal norms and enlarging their scope".

Bolton addressed in turn chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, missiles and the future of the CD. Expressing firm support for the CWC, Bolton highlighted challenge inspections, calling them "a flexible and indispensable tool that, if viewed realistically and used judiciously, can be instrumental in achieving the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention". He went on to warn nations bent on violating the CWC: "You should not be smug in the assumption that your chemical warfare program will never be uncovered and exposed to the international community."

With regard to the BWC, Bolton said the United States "flatly oppose[d] flawed diplomatic arrangements that purport to strengthen the BWC but actually increase the specter of biological warfare by not effectively confronting the serious problem of BWC non-compliance." Six months after announcing the US withdrawal from six years of multilateral negotiations on a verification protocol for the BWC, a venture he called "counterproductive", Bolton reiterated US proposals for tightened national export controls, including "nationally criminalizing activity that violates [the BWC], intensified non-proliferation activities, increased domestic preparedness and controls, enhanced biodefense and counter-bioterrorism capabilities, and innovative measures against disease outbreaks."

Noting the improvement in relations between Russia and the United States, both US statements discussed the Bush-Putin proposals to reduce deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,700-2,200. Alluding to the classified NPR, submitted to Congress a few weeks earlier, Bolton identified as security threats the "proliferation of nuclear materials and technology" and "use of nuclear or radiological weapons by rogue states or terrorist groups". He also noted "dangerously-high tensions in south Asia between India and Pakistan, both of which have nuclear explosive devices". Justifying US plans to develop missile defences, Bolton lamented that "too many nations are remiss in not controlling their involvement in the proliferation of missile technology."14

On the subject of missiles, Ambassador Hubert de la Fortelle took the floor in February to inform CD members of progress in the meeting hosted by France on developing an international code of conduct (ICOC) on missile proliferation, noting the participation of 86 countries, including practically all those with missile programmes.15 Although the US also supported such control measures, Javits explained that to "reduce the possibility that missiles will be used as tools of coercion and aggression, the US needs updated means of dissuasion", especially missile defences.

Bolton claimed that "the security and well being of the United States and its allies depend on the ability to operate in space. America is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes for the benefit of humanity - purposes that allow defense- and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national security goals." Making clear that the United States saw no need for new agreements governing activities in space, he assured the CD: "We remain firmly committed to the Outer Space Treaty, and we believe that the current international regime regulating the use of space meets all our purposes." The G-21 disagreed, arguing that PAROS had "assumed greater urgency because of legitimate concerns that existing legal instruments are inadequate to deter imminent attempts for the further militarisation of outer space".16

Without directly mentioning the United States, Ambassador Hu Xiaodi listed five recent US acts which Beijing deemed contrary to the interests of multilateral security, and identified five Chinese objectives for future arms control and disarmament: preservation of global strategic stability; consolidation, development and promotion of the existing arms control and disarmament legal regime; prevention of the introduction of weapons or weapon systems into outer space; the complete prohibition and total destruction of all nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; and non-proliferation of such weapons and their means of delivery. Hu listed six principles and measures of "vital importance" to international strategic stability, including: a sustainable framework based on international legal regimes; further US-Russian negotiations and deep cuts (with transparency, verifiability and irreversibility); and continuation of the commitment to mutual detargeting and abandonment of first-use policies. On the CTBT, for which China had insisted on a very stringent entry into force provision and has yet to ratify itself, Hu said the treaty "deserves respect and should enter into force upon adequate ratification". The final part of Hu Xiaodi's statement was devoted to arguing that the CD should establish an ad hoc committee with a negotiating mandate (which could be based on the G-21 or Russian drafts) to conclude a legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space.17

Russia's ambassador, Leonid Skotnikov, who addressed the CD twice, enumerated many steps undertaken by Russia to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons and highlighted that Russia backed "the start of intensive negotiations on PAROS" in the CD. Expressing interest also in Chinese, Canadian and French initiatives on this subject, Skotnikov drew the CD's attention to proposals made by the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at the General Assembly, notably that "a moratorium should be established on placing warfare assets in outer space pending the achievement of a relevant agreement by the international community". He said that Russia would be willing to undertake such a commitment immediately, provided that the other leading space powers would also join such a moratorium.18 This subject came up again in his statement to the final plenary, where Skotnikov challenged the US view that PAROS was "not ripe" for negotiations and devoted most of his statement to discussing how to break the CD's logjam. Expressing "profound concern" about reports of the NPR, he noted that if it were true that the use of nuclear weapons might be considered in regional conflicts, including against non-nuclear weapon countries, such a development "seriously weakens the basis of the nuclear non-proliferation regime".19

Invisible on the Political Radar Screens

Bolton warned that if the Conference remained "deadlocked in futility, it will continue to lose credibility and the attention of the world". Notwithstanding its general support for a work programme along the lines proposed by Amorim, the Bush administration wants the CD to "change the way it does business". According to Washington, it should negotiate a cut-off treaty, "focus on new threats, such as efforts by terrorist groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction", and address treaty violations. China said the CD should discuss "such fundamental issues as: what is the status and role of the existing arms control and disarmament legal regime". Noting that parallel processes have yielded results, Canada backed the CD as its "first choice" for multilateral disarmament negotiations, but stressed that it was "not the only choice".

Beneath apparently broad swathes of common ground, particularly on the need to restore the credibility of the CD through meaningful activity, it is increasingly clear that for many PAROS has replaced the fissban as the priority issue facing the Conference. Javits stressed that there was an agreed mandate for negotiations on a FMCT and "agreement in principle that Member States can conduct broad-ranging discussion in ad hoc committees that will deal with the other two high-priority issues, nuclear disarmament and outer space." But Javits' apparent acceptance that outer space was a priority does not extend to negotiations, while Russia and China are now explicit that PAROS negotiations are their main concern and objective. Skotnikov called for FMCT negotiations not to be linked with other issues, but China is still pushing for fissban and PAROS to be treated equally. Russia's May 2001 proposals20 might indicate acceptance of an ad hoc committee "to deal with the subject of nuclear disarmament", but there are still gaps to be bridged between the interpretations, understandings and acceptance of this by all. The G-21, for example, has reiterated that nuclear disarmament should remain the CD's highest priority, though the non-aligned countries also support negotiations on PAROS, fissban and negative security assurances. If agreement among the weapon states were achieved, it is doubtful that the G-21 would block at this point, although further opposition to the commencement of fissban negotiations by Pakistan or other blocking strategies by India cannot be completely ruled out.

Diplomatic initiatives to shift the logjam are not lacking. One former CD president, Jean Lint of Belgium, plans to harness the experiences of past presidents, from Algeria to the present. Finland's initiative brings lateral thinking to bear on the problem of mandates. Current soundings in the capitals, however, do not encourage optimism. For the CD to get started again, multilateral arms control would have to shine more insistently on the political radar of security decision-makers.

CD Dates in 2002

January 21-March 28
May 13-June 28
July 29-September 13

Texts of selected plenary speeches and documents are posted at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

Notes and References

1. 'Secretary-General, in address to Geneva Conference on Disarmament, sees both "stagnation" and possibilities in disarmament arena', United Nations Press Release SG/Sm/8109, January 22. The statement was delivered on January 22 by Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva.

2. Note that CD member states normally hold the presidency for four weeks, in alphabetical rotation according to the country's name.

3. Considerable confusion surrounds the US position on security assurances. Officials insists that the NPR does not materially alter existing US commitments, as set out by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1995 and by the nuclear-weapon states in UN Security Council resolution 984 (1995). On February 22, 2002, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher restated in full Secretary Christopher's formulation. It should be noted that the language can be read as carefully chosen not to preclude attack by biological and chemical weapons as a legitimate pretext for a nuclear response or threat thereof: "The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in case of an invasion or any other attack on the United states, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or on a state toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon state." Although this formula does seem to rule out nuclear use or threat against the use or threat of CBW by an NPT non-nuclear-weapon state acting in isolation, Boucher added: "If a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response." See Disarmament Diplomacy No. 63 (March/April 2002), pp. 24-26.

4. Eric M. Javits, Ambassador of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, February 7, 2002.

5. The Amorim proposal (CD/1624, August 24, 2000) recommended the establishment of four ad hoc committees: one each to "deal with" nuclear disarmament and PAROS, one to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials, based on a specific mandate agreed in 1995, and one, with a broader mandate, to negotiate on negative security assurances (NSA). In addition, it proposed the establishment of special co-ordinators on anti-personnel mines, transparency in armaments, and the review of the CD's agenda, the expansion of its membership and its effective and improved functioning. Amorim attached a draft presidential declaration to this proposal stressing that the CD is a disarmament negotiating forum and that the above mandates should be viewed in that light, and further noting that the CD continues "to be influenced by and responsive to developments in the international strategic scene which affect the security interests of its individual members."

6. Statement by David Broucher, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the CD, February 7, 2002.

7. Statement of the Honorable John R. Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, United States Department of State to the CD, January 24, 2002.

8. Statement by Leonid A. Skotnikov, Ambassador of Russia to the CD, January 22, 2002.

9. Statement by Hu Xiaodi, Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs, People's Republic of China, to the CD, February 7, 2002.

10. Statement on behalf of the Group of 21 by Camilo Reyes Rodriguez, Ambassador of Colombia, to the CD, January 31, 2002.

11. Anna Lindh, Foreign Minister of Sweden, to the CD, February 7, 2002.

12. Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, to the CD, March 19, 2002. For details of the movement of the Doomsday Clock nearer midnight, see 'It's seven minutes to midnight' Statement by the Board of Directors, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2002.

13. It is notable that with the exception of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the treaties and arrangements identified - the NPT, the BWC, the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Zangger Committee and the Australia Group - were concluded or established before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Two were not multilateral, but bilateral US-Russia, agreements: the PNET (Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty) and TTBT (Threshold Test Ban Treaty). The LTBT (Limited, also known as Partial Test Ban Treaty), the 1963 testing treaty named in preference to the multilateral CTBT, had been negotiated by the United States, Soviet Union and Britain, though it was later opened to other states to join.

14. Bolton was thought to be alluding primarily to China, North Korea, Iraq and Iran, though it should also be noted that Britain's sole remaining nuclear weapon system, Trident, depends entirely on ballistic missiles leased from the United States.

15. Statement by Hubert de la Fortelle, Ambassador of France to the CD, February 14, 2002. The meeting referred to by Ambassador de la Fortelle took place in Paris on February 7-8 - see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 63, pp. 43-44.

16. Statement on behalf of the Group of 21 by Ambassador Camilo Reyes Rodriguez, January 31, 2002.

17. Statement by Ambassador Hu Xiaodi, February 7, 2002.

18. Statement by Leonid A. Skotnikov, Ambassador of Russia to the CD, January 22, 2002.

19. Statement by Ambassador Leonid A. Skotnikov, March 28, 2002.

20. CD/1644. See Jenni Rissanen, 'CD Update', Disarmament Diplomacy No. 57 (May 2001).

Rebecca Johnson is Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.

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