How Many Steps in a Step-by-Step Approach? Day 4 of the NPT PrepCom

April 26, 2013

The day began with a briefing for NGOs by the delegation of the Netherlands. As the Netherlands is also serving as the chair of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), this provided an opportunity for NGO representatives to ask questions about NPDI’s policies and stances at the PrepCom as well as those of the national delegation.

General Debate

Thursday’s session of the general debate began with a continuation of Wednesday afternoon’s session devoted to Cluster 1 issues, or those dealing with disarmament. Once these had concluded, the Chair then opened discussions on one specific issue that falls under that cluster—negative security assurances.

Many of the delegates who spoke on Thursday morning continued to emphasize the work being done on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use and the humanitarian dimension to disarmament. The government of Malaysia noted that this humanitarian-focused work has cross-national and cross-regional appeal and is of key importance to many states. Not all states parties were supportive of this work, however; the Russian statement noted that the delegation “had some questions” about the goal and the value added of the humanitarian approach, and argued that it diverted attention from efforts to create the conditions necessary for disarmament.

Another area of interest to many state parties is the role of nuclear weapons in national military or security doctrines. Several P5 states cited the importance of being able to deter a nuclear attack in their statements, but Malaysia questioned whether such deterrence doctrines are still applicable or useful given the threat from rogue regimes or non-state actors. The United States acknowledged the concern of many states parties regarding the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy, but argued that it had reduced the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategies and that the Obama administration hoped to reduce this role even further.

Finally, many statements addressed the new mechanisms created to encourage discussion of difficult issues, such as the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on disarmament. Canada encouraged all states to submit their views to the GGE. Some, such as Japan, called on the nuclear weapon states and possessor states to declare a moratorium on fissile material production until the GGE could complete its work and an FMCT could be negotiated and enter into force. On the OEWG, Austria described it as a forum and an opportunity to have a discussion about disarmament and identify future paths forward and challenges to be overcome. Some of the P5 expressed concern that the OEWG would undermine existing efforts; China in particular argued that it is important to maintain the existing disarmament machinery and that addressing issues outside of the “appropriate forum” of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) would divert resources and weaken the nonproliferation regime. Many non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) objected to this, however, stating that an OEWG can only add value and that all states should participate in view of the current blockage in the CD.

Cluster Discussion: Security Assurances

The Chair then opened discussion on the issue of nuclear disarmament and security assurances and invited states to participate in a more “interactive” debate. Many states continued to make their interventions in a formal style with pre-written statements, but some, notably Brazil, chose instead to extemporize and to engage with the remarks made by other parties in their interventions. A recurring theme among the statements from the NNWS was that the only true guard against nuclear weapon use or threat of use was the elimination of such weapons, but that in the interim, legally binding negative security assurances were essential. The speakers list was exhausted by 5:30, and the session adjourned early. Tomorrow’s morning session will change gears to focus on Cluster 2, nonproliferation issues.

Side Events

Many side events took place during the plenary sessions on Thursday as well as at the lunchtime break.

The purpose of “Denuclearization and Framework for Peace of Northeast Asia,” a Japan-Korea NGO side event, was to discuss steps towards peace on the Korean Peninsula and a Northeast Asia NWFZ. Mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima spoke on the importance of regional and multilateral measures, such as the Six Party talks, in realizing lasting peace and security in Northeast Asia. Wooksik Cheong of the Peace Network covered new approaches to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and concluded that the Six Party Talks have not been held because of the reluctant attitude of the United States and South Korea. Ichiro Yuasa from the Peace Depot said that until North Korea has a guarantee of not being crushed unilaterally by the US, NK will not feel like denuclearization is at all an option.

The UK-Norway Initiative held a lunchtime event at which they covered the problem, case study, attribute measurement system, current system developments, and the future of their joint verification program, which explores the dimensions of NWS/NNWS partnership in the verification of disarmament—specifically warhead dismantlement. The speakers spent much of the presentation describing the technology (Information Barrier system, tested in Managed Access exercises) that facilitates Norway’s ability to participate in the verification process.

The PIR Center, a Russian NGO, presented its white paper on Ten Steps toward a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (MEWMDFZ). The steps are not only for the planned conference—as called for by the 2010 NPT Review Conference—but for the longer process of formation of the zone. Dr. Vladimir Orlov of the PIR Center described the history of the MEWMDFZ and highlighted the role of the Russians/Soviets in its development. Dr. Sameh Aboul-Enein and Ambassador Wael Al-Assad touched on the missing elements from the list. Al-Assad noted that “Arabs would be happy to sign off on the ten points,” but the problem is that the international community as a whole lacks the political will. Mr. Thomas Countryman emphasized that, if all states of the region could not agree on an agenda and attend the meeting, the potential of the Conference and successive steps would be undermined. Questions and comments from the audience came from Ambassador Soltanieh from Iran and a representative of the Israeli disarmament movement.

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