Statement by the Republic of South Africa on Nuclear Disarmament (Main Committee I), New York, 2-27 May 2005

Chairperson,

South Africa would like to congratulate you on your election to preside over this important Main Committee of the 7th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. My delegation believes that under your able stewardship and if we are willing to rise to the challenges that confront us, this Committee has the potential of making a significant contribution to the strengthening of nuclear disarmament. I also want to assure you of my delegation's support in this endeavour at this crucial moment when the worth and relevance of the NPT are being widely questioned due to, among others, the lack of meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament.

South Africa associates itself with the statements presented by Malaysia/Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition on behalf of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.

Chairperson,

Together with other States Parties the nuclear-weapon States at the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed that the ultimate objective in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control. This clearly laid down the parameters in which specific steps for nuclear disarmament must now be achieved. No longer did the possibility exist of a situation - as some had previously attempted to argue - where nuclear disarmament is part of some "ultimate" objective. It was made clear that, as in the case of other weapons of mass destruction, the elimination of nuclear weapons is a milestone that must be reached on the way to the ultimate objective of the disarmament process, namely general and complete disarmament. The agreed commitment by all States parties to nuclear disarmament had become unequivocal.

At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, nuclear-weapon States made an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. For us this undertaking was an important indication that the nuclear-weapon States would pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. This made the NPT a living legal framework within which the non-nuclear-weapon States hold the nuclear-weapon States accountable for their actions on nuclear disarmament. This undertaking also confirmed our long held view that the possession of nuclear weapons by the nuclear-weapon States is only temporary and not a permanent situation. Nuclear-weapon States freely arrived at this undertaking just like they had freely negotiated and equally agreed to the Treaty.

Also at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear-weapon States agreed to thirteen practical steps for nuclear disarmament signifying their move away from empty rhetoric to a concrete commitment. This was warmly welcomed and the international community applauded this commitment that was thought to be a major benchmark in nuclear disarmament. South Africa believes that the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to eliminate their nuclear arsenals and the practical steps agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference by the nuclear-weapon States constitutes a solemn reaffirmation of their obligations under Article VI of the Treaty.

Chairperson,

Five years down the line the international community is increasingly concerned that nuclear-weapon States are not doing enough on nuclear disarmament because there is limited, if not minimal progress and that in some areas there is in fact a reversal in the Treaty regime bargains. This state of affairs is further exacerbated by a worrying tendency to reinterpret, negate or withdraw from the obligations, commitments and undertakings that we agreed to during previous conferences.

While it may meet an immediate national interest to reinterpret, negate or withdraw from the obligations, commitments and undertakings previously made, it should be borne in mind that the reciprocal consequences of any such successful attempt lays the logical foundation for other States Parties to perhaps also reinterpret, negate or withdraw from the obligations, commitments and undertakings made. South Africa believes that this trend will also result in selectivity, avoidance or even minimisation of certain aspects of the Treaty and yet its vitality and effectiveness lies in its comprehensive implementation.

South Africa believes that the NPT is a credible multilateral framework to enhance nuclear disarmament and like in any other multilateral fora, States Parties should take into consideration the interests and concerns of others. In the event that these are not compatible with those of other role players, States Parties should offer credible alternatives that will advance our common objective - nuclear disarmament. The give and take basics of multilateralism should inform our approaches in this regard since multilateral solutions are sustainable and have the potential of advancing in earnest international peace and security. My delegation is therefore of the view that the challenge to this Committee lies in safeguarding against this tendency in order to reinforce the NPT bargains and to build on the commitments and undertakings that have already been agreed to so as to continue in an irreversible path towards nuclear disarmament.

Chairperson,

Failure to implement agreed steps on nuclear disarmament and the tendency to challenge some of them is prompted by, among others, the lack of political will; the retention of nuclear weapons and the debate on the emphasis to be accorded to nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.

The lack of political will is a serious impediment to nuclear disarmament that manifests itself in many different ways. Nuclear-weapon States continue to reject any and all proposed language within the multilateral fora calling on them to implement their nuclear disarmament obligations. In general, nuclear-weapon States have systematically and determinedly opposed all attempts to be involved in a substantive engagement on nuclear disarmament in the NPT preparatory process, the First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament. South Africa believes that if we are truly committed to multilteralism and the objectives of the Treaty it would be unfortunate to approach the Review Conference with an attitude of "business as usual". States Parties must have the necessary political will to advance nuclear disarmament by implementing commitments and undertakings previously made. To demonstrate their seriousness it is vital for the nuclear-weapon States to implement agreed to practical steps for nuclear disarmament.

Chairperson,

As stated on various previous occasions, South Africa believes that any presumption of the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by the nuclear-weapon States is incompatible with the integrity and sustainability of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and with the broader goal of the maintenance of international peace and security. It is our view that continuous and irreversible progress in nuclear disarmament and other related nuclear arms control measures remains fundamental to the promotion of nuclear non-proliferation. The complete elimination of nuclear weapons and the assurance that they will never be produced again therefore remains the only assurance against their use and this should remain our goal. South Africa demonstrated that is an achievable goal when it dismantled the apartheid bomb. This step was a step in the right direction that nuclear weapons are neither a manifestation of political power nor a guarantee of security. We continue to believe that those who rely on nuclear weapons to demonstrate or exercise power should recognise that such dependence on weapons of mass destruction only serve to increase insecurity rather than promote and entrench security peace and development.

The lack of progress on security assurances is yet another cause of great concern to my delegation. For as long as this concern is not judiciously addressed South Africa will continue to reiterate its call for negotiations on a legally binding instrument on the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States party to the NPT. These could either be in the format of a separate agreement reached in the context of the NPT or as a protocol to the Treaty and could be based on papers that South Africa together with other members of the international community have submitted in the past. It is time that this long outstanding matter in the disarmament discourse is addressed and it remains imperative that nuclear-weapon States fully respect their existing commitments on security assurances pending the conclusion of multilaterally negotiated legally binding security assurances for all non-nuclear-weapon States.

South Africa also believes that the development of new types of nuclear weapons or rationalizations for their use contradict the spirit of the NPT and go against the agreement reached at the 2000 NPT Review Conference for a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies. The modernization of nuclear weapons raises concerns that nuclear testing might be resumed, which would impact negatively on international peace and security. It is in this context that my delegation calls for the upholding and maintenance of the moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions, pending the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Chairperson,

There is a widely held view that progress in the Review Conference and indeed within this Main Committee will to some extent depend on the emphasis placed between nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. South Africa's position on the mutually reinforcing processes of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation is well known. For us nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are inextricably linked and intertwined and progress on both sides is instrumental in our quest for a world free of nuclear weapons.

South Africa continues to hold the view that we must avoid approaches that entrench restrictive emphasis on preferred aspects of the Treaty to the detriment of others and precipitate unnecessary arguments on which aspects outweighs the other. We also believe that the most effective way of dealing with nuclear non-proliferation is the actual elimination of nuclear arsenals because you cannot proliferate what you do not have. This is of utmost importance now than ever before as the risk that these weapons might fall into "wrong hands". As stated in our general debate statement, we believe that nuclear weapons are illegitimate, irrespective in whose hands these are.

On the other hand, my delegation is aware of the fact that there is a need to further entrench the non-proliferation norm due to genuine proliferation concerns prompting some to prioritise nuclear non-proliferation. We are, however, disheartened that at the core of this concern appears to be attempts to curtail the inalienable right of States Parties to verifiably utilise nuclear science for peaceful purposes. It would be unfair to place more restrictions on non-nuclear weapon-states access to nuclear science without genuine movement towards nuclear disarmament.

In conclusion, Chairperson,

I would like to make brief comments on observations made by many speakers in the General Debate that the NPT was in a crisis. South Africa believes that the NPT is nearing a crisis if among others nuclear disarmament is not accorded the urgency it deserves. A crisis can be avoided if nuclear-weapon States acknowledge the necessity to accelerate the implementation of the practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Any attempt to reinterpret, negate or withdraw from the obligations, commitments and undertakings that we agreed to during previous conferences would constitute a counter-productive step in the wrong direction. On the contrary recommitment to multilateralism is of utmost importance since it would reinvigorate purposeful engagement in all the other forums dealing with disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. The onus to prevent a crisis in the NPT largely lays with the nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States alike. South Africa believes that all States Parties must fully comply with commitments made to nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and not to act in any way that may be detrimental to both these aspects or that may lead to a new nuclear arms race.

I thank you, Chairperson.

 

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