Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Briefing on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Thank you Mr President,

We highly appreciate that you are presiding over this timely and relevant discussions on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), just a few weeks before the start of the third NPT Preparatory Committee on 29 April. Likewise, we thank the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mr Yukiya Amano and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms Izumi Nakamitsu, for their detailed and insightful briefings.

Mr President,

Allow me to reiterate South Africa’s commitment to the attainment of a world free of nuclear weapons. In this context, I reaffirm my country’s commitment to the NPT as the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime.

It is undeniable that the NPT plays a critical role in the maintenance of international peace and security. The three broad objectives of the NPT, namely nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy are inextricable linked and mutually reinforcing. Therefore, in our view, efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons should be matched by an equal commitment by the Nuclear Weapon States to eliminate all nuclear weapons in a verifiable and irreversible manner. As such, the support of this Council towards the full and balanced implementation of all the objectives of the NPT is paramount.

Regrettably, Mr President,

We remain disheartened at the apparent lack of urgency and seriousness with which nuclear disarmament has been approached in the NPT context. This state of affairs places the Treaty, as well as its review process, under increasing pressure and falls far short of expectations. Continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines, the development of new types of nuclear weapons and qualitative improvements to existing arsenals have also not allayed the fears of non-nuclear-weapon States. 

After almost 50 years since the entry-into-force of the NPT, we cannot be complacent about the continued threat posed by nuclear weapons and the lack of implementation of the disarmament obligations flowing from Article VI.  We must respect the Treaty and the outcomes of its Review Conferences to maintain its continued longevity.  Measurable progress - in particular on nuclear disarmament - must therefore be a major determinant in achieving and in sustaining international peace and security.

With this in mind, Mr President,

South Africa believes that the 2019 Preparatory Committee should respect the agreements arrived at in 1995, 2000 and 2010 in order to strengthen global security. The 2020 RevCon should likewise not roll back or reinterpret previously agreed commitments, which constitute the current nuclear disarmament benchmarks. Whilst we are aware that some States are arguing for the creation of a so-called “special” environment for nuclear disarmament, it is our view that this was already established with the entry-into-force of the NPT on the basis of its “grand bargain”. We believe that the success of future Review Conferences will be determined by the extent to which these undertakings are implemented.

Mr President,

South Africa clearly demonstrated its commitment towards nuclear disarmament when deposited its instrument of ratification on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) joining 21 other Member States that have ratified the Treaty. We want to use this opportunity to encourage Member States that have not done so to sign and ratify the TPNW at the earliest possible time in order to ensure its early-entry-into force. For us, the TPNW is a positive and a bold step towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It compliments and reinforces the NPT.

Mr President,

It will be remiss of me not to commend the sterling role played by the IAEA in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is critical for the socio-economic development of developing countries, especially on the African continent. We therefore urge this Council to fully respect the inalienable right of the States Parties to the NPT to use nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes as envisaged in the Treaty. We further call upon this Council and the international community to continue to support the Agency’s Technical Cooperation (TC) projects and activities.

The Agency furthermore continues to verify and monitor the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), which remains one of the recent success stories of multilateral diplomacy. We call upon this Council to continue to support and encourage these contributions to international peace and security by the Agency and reiterate our calls for the preservation of the JCPoA.

Mr President,

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones will continue to play an important role in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In that regard, I pay tribute to the Pelindaba Treaty, which commemorates its tenth anniversary this year since its entry-into-force. In the same vein, my delegation calls for the early establishment of a Middle East Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction as outlined in the 1995 resolution.

Mr President,

South Africa strongly supports the full implementation of the NPT and its universality in pursuit of the goal of achieving and maintaining a world free from nuclear weapons. In this regard, we would do well to remember that the strength, credibility and utility of the NPT rests on a fundamental bargain, which all of us should uphold.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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