Statement by the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, at the Briefing of the Security Council on Non-Proliferation: supporting the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ahead of the 2020 Review Conference, 26 February 2020

We thank Under Secretary General Izumi Nakamitsu and the President of the NPT Review Conference, Gustavo Zlauvinen, for their briefings.

As we look forward to the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), South Africa reaffirms its commitment to the NPT as the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime.

It is undeniable that the NPT has played 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 inextricably linked. Therefore, South Africa maintains its long-held view that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes: progress in respect of both is therefore essential to realise the object and purpose of the NPT.

However, while non-proliferation measures have been strengthened, similar concrete progress has not yet been realised in the area of nuclear disarmament. We believe that efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons should be matched by a concurrent effort to eliminate all nuclear weapons, in a verifiable and irreversible manner.

We likewise remain seriously concerned about the apparent lack of urgency and seriousness with which the solemn undertakings, particularly in respect to nuclear disarmament, continue to be approached. Still more concerning are attempts to negate or reinterpret the nuclear disarmament undertakings made since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.

This state of affairs places the NPT and its review process under increasing pressure. It falls far short of the commitments and obligations with respect to Article VI, and the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States at the 2000 NPT Review Conference to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. The outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference constitutes the current nuclear disarmament benchmarks: reneging on these commitments is not an option. For this reason, it is our view that the success of the 2020 RevCon will largely depend on the extent to which these undertakings are being honoured.

For South Africa it is essential that the outcome for the forthcoming RevCon reaffirms the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States. It is also especially important that while the RevCon outcome need not be elaborate, it should not roll back or reinterpret the agreements reached since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.

South Africa joins others in expressing its concerns about the current geopolitical tensions and the resulting impact on international peace and security. It is for this reason we believe that this current security climate allows no room for further procrastination to achieve concrete nuclear disarmament results. We therefore urge all parties involved to exercise the utmost flexibility to de-escalate tensions. For South Africa, humanitarian imperatives continue to underpin our search for a world without the threat posed by the possession, use and proliferation of nuclear weapons.  These considerations are today a fundamental and global concern that should be at the core of our deliberations, actions and decisions on nuclear weapons. 

In conclusion, South Africa remains convinced that the strength, credibility and vitality of the NPT rests on the grand bargain across its three pillars, and that the success of Review Conferences going forward will be determined by the extent to which these undertakings are implemented. In this regard, we stand ready to play our part.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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