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2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Statement by the Honourable Matt Robson, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control of New Zealand
Monday 24 April 2000
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
These are words of the Maori, the first people of New Zealand, and they mean simply: greetings to you all from Aotearoa/New Zealand.
We bring good wishes for you, Mr President, and our congratulations, as you lead us through this important review of a vital and significant Treaty. We want to work with you, and with all distinguished delegates, to strengthen the contribution it makes to global security and to the security of each of its members.
We find it very appropriate that we the States Parties to the NPT should meet here at United Nations Headquarters to review our Treaty. International peace and security is fundamental to the Charter of the United Nations. We listened carefully to the counsel of our Secretary General when he opened our Conference.
The Secretary General was an honoured guest in our country earlier this year. At that time, on 23 February, the Parliament of New Zealand turned to the question of nuclear disarmament. The Parliament resolved, without dissent, and I quote:
'as a mark of the dawning of the year 2000, to appeal to all fellow member states of the United Nations, and especially the nuclear weapon states, to join with New Zealand in fulfilling the obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.'
The Government has conveyed this appeal widely. The Parliament resolved too, that the Government of New Zealand would work for the fulfilment of the obligation in all appropriate international forums.
In introducing the motion, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, commented that the nuclear disarmament process had held much promise, but it was faltering. Progress would not be easy. But New Zealand would not step back from our longstanding place in the vanguard of the nuclear disarmament movement.
We renew this our Parliament's appeal, today.
It is a telling moment for us, Mr President and distinguished delegates, for we begin our Conference at the time when, each year, New Zealanders and Australians pause. On 25 April we pause to remember the men and women of our countries who served in war. It is a day on which we think about our history, our experience of war, our identity and our place in the world. This year the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand will join with the President of Turkey in the commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the allied forces landings at Gallipoli - the day that became ANZAC Day. Our day of remembrance.
This too is the International Year of the Culture of Peace. In New Zealand a generation has grown up now without the direct knowledge of war which our parents and grandparents had. We have instead been very active participants in the international efforts to help bring or reinforce the peace, usually operating under United Nations auspices. Other people have been less fortunate. Our world has suffered a plague of smaller wars, and the threat from weapons of mass destruction hangs over us. We in New Zealand have been proud to take our place among the peacemakers, but we too can see the risks of conflict still.
Can we at this Conference continue the movement from a history of war towards a global culture of peace? We are bound by our Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to try.
At the Conference on Disarmament last month, I suggested that we must take up the opportunities that are available to prevent a new nuclear arms race, to work for disarmament and to secure the peace. I offered a vision of a southern hemisphere free of nuclear weapons, consolidating the achievements of members in the existing regional zones and building on initiatives of other governments. I paid tribute to those states which have turned back along the nuclear way and have chosen the path to national and regional security as non-nuclear weapons states. I spoke plainly of our concern that the Conference in Geneva had achieved so little in recent years, and I was hopeful that this Review Conference might help us move forwards.
Mr President, distinguished delegates, I am Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control in a new government of New Zealand, formed after general elections in December 1999. Our new government will pursue an active diplomacy for disarmament. We see this Review Conference as a time for careful consideration together of our progress since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. And to develop together an updated and suitably ambitious set of responses to our present challenges.
When we look back over the past 5 years we do see positive steps in the right direction.
We applaud the very solid progress with nuclear free zones, for South-east Asia and Africa, and with the Protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga in the South Pacific, and the work underway in Central Asia. We welcome the new members to the NPT: 187 of us have now committed ourselves to the same NPT bargain. We are close, so close to universality, but still not close enough.
The CTBT was a huge achievement for multilateral disarmament, though it is not yet in force. The decision last week by the Russian Parliament to ratify the CTBT is a very positive step. I am delighted that we in New Zealand can give very practical support to the CTBT through the stations we contribute to the international monitoring system. We are pleased to be working closely with some of our neighbours in the South Pacific on building the network.
We acknowledge efforts by some nuclear weapons States to make our world safer: I was very pleased last week to welcome the decision by the Russian Duma to ratify START II. Other positives include the trilateral initiative on fissile material between the United States, Russia and the IAEA; the British Government's reductions to its nuclear arsenal, France's dismantling of its nuclear test facilities in the South Pacific; China's continued policy of no-first use.
Tougher IAEA safeguards through the Additional Protocol have been agreed since 1995. They offer a new benchmark for verifying that we non-nuclear weapon States are keeping our part of the NPT bargain.
But there are many gaps in some of these achievements, and many negatives as well:
We cannot ignore the fact of nuclear testing by India and Pakistan. Their tests in 1998 flew in the face of the commitments made by all of us. We acknowledge that they did not breach our Treaty. For New Zealand, and we think for many here, it has been a surprise to hear proposals that suggest the NPT should adjust to these so-called new realities. That is not New Zealand's view. We should not organise the international non-proliferation regime around those who challenge its norms.
It is also a matter of real concern that another state not party to the NPT, Israel, operates unsafeguarded facilities. New Zealand supports the 1995 NPT Resolution on the Middle East and will be looking for this Conference to give a clear message that this Resolution be fully implemented.
Those who have taken up the nuclear option will discover that it has harmed their security and that they are set on a road to great danger. Others have seen and understood this, and have turned back along the road.
We must tackle such challenges in a positive way. The NPT - our NPT - is fundamental to non-proliferation, and to disarmament. Certainly at this Conference we shall call on the few outsiders to join us, and to join the wider efforts around the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).
We have made commitments to each other in our own vital interests, national and collective.
We can advance those same interests by completing work in progress: reinforcing the CTBT norm; adopting the Additional Protocol to IAEA safeguards; getting the FMCT negotiation underway; encouraging those who stand outside our Treaty to join with us, confident that our purpose is a safer and more secure world and that we are all committed fully to the deal we have done, in all its parts.
We in New Zealand are ready to do all that. We think almost all of us here today are in the same position. Yet we hear unceasing talk of failure.
In our view, the spectre of failure indicates the distance still to cover from our history of war to the culture of peace.
And in the context of our Treaty, the gap is mostly not in the performance of the 182 non-nuclear weapon States. Almost all of us are meeting our commitments in full. Nor is it explained by the actions and ambiguities of the few left outside, though they try to challenge the foundations of our success. We worry about failure because, under challenge, we cannot see enough evidence of success in the key, disarmament, part of the NPT deal. This is our core concern.
We worry too that the nuclear weapons States who are obliged to eliminate their arsenals yet sound too tentative when describing it as an "ultimate" goal. We worry that nuclear weapons are claimed to be required for security into the "indefinite" future. That new pressures are loaded onto the machinery for the management of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. That new measures to underpin collective security find it harder and harder to gain wide support, and that breaches of the treaty can not be stopped.
And if we focus on what only five of us might do to make our Treaty stronger, that is not to overlook or diminish what they have done. But it is to be practical about what is still to be done and what can be done.
We are a small country in population and only one voice in our community of nations. But none of us stands alone. Here New Zealand stands squarely with our partners on the middle path, with the New Agenda for nuclear disarmament. We stand with Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden. Many others have lent their weight to our efforts, as cosponsors of resolutions at the UN General Assembly, and in support of this Coalition and the calls we make.
On the occasion of this Review Conference, we ask that we all renew our determination to meet NPT commitments.
The indefinite extension that States parties supported in 1995 was not a permit for indefinite possession of nuclear weapons. In order to finish the job, we ask the five nuclear weapons States to make at this Conference a new unequivocal undertaking for the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. We are not questioning the commitment they made when they signed up to the NPT. They are legally bound to fulfil that, just as we are all bound by our commitments. But, the nuclear weapon States can guarantee success at this Review Conference with fresh energy, and through the practical steps laid out in the New Agenda.
Let the bilateral START process now move ahead, with all five nuclear weapons States joining a process leading to the total elimination of these weapons. Let these States adapt their policies, take all nuclear forces - including tactical forces - off deployment, show transparency, and apply measures to ensure that progress towards disarmament is irreversible. Let us all agree to build on 30 years of experience, positive and negative, to move forwards.
At our time of remembrance, Mr President and distinguished delegates, let us take those next steps away from war, towards peace.
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