MEDIA RELEASE

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
AUSTRALIA

D70

22 September 1998

Australia Committed To A World Free Of Weapons Of Mass Destruction

Australia has reaffirmed to the United Nations General Assembly its strong commitment to the challenge of helping to steer the world away from the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

The Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Her Excellency Penny Wensley, yesterday presented the Australian Government's annual statement to the UN General Assembly on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. She pledged Australia's continued strong support for the effort to uphold and strengthen the nuclear and other non-proliferation regimes and to continue to pursue effective measures to reduce and eliminate the threat posed by all weapons of mass destruction.

Australia has long been a firm supporter of universal adherence to international weapons of mass destruction treaties. Australia has signed all thirteen multilateral arms control and disarmament treaties and ratified all of these bar one - ratification of the Ottawa landmines ban Convention is in progress. Only four other countries can match this record. Ambassador Wensley reaffirmed Australia's commitment to making a difference where and when it can in building consensus on the way forward, and will continue to be diligent and creative across the full range of arms control and disarmament issues.

While the progress the international community has made in the field of arms control and disarmament over recent decades has been remarkable, the non-proliferation and disarmament regimes have had to withstand serious challenges from North Korea and Iraq, and the progress towards a universal no-testing norm has been jolted by sporadic outbreaks of testing, most recently by India and Pakistan. "In the face of these setbacks," Ambassador Wensley said, "it is vitally important to stay the course, and to ensure that such events amount to no more than temporary deviations from the near universally accepted norm against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction".

While it might be natural in times of difficulty and uncertainty in international affairs to question the considerable political and economic capital devoted to non-proliferation regimes', brief consideration of the alternative, Ambassador Wensley observed - a world without the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or other hedges against the threat of weapons of mass destruction - confirms that continued commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament is central to the security of all members of the international community.

In the address, Ambassador Wensley also called for serious negotiations on a package of reforms for the United Nations organisation - "one which will usher in a remodelled' Security Council that is more representative, transparent and suited to the new millennium". The Statement also welcomed the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Australia together with seven other countries drafted, and the 50th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping to which Australia has been a long-standing contributor.

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