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National statements

Statement to the UN General Assembly regarding nuclear weapons

Thematic issues

  • DPRK
  • Energy
  • Iran
  • Middle East

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: FIRST COMMITTEE

Thematic statement on nuclear weapons


Statement by HE Mr Peter Woolcott, Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and Ambassador for Disarmament

Mr Chair,

Australia is committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and has
a history of practical and determined activism in support and promotion of this
goal.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudd, reaffirmed Australia's commitment
to this goal in his address to the General Assembly last month.

Australia attaches importance to the First Committee as a place where we can
build support for practical steps to strengthen efforts in the field of nuclear
non-proliferation and disarmament.

In this regard, Australia, with fellow sponsor New Zealand, strongly supports
Mexico in its leadership this year of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
(CTBT) resolution. This important resolution is strongly supported within the
General Assembly and has enjoyed co-sponsorship by the five nuclear-weapon States
since the General Assembly's sixty-fourth session. It is a serious failure
that fifteen years after it opened for signature, the CTBT has not yet entered
into force. We call on those states yet to ratify the CTBT – particularly
Annex 2 states – to do so as soon as possible. In the meantime, we encourage
all Member States to support this resolution.

Mr Chair

Australia is under no illusion about the complexity and difficulty of achieving
our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. All of us – NPT states
and non-NPT states alike – have an opportunity to keep moving towards
that goal, an opportunity we must seize. There is no magic bullet; we have to
work through a rigorous step-by-step approach.

Australia worked hard for and strongly welcomed the consensus outcome of the
2010 NPT Review Conference, under the highly effective leadership of Ambassador
Cabatulan of the Philippines. The adoption by NPT States Parties of the consensus
Action Plan, which spans the NPT's three pillars of disarmament, non-proliferation
and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and which also addresses matters relating
to the Middle East, was a substantial achievement. However, the Action Plan
– our road map – will only be as good as its implementation; this
is now the time for hard work.

For its part, Australia is encouraged by the recent meetings of the five nuclear-weapon
States. We look forward to positive results from their individual and collective
efforts in implementing their obligations under the consensus Action Plan.

Australia also supports the efforts made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
and the depository states, in consultation with the states of the Middle East
region, for the convening next year of a conference on the establishment of
a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
We urge all relevant states to continue to cooperate constructively in this
endeavour.

But of course, implementing the Action Plan is not the work and responsibility
of a limited number of NPT States Parties, but of all NPT States Parties. While
the five nuclear-weapon States have a special responsibility under the NPT,
Australia is keen for all NPT States Parties to carry this notion of broad responsibility
for Action Plan implementation to the first session of the Preparatory Committee
for the 2015 Review Conference, including through looking at how their own endeavours
can support Action Plan implementation.

Mr Chair

Australia takes its responsibilities in this regard seriously. Following our
collaboration in establishing the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation
and Disarmament (ICCND) and our joint work at the 2010 NPT Review Conference,
Australia and Japan last year convened the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament
Initiative (NPDI) focused on Action Plan implementation. Our two countries are
joined in this initiative by eight other NPT States Parties, all countries committed
to a world free of nuclear weapons and all with strong non-proliferation credentials.

Ministers of these countries met again in New York on 21 September, and in
their statement, which has been circulated during this First Committee session,
they outlined the NPDI's on-going efforts, including on specific actions
in the Action Plan.

The NPDI has developed and shared with the five nuclear-weapon States a draft
standard nuclear disarmament reporting form as a contribution to their discussions
on the implementation of Action 21. In accordance with Actions 28 and 29, NPDI
states are offering to share our collective experience in concluding and implementing
Additional Protocols; the NPDI regards a safeguards agreement and an Additional
Protocol as the standard for effective verification of states' safeguards
commitments.

In accordance with Action 13, the NPDI continues to take diplomatic opportunities
to urge states that have not done so to sign and ratify the CTBT and to do so
as soon as possible. And the NPDI is working to see Action 15, on the negotiation
of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), implemented.

Australia's position on FMCT is well known: we consider its negotiation
long overdue. Banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons
purposes through an FMCT is an essential step towards irreversible nuclear disarmament.
An FMCT would further tighten controls on fissile material, reinforcing efforts
to reduce the risk of fissile material leaking to proliferators or terrorists.
It would also complement the CTBT. The CTBT impedes the qualitative development
of nuclear weapons by prohibiting testing; an FMCT would impose a quantitative
limit on the amount of fissile material available for weapons use.

It remains scandalous that sixteen years after the Shannon Mandate, the Conference
on Disarmament (CD) still has not begun negotiations on this treaty. In 2011,
Australia and Japan made a practical gesture to encourage the CD back to work
through our FMCT experts side events. At this First Committee, Australia strongly
supports Canada's efforts through its annual FMCT resolution to move FMCT
beyond its current impasse and we encourage others to support Canada. We will
continue to do all we can to support FMCT.

Mr Chair,

Australia remains gravely concerned about the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea's nuclear activities, including the revelation of a covert uranium
enrichment capability. DPRK's pursuit of nuclear weapons and defiance
of UN Security Council resolutions pose a significant threat to stability of
our region and to the non-proliferation efforts of the international community.

Australia also shares serious concerns about the mounting evidence of the possible
military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. Iran continues to defy
binding UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA requirements. We again encourage
Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions and engage with the IAEA to
resolve all issues, and demonstrate conclusively the peaceful intent of its
nuclear program.

Mr Chair

As many Member States have noted, there have recently been a number of positive
developments in non-proliferation and disarmament, and it is important that
we try to build on the momentum if we are ever to achieve the goal of a world
free of nuclear weapons. This is not a time for complacency; there remains much
work to be done. We should all focus on practical and positive efforts which
keep us moving forward.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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