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UN Resolution on a Nuclear Weapons Convention: Introduction Speech by Malaysian Ambassador 1999

 

 

STATEMENT BY

 

AMBASSADOR HASMY AGAM

PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF MALAYSIA

TO THE UNITED NATIONS

 

ON AGENDA ITEM 76(P)

FOLLOW-UP TO THE ADVISORY OPINION OF THE

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE ON THE LEGALITY OF THE THREAT OR USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

 

AT THE

FIRST COMMITTEE OF THE

FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

NEW YORK

 

FRIDAY, 29 OCTOBER 1999

(Please check against delivery)

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

My delegation has the honour to introduce to the Committee the Draft Resolution in document A/C.1/54/L.43 dated 27 October 1999 entitled "Follow-up to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons". We are pleased to announce that this Draft Resolution is co-sponsored by the following delegations: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Sierra Leone have also co-sponsored the draft resolution. My delegation wishes to express its sincere appreciation to all the co-sponsors.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

2. This Draft Resolution is basically similar to the one presented last year, with minor amendments of a technical nature. Its fourteen preambular and four operative paragraphs are virtually identical with resolution 53/77 W of 4 December, 1998. For the sake of brevity, I will focus only on its operative paragraphs. Operative paragraph 1 underlines, once again, the unanimous conclusion of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that "there exists an 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". Operative paragraph 2 calls upon all states to fulfil that obligation by commencing multilateral negotiations in the year 2000 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination. Operative paragraph three requests all States to inform the Secretary-General of the efforts and measures they have taken on the implementation of the resolution and nuclear disarmament, and requests the Secretary-General to apprise the General Assembly of that information at its fifty-fifth session. Operative paragraph four decides to include the issue in the provisional agenda of its fifty-fifth session.

 

3. It is clear from the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ that States have a legal obligation not only to pursue but also bring such negotiations to an early conclusion. This is consistent with the solemn obligation made by State parties under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament and of their determined pursuit of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of the elimination of those weapons. The sponsors of this Draft Resolution consider this unanimous Opinion of the World Court on the existence of this obligation as a clear basis for follow-up actions by member States of the United Nations in their determined efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

 

4. In tabling this Draft Resolution, allow me to reiterate some points I had mentioned last year in response to comments made by a few delegations who spoke against the initiation of this resolution, and who may do so again this year, as well as to raise a few additional points. It has been alleged that the Draft Resolution's call for multilateral negotiations leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention is unrealistic and lacked credibility. Let me clarify: the Draft Resolution calls on States to commence multilateral negotiations leading to an early conclusion of the convention; it does not talk in terms of commencing immediate negotiations on the convention. It thereby allows for the very same kinds of disarmament measures that the nuclear weapon states themselves are committed to support. Therefore, the approach called for by the resolution, is not unrealistic but is in fact compatible with the incremental approaches mooted by others.

 

5. We are aware that negotiations on disarmament need to move forward in a progressive fashion. We commend the approaches taken by some countries towards this end outside of the Conference on Disarmament, either through bilateral agreements or arrangements or through unilateral decisions. However, we cannot but express disappointment at the lack of progress in these endeavours: six years after its signing, START II has yet to be put into effect due to its non-ratification; while decisions by some States not to sign the CTBT and its non-ratification, so far, by three major Nuclear Weapon States, have prevented its entry into force. While my delegation recognises the importance and continued relevance of bilateral negotiations and unilateral decisions, it should not detract from the importance of multilateral negotiations. Indeed, the two tracks could complement and reinforce each other; nuclear disarmament is a matter of concern to all humanity, not just the Nuclear Weapon States.

 

6. On the Draft Resolution's "selective quotation" from the ICJ's Advisory Opinion, my delegation readily admits that the draft resolution focuses on the unanimous Opinion on the existence of an 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. It does so in order not to confuse between the two main conclusions, that is, the threat and use of nuclear weapons and the obligation to negotiate disarmament, as they require different responses. The Draft Resolution, as reflected in operative paragraph 1, focuses on the disarmament obligations of States as it was a conclusion arrived at unanimously by the ICJ. Its implementation is entirely appropriate for the General Assembly, which has a mandate to promote disarmament negotiations. The sponsors of the Resolution recognise the value of the Court's decision as a whole. The resolution does not pretend that operative paragraph 1 is the only conclusion of the Court that could have an influence on disarmament policy, or that there are no other actions which could be taken in light of the Court's decisions. In fact, operative paragraph 3 encompasses the Court's decision as a whole, where States are requested to inform the Secretary-General on the efforts and measures they have taken to fulfil their duties as underlined by the conclusions of the Court.

 

7. The contention that the resolution relieves non-nuclear-weapons-states of any disarmament responsibility does not hold water. It calls upon all States to fulfil the obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament; it does not single out nuclear-weapon-states only. A further contention was that the resolution removed the obligation under Article VI of the NPT in relation to "general and complete disarmament". The Court, in arriving at its conclusion, relied on international law, of which the NPT obligation in Article VI is part, as well as other disarmament and customary law. The Court's conclusion that there is an obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament made no linkage between such an obligation and "general and complete disarmament"; neither does the NPT make a direct link. It merely states that there is an obligation to do both.

 

  1. The Court, in arriving at its unanimous decision that member states have an obligation not only to conduct but also successfully conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, reiterates the obligation of States party to the NPT. The unanimous decision of the ICJ, representing the full weight of the legal opinion of all members of the world court, is an important contribution to the development of international law which should not be summarily dismissed. The fact that Nuclear Weapon States have ignored this unanimous opinion and failed to pursue multilateral negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament can only have a negative impact on the NPT Review Conference and the nuclear disarmament process in general. If the situation persists, member states of this Organization, in their desire to see full compliance of the provisions of the NPT, may wish to seek a further Opinion of the World Court in relation to the non-observance in good faith of the Nuclear Weapon States’ of their obligations pursuant to the said Article VI.

 

9. On the resolution being silent on the Court's conclusion that there was not in international law a prohibition against the threat or use of nuclear weapons, it had been pointed out by one delegation--which my delegation would like to reiterate--that the Court did conclude that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, and that it is incorrect to say that it allowed for an exception. The Court rejected the argument that there would be legal uses of nuclear weapons, and said that it could reach no definitive position regarding extreme circumstances. Further, it stated that "States must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets".

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

10. In submitting this draft Resolution for the consideration of this Committee, my delegation is confident that it will continue to receive the support of a large majority of members States. We are confident that States which support multilateral negotiations that will eventually lead to the global elimination of nuclear weapons - as we are all committed to do - will have no valid reason to oppose this Draft Resolution, which seeks to do exactly that in the long term. Once again, in introducing this Draft Resolution my delegation expresses its sincere appreciation to its co-sponsors as well as delegations that will vote in favour of the Resolution.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

 

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