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UN chief: Security Council has vital role in combating threats of nuclear proliferation

Nuclear test carried out on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada test site.
Nuclear test carried out on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada test site.

UN chief: Security Council has vital role in combating threats of nuclear proliferation

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the vital role played by the Security Council in combating the threat of nuclear proliferation, as the 15-member United Nations body met to assess recent global efforts and progress in the area of disarmament and security.

“The international community looks to the Security Council to continue its leadership in generating the political momentum needed to achieve the peace and security of a world free from nuclear weapons,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks.

Today’s meeting, convened at the initiative of the United States, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council for this month, is a follow-up to the summit-level event on nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and security that was chaired by President Barack Obama in September 2009.

The summit resulted in the adoption of resolution 1887, in which the Council resolved to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. It also recognized the need for all States to take effective measures to prevent nuclear material or technical assistance becoming available to terrorists.

In a paper prepared for the meeting, the US delegation noted that the many multilateral and bilateral efforts since 2009 are part of a comprehensive approach to reducing global nuclear dangers and risks.

“The threats are urgent and real, and the role of the Security Council in addressing these dangers is unique and indispensable,” it stated.

Mr. Ban said he hoped the Council will continue to highlight that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, constitute a threat to international peace and security as highlighted in relevant resolutions, including resolution 1887. “These discussions should be sustained at the highest levels,” he added.

He noted that many “welcome” developments have occurred since the 2009 summit, including steps by the US and Russia to reduce their deployed nuclear arsenals under the New START Treaty; the inclusion, for the first time, of the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world on NATO’s agenda; and innovative efforts by non-nuclear-weapon States.

At the same time, he pointed out that much work remains to be done.

“Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons continue to threaten humanity. Billions of dollars are being spent to modernize them, despite pressing social needs and growing global expectations for progress in disarmament,” he said.

In addition, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has not yet entered into force, some 16 years after its adoption by the General Assembly, and the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, remains deadlocked.

“The current stalemate is unacceptable,” said Mr. Ban, adding that if the Conference cannot begin work this year, then the General Assembly must exercise its primary responsibility in carrying forward the disarmament process.

“To facilitate negotiations in the CD, the five nuclear-weapon States may consider ‘elaborating elements’ on a fissile material (cut-off) treaty. As Secretary-General, I am willing to consider establishing a group of eminent persons to help in this task,” he stated.

Established in 1979 and with a current membership of 65 countries, the CD primarily focuses on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, prevention of nuclear war, and prevention of an arms race in outer space, among other things – it has been plagued in recent years by an inability to overcome differences among its members and start its substantive work towards advancing disarmament goals.

Mr. Ban also stressed the importance of full compliance with Security Council resolutions. He welcomed the Council’s presidential statement of 16 April which strongly condemned the launch of a so-called ‘application satellite’ by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“The Council has sent a firm and unified message,” he said. “I urge the DPRK to immediately comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. As demanded by the Council, it should not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests or any further provocation.”

Turning to Iran, Mr. Ban said the only acceptable outcome is “a peaceful settlement that restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” in conformity with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The NPT, a landmark international treaty, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

During the meeting, the Council issued a presidential statement in which it voiced its grave concern about the threat of terrorism, and the risk that non-State actors may acquire, develop, traffic in or use weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

“The Security Council reaffirms the need for all Member States to comply fully with their obligations and fulfil their commitments in relation to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects of all weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery,” the statement said.