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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Conference on Disarmament (CD)

EU Urges Middle East Meeting in 2013

The European Parliament passed a resolution Jan. 17 calling for a conference to be held in 2013 on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Kelsey Davenport

The European Parliament passed a resolution Jan. 17 calling for a conference to be held in 2013 on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The meeting was supposed to be held last December, but was postponed.

The resolution “deplores the postponement” of the meeting and urges the conveners and the member countries of the European Union to ensure that the conference takes place “as soon as possible in 2013.” The resolution said that key elements of the zone should include compliance by all countries in the region with comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, including adherence to an additional protocol that gives the agency greater latitude to carry out inspections; a ban on fissile material production for weapons; and accession by all states in the region to the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The commitment to hold the 2012 meeting was a key part of the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general were named the conveners of the conference; Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava later was chosen as the facilitator.

The meeting was scheduled for December in Helsinki, but the conveners announced Nov. 23 that the conference would be postponed due to disagreements on “core issues” and to “present conditions in the Middle East,” according to the U.S. statement. At the time of postponement, no deadline was set for rescheduling or holding the meeting, although Russia called for it to be held as soon as possible in 2013.

Before the postponement announcement, all of the countries except Israel that are expected to be part of the proposed zone verbally committed to attending the meeting, although there were indications that Iran said it would attend only after learning that the conference would be postponed. (See ACT, December 2012.)

In a Jan. 22 statement to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Wafaa Bassim, the Egyptian representative to the CD, called on the co-conveners “to set, without further delay,” a date for the conference before the NPT preparatory committee meeting that is scheduled to be held in Geneva from April 22 to May 3.

According to news reports, the ministerial statement issued at the end of a Jan. 13 Arab League meeting in Cairo said that the group would consider boycotting the NPT preparatory meeting if action was not taken.

In a Feb. 11 e-mail to Arms Control Today, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official also called for action but without referring to the boycott. He said “steps should be taken” to encourage Israeli participation, but “not at the cost of further delay.” He also said the current domestic situation in Egypt made pushing for the conference “less of a priority issue” for the foreign ministry than it has been in the past.

The U.S. State Department did not respond by press time to a request for information on the steps the United States is taking to reschedule the conference, but Laura Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to the CD, said in a Jan. 22 statement that the United States stands by its commitment to hold a conference that is “meaningful” and “includes all states of the region.” The statement urged the states to “engage directly with each other to bridge conceptual differences.” The EU resolution also referenced the importance of all countries in the zone participating in the conference when it is convened.

Russia will continue to work actively toward convening a meeting, Alexey Borodavkin, Russia’s representative to the CD, said Jan. 22.

Posted: February 28, 2013

UN First Committee Seeks FMCT Progress

Following the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to agree on a program of work necessary to make substantive progress toward a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and other issues, the UN General Assembly First Committee passed three resolutions that try to break the gridlock in the CD through the creation of other, complementary bodies.

Marcus Taylor

Following the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to agree on a program of work necessary to make substantive progress toward a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and other issues, the UN General Assembly First Committee passed three resolutions that try to break the gridlock in the CD through the creation of other, complementary bodies.

The statements and resolutions tabled by several UN member states made clear their wavering confidence in the CD and its ability to fulfill its mandate.

The CD concluded its third and final session of the year in September without reaching consensus on a program of work. As it has in the past, Pakistan blocked the start of negotiations on an FMCT, citing the need to address existing fissile stockpiles as well as new production.

In his report to the First Committee, CD Secretary-General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan said that nothing can “mask the stagnation in what should serve the international community as its single standing multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.”

Group of Governmental Experts

In response, the First Committee approved a resolution (A/C.1/67/L.41/Rev/1) put forward by Canada on an FMCT. The resolution, which was approved by a vote of 148-1 with 20 abstentions, requests that the UN secretary-general produce a report in 2013 on how to move forward on FMCT negotiations based on input from member states. It also calls on the secretary-general to establish a group of governmental experts, comprising 25 member states, to discuss how to advance negotiations on an FMCT.

These meetings would occur for two weeks each in 2014 and 2015 and would end immediately in the event that the CD is able to pass a comprehensive program of work. The experts group is to submit a final report with a list of recommendations on how to advance FMCT negotiations and what technical aspects to include in the treaty.

Some member states, including China and Iran, expressed concern that the experts group would tarnish the legitimacy of the CD as the only recognized international forum for disarmament negotiations. Pakistan, the only state to vote against the resolution, said in its Nov. 5 explanation of its vote that the group “adds no value to the substance of the envisaged treaty” and would “undermine the CD, the sole multilateral negotiating forum.”

Several of the 20 countries that abstained voiced the same concern. Some states also expressed concern about moving the discussions from the 65-member CD to a forum of only 25 states.

Open-Ended Working Group

By a vote of 134-4 with 34 abstentions, the First Committee approved another resolution (A/C.1/67/L.46) that would attempt to foster progress on an FMCT by drafting a report with proposals on how the CD can break its deadlock. That resolution calls for the creation of an open-ended working group to convene in Geneva in 2013. According to a Nov. 1 statement by Mexico, one of the resolution’s three sponsors, the group will “develop proposals” on how to move disarmament negotiations forward.

The resolution’s sponsors emphasized that the group is not a negotiating forum itself. It is designed to collect ideas from member states on how to make progress in the CD, without actually negotiating any specific aspects of a treaty.

Open-ended working groups are open to all member states. Groups of governmental experts have a limited number of member state participants that are selected by the UN secretary-general. Both kinds of groups are tasked with submitting a final report to their committee of origin.

Proponents of the open-ended group on an FMCT maintain that it represents a way to move forward on disarmament issues in light of the obstructionist tactics that some states currently are using in the CD. Austria, another of the resolution’s co-sponsors, cited “the strong presence of vested interests and misuses of procedural rules” in the CD as an impediment to progress in the body.

Four of the five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—opposed the resolution; China abstained. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States released a joint statement saying that forming an open-ended group is unwise because of the potential damage to the legitimacy of the CD and because of the cost of convening additional meetings at a time when most UN member states are facing budgetary crises.

The joint statement also argued that organizing a new process “may jeopardize” the consensus achieved at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and “the momentum” for the next review conference, which is in 2015. They said the 64-point action plan that was part of the 2010 conference’s final document “offers the best way of taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations along with related issues.”

The five recognized nuclear-weapon states have met with other nuclear-armed states in so-called P5-plus talks to discuss how to break the stalemate in the CD, but they have consistently expressed their intent to negotiate an FMCT in the CD. (See ACT, October 2011.)

High-Level Meeting

In a third attempt to sidestep the impasse in the CD, the First Committee approved a resolution (A/C.1/67/L.19) that would convene a one-day event to be held Sept. 26, 2013. The meeting would bring together high-level representatives of UN member states during the General Assembly session to discuss ways to make progress on nuclear disarmament.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 165-0, with France, Israel, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States abstaining. The United Kingdom and the United States said Nov. 9 that they did not support the resolution because the conference will not address disarmament and nonproliferation equally.

Key UN Nuclear Disarmament Resolutions

The UN General Assembly First Committee adopted several resolutions on nuclear disarmament beyond those dealing with the impasse at the Conference on Disarmament. Below is a selective list of those resolutions.

ESTABLISHMENT OF A NUCLEAR-WEAPON-FREE ZONE IN THE MIDDLE EAST (A/C.1/67/L.1)
Urges all Middle Eastern states to take the “practical and urgent steps” necessary to begin negotiations on a nuclear-weapon-free zone and calls for states in the region to place their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Adopted without a vote.

TREATY ON A NUCLEAR-WEAPON-FREE ZONE IN CENTRAL ASIA (A/C.1/67/L.4/REV.1)
Emphasizes the importance of the Treaty of Semipalatinsk to regional security and global nonproliferation norms and calls on nuclear-weapon states to complete negotiations with the treaty’s signatories, sign the treaty, and ratify it. Adopted by a vote of 131-3 with five abstentions. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States opposed the resolution.

DECREASING THE OPERATIONAL READINESS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (A/C.1/67/L.28)
States that high alert levels in nuclear forces threaten international security and increase the risk of unintentional use of nuclear weapons and therefore calls on nuclear-weapon states to reduce alert levels, with the goal of eventually removing all nuclear weapons from high-alert status. Adopted by a vote of 145-4 with five abstentions. France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States opposed the resolution.

COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY (A/C.1/67/L.43)
Urges states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty “without delay” and to maintain the current nuclear testing moratoriums until the entry into force of the treaty. Also notes the progress that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization has made on its verification network and encourages the completion of the network. Adopted by a vote of 166-1 with three abstentions. North Korea opposed the resolution.

NUCLEAR-WEAPON-FREE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE AND ADJACENT AREAS (A/C.1/67/L.45L)
Notes the entry into force of the four treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones located in the Southern Hemisphere and “adjacent areas” (a reference to international waters), calls on nuclear-weapon states to sign the treaties, and calls for a Southern Hemisphere completely free of nuclear weapons. Adopted by a vote of 165-4 with two abstentions. France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States opposed the resolution.

ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE NON-NUCLEAR-WEAPON STATES AGAINST THE USE OR THREAT OF USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (A/C.1/67/L.52)
Calls on the nuclear-weapon states to negotiate and sign a legally binding convention renouncing the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state and calls for the continuation of negotiations on such a treaty in the Conference on Disarmament. Adopted by a vote of 133-0 with 57 abstentions.—MARCUS TAYLOR

Posted: December 4, 2012

Pakistan Blocks CD Agenda Again

Pakistan blocked the consensus needed to establish a program of work for the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on March 15, continuing the negotiating body’s 16-year stalemate. For the past several years, Islamabad has been the only country blocking agreement to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of nuclear materials for weapons. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament.

Farrah Zughni

Pakistan blocked the consensus needed to establish a program of work for the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on March 15, continuing the negotiating body’s 16-year stalemate. For the past several years, Islamabad has been the only country blocking agreement to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of nuclear materials for weapons. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament.

The proposed program of work called for the establishment of four working groups, one of which would explore elements of negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, said March 13 he could not accept FMCT negotiations that do not “clearly include the reduction of [existing] stocks of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.” For years, Pakistan has voiced concern over its fissile material gap with India and has said it would not sign an FMCT that would lock the disparity in place.

Akram has said that giving Pakistan a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver similar to the one granted to India might address this concern. In 2008, India was exempted from NSG requirements that nuclear-export recipients place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

In a Jan. 24 address to the CD, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the forum’s consensus rule was currently being used “as a de facto veto power to stall every attempt to break the impasse.”

A number of countries, including the United States, have raised the possibility of negotiating an FMCT outside the CD if delays continue. (See ACT, October 2011.)

Posted: April 3, 2012

The South Asian Nuclear Balance: An Interview With Pakistani Ambassador to the CD Zamir Akram

As the Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, Zamir Akram serves as Islamabad’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). He has been a member of the Pakistan Foreign Service since 1978. From 2007 to 2008, he was additional foreign secretary for disarmament and arms control in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As the Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, Zamir Akram serves as Islamabad’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). He has been a member of the Pakistan Foreign Service since 1978. From 2007 to 2008, he was additional foreign secretary for disarmament and arms control in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Arms Control Today spoke with Akram on October 18 at the Stimson Center in Washington after Akram’s presentation,  “Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia.” (In the interview, there are several references to that presentation.) The interview focused on the stalled negotiations at the CD on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and Pakistan’s position that it lags behind India in fissile material production and cannot agree to a production halt until it has closed the gap.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Pakistan has expressed its opposition to fissile material cutoff talks at the CD. Pakistan’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar, said in an October 11 speech at the UN that an FMCT “should deal clearly and comprehensively with the issue of asymmetry of existing fissile material stocks.” However, independent estimates suggest that India and Pakistan currently have roughly similar stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile material.

Can you be more specific about how Pakistan views the fissile material balance and how Pakistan believes the issue can be “clearly and comprehensively addressed” in an FMCT?

Akram: An FMCT as currently being envisaged is a treaty that will only ban future production and not existing stocks. Now whatever the count may be—and the count varies as to how much fissile material Pakistan has or India has or other countries have—the game changer in this environment has been the NSG [Nuclear Suppliers Group] waiver for India, which was spearheaded by the United States.[1]

As a result of this NSG waiver, India has signed several nuclear cooperation agreements, with the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, and several other countries. Through these agreements, India will be receiving an unknown but obviously high quantity of fissile material, ostensibly for its civilian nuclear program. This would mean that its existing stocks of fissile material, its indigenous stocks, can be quite easily converted to weapons use because it will have the imported material to use in the civilian facilities. At the moment, what India has to do is to divide it up, between civilian and weapons programs. So it will give India a free hand to enhance its weapons capabilities.

That is what we have to look for.

ACT: If Pakistan believes that India has a greater fissile material production potential today, why is it not in Pakistan’s interest to freeze the size of current stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile material by agreeing to a halt in the further production of fissile material for weapons purposes?

Akram: In the time that we can, we need to enhance our own capabilities so that we have sufficient fissile material for what we would then feel is a credible second-strike capability, or credible deterrence capability. So that’s one reason—that if we were to conclude such an agreement, that would deny us the possibility of ensuring that there is no gap between us and India. That’s the first thing.

The other thing is that, with these agreements that have been signed under the NSG with India and with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], the monitoring of civilian nuclear cooperation and the use of civilian nuclear fuel, or fuel meant for civilian purposes, by India is not adequate. There is no real guarantee that material from this particular area will not be diverted for weapons use.

These are some of the factors that cause concern for us that an FMCT concluded now would leave us vulnerable because there would be ways of getting around an FMCT through the civilian nuclear track.

ACT: Accepting for the sake of argument that India is somewhat ahead of Pakistan at this point­—because India’s civilian program is significantly bigger than Pakistan’s and if your concern is the implications of the civil nuclear deal, wouldn’t that mean the gap between the two countries would get larger and larger? Even if there’s a relatively small gap now, wouldn’t it be strategically in your interest to hold that gap as it is rather than allow it to expand as it could if this scenario you’re describing materializes?

Akram: No, as I said, with the program that we have, we are working toward ensuring that we have sufficient fissile material that would give us a more credible assurance of deterrence. So we need to build up to a point that we are assured of that number. Now, what the number is, I can’t tell you because we don’t know how many and what the Indians will be doing. Even if we have an idea where both of us are today, with the fact that they will now get access to very large amounts of fissile material, and how they will use that fissile material, we need to compensate for that now. We need to start working on that possibility now so that even if there is a gap, it’s not a huge, big gap, and that despite the gap, our second-strike, or our deterrence, capability is credible.

ACT: As you said in your [Stimson Center] talk, if a minimum credible deterrent depends to a certain extent on what the other side has, that number is only going to go up in the future as both sides continue to build. As India’s goes up, if it takes advantage of this situation that you’re describing, then yours will have to go up as well, will it not?

Akram: As I said, there are two things. One is potential: their potential for increasing their stocks will go up as a result of the NSG agreements. That’s number one. Number two, we cannot discount the possibility of diversion from civilian to military. So taking these into account, we have to build our own capacity to a point where we feel comfortable with our deterrent.

ACT: Why can’t the issue of existing stocks be addressed once negotiations on an FMCT are under way at the CD? Even if Pakistan itself would not be prepared to join an FMCT in the coming years, once the treaty is negotiated, why prevent other countries from reaching agreement on such an accord by blocking consensus on the agenda?

Akram: Those are two questions. As for the second one, we’re not blocking—okay, we’re blocking in the CD, but they can take it out and negotiate it outside if they want to. The countries that have already declared a moratorium on production of fissile material for weapons, they can convert that moratorium into an international treaty among themselves—the five nuclear-weapon states, or if the Indians want to join them, so much the better. Fine.

As for the other question, we are concerned that the negotiations that are being envisaged right now will be concluded in a way that the major powers want. The major powers have themselves, in informal meetings, very clearly stated, “We are not ready to include stocks.” If you permit me to say, this so-called Shannon mandate is an eyewash. It’s basically what we call constructive ambiguity in the UN. It’s a means of getting around a difficult issue and fudging the problem. That’s what constructive ambiguity is.

That’s not good enough for us at this point. In 1998, 1999, when this issue of an FMCT came up and the Canadians came up with this idea of what was then being called the Shannon mandate, that could work then. But now you have—as I say, the NSG waiver is a game changer. At least for us, it has made a big difference. So now we can’t deal with ambiguity. If we’re going to deal with stocks, it has to be up front. It has to be accepted that, yes, we’re going to negotiate reductions of stocks and a ban on future production. That’s our position.

ACT: Why not start that process, where you can make those points, rather than prevent the process from moving ahead?

Akram: As I say, this process will not take long to complete because they are ready with their commitments. They are ready with what they want. I don’t see this going to be a long, drawn-out process.

But anyway, what you’re saying is, why can’t we talk about it, right? Fine, in the CD they can talk about it. We don’t have to say we are negotiating it, but we can talk about it. And we’ve done this for many years, talked about different things. We talked for several years about chemical weapons before we actually negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention.

ACT: Some countries have suggested that if the CD cannot begin talks on an FMCT soon, they will seek action in the UN General Assembly on an FMCT. Others, including the P5 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council— China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States], are holding discussions outside the CD to help sort through the issues that are blocking negotiation of an FMCT. What is Pakistan’s view of any role for the General Assembly in negotiating such a treaty? Why wouldn’t Pakistan welcome the chance to discuss its views on fissile material with the P5 and other states, including possibly India?

Akram: As for our position on the UN’s role, of course, the UN can set up a group of governmental experts to negotiate anything. There’s no way we can oppose that; that’s fine. But it’s not mandatory for anyone to be there, so whoever wants to be there can be there. Fine. On the role of the UN, there is no problem, they can do what they want; the UN can take a decision on this.

As regards the participation by some of these countries in informal talks, like the scientific- and technical-level talks, I was all for scientific- and technical-level talks if they are in the CD, to elaborate ideas about verification, about scope, about definition, all those things. We can talk about these in the CD, we never opposed it. In fact, I told Japan and Australia, the two of them who were spearheading this, that it’s better to do it in the CD than outside the CD. If you’re doing it outside the CD, the CD is not bound by it, so what is the value addition?

As for the P5-plus, the problem is on several levels. First of all, the P5 is not a recognized group in the CD. The P5 can have its own say on whatever it wants to say. But the idea that the five nuclear-weapon states and the three new nuclear-weapon states[2] can get together and decide this issue for the rest of the world is something which we find is a bit presumptuous. This is not the way that we need to proceed with an international treaty. You can’t have five or eight countries decide and basically come and tell [the other countries], “This is it; sign onto it.” That’s not the right kind of approach. If we want to have a discussion on what the issues are, we’re ready for that. We do engage with all of them in an informal setting in the CD itself or outside the CD; we do that. But to have a process called a P5-plus-N3 process on an FMCT, I don’t think the nuclear- weapon states have the authority to do this.

ACT: Given Pakistan’s concern about the further expansion of India’s fissile material stockpiles, has Islamabad raised the issue directly with New Delhi? Is it possible for the two countries to engage in bilateral arms control efforts to slow the current arms race?

Akram: I mentioned in the talk today what we call the “strategic restraint regime.” The strategic restraint regime had three parts—has three parts, because it’s still on the table. One is strategic: that deals with a bilateral commitment not to test nuclear weapons, a commitment not to deploy new technologies such as ballistic missile defense systems or submarine launch systems, those kinds of destabilizing things. On the conventional side, we’ve offered discussions on balanced reduction of forces, conventional forces. And on the third, political side, we’ve advocated dialogue to resolve outstanding issues like Kashmir.

So, there is a comprehensive proposal out there. So far, what we have succeeded in is identifying and agreeing on some confidence-building measures such as early warning about missile tests, prior warning about military exercises, these kinds of small things. But we have not ventured into the critical areas.

This proposal was made in 1998-1999; now we’re more than 10 years after. In that time, a major shift has taken place, what I call the game changer. As a result of this U.S.-Indian nuclear deal and as a result of the NSG waiver and India’s arrangements, agreements with the United States, with Israel, with Russia on conventional arms buildup, plus transfer of ballistic missile technology, transfer of space technology, which can help build intercontinental ballistic missiles, and which also involves now leased Russian nuclear-powered submarines with submarine-launched missiles—all these are developments that have radically altered the strategic environment in South Asia and, at least from our perspective, encouraged a greater degree of belligerence on the part of the Indians.

[In the Stimson Center talk,] I mentioned Cold Start.[3] This has obviously raised concerns in Pakistan about our security vis-à-vis India. We’ve had to respond. We’ve taken measures that would ensure that we continue to maintain a credible deterrent. But we’re ready to talk to the Indians as well.

Unfortunately, of course, the Indians look at this discussion on strategic issues as something that does not involve only Pakistan. They say that, well, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is India specific, which it is. But they say that our nuclear capability is not Pakistan specific.

ACT: “Our” being India’s?

Akram: India’s. The Indians say that Indian nuclear capabilities are not Pakistan specific, so we’re not going to discuss it only with you.

ACT: Meaning it’s also China specific?

Akram: They don’t say that, but they imply it.

So now here too, I’m going back in time, in the early 1990s, before either side had tested in 1998, in the early 1990s when we were making all kinds of efforts to make progress on these things, we had actually convinced China to become a part of the 5-plus-2 discussion, which included the P5 plus India and Pakistan, in a dialogue to address these issues of nuclear buildup and security. That again was not acceptable to the Indians. So these things have been tried. Effort has been made for a dialogue, but you need a partner.

ACT: Some analysts have expressed concern that Pakistan’s development of smaller nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield, potentially in response to an Indian conventional attack, raises the risk of a nuclear war in South Asia. What proposals, if any, has your country recently discussed with or offered to India to reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange?

Akram: I think the most important approach here is to find ways to resolve our differences and reduce the existing tensions. That’s the most effective way of progressing on this front.

As long as that is not something that has been achieved, we need to have efficient, reliable confidence-building systems and measures, like a hotline, which we have, like advance notification of flights and other things, that we have. These are processes that are there. We can improve them, fine-tune them, increase their reliability and all these things, but we also need to be able to use them. Sometimes, situations have arisen where the hotline has never been used. These are very important things that we need to do, but overall, deterrence has to be made credible. That’s the only real way of ensuring, in the absence of anything else, a credible deterrent, which is the only way that we can preserve stability, peace, and security. This is what I said in that five-point plan that I mentioned [in the Stimson Center talk]; it’s just the first thing.

ACT: Part of the concern here is that developing these kinds of weapons potentially lowers the threshold for nuclear use and that it makes it easier for a conflict to escalate to the nuclear level. How do you factor that into the equation?

Akram: It does. But then, you see, we have to look at it from an action-reaction kind of process. What is it that we are trying to do here? We are trying to ensure that our deterrent remains credible. Why are we doing this? Because the situation has changed dramatically over the last five to 10 years, especially as a result of the kind of agreements and understandings that have been reached between the United States and India and some other countries that I mentioned.

This has brought a lot of qualitative change. It’s not just the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement; the nuclear cooperation is just part of a broader strategic engagement that involves transfer of a huge amount of advanced technology including [ballistic missile defense] technology. It involves opportunities for India to purchase the latest versions of fighter aircraft and other kinds of military equipment from the United States, Russia, Israel, and others.

We have to deal with capabilities. Any country will look at its opponent’s capabilities and then will have to assess how it is going to respond to these capabilities in order to ensure that its security is not compromised. This is the way we find is the most cost-effective way to do it. We can’t afford to be involved in a race with India tank for tank, aircraft for aircraft, submarine for submarine. We can look at other ways of trying to find the same solutions.

Yes, it causes a dangerous environment. It does. But both sides have to recognize that there is a shared interest in avoiding such a situation. That’s why I said that confidence-building measures—the best confidence building, of course, is to resolve your problems, so you don’t have any reason to be concerned. But short of that, you need to find ways to ensure that both sides are assured that nothing is happening that can cause alarm, and that requires effective confidence-building measures.

ACT: You already mentioned Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear tests in 1998. Subsequently, each country pledged not to be the first to resume testing. Has your government discussed how this mutual test moratorium might evolve into a legally binding, verifiable ban on nuclear test explosions? For instance, is Islamabad willing to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty if New Delhi does so?

Akram: Yes, we have said so. If India does, we will too.

ACT:  Is there any discussion about moving that ahead?

Akram: Between India and Pakistan? No, unfortunately we have not had a discussion on this, whether or not to move forward, on how to move forward. I think there is no real incentive for the Indians to move forward, actually. If you have been reading some of the work that’s coming out, George Perkovich [of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] actually wrote that, with the kind of deal that’s been given to it, the NSG and the other things, the incentive for India to move toward the CTBT is even less.

ACT: What kind of incentives would be required, do you think, to move India to that position?

Akram: Not giving them more fissile material through preferential treatment. What more can I say? Our position is very clear.

ACT: Pakistan has linked its position on FMCT negotiations to its receipt of a waiver from the NSG so it can participate in global nuclear commerce, as India now can. How would the waiver address Pakistan’s concerns about the fissile material imbalance it sees?

Akram: It would give us access to civilian-use fissile material that we would be able to use for our civilian technology and for producing energy and whatever we need it for. But more important than the nuts and bolts of it is the principle of it, that Pakistan needs to be treated as a country which has as much of a legitimate right as India does to have a nuclear capability.

ACT: So it’s not on the substance of the fissile material issue, because the issue of your concern is fissile material for weapons. This wouldn’t address that, certainly not directly. Even indirectly, as we discussed earlier, it wouldn’t help Pakistan in the same way it helps India because India has a much larger program, and I don’t think you have the same shortfall of uranium that India does. It wouldn’t seem that this would have the same impact on Pakistan’s ability to produce fissile material for weapons as it would, under your scenario, for India.

Akram: But it would place us on a par. More than that, it would give us access to civilian nuclear technology that is being denied to us under these restrictions, allow us to engage in nuclear cooperation with other countries, and there is a whole host of things. If that requires us to be able to be a part of these negotiations on an FMCT, we are willing to pay the price to start these negotiations. There has to be some kind of a trade-off. We’ve been cut out of this whole business, even though Pakistan was not the one that started this nuclear race in South Asia in the first place.

So we are ready to be a part of this process if we are given equivalence, if we are treated on par with India.

ACT:  Just to clarify, if Pakistan had an NSG waiver like India, Pakistan would be willing to enter negotiations on an FMCT?

Akram: Yes.

ACT: Even with ambiguity about the mandate?

Akram: Yes. I mean, we would like to have a clearer mandate, but with the kind of situation that exists now, I don’t think that is something that is likely to happen.

ACT: How much support is there, do you think, within the NSG for such a Pakistan waiver?

Akram: I think there are very few countries—the thing is that it just takes one country to block in the NSG, because it’s by consensus. We feel that a case needs to be made in Pakistan’s favor just as a case was made by the United States in India’s favor. The argument that India has a better nonproliferation record than Pakistan was one of the issues that was cited. But I can show you statement after statement after statement, and sanctions after sanctions imposed on India by the United States itself for nonproliferation misdemeanors.

That’s not the argument. One of these Indian journalists was saying, “Well, what about [Abdul Qadeer] Khan?” I said the issue of A.Q. Khan is something which has been used again and again to deny us this kind of status. There are several examples of proliferation activities by India which were basically brushed under the carpet when it was decided to give the Indians this deal. So that is what is needed; you need basically a political decision that we have to move on and we have to change the game now. That’s what is required.

ACT: Is there a country in the NSG that is willing to do for Pakistan what the United States did for India? Do you have someone who is willing to make the case for you within the NSG?

Akram: I can’t speak for any other country. All I will say is that we have civilian nuclear cooperation with China. And that’s under IAEA safeguards; these nuclear reactors at Chashma, Chashma-1 and -2, are in operation; now we are working on [Chashma-]3 and -4. We do have nuclear cooperation. This is under a grandfather clause that the Chinese used when they joined the NSG.[4]

But we need to move beyond this. There are three countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but have nuclear capability. You’ve given only one of them a special dispensation. There needs to be a criteria-based approach that would make all three eligible, if they want to engage in this thing. This is something that you can’t roll back. It’s like toothpaste out of a tube. What can you do? You have to deal with this reality.

ACT: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much; we appreciate it.

ENDNOTES

 


1. In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from the group’s general rules by allowing India to receive nuclear exports from NSG members although New Delhi does not apply so-called full-scope safeguards, that is, does not open all its nuclear facilities to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. See Wade Boese, “NSG, Congress Approve Nuclear Trade With India,” Arms Control Today, October 2008.

 

2. The five countries recognized by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as nuclear-weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Because those are the same countries that make up the P5, the term “P5” often is used to refer to those countries in their role as NPT nuclear-weapon states.) Three additional countries—India, Israel, and Pakistan—have never joined the NPT and operate nuclear programs that are unsafeguarded.

3. “Cold Start” is an Indian military doctrine that involves quick, limited strikes in Pakistani territory in response to incursions from Pakistan into India.

4. When China joined the NSG in 2004, the other members of the group agreed that certain Chinese projects in Pakistan could be “grandfathered,” that is, China could continue with those existing projects although Pakistan does not accept full-scope safeguards. China reportedly has argued that Chashma-3 and -4 are covered by that agreement. See “The NSG in a Time of Change: An Interview With NSG Chairman Piet de Klerk,” Arms Control Today, October 2011; Daniel Horner, “China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2010.

Posted: December 2, 2011

Frustration Evident in UN First Committee

Complaints about the stagnation in the United Nations’ disarmament forums were a prominent feature of debates in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee this year, with many countries expressing frustration that multilateral bodies tackling disarmament issues have been dysfunctional.

Benjamin Seel

Complaints about the stagnation in the United Nations’ disarmament forums were a prominent feature of debates in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee this year, with many countries expressing frustration that multilateral bodies tackling disarmament issues have been dysfunctional.

This displeasure was aimed primarily at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which has failed to make progress on substantive negotiations for the past 15 years. The CD is intended to be the world’s sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and operates on a consensus basis. For the past several years, Pakistan has been the only country blocking consensus for agreement on a program of work.

During this year’s session, which lasted from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1, the First Committee considered several resolutions intended to place pressure on the CD’s 65 members to agree on a program of work and begin substantive negotiations next year. The failure of the CD to adopt a program of work has stymied movement on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), a key disarmament and nonproliferation goal.

A Canadian resolution addressed that issue directly, urging the CD to adopt and implement a comprehensive program of work that includes starting FMCT negotiations in early 2012. Under the Canadian proposal, the First Committee would “consider options” for negotiating an FMCT next year if the CD once more failed to reach consensus on a program of work. The resolution also encourages all member states to continue working to move negotiations forward by having meetings with scientific experts on the technical aspects of a proposed FMCT. Those meetings would take place inside and outside the CD.

The resolution initially called for the establishment of a group of governmental experts to consider options “including the necessary legal and procedural requirements” for an FMCT. That provision ultimately was removed due to opposition.

The resolution passed by a vote of 151-2, with 23 states abstaining. North Korea and Pakistan were the two “no” votes. Diplomatic sources said in November that the 19-member Arab Group abstained in response to Canada’s opposition to the Palestinian bid for membership in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Pakistan said it opposed the measure on national security grounds, stating on Oct. 13 that such a treaty “would allow the major nuclear powers to continue producing nuclear weapons even if such a treaty were to be negotiated successfully” because major nuclear states could continue to draw from large existing nuclear stocks even after an FMCT entered into force.

Shared Concerns

Canada’s unhappiness with the lack of progress in the CD was echoed by other delegations in statements and resolutions. Speaking at the First Committee on Oct. 4, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said the U.S. frustration with the CD and the lack of movement on an FMCT is “shared by many countries,” according to a transcript of the statement.

The United States has previously stated its growing weariness with the CD’s impasse and has indicated that its patience with the CD “is not unlimited,” said Gottemoeller.

The frustration with the “disarmament machinery,” as the various UN forums on that topic are collectively known, was especially evident in an Oct. 24 statement by Christian Strohal, the Austrian permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, who introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Austria, Mexico, and Norway.

Strohal said that “since joining the CD in 1996, Austria has never seen one day of substantive negotiations.” The resolution, which was withdrawn without a vote, was intended to “stimulate a shift” from purely procedural matters to more substantive issues, according to Strohal.

The withdrawn resolution called for the CD to adopt and implement a program of work in 2012 “to enable the immediate commencement of negotiations” on disarmament matters. Should the CD fail to reach such an agreement, the First Committee, the UN body designated for disarmament and international security matters, would consider “alternative ways of taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations” during next year’s session.

Alternate approaches would be led by open-ended working groups exploring issues of disarmament such as a fissile material ban, culminating with a report to the UN General Assembly in the 2013 session.

Many countries expressed concern that such a step would undermine the CD. In an Oct. 11 statement, Pakistani Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Raza Bashir Tarar blamed the body’s failure to commence with substantive disarmament work not on its “working methods” but on “the continued lack of political will” among member states. Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement on Oct. 3, echoed Pakistan’s belief that the lack of political will is the “main difficulty of the disarmament machinery.”

In contrast, Austria’s resolution described the international political climate as “conducive to the promotion of multilateral disarmament.”

Resolution L.39, sponsored by the Netherlands, South Africa, and Switzerland, also expressed “grave concern about the current status of the disarmament machinery.” Adopted without a vote by the First Committee, it calls for states to “intensify efforts aimed at creating an environment conducive to multilateral disarmament negotiations.” The resolution also encouraged the CD to approve and begin a program of work early in its 2012 session.

A resolution sponsored by Cuba, “Report of the Conference on Disarmament,” passed without a vote. It too called for more-intense efforts and shared the goal of the CD adopting “a balanced and comprehensive” program of work early in its 2012 session.

The UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) received limited mention, but was specifically addressed in an Iraqi resolution. Resolution L.20 “reaffirmed the mandate” of the UNDC as the “specialized, deliberative body within the United Nations…that allows for in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues.” Iraq highlighted the importance of increased dialogue and cooperation among the First Committee, the UNDC, and the CD.

The resolution also establishes a three-week period, April 2-20, during which the UNDC is to meet and produce a “substantive report” to the UN General Assembly in the First Committee’s 2012 session.

The measure was adopted without a vote or comments.

Nuclear Disarmament

Although states were largely focused on overcoming the stagnation of the UN disarmament machinery, many also emphasized the need to make progress on the action steps agreed to during last year’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden) sponsored a resolution on nuclear disarmament with slight changes from previous years, including a statement of deep disappointment with the “absence of progress” in the CD. The 2011 resolution goes further toward emphasizing the “binding” nature of the NPT and calls on all states to “comply fully” with all commitments made at the review conferences.

As in previous years, the measure split members between the nuclear haves and have-nots. It passed with a vote of 160-6, with four abstentions. France, India, Israel, North Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States voted against the measure, while China, Pakistan, and Russia abstained. Those nine countries are known to have nuclear weapons programs. Micronesia also abstained.

In another reprise from past sessions, Iran presented a disarmament resolution that urged NPT states to “follow up” on obligations highlighted at the NPT review conferences in 1995, 2000, and 2010. The resolution specifically cited unilateral initiatives to reduce nonstrategic nuclear weapons, “increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States,” and a “diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies.” It passed 105-52, with 10 countries abstaining. Iran’s proposal drew opposition from Western members unhappy that Iran, a state they claim is in violation of its NPT obligations, is calling for others to take further action on NPT obligations. The United States, which voted against the measure, explained its vote by saying that “Iran should demonstrate its own commitment to the NPT, in word and deed.”

Japan, along with more than 60 co-sponsors, presented a resolution entitled “United action towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.” Japan expressed concern with the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons and the growing dangers presented by nuclear proliferation.

The resolution commended Russia and the United States for their implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which came into force in February, and France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for releasing information on their nuclear stockpile statistics.

Japan also called for North Korea to halt its nuclear program, including the construction of a light-water reactor.

The measure passed by a vote of 156-1, with 15 abstentions. North Korea was the only country to vote against it. China, India, and Israel were among the 15 delegations that abstained.

Other Issues

Egypt’s resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was adopted without a vote. The resolution follows the Oct. 14 announcement that Finland will host the planned 2012 conference on the establishment of a Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. (See ACT, November 2011.)

Using language similar to the NPT’s, the resolution affirmed the “inalienable right of all States to acquire and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” It also emphasized the need for measures to prohibit military strikes on civilian nuclear facilities.

The resolution highlights the importance of mutually verifiable regional security agreements and emphasizes that the United Nations will play a large role in the establishment of the Middle Eastern zone.

Although Israel voted for the measure, it did so with “substantive reservations” about the resolution. In a statement to explain its vote, Israel expressed concern with the “widely acknowledged” cases of “gross non-compliance” present in the Middle East and suggested that any measures toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone should begin with modest, regional confidence-building measures.

Egypt’s second proposal called for confidence-building measures and “practical and urgent steps” to be taken toward implementation of the Middle Eastern zone. The proposal emphasized the importance of Israel becoming a signatory to the NPT and subsequently drew harsh criticism from Israel, which said that the measure was “unbalanced” and unfairly targeted it. The United States sided with Israel and pointed to “the lack of any reference to Iran’s violations” of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

More than 60 states co-sponsored a resolution on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was adopted by the First Committee 170-1, with India, Mauritius, and Syria abstaining.

North Korea cast the lone vote against the resolution, which asks the UN secretary-general, in consultation with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, to prepare a report on the efforts of states that have ratified the treaty to move toward universal ratification and on “possibilities for providing assistance on ratification procedures to States that so request it.” That report is to be submitted to the General Assembly during its 2012 session.

The resolution also recalled UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which condemned North Korean nuclear testing and offered support for the six-party talks, which involve China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Posted: December 2, 2011

P5 to Take Up Fissile Material Cutoff

The five original nuclear-weapon states have agreed to discuss ways to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for weapons, which is currently being blocked by Pakistan at the UN Conference on Disarmament.

Peter Crail

As part of efforts to start negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states have agreed to hold discussions on the matter outside the deadlocked Conference on Disarmament (CD). The move follows increasing frustration with the inability of the CD to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) because of Pakistan’s refusal to agree to a consensus work program. (See ACT, March 2011.)

The five nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—also known as the P5 for their status as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, said in a joint statement to a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on the UN disarmament bodies July 27, “[I]n order to sustain the potential of negotiations [on an FMCT] in the CD, the P5 will, prior to the next [UN General Assembly], renew their efforts with other relevant partners to promote such negotiations.” The next session of the General Assembly opens Sept. 13. The special meeting on July 27–28 was a follow-up to a high-level General Assembly meeting on disarmament held last September, where the stalled FMCT process was also addressed. (See ACT, October 2010.)

The P5 effort on an FMCT came out of a June 30–July 1 meeting in Paris on steps to implement the decisions of last year’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

The countries that make up the P5 are the only NPT members allowed to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. All except China pledged during the 1990s to halt such production for weapons, and China is widely believed to have stopped around the same time. India, Israel, and Pakistan, the only countries never to have joined the NPT, are the only other countries that are not legally prohibited from producing fissile material for weapons, although only India and Pakistan are believed to continue to do so.

In 2006 the Bush administration proposed a draft FMCT text that would have entered into force once all P5 countries ratified the accord. The proposed treaty did not include verification measures, which all CD members had previously agreed needed to be part of such a treaty, and it failed to win support.

Diplomats from P5 countries said last month that the reference to “relevant partners” in their July 27 statement refers to other countries that possess uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology, which can be used to produce fissile material. White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Gary Samore said in an April 7 interview with Arms Control Today that such countries “have something to bring to the negotiations” and would be directly affected by any additional verification requirements for fissile material production.

The P5 members all have expressed their preference for holding FMCT negotiations in the 65-member CD, the United Nations’ multilateral negotiating forum on arms control issues. That body, which operates on a consensus basis, has been unable to begin substantive work for more than a decade. The CD briefly agreed on a work program that would have initiated FMCT negotiations in 2009, but Pakistan broke the consensus before such work could begin.

Islamabad insists on a treaty that takes into account existing stocks of fissile material, a position supported by many countries in the developing world but opposed by the P5, which prefers prohibiting only future production. Wary that its preference would not be incorporated into any eventual treaty, Pakistan has used the CD’s consensus rule to prevent negotiations from starting.

Among the P5 countries, the United States in particular has insisted on the need to consider alternative venues for negotiating an FMCT if the CD remains unable to act. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the CD Jan. 27 that if the body could not find a way to start negotiations, “then we will need to consider other options.”

A Department of State official said Aug. 17 that “the CD remains our preference” for negotiating an FMCT, “but we remain committed to a P5-led process outside the CD that, albeit not now, could open the door down the road to a negotiating process.”

Earlier this year, the United States supported an initiative by Australia and Japan to host expert-level side meetings at the CD to discuss technical issues in preparation for future negotiations. Gottemoeller told the General Assembly July 27 that the discussions “proved to be productive, substantive, and collegial,” but said, “[W]e are no closer to FMCT negotiations today than we were two years ago.” The State Department official said such side meetings could continue, but are insufficient to make progress because key countries such as China and Pakistan have not participated.

The official also noted that Beijing was particularly wary of joining any P5 initiative on the treaty. China has insisted on FMCT negotiations at the CD and called into question the utility of other negotiating forums. On July 28, Chinese Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Wang Min told the General Assembly, “Any idea or practice of resorting to another framework is obviously not conducive to the work of the CD, nor will it produce a satisfactory FMCT.”

In addition to the P5 effort, some countries, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have suggested the possibility that the General Assembly take up the FMCT issue. In his July 27 remarks to the assembly, Ban said, “If the CD remains deadlocked, the General Assembly has a responsibility to step in.”

Similarly, in a statement on behalf of the 10-country Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative, Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Gary Quinlan said that if the CD is unable to begin FMCT negotiations during its August-September session, the group would ask the next General Assembly to address the issue and consider ways to begin negotiations. The 10 states in the group include developed and developing countries from several different regions.

Washington, however, says it sees problems with the General Assembly taking up the treaty. The State Department official said that “basic principles like consensus might be endangered” in such a venue.

The official added that the CD is the more appropriate multilateral forum, and if the CD cannot work, it is better to consider a process centered on the P5 because of its members’ fissile material production capacities.

Posted: August 30, 2011

Foreign Ministers Call for Disarmament

The foreign ministers of 10 countries called for the world to speed up its progress in eliminating nuclear weapons and made a series of proposals toward that end in an April 30 joint statement in Berlin.

Robert Golan-Vilella

The foreign ministers of 10 countries called for the world to speed up its progress in eliminating nuclear weapons and made a series of proposals toward that end in an April 30 joint statement in Berlin.

The 10 countries—Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—said in their statement that they “consider it urgent to reduce nuclear risks and achieve tangible progress on the path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.” The statement by the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, as the group is called, is its second; the first came last September on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

In Berlin, the ministers said that if the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is unable to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in its 2011 session, they will ask the General Assembly “to address the issue and consider ways to proceed with the aim of beginning negotiations.” The 65-nation CD operates by consensus. Since it agreed in May 2009 to a work plan that included negotiating an FMCT, objections from Pakistan have blocked the start of negotiations.

On the subject of transparency, the foreign ministers announced that they were “developing a draft of a standard reporting form” that nuclear-weapon states could use to disclose information on the status of their nuclear stockpiles. The ministers invited the nuclear-weapon states to examine this proposal in June, when those countries are scheduled to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency and ways to verify additional arms reductions. (See ACT, March 2011.)

 

Posted: June 2, 2011

The ‘Pursuit of a Win-Win Situation’ at the Conference on Disarmament: Questions and Answers With Wang Qun

Wang Qun is Chinese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for disarmament affairs and permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a position he has held since 2007. He was president of the CD from March 21 to May 29, 2011. He agreed to answer written questions from Arms Control Today on the CD’s current stalemate, which is preventing progress on the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and on other disarmament issues.

Wang Qun is Chinese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for disarmament affairs and permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a position he has held since 2007. He was president of the CD from March 21 to May 29, 2011. He agreed to answer written questions from Arms Control Today on the CD’s current stalemate, which is preventing progress on the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and on other disarmament issues.

ACT: In your March 17 address to the CD, you said, “In my view, [the] CD’s deadlock is attributable first and foremost to political factors. The CD’s work is like a barometer of the evolving international security situation.” From China’s perspective, what are the political and security factors that are leading some states to block the implementation of formal talks on a verifiable FMCT and other elements of the CD work plan?

Wang: The CD deadlock is indeed attributable primarily to political and security factors. This is presumably self-evident as the relevant countries already have been most forthcoming and explicit, on the record, as to what difficulties they see in embarking on a process of negotiating an FMCT at the CD. However, it should be noted that different countries sought or have sought, at different points over the past 12 years, to block the CD negotiation of an FMCT out of various political or security considerations.

Countries may differ in terms of their size or position; their security concerns could, nevertheless, equally be relevant at the CD and subsequently bear on its work. This is a fact of life before us, and such concerns should be duly addressed.

ACT: Some countries have suggested that the consensus rule should not be applied to procedural matters at the CD and should instead be restricted to substantive work in order to prevent a single state from using procedure to prevent the start of negotiations. What is China’s position on this matter? From your position as CD president, are there any other procedural adjustments that can help make the CD a more efficient and effective part of the UN disarmament machinery?

Wang: From China's perspective, what needs to be sorted out in the first place is whether the current CD deadlock stems from the machinery per se. Although it is true that some dislike the CD because they find its consensus rule detestable, others like the CD precisely for this reason. If the CD is a body with inherent flaws, then why, within the same mechanism and under the same rules of procedure, was it able to negotiate and conclude treaties such as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention, and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? This question merits our reflection.

As CD president, I am open to any suggestions and stand to be guided by member states as to whether or how procedural adjustments should be made so as to help make the CD a more efficient and effective part of the UN disarmament machinery. That, I believe, is not only the right of member states, but also provided for in explicit terms in the existing Rules of Procedure of the Conference on Disarmament.

ACT: What steps is your government taking to persuade Pakistan to allow the CD to begin the long process of negotiations on the fissile material production issue? What steps could other countries undertake to address Pakistan’s stated concerns about an FMCT?

Wang: Beijing believes that a negotiated FMCT at the CD is in everyone’s interests and wishes to see those negotiations commence as soon as possible. We thus have been doing our very best to make the case to all relevant interlocutors, including Pakistan. For an FMCT to be meaningful, it is essential that all countries with the capability of producing fissile materials be on board.

Pakistan has its concerns about an FMCT, but exerting pressure on Pakistan at every turn, for fear of Islamabad’s blocking of the CD, is undesirable if not counterproductive. To make it worse, such fears may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is desirable is to give equal weight to the legitimate security concerns of various countries in pursuit of a win-win situation based on security for all. In the meantime, the dialogue between the countries concerned is also crucial if the issues related to the CD deadlock are to be put behind us.

ACT: In your view, how can the current CD impasse be broken, so that the CD can commence its negotiation of an FMCT? Is there any specific formula to that end?

Wang: As the current CD deadlock is primarily attributable to political factors, the solution lies in political will and political wisdom, coupled with the right perception and working methods. In this context, we should work to detect and identify any evolving consensus even in the embryonic stages, especially by proceeding from the actual effects, with an FMCT as the objective.

The CD is now bogged down in a debate about how to define or characterize, in the context of the CD’s program of work, its ongoing exercise, i.e., “negotiation“ or “discussion“ of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. In the meantime, we should not fail to recognize the following basic common understanding, i.e., no delegation has hitherto sought to dispute the early commencement, on the basis of the CD’s balanced and comprehensive program of work, of its substantive work, which naturally covers the subject of the above treaty on the basis of the Shannon mandate (CD/1299 of March 24, 1995). Moreover, there has been, in fact, constructive and serious work at the CD, inter alia, on such a treaty, especially since the beginning of this year.

Although some may see the above common understanding as insignificant, it should not be belittled. On the other hand, the current CD debate on “negotiation“ versus “discussion,” no matter how significant, should not be unduly emphasized, especially with the caveat that the CD exercise is not linguistic in nature. Further, it is axiomatic that, if a treaty is reached, the process leading up to its conclusion can only be negotiation whereas, even if no one seeks to dispute embarking on a “negotiating process,” there could be considerable skepticism about whether it may produce something to that effect as long as a treaty remains elusive.

So, what do we want, “negotiation” or an FMCT? This question merits our serious reflection, on the basis of the 2009 program of work (CD/1864 of May 29, 2009), if an FMCT is really the aim.

ACT: The CD has long been considered to be the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament. Given the availability of other forums for discussing disarmament issues, how can the CD maintain its distinct role if it cannot begin substantive talks on issues of interest to many countries, including a fissile material cutoff, weapons in space, and negative nuclear security assurances? If the CD remains deadlocked, are there other ways and other forums through which progress on these matters might be achieved? Some countries have initiated informal expert-level discussions on an FMCT to discuss issues such as definitions and verification. How does China view these discussions, and what role does China play in them?

Wang: The CD is a good body. While it is true that it has not concluded any new treaties since 1998, its achievements or failures should nevertheless be viewed from a historical perspective.

Certain countries are, to my knowledge, thinking of setting up a “new kitchen” so as to move FMCT negotiations out of the CD. If the purpose of such a move is to reach a negotiated FMCT, we should be clear, if not clearer, about what the objective of the prospective treaty is in the first place. What is the relevance of such a treaty reached outside the CD in the absence of the participation of key countries with the capability of producing fissile materials, and how, under such circumstances, do we achieve the objective of nonproliferation of nuclear materials?

Although it presumably is not difficult at all for the FMCT negotiations to be moved out of the CD, it is nevertheless difficult for any new or alternative mechanism to replace the role and have the same effect as the CD, a nonexclusive disarmament and nonproliferation body with members from all regions and groups, both developed and developing. It includes, in particular, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states and other countries with nuclear weapons or certain nuclear capabilities. This, I believe, merits our careful reflection.

As for the “informal expert-level discussions on an FMCT” you referred to, I think such discussions per se are useful, though they would be truly meaningful only if channeled into the CD process on the treaty with the participation of all relevant countries.

Beijing, for its part, would like to see “a good treaty” through “good negotiation” at the CD. By “good negotiation,” we mean open and transparent intergovernmental negotiation conducted on the basis of the rules of procedure of the CD and with the participation of all countries with the capability of producing fissile materials. By “a good treaty,” we mean an FMCT that brings on board all relevant countries.

ACT: China repeatedly has expressed its support for an FMCT as an important nonproliferation instrument. China also is widely believed to have halted fissile material production for weapons, yet it is the only country among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states that has not formally declared a halt to fissile material production for weapons. Can you clarify whether China is producing fissile material for weapons purposes? If not, under what circumstances would China consider joining France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in declaring that it has halted such production?

Wang: You’re right to look at this issue in the context of Beijing’s support for an FMCT as an important nonproliferation instrument. Beijing, for its part, has many misgivings about the notion of a “moratorium on fissile material production for weapons.” The rationales behind this are, firstly, that it will very much undercut international efforts to activate the FMCT negotiation process at the CD, and secondly, that it is neither legally binding nor verifiable. Moreover, it is not clear which fissile material is supposed to be subject to the moratorium. So, I do think that an FMCT at the CD is what international efforts should be focused on.

 

Posted: June 2, 2011

Pakistan’s Nuclear Buildup Vexes FMCT Talks

Pakistan has stiffened its opposition to talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty in the UN Conference on Disarmament, prompting some countries to start looking for new ways to make progress on the pact.

Peter Crail

Pakistan declared in January that it had strengthened its opposition to negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material as it prepared to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad’s position threatens to prolong a 14-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United Nations’ arms control negotiating body, which operates on a consensus basis. Pakistan has been the only country blocking the start of negotiations on a so-called fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the CD for more than two years, leading some of the body’s 65 member states to search for ways around the Pakistani roadblock, including holding negotiations outside the CD.

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, reiterated in a Jan. 25 statement that Pakistan opposes opening negotiations on an FMCT in the CD because of a 2008 agreement by the world’s key nuclear technology suppliers to lift long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008.) This action, he said, “will further accentuate the asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles in the region, to the detriment of Pakistan’s security interests.”

Pakistan and other critics of the move by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which now has 46 members, have argued that, because India now has access to the international nuclear market, it can purchase foreign uranium for its nuclear power reactors and therefore keep its limited domestic uranium reserves for its military program, potentially allowing it to field a larger nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad has maintained that a fissile material ban must cover existing stocks of fissile material instead of simply halting future production, a position backed by several other CD members, primarily from the developing world. Most nuclear weapons possessors, including India, insist on a production cutoff that does not address current stockpiles.

Akram added that Pakistan’s opposition was further hardened by a U.S. call for India’s eventual admission to the NSG, a move he characterized as an “irresponsible undertaking” that “shall further destabilize security in South Asia.” (See ACT, December 2010.) According to Akram, because such admission would allow India to enhance its own nuclear arsenal, “Pakistan will be forced to take measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence.”

Pakistan has sought to counter India’s conventional and nuclear weapons capabilities by expanding its nuclear arsenal and moving from larger highly enriched uranium-based weapons to more compact plutonium-based warheads.

Those efforts reportedly include the construction of two additional plutonium-producing nuclear reactors at Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear complex. Pakistan already has two such reactors at the site, producing an estimated combined total of 22 kilograms of plutonium each year, enough for up to four nuclear weapons. Islamabad began constructing a third reactor in 2006 and, according to satellite imagery analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, started work on a fourth in recent months.

After steadily increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile over a number of years, Pakistan is estimated to have up to 110 warheads, all of which are believed to be maintained in central storage, rather than deployed with their delivery systems. Responding to recent reports of Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters Feb. 1, “Pakistan is mindful of the need to avoid an arms race with India,” noting Islamabad’s policy of maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent” against its South Asian rival. It is not clear, however, what such a credible minimum deterrent entails.

Seeking a Path Around Pakistan

During the opening of the CD’s 2011 session, the body’s president, Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada, said there was no agreement on a program of work for the CD, effectively preventing it from beginning substantive negotiations. The CD last adopted a program of work in 2009 after nearly a decade of disagreement, but Pakistan broke the consensus soon after over the FMCT, preventing negotiations from commencing.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting last September to help “revitalize” the stalled CD, but diplomats said last fall that the session only retraced existing divisions. (See ACT, December 2010.) Several states expressed frustration with the CD stalemate during that meeting and raised the option of pursuing FMCT negotiations outside the CD if progress was not made in 2011. Pakistan, China, and a number of developing countries opposed such a prospect.

In their opening remarks to the 2011 session of the CD, many delegations, including those from the European Union, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, reiterated the potential for an alternative negotiating process on an FMCT. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the body Jan. 27 that “the longer the CD languishes, the louder and more persistent such calls will become.” She stressed in a press briefing later that day, however, that it is the “absolute first priority” of the United States to seek negotiations inside the CD. She declined to speculate on other options.

Although delegations would not say how much time the CD should be given to resolve the current impasse, Mexico’s ambassador to the CD, Juan José Camacho, proposed in a Jan. 25 statement that members establish a deadline for the CD to adopt a program of work.

Stressing the importance of preserving the function of the CD as the sole multilateral negotiating body for arms control, Ban warned in Jan. 26 remarks to the body, “We must not risk pushing states to resort to alternative arrangements outside the Conference on Disarmament.” He expressed support for starting an informal process on an FMCT in the CD prior to beginning negotiations in order to build trust among members.

The United States indicated that if there was no agreement to start FMCT negotiations, it would back a dual track of formal and informal FMCT talks. “We strongly support the idea of robust plenary discussion on broad FMCT issues, reinforced by expert-level technical discussions on specific FMCT topics,” Gottemoeller said.

Throughout February, CD members held plenary discussions on an FMCT, as well as other issues on the body’s agenda. In addition, Australia and Japan co-hosted a first round of expert-level talks in mid-February focused on the subject of defining key aspects of a treaty, including what would be considered fissile material and what constitutes production of that material. Diplomats from CD members said in February that a second round of experts’ talks on verification is expected this month.

Although several states supported the Australian-Japanese initiative, China and Pakistan said in remarks to the CD Feb. 17 that they did not attend the session. Chinese CD ambassador Wang Qun told the body that conclusions drawn from such informal discussions did not have standing in the CD. Akram raised concerns that such informal talks could undermine the role of the CD as the sole negotiating body for such issues.

In spite of Islamabad’s opposition, “Pakistan has not taken any action to date to seek to block either the plenary discussions or the expert-level talks,” a State Department official said in a Feb. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The official added that although Pakistan could “create some problems on the plenary discussions,” it would not be able to prevent the expert-level talks, which are being hosted on a national basis although they still are linked to the CD.

Diplomats from states supporting the experts’ talks told Arms Control Today that even if the talks are being held on an informal basis, delegations initially opposing them may realize after some time that their interests are served better by participating in them, rather than being left out. They also stressed that such discussions are important for addressing complex technical issues before negotiations begin and could lay the groundwork for eventual negotiations in the meantime.

 

Posted: March 3, 2011

Ending Pakistan's Nuclear Addiction

The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.

Daryl G. Kimball

The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.

Pakistan already has enough nuclear material to build at least 100 bombs—more than enough nuclear firepower to deter an attack from its neighbor and rival, India, which itself possesses enough separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) for about 140 bombs.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s leaders insist they must produce even more fissile material—HEU and plutonium—to keep pace with India. Fresh reports indicate Pakistan now is building a fourth unsafeguarded production reactor at Khushab.

The continued and uncontrolled expansion of these nuclear arsenals raises the risk that a border skirmish between Islamabad and New Delhi could go nuclear. Also, Pakistan’s weapons and nuclear material stockpiles are a prime target for terrorists. Its nuclear technology could once again be sold on the black market by insiders, just as A.Q. Khan did for years.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is now focused on turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the United States no longer can afford to postpone serious efforts to break Pakistan’s nuclear addiction and encourage Pakistan, India, and China to exercise greater nuclear restraint.

To do so, stopping the production of fissile material for weapons and pursuing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) once again must be top U.S. priorities. In 1998 the United States supported a UN Security Council resolution condemning India’s and Pakistan’s tit-for-tat nuclear explosions and calling on the two countries to sign the CTBT and halt fissile production for weapons.

At the time, the two states might have agreed to a production cutoff and signed the CTBT. But other commercial and strategic priorities, including the 2008 civil nuclear trade exemption for India and the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban, have pushed nonproliferation opportunities to the margins.

In 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD). Given that France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all declared a halt to fissile material production for weapons, and China is believed to have halted production, a global fissile production halt would have its greatest impact on India, Pakistan, and possibly China.

Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to block the start of the negotiation, citing India’s greater fissile production potential from the plutonium in the spent fuel of its unsafeguarded power reactors, which could provide enough material for several hundred more bombs.

On Feb. 28, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made another strong pitch at the CD directed at Pakistan to allow work finally to begin on the FMCT. Until it does, U.S. and other diplomats are urging informal technical talks. Such efforts are laudable but insufficient. India and the major nuclear suppliers—France, Russia, and the United States—must do more to help break the cycle. India can and should declare that it will not increase its rate of fissile production and will put additional nonmilitary reactors under safeguards. Such a move could increase Indian security by pressuring Pakistan and China to make similar pledges.

Even if FMCT talks begin soon, it will be many years before a treaty is completed and it enters into force. By that time, India and Pakistan will have accumulated still more bomb material.

Bolder action is in order. In particular, the five original nuclear-weapon states should seek an agreement by all states with facilities not subject to safeguards voluntarily to suspend fissile material production and place stocks in excess of military requirements under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.

Encouraging China and Israel to participate would be key. For Israel, which does not need more fissile material and has an aging reactor at Dimona, the moratorium would make a virtue out of necessity and improve its nonproliferation record. China should support the initiative because it could lead India to slow the growth of its military fissile material stockpile.

To increase leverage further, the Obama administration and Congress should press for an investigation of the IAEA technical support programs in Pakistan, which undoubtedly have aided its bomb production program. For two decades, Pakistan has received million of dollars of IAEA help for operational upgrades and control systems for its safeguarded reactors at the same time it was building and operating reactors of the same design outside safeguards for its military program.

Taken together, these steps could persuade Pakistan to drop its opposition to negotiations to halt the further production of nuclear bomb material and help slow the expensive and dangerous South Asian arms race.

Posted: March 1, 2011

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