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UNGA 73 First Committee: UK Statement

The UK delivered their statement to the Committee explaining how the UK will not be ratifying the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty and highlighted recent actions by Syria, Russia and the DPRK

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The framework of normative treaties and conventions countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of the greatest achievements of the rules-based international system.

They are based on a common understanding of the threat posed to national and international security by the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery, and the fundamental values of fairness and justice and a respect for international law.

Treaties such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention proscribe weapons deemed repugnant to human conscience.

Coupled with the safeguards regime operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has deterred all but a few states from acquiring nuclear weapons. Built on a basis of mutual trust and offering tangible benefits to all of its signatories, the NPT stands in stark contrast to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. The Ban ignores the security context and does nothing to increase trust or transparency between nuclear weapons possessor states. It also fails to address the technical challenges of nuclear disarmament. The UK will not support, sign or ratify this Treaty.

The UK pursues a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament consistent with the NPT. The UK’s nuclear weapons account for only around 1% of the total belonging to the recognised nuclear weapons states.
The existing counter-proliferation and arms control framework has made a huge contribution to global security. It provides states assurance that their competitors are not seeking WMD and brings predictability and stability to security relations.

Now, however, global security is under threat from states who no longer share our fundamental values nor respect international law.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons in contravention of its undertakings as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia has prevented action at the UNSC that would have held to account those responsible and has further shown its contempt for global norms by itself using chemical weapons on British soil. These represent direct assaults on a norm that the majority of the international community has observed for over 50 years. Leaving those assaults unchallenged risks further weakening the norm and inviting further violations. Identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks is an important step in ensuring accountability and in deterring future attacks. The Decision achieved in The Hague in June was a clear sign of the international community’s commitment to reinforcing norms against chemical weapons use.

We look forward to the OPCW beginning its work on attribution for chemical attacks in Syria. However, we cannot wait until WMD have been used.

We must be quicker to act when states fail to comply with their obligations. Inaction on the situation in the DPRK permitted it both to acquire a nuclear weapon capability and to proliferate missile technology.

In the face of repeated nuclear testing, undermining a norm observed by others since the turn of the century, the Security Council has agreed to impose sanctions on the DPRK. Those sanctions appear to be changing the DPRK’s calculus. Pressure needs to be maintained until concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation are taken.

The UK stands ready to lend its expertise and capabilities to support a denuclearisation process. We continue to support the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by all remaining parties to the deal. The international safeguards regime which underpins Iran’s commitment to enhanced verification and inspections is one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords. Successive IAEA reports confirm that Iran continues to comply with its nuclear commitments under the deal and that its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.

At the same time, we take this opportunity to register our concern about Iran’s wider missile programmes, which pose a threat to European security and are destabilising for the region. We call on Iran to immediately cease the proliferation of missile technology – these actions are inconsistent with UNSCRs 2231 and 2216 and only serve to prolong regional conflicts.

While the counter-proliferation and arms control framework has served us well, it is not complete either in its application or coverage.

We will work towards the universal membership of the relevant treaties and conventions. We will continue to argue for the adoption of measures that would strengthen the framework, such as the Additional Protocol to IAEA safeguards agreements.

We will also continue support and strengthen the verification work of the OPCW and the IAEA, and work to develop the necessary verification mechanisms and technologies for future disarmament treaties. We need to ensure the mechanisms for countering the proliferation of the means of delivering WMD, in particular ballistic missiles, are fit for purpose and remain relevant. We call on more states to adhere to the MTCR and to sign up to the Hague Code of Conduct.

We will work on addressing the challenge of an increasingly congested Outer Space. We believe that increased trust and confidence through consensus norms, principles and guidelines can support safe and sustainable human space activity in compliance with international law. And we will continue to foster the development of the UNSG’s Mechanism for the investigation into the alleged use of chemical, biological or toxin weapons.

As the pace of scientific and technological development accelerates, we must ensure that we manage the risks created, but also take advantage of the opportunities generated. In this regard, we welcome the renewed vigour within the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. But we are deeply concerned about its financial situation.

We call on all States Parties to the BTWC, and other disarmament treaties, to pay their dues. Proliferation threatens every member of the international community. Each and every one of us needs to step up to address the threat.

Mr Chair, as the British Prime Minister observed in New York last month, it was collective engagement by the international community that produced the counter-proliferation and disarmament architecture. It will take collective engagement to reinforce it in the face of today’s challenges.

Published 12 October 2018