Conference on Disarmament
by Australia to the High-Level Segment
President, Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives
It is an honour to address the Conference on Disarmament today. The CD and its predecessors have a rich history. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention are all examples of the practical contributions that this body has made to international peace and security. All of these treaties form part of the fabric of the rules-based international order to which the Australian Government is deeply committed.
As the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, the CD has an important role in developing the international rules that underwrite our stability, prosperity and sovereignty. But as we all know, the consensus on which the CD relies has become increasingly elusive. This has taken place against a backdrop of the most challenging strategic circumstances since the Second World War. We are seeing the rules and norms that have underpinned our peace and security increasingly under threat.
We needn’t look far for evidence: one year on, Russia’s illegal and immoral full-scale invasion of Ukraine is not just an attack on the UN Charter, but an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental norms of territorial integrity and sovereignty. This aggression cannot be normalised and it cannot be minimised. We stand with Ukraine and our partners to once again call on Russia to end its war and to unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine’s territory. We call for peace and a strategic balance where the sovereignty of all nations – large and small – is respected and preserved.
We condemn Russia’s desperate and reckless nuclear threats which undermine global efforts on non-proliferation and disarmament, including here in this forum.
President Putin’s recent announcement that he would suspend Russia’s participation in the New START treaty adds to a growing list of reckless and irresponsible actions. Australia calls on the Russian Federation to reverse its decision and to return to implementation of New START. Preserving the integrity of existing arms control agreements, such as New START, remains critical to global efforts towards a world without nuclear weapons, including our efforts here in the CD.
In our region, the Indo-Pacific, the DPRK’s continued missile launches in violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions show a blatant disregard for international rules and norms, and pose a grave threat to international peace and security. We urge the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and resume dialogue with the United States and Republic of Korea. We are also deeply concerned by the opaque nuclear arsenal build-up occurring in our region which serves to highlight the pressing need for action on arms control and disarmament.
Australia puts a premium on a stable regional order. One where disputes are resolved according to international law and norms, and relations are based on partnership and respect. To this end, Australia is working actively with our partners through relevant regional security architecture, including ASEAN, and with our Pacific family through the Pacific Islands Forum. We are steadfast in our commitment to the Treaty of Rarotonga which established the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone. We also recognise the importance to our region of the Bangkok Treaty for the maintenance of a nuclear weapon free zone in Southeast Asia.
As Foreign Minister Wong highlighted in the UN General Assembly in September last year, Australia has always pursued a world without nuclear weapons. We are redoubling our efforts towards this goal and to strengthening the non-proliferation regime. We will continue to work constructively in pursuit of realistic pathways towards our ultimate objective. A fundamental recognition of the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons will continue to underpin these efforts.
This year Australia marks 50 years since our ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT’s success in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons has been fundamental to global security over the last five decades. The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that the NPT continues its vital role as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime.
Notwithstanding the actions of one state in blocking consensus at the NPT Review Conference last year, we observed an overwhelming commitment from almost all States Parties to maintaining and strengthening the treaty. For our part, Australia will continue to work through the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) and with all NPT States Parties to pursue further progress on issues such as nuclear risk reduction, transparency and accountability over the next review cycle.
One of the key elements of the consensus NPT 2010 Action Plan was to negotiate a treaty to end the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. We continue to urge all CD members to agree to commence negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) at the earliest opportunity. We cannot afford further delays on this logical and vital next step in ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
An immediate step that can be taken is the declaration and maintenance of a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. This would make a practical contribution to global disarmament efforts, and it can be done unilaterally, as some nuclear weapons states have done already.
Despite some excellent progress toward universalisation in the past year, we remain deeply disappointed that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is yet to enter into force. The devastating impact of nuclear weapons testing lingers in the Pacific, in Australia and elsewhere around the world. This terrible history should never be repeated. Australia is determined to see the CTBT enter into force. We renew our call on all remaining Annex II States to ratify without delay.
Australia will also continue to promote and seek practical measures in the area of nuclear risk reduction. While not a substitute for disarmament, risk reduction initiatives can make a genuine contribution to our security and help create conditions conducive to progress on disarmament. To this end, Australia and the Philippines will co-host a Nuclear Risk Reduction Workshop in March for ASEAN Regional Forum members, around half of whom are CD members, and all of whom share an interest in reducing nuclear risks in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia is also committed to preserving space as a secure, safe and sustainable domain within the framework of international law. We consider that the key to limiting the risk of conflict in space is ultimately international agreement on, and adherence to, responsible behaviours. Such an agreement will bolster security, transparency, stability, predictability, and trust. We look forward this year to continuing the important discussion on these issues in the Open Ended Working Group of Reducing Space Threats, the CD and the UN Disarmament Commission later this year.
To address the challenging international security environment we face today, we need to use all the multilateral tools we have at our disposal effectively, including the CD. To this end, Australia supports efforts to take forward the revitalisation of the CD in a structured way this year and I encourage all CD members to engage in these efforts. This includes taking active steps to strengthen inclusivity and to mainstream gender perspectives in its work. Australia values inclusivity in multilateralism. We are, therefore, disappointed that one State has blocked the participation of UN Member State observers in this High-Level Segment. This situation must not be allowed to continue.
The international community needs the CD to fulfill its unique mandate as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, and to make tangible progress on its task of developing the rules and norms needed to make the world safer for all of us. This will require constructiveness and creativity. For our part, we stand ready to work closely with you, the whole Presidential team, all CD members, and hopefully CD observers, to progress our important work this year.
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