2007.04.11: General Debate at 2007 Substantive Session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC)

H.E. Ambassador Oh Joon, Deputy Permanent Representative

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1. First of all, I would like to express my warmest congratulations on your assumption of the chairmanship of the Disarmament Commission for this year. I am confident that under your distinguished leadership, this Commission will indeed take meaningful steps towards a successful outcome. My delegation as a whole, as well as myself personally, as Chair of the previous session, will spare no effort to make progress to that end.

Mr. Chairman,

2. It has become customary at meetings such as this to note the many setbacks that have befallen the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation machinery in recent years. But what truly matters is not the setbacks themselves, so much as their consequences. The accumulated failures of major negotiations have weakened confidence in the usefulness of multilateralism in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. There is a temptation to fall into fatalism. This temptation must be resisted. To give up hope is to acquiesce to the gravest of threats to international peace and security. My delegation firmly believes that the UNDC can play a role in reversing the current trend and getting us back on track.

3. A good start was made last year, during the first year of the UNDC’s current three-year cycle. Although it took us years to agree on the agenda for last year’s substantive session, we were finally able to return to the table, restart the two Working Groups, and forge a consensus on measures to improve the Commission’s working methods. Although these may have been relatively modest achievements, they represented a step forward from the stasis of prior years, paving the way for more substantive work this year.

4. In this regard, I note that when this Session comes to a close later this month, a new NPT review cycle will begin almost immediately afterwards. The UNDC can contribute to this subsequent effort by agreeing on recommendations for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, which could then become useful reference points during the NPT review process.

Mr. Chairman,

5. To break the current impasse in the NPT regime, we must forgo the notion that each Party can wait to fulfil its obligations until someone else moves first. Cooperation is crucial, but so is action. In my own country, we have enjoyed the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for three decades. Today, our 20 nuclear power plants provide more than 40 percent of our supply of electricity. Despite our mounting need for a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle, we signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992, voluntarily renouncing nuclear enrichment or reprocessing facilities on our soil.

6. In the same spirit, we encourage all Member States to do their part. We urge those NPT States Parties with nuclear weapons to faithfully implement their obligations under Article VI of the Treaty. States that remain outside the NPT should accede to the Treaty at an early date.

7. To address the challenge of nuclear proliferation more effectively, we should strive to achieve universal adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol, which would enhance global confidence in the NPT system by bolstering its monitoring and verification capabilities. Parallel efforts should be made to strengthen existing export control regimes and measures to secure nuclear materials and sensitive technologies so that they do not fall into the wrong hands.

8. In particular, the international community should make a concerted effort to cope with illicit brokering activities, which are a growing contemporary threat, as revealed through the unraveling of the A.Q. Kahn network. As part of this effort, the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Australian Government co-hosted an international seminar on brokering controls in Seoul last month. The meeting provided a timely opportunity to take stock of national and international responses to the proliferation threat posed by illicit brokering activities. Momentum is building for the formation of an international consensus on the strengthening of brokering controls.

9. As a practical means of reinforcing the NPT regime, priority should be placed on the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). These steps would lead us closer to a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Chairman,

10. Conventional weapons pose a destructive threat no less serious than that posed by weapons of mass destruction. The unrestrained proliferation of conventional weapons, particularly small arms and light weapons, not only fuels and exacerbates conflicts, but also hampers socio-economic and human development. In this regard, my delegation believes that the United Nations should play a greater role in the control of conventional weapons.

11. Since its inception in 1992, the UN Register of Conventional Arms has enhanced the level of transparency in military affairs worldwide. We welcome the steady increase in the number of Member States participating in the register and urge those States that have not yet participated to do so. Likewise, we would like to see wider participation in the United Nations System for the Standardized Reporting of Military Expenditures.

12. My delegation hopes that through our deliberations during this Substantive Session, the UNDC can agree on an appropriate and comprehensive set of recommendations on further confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. These measures would address both new and traditional challenges.

13. My delegation’s view is that practical confidence-building measures should begin in areas where progress can more easily be achieved, then move to more difficult areas. As trust cannot be built overnight, we need to remain patient with this step-by-step approach. At the same time, we must be careful not to use a lack of progress on the most controversial issues as an excuse for inaction in other areas.

14. The approach of the Republic of Korea to the promotion of inter-Korean reconciliation is based on this principle. We believe that mutual confidence and trust are being enhanced through projects such as the reconnection of railroads and highways across the demilitarized zone (DMZ), facilitation of tourism to Mt. Gumgang, the development of the Gaesong Industrial Complex and the reunion of separated families. In our view, the increased confidence built by these cooperative efforts will lead to the ultimate resolution of many pending security issues between the two Koreas.

Mr. Chairman,

15. Let me conclude by underlining our belief that the current stalemate in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation can only be broken by political commitment accompanied by real action. States will make a stronger political commitment and take substantive action if they embrace an open-minded and visionary approach to the concept of national interest. We cannot make effective progress towards solving the problems of proliferation by sticking to our own narrow national or even regional self-interest. We can delay only so long, but eventually these global problems will reach our doorsteps, undermining stability in our own countries. The only way forward is to pursue enlightened national interest, recognizing that in the long run, it is only on the basis of mutual interest and cooperation that we can serve our own best interests.

Thank you.