8602nd Security Council Meeting: Threats to International Peace and Security

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22-Aug-2019 01:30:06
High Representative warns against unbridled missile development amid collapse of nuclear forces treaty, calls in Security Council for universal arms accord at 8602nd meeting.

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The recent collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty cannot become the catalyst for renewed and unconstrained competition in missile development, acquisition and proliferation, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council on recent events, Izumi Nakamitsu said the Treaty’s recent termination removed one of the few constraints on the development and deployment of destabilizing classes of missiles. She expressed alarm that there remains no universal treaty or agreement regulating missiles.

“Today, only the Russian Federation and the United States are subject to legally binding restrictions on the number of certain missiles they may possess,” she continued. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for all States to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control, she said a growing number of countries — including those not party to existing multilateral arrangements — have acquired and developed their ballistic missile capabilities.

Indeed, more than 20 countries now possess ballistic missiles with capabilities that exceed the threshold for “nuclear capable” as defined by the Missile Technology Control Regime, she said. The development of a weapons system using missile technology that can manoeuvre at hypersonic speeds could spark an arms race.

Against that backdrop, she expressed concern over ballistic missile launches into Saudi Arabia by the Houthis in Yemen, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued augmentation of its missile capabilities. “Preventing the spread and emergence of destabilizing weapons remains a vital unfinished task for the international community,” she said, calling for new internationally legally binding multilateral approaches.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation said the United States has developed missiles, based in Romania, making it clear that medium-range rockets could indeed be used in the area. It also has made clear it does not plan to implement the New START Treaty in its current form. “We are now one step away from an arms race; if you believe [United States President] Donald Trump, then America is ready for an arms race,” he warned. Underscoring that the Russian Federation’s military budget is much lower than that of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), he pledged his country’s willingness to engage in dialogue towards guaranteeing security and stability.

In turn, the representative of the United States said the Russian Federation broke its Treaty obligations by producing multiple battalions of new missile systems. Despite imploring the Russian Federation to return to the Nuclear Forces Treaty, the United States made the decision to withdraw. The Russian Federation and China would still like a world where the United States exercises restraint while they build their arsenals. What the United States and NATO allies know is that the Russian Federation has violated the now-terminated Treaty, with actions that demonstrate the ability to hit European targets. While there are no United States ground-launched missiles, China possesses 2,000 such weapons, which would violate the Treaty should Beijing have been a party to it.

China’s representative rejected such baseless accusations, stressing that the United States withdrawal aims to destroy the Treaty and assert unilateral action. China adheres to relevant treaties and opposes any kind of arms race, he said, pressing Moscow and Washington, D.C., to return to dialogue and create conditions for advancing disarmament, including by extending the New START Treaty in its current form.

Others expressed alarm over the Treaty’s collapse, raising the spectre of a new arms race. Many urgently called for resumed dialogue, with South Africa’s delegate pressing the two parties to resume discussions on a New START Treaty before its expiration in 2021. Pointing out that South Africa is the only country to have developed — and then voluntarily eliminated — its nuclear weapons, he more broadly pressed the United Nations community to sign and ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Along similar lines, Côte d’Ivoire’s representative urged the Russian Federation and the United States to maintain cooperation as two nuclear Powers. Preserving the global non-proliferation architecture is critical to ensuring that nuclear Powers do not use their weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States.

“There is a real possibility of returning to an arms race which we thought was relegated to the time of the cold war,” said the representative of the Dominican Republic. Belgium’s representative likewise warned that the development of new capacities and the growing number of arsenals is moving the world away from the targets outlined in the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. “We all have a national interest in there being a global order based on disarmament and non-proliferation,” he assured.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Kuwait, Peru, Germany, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia and Poland.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:33 p.m.

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