Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty [FMCT] Excerpts


21 January 1997


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva

on Tuesday, 21 January 1997, at 10 a.m.

President: Mr. Sun (Republic of Korea)


Mr. DINI (Italy):


We do understand the impatience shown by certain States regarding nuclear disarmament, but we believe that the problem cannot be solved by merely issuing fine-sounding declarations. This is why we urge everyone to be specific and to embark on negotiations for which we feel, along with others, that the time is now ripe. I am referring to a convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices - the so-called "cut-off" - and to the resumption of the negotiations in the 1995 Ad Hoc Committee, whose activity is still paralysed. It is inconceivable to permit fissile materials to be manufactured while nuclear tests are being banned and existing fissile material is being destroyed. It would be a historical contradiction. But the "cut-off" is only the first in a series of measures set out in the "Principles and objectives" document agreed at the Review and Extension Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In the view of the Italian Government, this document is itself a plan of action for nuclear disarmament over the next few years. Some of the most promising goals that still lie ahead are the following: consolidating and extending the denuclearized zones, especially in areas of tension; strengthening negative and positive security assurances to benefit States that fully comply with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and extending and enhancing the IAEA safeguards in order to detect and prevent more effectively any possible undeclared nuclear activity.


Sir Michael WESTON (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland):


The starting-point for the United Kingdom's approach to nuclear disarmament is, of course, article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT. Under that article, to quote it exactly: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".

The United Kingdom is fully committed to this article of the NPT, as to other articles of the Treaty. Clearly the nuclear arms race between East and West has now ceased. But, of course, both nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament remain to be fully achieved. And there is scope for debate about how best to pursue these objectives. Fortunately the 1995 Conference of NPT States parties has helped to identify the way forward by adopting the "Principles and objectives for non-proliferation and disarmament", in which the section on "Nuclear disarmament" sets out the importance to the international community of three specific objectives: the completion of negotiations for a comprehensive test-ban treaty no later than 1996; the immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty; and "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally". The United Kingdom continues to believe that this represents a very sensible agenda for the foreseeable future and I should like to say a few more words about each of these items.


The second element in the "Nuclear disarmament" section of the "Principles and objectives" is the fissile material cut-off treaty, the FMCT. This treaty is in effect a complementary measure to the CTBT. Like the CTBT, it will not lead directly to any reductions in nuclear forces. But, also like the CTBT, it will put a limit on the extent to which they can be developed. And it is certainly impossible to envisage the achievement of nuclear disarmament without an FMCT. Let me expand on these two points.

How will the FMCT circumscribe the way in which nuclear forces can be developed? Quite simply by constraining the amount of unsafeguarded fissile material available for potential use in nuclear explosives. I have heard it said that, in practice, the FMCT is unnecessary because the nuclear-weapon States have already said they have ceased the production of fissile material for use in nuclear explosives. Well, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France have indeed made such statements. But a universal and verifiable FMCT would still have a number of very important effects. It would formalize and verify these statements. It would bring in the other nuclear-weapon State, China. And it would put constraints on the ability of certain non-parties to the NPT to produce more unsafeguarded fissile material. These would be important accomplishments.

But the FMCT would do much more than this. It would also provide an essential foundation for the eventual achievement of nuclear disarmament. Clearly there can be no final achievement of this goal without verification arrangements on all the key facilities which can produce fissile material suitable for use in nuclear explosives. I refer to enrichment and reprocessing facilities. And whatever else an FMCT may or may not do, it will certainly have to involve applying verification arrangements to all such facilities. So, as I have said, the FMCT will put in place an essential prerequisite for the achievement of nuclear disarmament.

I hear it said by some of my colleagues here in the CD that there can be no negotiation of an FMCT without a simultaneous negotiation about a timetable for nuclear disarmament. But the experience of the recent past shows very clearly that linkage between negotiations is not the way to make progress. The INF Treaty, the START I Treaty, the START II Treaty, and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty - none of these was achieved by linking progress on them to progress on other issues. Nor indeed were other important treaties, such as the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. So let us now get on with the negotiation of an FMCT in the CD without getting distracted by questions of linkage.

This brings me to the third item in the "Nuclear disarmament" section of the "Principles and objectives" - "the determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals [sic] of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".

There are those who feel that, in pursuit of this objective, the international community now needs to agree on a timetable for nuclear disarmament - to map out all the steps for getting from here to there. Some CD members believe this so strongly that they are refusing to allow an ad hoc committee to negotiate an FMCT unless there is also an ad hoc committee to negotiate such a timetable for nuclear disarmament. I have to say quite bluntly that the United Kingdom does not believe this is the best way of making progress towards the goal we all share, either substantively or procedurally.

Substantively, we simply do not see the value at this stage in trying now to devise a complete blueprint for the final achievement of nuclear disarmament. In the United Kingdom's view, the next steps are clear enough - the ratification of START II by Russia, the implementation of START II, the negotiation of a bilateral START III between the two States who still possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world. These are large steps in their own right. And taking them will require time. Given the huge uncertainties that looking even further into the future would involve, is it really sensible to expend a lot of effort doing that now? I do not deny that this would be an interesting intellectual exercise. But is it an exercise to which diplomats can usefully contribute at this stage? Frankly, we do not think so.

And this brings me to my procedural point. In our view, the CD should continue to do what it has always done best - namely to negotiate detailed treaties on specific subjects. By adopting this approach, the CD and its predecessors have notched up an impressive list of achievements over the years - the NPT, the BTWC, the CWC, and most recently the CTBT. The CD should not now depart from this winning formula. Instead of wasting its talents on star-gazing, it should turn its energies to the specific job of negotiating an FMCT, a task which its excellent track record suggests it could fulfil admirably. And which, as I have noted earlier, would lay one of the essential foundations for nuclear disarmament.


Mr. HASMY (Malaysia):


In speaking about the fissile "cut-off" issue, my delegation is of the view that a ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes, which has been a long-standing goal in nuclear disarmament, would indeed be a desirable goal. It would constitute an important step towards deepening further the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. My delegation therefore supports the early conclusion of a "cut-off" treaty as it would complement and reinforce existing unilateral, bilateral and other multilateral nuclear disarmament mechanisms such as the NPT and the CTBT. Clearly, for such a ban to be effective there must be foolproof international control of all fissile materials - hence the importance, in any fissile "cut-off" arrangement, of an effective international control regime. It is imperative, therefore, for the present impasse to be resolved as soon as possible to allow substantive negotiations to begin.


Mr. AYE (Myanmar):


My delegation also holds the view that there exists an urgent need to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee on Prohibition of the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons and Other Nuclear Explosive Devices, and commence negotiations on this important subject. The terms of reference and a good starting-point for the work of this Ad Hoc Committee have been already formulated in the report submitted to the CD by Ambassador Shannon in document CD/1299 of 24 March 1995.

I should like to submit some thoughts of my delegation with regard to the programme of work for the CD in 1997. There can be two options, in the form of a concentrated programme, or an extended programme. Under the concentrated programme, we could establish two ad hoc committees, one on nuclear disarmament and the other on a fissile materials ban. The President of the Conference will no doubt carry on further consultations on the remaining items.

The alternative, to which I refer as the extended programme, is to establish ad hoc committees on nuclear disarmament, a fissile material ban, prevention of an arms race in outer space, transparency in armaments and negative security assurances.

If we are to consider the concentrated programme just mentioned, and in the event that the CD finds itself unable to establish separate ad hoc committees on nuclear disarmament and on fissile materials, we may possibly reach consensus to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament with two working groups, i.e. one working group on nuclear disarmament and another working group on fissile materials. This can be an alternative compromise formula, which merits serious consideration by the member States of the CD. And given the experience we have had in the recent past, the CD can handle effectively one ad hoc committee at a time and perhaps two at most.


Mr. REIMAA (Finland):


In 1995, an agreement was reached on the establishment of an ad hoc committee to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. It is time for the Ad Hoc Committee to start its work. Differences relating to the scope and other aspects of the "cut-off" treaty should be addressed during the negotiations.


Mr. LEDOGAR (United States of America):


As we begin the 1997 session of the Conference on Disarmament, it gives me great pleasure to read out a statement to this body from President Clinton. I quote:

"In my message to the Conference on Disarmament three years ago, I urged the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear test ban at the earliest possible time. Your success in that negotiation, and the subsequent adoption of the Treaty by the United Nations General Assembly, will help create a safer world. The successful conclusion of the negotiation is evidence of the Conference's potential to respond to the challenges it now faces.

"Now the Conference on Disarmament should take the next steps on the road to a more secure world.

"Prompt conclusion of a ban on producing fissile material for use in nuclear explosives. Effectively cutting off the spigot for more nuclear weapons is a necessary step toward, and would greatly contribute to, the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament.

"Negotiation as soon as possible of a comprehensive, global ban on anti-personnel landmines. These weapons of war have caused terrible suffering to innocent civilians and represent an enormous obstacle to restoring a more hopeful life after a conflict has ended. All the children of the world deserve to walk the Earth in safety.

"I call on the Conference to press forward with a renewed sense of purpose, to demonstrate to the world its capability to take these key steps to advance the process of nuclear and conventional disarmament."

As I and many of my colleagues have stated, the CD's first priority in the field of nuclear disarmament should be to negotiate a treaty to ban the production of fissile material that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes. Such a negotiation would fulfil not only the requirement set forth in the "Principles and objectives" document approved by consensus at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, it would also represent a major step forward in the ongoing process of reducing the number of nuclear weapons as well as in preventing their proliferation in the world. Clearly it would be another major step in the continuum of actions that has been under way for some time now to make progress toward the ultimate goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons. For these reasons, I hope we all will be able to re-establish, as was approved by this body almost two years ago, an ad hoc committee to negotiate a treaty on banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.


Mr. MOHER (Canada):


In the context of our views on the CD's agenda, we again note the agreement among CD members, based on the Shannon paper and mandate therein, to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The CD should begin these negotiations immediately. There is no doubt that the passage of time since 1995, other developments and the complexity of the issue itself all mean that the CD will need to do considerable definitional, organizational and operational work so that the Ad Hoc Group established to negotiate on the basis of the Shannon mandate will be able to implement successfully our earlier decision. Canada sees no reason why we should not begin that work immediately.

Certainly, as a country firmly committed to fulfilling our NPT responsibilities, we believe we have an obligation to begin work - now - on such a "cut-off" convention. The global community, through the United Nations, and during the NPT Review and Extension Conference, has urged the CD to get on with concluding such a convention.


The meeting rose at 12.45 p.m.