13 October 1999

Press Release



Says Attempt To Revise 1972 ABM Treaty Will Undermine Disarmament; Ten Speakers Address Issues of Missile Defence, Outer Space Arms Race

Attempts to revise the 1972 treaty, by which the Russian Federation and the United States agreed not to deploy an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, would return the disarmament dialogue to the days of the cold war, the representative of the Russian Federation told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) this afternoon, as it continued its disarmament and security debate.

He said that, for more than a quarter of a century, the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems –- ABM Treaty -- had halted the strategic offensive arms race and substantially reduced the number of offensive strategic weapons. Undermining it would cause the collapse of the whole structure of agreements on reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons, and threaten the system of international agreements on non-proliferation and arms control. Aware of such consequences, he said, the Russian Federation, along with Belarus and China, would call upon the General Assembly to take a stand in favour of preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty.

The representative of China said that the vigorous development and proliferation of advanced missile-defence systems would “poison the atmosphere” and risk a more advanced arms race. In North America, the accelerated pursuit of the so-called missile-defence programme to the detriment of strategic stability had posed grave challenges to the ABM Treaty. In Asia, certain countries were rapidly pressing ahead with their joint theatre missile-defence development programme in a bid to further strengthen their military alliance in the region, which should have died out with the end of the cold war.


SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that the twentieth century had emerged with unprecedented scientific and technical achievements, but it was also a century in which millions of people perished in the two world wars and innumerable regional conflicts that blazed still today. It was in this century that mankind had begun collectively looking for answers to the question of how to put an end to wars and give all the inhabitants of the Earth a chance to live in peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, a universal answer to that question had not been found.

He said the central role in the formation and realization of a world without wars was assigned to the United Nations -- the one and only universal mechanism to regulate international relations. In that context, the problems of disarmament and international security occupied one of the key positions. There were three main tasks in that sphere: strict observance of the agreements in the field of disarmament; step-by-step reduction with the ultimate goal of eliminating weapons of mass destruction, under strict and effective international control and together with limitation of other types of weapons; and the prevention of an escalation of an arms race in new spheres.

For more than a quarter of a century, the ABM Treaty had been the key element of strategic stability and the most important prerequisite for reducing strategic offensive weapons, he said. During its existence, the ABM Treaty had demonstrated its viability and effectiveness. Under the Treaty, mutual restraint of the parties in the sphere of ABM defence had halted the strategic offensive arms race, substantially reduced the offensive strategic arms and, now, in addition to that, maintained dialogue on a continuation of the process. As the Russian Federation had consistently stood for a reduction and limitation of nuclear arsenals, it had faithfully observed its obligations in accordance with START I. It was important that START II and other related instruments be ratified by the Russian Federal Assembly, and that procedures necessary for their ratification be fulfilled by the United States Congress.

He said the process of strategic arms reduction and limitation would have the most promising prospects under conditions of strategic stability. The Russian Federation was ready to hold talks on reducing strategic offensive weapons on the basis of basic elements defined during the meeting between its President and the United States President in Helsinki in March 1997, and confirmed in Cologne in June 1999. Within the framework of the future START III, the Russian Federation was ready to foresee a reduction of the overall threshold of up to 1,500 warheads – namely, to agree to a more substantial reduction of nuclear arms than had been foreseen in Helsinki.

He said all those achievements and prospects were directly connected to the observance of the central element of the ABM Treaty -- not to deploy an ABM system on the territory of either country and not to create a base for such a defence. Attempts to revise and infringe that central provision would, in fact, undermine the Treaty. In such a case, the observance of the START I and START II would become impossible. In fact, it would result in a collapse of the whole structure of the agreements on reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons. The disarmament dialogue would actually return to the point of departure of the cold- war era. The system of international agreements in the sphere of non- proliferation and control over armaments would be threatened. Besides, new factors would appear capable of destabilizing the international situation, both at the global and regional levels.

He said his country was conscious of the danger of the spread and sophistication of missiles and missile technologies. His Government supported the efforts undertaken by many countries to strengthen the regime of missile non- proliferation. For its part, it had proposed the creation of a global system of control over the proliferation of missiles and missile technologies, that would foresee, in particular, a regime of notification on the ballistic missile launches. Unfortunately, plans for deployment of a national ABM system could bring the opposite result, namely, to stimulate the creation and proliferation of more sophisticated missiles globally.

Aware of such consequences, which were extremely negative for all countries, he said his country had called upon the General Assembly to take a stand in favour of preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty. His delegation, jointly with the delegations of Belarus and China, had distributed a clear and non-confrontational draft resolution (document A/C.1/54/L.1), which was based on the provisions of the ABM Treaty itself, and on joint statements made by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States on that subject. He counted on the broadest possible support of the text and invited co-sponsorships.


SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that, since the last General Assembly session, the international situation had undergone profound and complex changes. The cold-war mentality was still present, coupled with new developments in hegemonism and power politics, thus, making the world even less stable.

In Europe, he said, the only military bloc left over from the cold war, under its “new strategic concept”, had bypassed the Security Council and bombed, with the world’s most powerful and sophisticated military machinery, the weak sovereign State –- the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -– thereby turning the Balkan region into a testing ground for its new strategy. In Asia, certain countries were rapidly pressing ahead with their joint theatre missile-defence development programme in a bid to further strengthen their military alliance in the region, which should have died out with the end of the cold war. In North America, the vigorous and accelerated pursuit of the so-called missile-defence programme had confronted the ABM Treaty with grave challenges. Those negative developments had worsened the international security environment and constituted an obstacle to the sound development of the international arms control and disarmament process.

He said the old security concept based on military alliance and arms build- ups would not resolve any problem. His country did not favour any attempts to seek, under certain excuses, military strength that went beyond one’s legitimate self-defence needs. Likewise, it was against any attempt to unilaterally seek an absolute security advantage for one country or country bloc by limiting and weakening other countries, under the pretext of arms reduction and non- proliferation. In order to promote disarmament, prevent an arms race and safeguard international security, it was imperative that a new security concept be established, consistent with the changed international situation. As a guideline for a new security concept, countries should recall the statement made by China’s President in the General Assembly last month.

Although the elimination of nuclear weapons was the common global aspiration, the nuclear disarmament process between the United States and the Russian Federation was now “bogged down” in a stalemate, following the achievement of certain temporary progress, he said. That was coupled with new nuclear tests after the conclusion of the CTBT. Such developments clearly indicated that the promotion of nuclear disarmament and the prevention of nuclear proliferation would remain a formidable task for the international community for some time to come. The next nuclear disarmament step was for those countries that possessed the largest nuclear arsenals in the world to drastically reduce those arsenals and refrain from improving the quality and development of nuclear weapons. Also imperative was the conclusion of a fissile material cut-off treaty to cap the quantity of nuclear weapons.

He said the non-proliferation of those weapons should be ensured through the NPT. An international legal instrument should be negotiated on the unconditional no-first use of nuclear weapons, no use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear- weapon States or in nuclear-weapon-free zones, as well as a comprehensive prohibition on the use of those weapons. Ultimately, the international community should conclude a treaty on the comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons, in order to genuinely achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. Reaching that goal required the maintenance of global strategic stability and the safeguarding of the security interests of all countries.

The vigorous development and proliferation of advanced missile defence systems would obviously not contribute to international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, he went on. On the contrary, those would only “poison the atmosphere” and breed risks for a more advanced arms race. The comprehensive prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons should be the ultimate goal of the international community. The elimination of those weapons would lead to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and of long-range missiles, thus, also eliminating the missile threat.

As his country was subjected in the 1950s and 1960s to the nuclear threat and blackmail on several occasions, he said China had been compelled to develop a limited number of nuclear weapons. It had all along adopted a responsible attitude towards the question of nuclear weapons and had contributed to promoting nuclear disarmament. It had always pursued a no-first-use policy at any time and under any condition, and it had rejected participation in the nuclear arms race. Moreover, China had not deployed nuclear weapons outside its territory. His country’s nuclear weapons were purely for self-defence, and had not constituted a threat to anyone. Moreover, China’s extremely limited number of nuclear weapons had been placed under strict control, thereby removing the risk of an accidental launch.

An overall international environment of peace, security, stability and trust was imperative in any discussion of the transparency of nuclear arsenals and in de-alerting those weapons, he said. Such measures, therefore, should be linked with nuclear disarmament negotiations. Presently, there was a very wide gap among nuclear-weapon States in terms of their nuclear strength. A certain country was pursuing its nuclear-deterrence policy based on the first use of nuclear weapons, while vigorously developing its missile defence systems, to the detriment of the strategic balance. That country also “wantonly” resorted to or threatened to use force in international relations. Under such circumstances, it was both premature and unfair to indiscriminately call for the adoption of transparency measures on the nuclear front.

He said his country had always attached importance to the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Of particular concern were the latest developments on that front. A certain country had tried hard to block the establishment of the ad hoc committee on an outer space arms race in the Conference on Disarmament. At the same time, it had pressed rapidly ahead in pursuing its outer space and missile-defence programmes in an attempt to seek military advantage on the ground through dominating and controlling outer space. The developments in the vigorous pursuit of missile-defence systems since the beginning of the year was most disturbing. The global community was confronted with the danger of the weaponization of outer space and the repudiation of the ABM Treaty.

Under such a circumstance, he went on, it had become a pressing issue for the international community to strengthen its efforts against an outer space arms race. The Conference on Disarmament, however, had failed to re-establish that ad hoc committee, due to the obstruction by a certain individual country. The relevant resolution adopted by the current General Assembly should continue to urge the Conference to re-establish the ad hoc committee at an early date next year and immediately begin its substantive work in order to reverse the negative developments concerning an outer space arms race and the development of missile defence. The current session should also take measures to preserve the integrity and validity of the ABM Treaty. In that context, his country fully supported the efforts of the Russian Federation to table a resolution on the issue.