International Seminar on Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone

Keynote address by Ambassador SERGIO DUARTE

Hiroshima, July 28 2012

May I begin by thanking Professor Kazumi Mizumoto, from the Hiroshima Peace Institute, and Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi, from the Research Center for Nuclear Abolition of the University of Nagasaki for the invitation to speak before this audience to-day. I am also grateful to Chuogku Shimbun for co-sponsoring this event and making possible for me to travel half way around the world, from Brazil to this beautiful city, a city gracefully reborn from the ashes of the great tragedy of August 6 1945.

This is the sixth time I have the chance to visit this part of Japan, and each time I discover new reasons for supporting the quest of the people and institutions from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons and the higher goal of lasting peace. Between 2007 and 2011 I participated every year in the touching ceremony at the Cenotaph to deliver the message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and once in this period, in 2010, I accompanied him in the first ever visit of a United Nations Secretary General to both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I recall the Secretary-General’s words as he addressed the ceremony in that morning of August 6 2010: “Together, we are on a journey from ground zero to global zero – a world free of weapons of mass destruction. That is the only sane path to a safer world. For as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will live under a nuclear shadow." I admire your determination to fulfill the noble aspiration of ridding the world forever from that shadow.

I was asked to speak to you to-day on the experience of the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in Latin America and Caribbean and its relevance to the creation of a similar zone in your own region. In my previous capacity as High Representative of the United Nations for Disarmament Affairs I have been of course acquainted with the many proposals and academic studies on the feasibility and practical establishment of such a zone in Northeast Asia. Before trying to comment on what I was able to glean from the large amount of work on the subject, let me recall very briefly some aspects of the history of efforts to establish nuclear weapon free zones.

The idea of such zones seems to go back to 1958, when Adam Rapacki, then foreign minister of Poland, brought forth the idea of establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Europe. Apparently his major concern at the time was the possibility that the Federal Republic of Germany, then known as West Germany, would eventually build a nuclear weapon. Rapacki’s plan never got off the ground due to the bitter rivalry and hostility between the two superpowers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, his proposal already embodied some of the elements that are now considered to be essential for a nuclear weapon free zone, particularly the need for the nuclear-weapon States to respect the status of the zone.

Incidentally, nuclear weapon free zones were conceived as “partial measures”, since a comprehensive approach encompassing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and the regulation of conventional arms was considered more difficult to implement. NWFZs are seen as building blocks toward global zero. All existing NWFZs envisage the elimination of nuclear weapons. Thus, they advance regional interests and set the stage for global security benefits as well.

In 1959 Antarctica became the first nuclear weapon free territory. Other non-inhabited places followed, such as outer space, the Moon and other celestial bodies, in 1967, and the seabed and its subsoil, in 1971.

Even before the Antarctic Treaty, Latin American States were already beginning to explore the possibilities of banning nuclear weapons in their own continent. Roughly at the same time of Rapacki’s plan, in 1958, Costa Rica presented a draft resolution to the Council of the Organization of American States proposing the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in Latin America. I will come back later to the pioneer efforts of Latin American and Caribbean nations to prevent the emergence of nuclear weapons of their territories.

Although there is no agreed global model for nuclear weapon free zones, some basic guidelines have been developed and accepted by the international community for their establishment.

In 1975 the 30th Session of the General Assembly adopted Resolution 3472 B, defining the concept of a nuclear weapon free zone. Paragraphs 60 and 61 of the Final Document of the First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament, commonly known as SSOD I, which took place in 1978, contain the requirement that such zones should be established “on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among States of the regions concerned”, that this process “should be encouraged with the ultimate objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons” and that “the characteristics of the region should be taken into account”. In 1999, the Disarmament Commission of the General Assembly recommended a set of principles and guidelines for the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones. Such principles encompass those previously agreed and also mention that the initiative “should emanate exclusively” from the States within the region concerned and be pursued by States of that region. The Commission also stated that a nuclear weapon free zone “should not prevent the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes”.

By 1999, of course, the Treaties of Rarotonga, Bangkok and Pelindaba already existed. Those guidelines, however, together with those contained in the Final Document of SSOD I, are still useful in shaping future nuclear weapon free zones, including the one envisaged for Northeast Asia.

The idea of a Northeast Asian nuclear weapon free zone seems to have evolved after the end of the Cold War, particularly since 1995. The geographical area to be encompassed by the zone has been the subject of several proposals, among which a circle, an ellipse or an area covering the whole or part of different States in the region. I do not wish to repeat here the interesting studies and proposals presented by distinguished experts such as Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi, as well as, among others, the Endicott group, Dr. Kumao Kaneko, Dr. Andrew Mack and Dr. Morton Halperin, whose presentations to this symposium provide a very instructive glimpse of the problems and prospects of this zone.

From the academic and practical work accomplished so far, one can easily conclude that the establishment of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone is at least as complex and bold an undertaking as the proposed Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction. As we know, the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons agreed to request the Secretary-General, together with the three depositaries of the NPT, to appoint a Facilitator charged with the task of preparing the ground for the convening of that Middle East Conference by the end of the current year. In this respect, we can say that the Middle East Conference has a head start, although the current situation by no means guarantees the success of the initiative. At least, however, none of the countries in that region have raised fatal objections to the current preparations. In the same vein, I am not aware of any objection in principle, from the countries in this region, to the idea of a Northeast Asia Free Zone. The General Assembly could emulate the example of the decision on the Middle East by the 2010 NPT Review Conference and consider exploring the possibilities in Northeast Asia, perhaps by appointing a person, or a panel, for that purpose.

There are some other interesting similarities between the two situations. For instance, there are nuclear weapons present in both regions of the prospective zones. In Northeast Asia there are two nuclear-weapon States Parties to the NPT and another one that withdrew from the treaty as a non-nuclear Party and went on to acquire its own nuclear arsenal and proclaimed itself a nuclear armed State. In the Middle East one State not member of the NPT is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, although it does not confirm or deny it officially. Another State that belongs to the NPT has been accused of intending to develop a nuclear weapon capability under the guise of a peaceful program. That situation has not yet been resolved satisfactorily. Moreover, at least two other States in the Middle East have hinted at the possibility of starting nuclear weapons programs if the latter does acquire an atomic weapon. Next door to the Middle East are two nuclear weapon States engaged in a nuclear race in search of security against each other. The largest possessor of nuclear weapons has military bases and security arrangements with countries in both regions. In both regions there are States with significant peaceful nuclear programs and expertise. Another disturbing similarity is that there is deep resentment and suspicion among States in the Middle East, based on past and recent events; in Northeast Asia the situation is not much different.

Perhaps this last factor is the one that poses the greatest obstacle to meaningful progress in both cases. Ironically, in both regions, a NWFZ (or in the case of the Middle East, a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction) would make a significant contribution to confidence building and easing of tensions. Besides the ambiguous nuclear status of one Middle Eastern State and the accusations raised against another, other sources of tension are also relevant to the success of the proposed zone, such as the question of existence of chemical and/or biological weapons stocks. These will also have to be examined in the context of a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon free zone. Only one country in this region is not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention but ratified the Biological Convention. All other States in Northeast Asia are Parties to both Conventions. In the light of the long history of conflict and mistrust in both regions, any agreement to limit or abolish specific categories of weapons must contain highly transparent and credible systems for verification of compliance. In the last analysis, the litmus test of arrangements of the kind proposed for both regions will be whether or not all States feel their security to have been enhanced, not diminished. Security is the underlying concern of any measure in the field of disarmament.

This short digression into the features of the situation in the Middle East and in Northeast Asia is of course not intended to suggest that both can follow the same path towards achieving a zone free of nuclear weapons or all weapons of mass destruction. Let us not forget that the international community has long agreed that its is up to the States in a region to decide if they wish to freely arrive at arrangements aimed at establishing nuclear weapon free zones, and that the characteristics of each region must be fully taken into account. One can find similarities, but the dissimilarities between the Middle East and Northeast Asia are too evident for anyone to suppose that solutions acceptable in one would necessarily work in the other.

That is precisely the case of Latin America and the Caribbean with regard to other nuclear weapon free zones. The unique characteristics of our region were instrumental in ensuring the success of the negotiations for the treaty of Tlatelolco in a relatively short span. As I said, Costa Rica brought the idea to the Organization of American States in 1958. Just weeks before the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, Brazil introduced a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly with a similar goal. Although the Cuban missile crisis did not trigger action, it did serve to heighten the focus of public attention on the desirability of pursuing this project in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1963, the Presidents of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico signed a Declaration setting forth the process that led to the negotiation and signature of the Tlatelolco Treaty only four years later.

I would like to point out in this context that Latin American States share a common Iberian heritage which is also an important part of the Caribbean history and experience. That element was obviously instrumental in garnering support for the Treaty. Moreover, our region can easily be described as the most peaceful in the world and our tradition of mutual respect and cooperation for economic and social development is certainly another factor that made the Tlatelolco Treaty possible in the uncertain times of the 1960’s. Efforts to promote peace and cooperation among Latin American countries started soon after they acquired their independence. In 1826, for instance, the Congress of Panama, inspired and promoted by Simon Bolivar, endeavored to bring together the new hispanic republics of Central and South America, together with Brazil, around causes of common interest. The Congress eventually failed, but is still regarded as the first seed of what evolved over the decades into solid and peaceful institutional relations among all 34 Latin American and Caribbean States.

War has been relatively rare in Latin America. Neither the First or the Second World Wars were fought on its soil. A major conflict involving the Southern region took place more than 150 years ago, in the mid-1800’s, and two other countries fought fiercely in the 1930’s for control of a remote zone in the center of the continent. The region has also experienced a rather small number of bilateral crises with limited use of military power. Diplomacy has been the usual method to resolve differences, with remarkably good and lasting results. Multilateral institutions such as the Organization of American States, the union of South American Countries (UNASUR), the Southern Common Market (Mercosul), the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) are successful examples of cooperation and conflict prevention in the region.

In the 1960’s, many scholars and political commentators in the West used to transplant superpower mistrust and rivalry to other regions. It seemed that stability could only be predicated on a balance of nuclear terror, the most frightening expression of which was the concept of “mutual assured destruction”, aptly nicknamed MAD. Part of that scenario was the assumption that if the two warlike giants were battling for supremacy in the world, automatically and inevitably there would be regional pairs of countries with similar designs, similar behavior and similar adversarial relationships. Those assumptions, of course, proved wrong, as the Latin American and Caribbean community found constructive ways to give political expression and legally binding form to their aspirations, including in the nuclear field. Argentina and Brazil started twenty years ago a unique arrangement on mutual account and control of nuclear activities. This successful quadrilateral instrument is a shining example of what can be achieved to enhance trust and cooperation.

It should also be highlighted that Tlatelolco is the only instrument of its kind that takes the question of peaceful uses in a positive manner, by affirming in the caput of Article I the resolve of the Parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The renunciation of the exercise of the nuclear weapon option that follows in the rest of Article I stems directly from that basic political decision. Another interesting feature of the Treaty is its phased procedure for entry into force, which helped to provide time for some signatories to adjust their internal policies. As you certainly know, Tlatelolco was signed in 1967 but only entered into force for all its Parties in 2002. Cuba was the last signatory to deposit its instrument of ratification.

The Treaty of Tlatelolco pioneered a model that would later inspire the creation of four other zones and the proposals for the Middle East and for Northeast Asia. When these two are realized, almost all inhabited areas of the Southern Hemisphere and a significant part of the Northern Hemisphere will be free of nuclear armaments. Maybe then the existing nuclear armed States and some of their allies will at long last take a hard look on their own policies and beliefs and join the rest of the world in doing away with nuclear arms forever. An already overdue step in that direction would be a revision of the Protocols annexed to the different treaties that established nuclear weapon free zones. The 113 States Parties to the existing zones have been working together to persuade the five nuclear-weapon States recognized by the NPT to remove reservations and unilateral interpretations in order to bring the Protocols more in line with the overall objectives of the Treaties and with the legitimate security concerns of Parties.

Indeed, a common unfortunate feature of the existing zones is the assymetrical relationship between States in the zones and extra-zonal nuclear ones. The obligations assumed by the former are placed under strict verification regimes, while the commitments of the nuclear-weapon States are not subject to any form of control whatsoever. This replicates and perpetuates the discriminatory nature of that relationship as embodied in the NPT.

The concept of “partial measures” means that nuclear-weapon free zones must be seen as interim measures conducive to progress in disarmament and certainly not as an instrument to freeze the current status quo and perpetuate the division of the world between those who possess and those who do not possess nuclear weapons. Several States today continue to rely on nuclear weapons for their security. They still claim that the use of such weapons is legal and that they must be kept because they are supposed to be militarily effective in deterring aggression. Some claim that they provide an “insurance policy” and others pay lip service to nuclear disarmament, insisting that their weapons will be kept “as long as nuclear weapons exist”, which seems to be a convenient recipe for never relinquishing them. I must emphasize here that security is not an exclusive requirement for powerful States. All States are entitled to it and nuclear weapon free zones should enhance everyone’s security. Hence the importance of ratification of existing zones by all nuclear weapon States and the removal of reservations. None of the nuclear weapon States has so far ratified the Central Asian and the Bangkok Treaties, and one such State lags behind in the ratification of Rarotonga and Pelindaba.

We all recognize the distinctive features of the political and security realities in Northeast Asia and the obstacles that stand in the way. The experience of Tlatelolco, or for that matter that of the other regions which successfully established nuclear weapon free zones, cannot be transplanted elsewhere. Nuclear weapon free zones are indeed a very effective measure of non-proliferation. To truly make a difference in today’s world, however, they must be more than that: they must represent a concrete and meaningful step towards nuclear disarmament. I sincerely wish that with patience, realism and constructive spirit, the countries in this region will achieve that objective in a not too distant future. You have all the expertise, background and will that is needed to succeed. Please do not falter.

Thank you.