Post-Cold-War Nuclear, Security Issues Debated in Disarmament Forum

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Conscious of "serious risks to humanity" posed by the continuing existence and development of nuclear weapons, the General Assembly on 15 December asked the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on whether the "threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance" was permitted under international law. Acting on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the Assembly, by resolution 49/75 K, also stressed that the "complete elimination of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee against the threat of nuclear war".

It also recommended (49/75 E) that a "comprehensive set of practical, verifiable measures" be developed by the Conference on Disarmament from three general areas for step-by-step reduction of the nuclear threat: prohibition of nuclear-weapons-test explosion; elimination of special fissionable materials; and converting nuclear arsenal facilities to peaceful purposes.

By resolution 49/70, all States participating in the Conference on Disarmament, particularly the nuclear-weapon States, were urged to negotiate intensively, as a high priority task, and to conclude a universal and multilaterally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty.

A total of 44 resolutions--23 without a vote--and two decisions had been approved by the First Committee, as it continued to work on disarmament and international security matters in the post-cold-war era.

With regard to the forthcoming Review and Extension Conference of States Parties to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--to be held at Headquarters from 17 April to 12 May--the Assembly invited (49/75 F) States parties to "provide their legal interpretations" of an article in the Treaty on "different options and actions available" for its extension.

The urgent need for an "early agreement on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons" was reaffirmed. By resolution 49/73, the Assembly appealed to all States, especially the nuclear-weapon States, to work actively towards an early agreement on "a common approach" and "a common formula" to be included in an "international instrument of a legally binding character".

Some other nuclear-related resolutions dealt with: nuclear disarmament with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons (49/75 H); a convention on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons (49/76 E); bilateral disarmament negotiations (49/75 L and P); establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones in the Middle East (49/71), South Asia (49/72), South Atlantic region (49/84) and Africa (49/138); consolidation of the regime established by the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (49/83); the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (49/78); and prohibition of the dumping of radioactive wastes (49/75 A).

Coordination urged

"Not only do arms control and disarmament make the world more secure, they free up economic, scientific and technological resources for peace and human progress", Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told the First Committee on 17 October. "Divisions--however real--must not be allowed to stiffle progress in arms control and disarmament", he stated.

Urging "close coordination between global, regional and bilateral dimensions" of disarmament, the Secretary-General also called upon Member States to "maintain the momentum towards ratification and early entry into force" of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Along with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the NPT, it would "complete the triad of global Treaties concerning weapons of mass destruction", he stressed.

The "indefinite and unconditional extension" of the NPT--the "primary normative foundation for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons", with 172 signatories--would also "speed progress towards the ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons", Mr. …