CD Progress Slowed by Nuclear Disarmament Issue

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, January/February 1999 | Go to article overview

CD Progress Slowed by Nuclear Disarmament Issue


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


AFTER CLOSING the 1998 negotiating session with ad hoc committees on a fissile material cutoff treaty and negative security assurances, the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) failed during its first six working weeks of 1999 to resume negotiations on these two subjects. The delay in adopting a work program stemmed from long-standing disagreements among the 61 members over nuclear disarmament.

The CD opened its 1999 negotiating session on January 19 and adopted an agenda two days later. As in past years, the agenda included seven topics under which negotiations can be held: cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war; prevention of an arms race in outer space; negative security assurances; new types of weapons of mass destruction; a comprehensive program of disarmament and transparency in armaments. Although the conference agreed last year to form two ad hoc committees and appoint six special coordinators, member-states must reach consensus this year to reconvene the committees and reappoint the coordinators because CD mandates expire at the end of the year's negotiating session.

In addition to last year's ad hoc committees, the Group of 21 (G-21) non-aligned members proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, which the G-21 called its highest priority. However, the United States and the other nuclear-weapon states, except China, continue to oppose the negotiation of nuclear disarmament within the CD. Washington argues that nuclear disarmament should remain a bilateral issue between Russia and the United States until weapons levels reach a point where other nuclear-weapon states can join in a multilateral reduction process.

South Africa pushed for appointment of a special coordinator on nuclear disarmament, citing a 1990 rule that if consensus cannot be reached on formation of an ad hoc committee or other body for an issue, the CD president can appoint a special coordinator to help find consensus.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Grey, who held the rotating presidency of the conference for its first four weeks, opted not to appoint a special coordinator, claiming that no consensus would be found on a mandate for a coordinator on nuclear disarmament.

Canada renewed a proposal for an ad hoc committee to discuss nuclear disarmament, while five NATO states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Norway) proposed that the conference establish an ad hoc working group to study and exchange views on the issue. Other delegations within the western group, including the United States, have not ruled out the five-nation proposal. …

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