Mr. Chairman,

I join other delegations in congratulating you on your election as Chairman of this Commission, confident in the knowledge that you will be able to guide its work to a fruitful conclusion. We would like to congratulate the other members of the Bureau on their election. Let me take this opportunity to record our appreciation for the untiring efforts and contribution of your predecessor, Ambassador Majid Abdelaziz of Egypt.

Mr. Chairman,

The ultimate goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons, through their systematic and progressive reduction, remains one of the priority tasks of the international community. What we have been witnessing are promises made by the nuclear-weapon states to move towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as juxtaposed against the reality of national and regional security needs based on continued possession of nuclear weapons and of their qualitative improvements. We are justified to ask: wherein lies the commitment needed in order to move towards the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world through the total elimination of nuclear weapons?

The outlook for nuclear disarmament for the foreseeable future, therefore, remains bleak. The established nuclear-weapon states still cling, in blind faith, to their doctrine of nuclear deterrence, in the belief that nuclear weapons remain essential for their national security, thereby encouraging others to aspire to similar status for the same reason, which, however is frowned upon. At the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the start of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material, which, in the autumn of 1998 had seemed possible, is yet to materialize. The Conference on Disarmament also failed, yet again, to agree on a programme of work.

A further setback is the on-going controversy over the issue of the development of national and theater missile defense systems, which if pursued, will only destabilise the nuclear equilibrium and raise questions about the viability of current disarmament instruments and mechanisms.

Clearly, these developments do not augur well for the future of disarmament. Despite assurances by states with nuclear capabilities of their commitment towards disarmament, regrettably their actions have not matched their words. Are these not manifestations of the world sliding, inadvertently or otherwise, down the path of nuclear proliferation? Unless concerted actions are taken, and taken soon, to reverse this dangerous trend, existing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regimes could very well become hollow instruments.

The cavalier attitude of the nuclear-weapons-states towards nuclear disarmament is likely to undermine existing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regimes. It makes a mockery of non-nuclear states signing and ratifying treaties and protocols to restrict and control nuclear capabilities, which they do not even possess to begin with. Over time, they will begin to question the usefulness of these treaties and conventions and of their own participation in them.

Mr. Chairman,

In contemplating ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament, it is worthwhile recalling the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In one of the most significant and important milestones in the development of international law the Court found that the use of nuclear weapons "seems scarcely reconcilable" with the provisions of humanitarian law protecting civilians and combatants from unnecessary and indiscriminate effects of warfare, and further found that nuclear-weapon States had not demonstrated any circumstances justifying of self defence, in which a survival of a State would be at stake. Without being asked to do so, the Court also gave its opinion on the meaning of Article VI of the NPT, which calls for good faith negotiations towards nuclear disarmament. It stated in paragraph 2F of the disposition and endorsed by every judge that "there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control". We should take to heart the pertinent words of the President of the World Court, Judge Mohammad Bedjaoui of Algeria who had asked us to address the issue of nuclear weapons and to "endeavour to correct the imperfections of an international law which is ultimately no more than the creation of the State themselves."

Mr. Chairman,

On the positive side, a number of developments ought to be applauded. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was a major disarmament achievement which must be recognised. While it still awaits the required number of ratification before its entry into force, we should welcome its ratification by the Russian Duma, in April this year, as a positive contribution towards that goal. Against the Russian decision, the earlier decision by the United States Senate not to ratify the CTBT was a disappointing let down especially when the international community had looked to the United States for leadership on this important matter. It is to be hoped that the United States Senate would put matters right by ratifying the Treaty at the next opportune moment. In this regard, we take note of the statement just delivered by the US representative that the US is "continuing to work for their eventual ratification of this key step in the process of nuclear disarmament."

My delegation is also gratified at the positive developments in respect of nuclear-weapon-free zones, specifically with the establishment of such zones in Africa, Southeast Asia, which, together with those in the South Pacific and South America, would form contiguous nuclear-weapon-free zones spanning the Southern Hemisphere. The progress in the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones is gratifying indeed and reflects positively on the continuing commitment of the non-nuclear weapon States parties to the Treaty. So far more than 100 non-nuclear-weapon States in four continents are covered under the nuclear-weapon-free-zone umbrella. There has also been encouraging progress in the creation of a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty, and in the acceptance of the innovative concept of a single-state weapon-free zone initiated by Mongolia. Similarly, the equally innovative proposal by Belarus for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Corridor merits serious consideration as part of a global concerted effort towards nuclear disarmament. We look forward to the establishment of other nuclear nuclear-weapon-free zones in other regions, including the Middle East and South Asia.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation accepts that many states depend on arms imports to ensure a reasonable level of security and the inherent right of self-defence is recognised in the United Nations Charter. Unfortunately, arms purchases for legitimate national defence very often trigger an arms race especially in regions in which there are underlying tensions in the relations between the regional States. Hence, there is this imperative need for concrete confidence-building measures between and among these States, so as to resolve or at least manage these underlying tensions. We believe progress in this area is possible on the basis of increased transparency and consultation between neighbours.

The Secretary-General stated, in his last Report on the Work of the Organization (A/54/1), that during the 1990s, we have witnessed major changes in the patterns of global conflict and in the international community's responses to them. Today, more than 90 per cent of armed conflicts take place within, rather than between, States. In his Report to the Millennium Assembly (A/54/2000), he indicated that the death toll from small arms dwarfs that of all other weapons systems — and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In terms of the carnage they cause, small arms, indeed, could well be described as "weapons of mass destruction". Yet there is still no global non-proliferation regime to limit their spread, as there is for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The world community has clearly decided that it will no longer turn a blind eye to the costs that small arms and light weapons are imposing on human security and sustainable development. In his 1998 Report (A/53/1), the Secretary-General noted that 90 per cent of those killed or wounded in conflicts involving light military weapons are civilians and that 80 per cent of those are women and children. In his report on the causes of conflict in Africa (A/52/871), he concluded that improvements in transparency -- particularly with respect to the activities of international arms merchants -- would do more to combat the flow of illicit arms into Africa than any other single initiative.

The principle of transparency should be extended to international transfers of conventional weapons and associated military technology. As a step in this direction Malaysia continues to support the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) which provides for a confidence-building and transparency measure for States. The existence of such a register would continue to alert the international community to attempts by any State to build up holdings of conventional weapons beyond a reasonable level. Information should be provided by all states on a regular basis after transfers; have taken place. My delegation also urges greater openness on overall holdings of conventional weapons. We believe the provision of such data, and a procedure for seeking clarification, would be a valuable confidence and security building measure.

The principle of consultation should now be strengthened through the opening of discussions on this subject in this forum, and also the rapid implementation of recent initiatives among leading arms exporters, with the aim of agreeing on a common approach to the guidelines which are applied in the transfer of conventional weapons. As we have mentioned earlier on, there is still no global non-proliferation regime to limit their spread, as there is for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Each of us should continue to play a constructive part in this important process, in this and other appropriate fora.

If we are serious about conventional disarmament each of us should play our part to prevent the building up of disproportionate arsenals. To that end all countries should refrain from arms transfers which would be destabilising or would exacerbate existing tensions. Special restraint should be exercised in the transfer of advanced technology weapons and in sales to countries and areas of particular concern. A special effort should be made to define sensitive items and production capacity for advanced weapons, to the transfer of which similar restraints could be applied. All states should take steps to ensure that these criteria are strictly enforced. We intend to give these issues our continuing close attention.

Advocacy of these practical disarmament measures need not interfere with or compromise the inherent right of self-defence nor the need of such measures to detract attention from nuclear disarmament. To the contrary, such measures promote both world peace and development -- they constitute an issue with auspicious prospects for North/South cooperation. It is highly appropriate therefore that the Disarmament Commission will seek now to develop a consensus around further initiatives that may be taken in the growing field of the consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures.

Mr. Chairman,

There is no dearth of ideas on how to propel the disarmament process forward. The problem that we face is not a lack of ideas. It is lack of political will to move the process forward. If we wish to ensure the success of this Commission, all Member States, particularly the nuclear-weapon and Arms producing states, must manifest this political will. We believe it is within their power, singly or collectively as a group, to create the conditions—not overnight, but in the foreseeable future—for the attainment of the goal for complete nuclear disarmament and the proliferation of conventional arms. With the desired political will and a creative approach the end goal is attainable. In this regard we commend the Secretary-General for highlighting disarmament issues in his recent Millennium Report.

Mr. Chairman,

There are other equally important issues which I have not highlighted here, for the sake of brevity. We will do so at a later stage in the course of the Commissions deliberations.

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