United Nations Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Whittle Down Fissile Materials, Whittle Down Nuclear Weapons: A High-Level Event to Breathe Life into the Thirty-Year Effort Towards an FMCT

Tuesday, 19 September 2023
H.E. ENRIQUE A. MANALO, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines
Landmark Room, 29th Floor, Millennium Hilton


Prime Minister Kishida, Minister Wong, Excellencies, distinguished delegates:

The Filipino people have always been unequivocal in our rejection of nuclear weapons. The Philippines is therefore proud to stand with Japan and Australia to breathe life into long standing international efforts towards a fissile material cut-off treaty. 

Together with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, an FMCT is an essential building block of an enduring nuclear disarmament architecture.

Thirty years since the General Assembly urged the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate an FMCT, our work on nuclear disarmament has become more urgent. As President Marcos said at the General Assembly last year “nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat despite our efforts to build norms that resoundingly prohibit them.” 

Nothing ever justifies the use of nuclear weapons yet obsolete security concepts anchored on nuclear weapons continue to drive policy in many countries.

In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, there have been regrettable pronouncements that undermine our conviction that a nuclear war must never be fought because it can never be won. In the Asia-Pacific, rapid expansions of nuclear arsenals are being undertaken with disappointing opaqueness.

Some have pointed to intensifying strategic competition to imply that previous commitments in the context of nuclear disarmament, including the Action Plan adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference, are no longer unequivocal.

We do not agree.

On the contrary, it is precisely because of these geopolitical complexities that we as an international community should enhance our efforts to pursue a world without nuclear weapons.

Towards this end, the entry into force of a multilateral, non-discriminatory, and effectively verifiable FMCT is urgent. The dismantling of fissile material production would not only prevent nuclear proliferation but also put a cap on expansion of nuclear weapons stockpiles. We therefore call on political leaders to inject momentum into the work of the Conference on Disarmament. 

Yet our work to keep our communities safe from nuclear dangers must not depend entirely on the diplomatic conversations in Geneva. Pending the commencement of negotiations, political leaders can already demonstrate their commitment by implementing a moratorium on building additional or upgrading existing facilities for uranium enrichment and plutonium separation for military purposes.

There is no compelling reason to build more of these facilities.

Ladies and gentlemen:

We must situate our efforts to pursue an FMCT in the context of our historic obligation to rid the world of nuclear dangers.

During the dark days of the Cold War, our predecessors relentlessly worked to build an enduring arms control and disarmament architecture. This left us with an overall trend of decreasing global nuclear weapons stockpiles.

It is disappointing that this remarkable achievement is being reversed in the Asia-Pacific.

The starting point of our collective journey towards nuclear disarmament, after all, begins in that region – in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The stories of the victims of nuclear horrors from these places inspired global action towards landmark instruments like the NPT, the CTBT, and the TPNW.

We must build on the work of our predecessors. We must uphold previous nuclear disarmament commitments in a manner that responds to the highest demands of transparency and accountability. We must work to restore trust and build confidence through bilateral, trilateral, and plurilateral dialogue towards nuclear risk reduction.

More importantly, we must honor the lives of all nuclear victims by affirming that no strategic exigency or national interest can ever justify any further increase in the number of nuclear weapons. The existence of even just one imperils us all.

It is regrettable that the danger of nuclear weapons, a relic of an era long past, continues to hang over our heads like swords of Damocles, even as we begin to grapple with the existential threats of this new century, such as climate change and new and emerging technologies.

We owe it to previous generations to finish the job they started and dismantle all nuclear weapons once and for all. We owe it to future generations to unburden them of these nuclear dangers, so they can have one less existential threat to worry about.

Thank you.