Conference on Disarmament at the thematic debate on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament

Statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as delivered by H.E. Ambassdor Robert in den Bosch, Permanent Representative to the CD

Madame President,

We welcome your initiative to organize this important thematic debate on the cessation of the nuclear arms race and on nuclear disarmament in general.

In the current geopolitical climate, with increased tensions and risks, the Conference on Disarmament has, more than ever, a key role to play. Therefore, we look forward to the retreat in Montreux on ways to revitalize the CD because, despite the existing political differences, since it is our common duty to mankind to engage in a constructive dialogue also regarding nuclear disarmament. After all, a nuclear war cannot be won and therefore should never be fought, and we expect all five members of the P5 to continue to subscribe to this notion. 

It was said before, but it must be said again today and especially after the intervention of my Russian colleague:  the Netherlands remains gravely concerned about the unprovoked and unjustified brutal military assault of the Russian Federation on Ukraine. We condemn this aggression as a gross violation of international law in the strongest possible terms and Russia’s nuclear rhetoric is cause for great concern. 

It calls into question the validity of the statement by the Nuclear-Weapon States from January 2022 and it erodes the ‘nuclear taboo’ and the credibility of the NPT.  We also condemn the announcement by Russia of its intention to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Meanwhile Iran continues to undermine the JCPOA agreement by its uranium enrichment and refusal to cooperate in good faith with the IAEA and DPRK’s weapons programme is ongoing.

Despite all this, for the Netherlands the NPT remains the cornerstone of the global regime for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and a fundamental part of the global collective peace and security architecture, but it has come under pressure also because recently there is little progress with regard to nuclear disarmament.

The Netherlands remains committed to comprehensive, irreversible, and verifiable nuclear disarmament in line with article VI of the NPT. This must go hand-in-hand with efforts to strengthen the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture.

That said, progress on nuclear disarmament is also dependent on geopolitical relations. We recognize that the current security climate poses significant challenges to the disarmament process but we consider that despite such headwinds, NPT States Parties are obliged to pursue and achieve the full implementation of Article VI.

Achieving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons requires a number of interlocking measures. These steps are not contingent on one another; nor are they conditional in any way. Regrettably, many of these commitments, such as the entry into force of the CTBT and the start of negotiations on a FMCT, remain unfulfilled. Pending a future agreement on such a Treaty, we call on all States to declare and uphold an immediate moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.

Let me also stress the importance of transparency. While being aware that NWS have a stated need for some ambiguity regarding their nuclear doctrine and policy,a near total lack of transparency, as in the case of China, increases the risk of misperception, misunderstanding and ultimately escalation. Furthermore, any move away from transparency does not support realisation of the NPT and must be reversed, because transparency is indispensable in the process of nuclear disarmament. It builds confidence and trust and helps to establish a baseline for dialogue and negotiations.

Taking concrete steps that reduce the risk of any use of nuclear weapons will contribute to preserving international peace and security, especially now, when tensions are rising; it will enhance trust and confidence which is conducive to (future) cooperation towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Netherlands considers risk reduction to be an important component of disarmament efforts, without replacing concrete disarmament measures.

Lastly, the Netherlands is of the view that robust and effective verification is an important part of achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons. Progress has been made in building a common understanding, including through the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) and the GGE, and by engaging in other initiatives such as the QUAD or the Nuclear Disarmament Verification exercise. These efforts constitute an important and positive development towards the implementation of Article VI of the NPT.

Thank you for giving me floor.