Advancing the International Process of Nuclear Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Ensuring that Nuclear Energy Benefits Humankind

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-19 17:24
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 A number of major nuclear-related issues have been heating up on the international stage since last year. Last September, the United Nations Security Council held the Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, the first of its kind in history. In April this year, a multilateral Nuclear Security Summit was convened in Washington D.C. with the participation of 47 countries and relevant international organizations. President Hu Jintao attended both summits and delivered important speeches at each, “Working Together to Build a Safer World for All” at the former and “Joining Hands to Meet the Nuclear Security Challenge and Promote Peace and Development” at the latter. In his speeches he expounded on the policies and positions of the Chinese government on nuclear issues and demonstrated China’s constructive attitude of active participation in related international efforts.  

 I. The international community has made unremitting efforts, resulting in good progress in nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear security. Nonetheless, quite a few daunting challenges lie ahead. 

 — Nuclear disarmament efforts are making progress and the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons is gaining increasingly wider recognition. The United States and Russia recently signed the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, which limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads of each party to 1,550 and the number of delivery systems for strategic weapons to 800. Some non-nuclear-weapon states and NGOs have also put forward their own initiatives for nuclear disarmament. At the same time, we must recognize that the international security situation is still very complex and thousands of nuclear weapons still exist in the world. It will require the long-term diligent efforts of all countries to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. 

 — The idea of nuclear non-proliferation is dear to the hearts of the people, but bridging the differences among countries on this issue will be hard. Over the last four decades, the international non-proliferation regime based on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has played an important role in preventing more countries from obtaining or developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), through its safeguard functions, has significantly contributed to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Some countries have also suggested establishing multilateral nuclear fuel supply assurance mechanisms to reduce the risk of proliferation. It has become a universal practice for countries to establish a strong export control mechanism for sensitive items and technologies. However, the scope and effectiveness of the NPT still need to be strengthened and the problem of nuclear proliferation in certain regions is grave. 

 — Nuclear energy has witnessed thriving development around the world. Given the challenges posed by climate change and energy security, nuclear energy, a mature, clean, safe and competitive type of energy, has become an important option for a growing number of countries in meeting their energy demand and improving their energy mix. More than 60 countries are now either developing or intending to develop nuclear energy, over 400 nuclear power generators are now in operation and 55 nuclear power generators are under construction. Nuclear power now accounts for 14 per cent of the world’s total power generation. 

 — The issue of nuclear security is attracting more and more attention. Due to the wide application of nuclear energy, more and more nuclear materials and nuclear facilities are scattered around the world, raising the risk of the diversion of nuclear materials. According to the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database, there were over 1,562 incidents reported by member states involving missing, stolen or illegal access to nuclear and other radioactive materials between 1993 and 2008. The potential risk of nuclear proliferation plus nuclear terrorism cannot be ignored. Given these circumstances, more and more countries are recognizing the need for enhanced nuclear security and cooperation to guard against the threat of nuclear terrorism. 

 Visitors inspecting a 1:20 scale model of the tokamak device of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project at a popular science exhibition on the “ITER Plan and Nuclear Fusion Science” sponsored by the Execution Center of the China International Nuclear Fusion Energy Plan located in Suzhou Industrial Park. It is expected that in 30 years time, the nuclear fusion reactor will be able to serve society through commercial sale of the energy obtained.   / Photo supplied by Xinhua

 II. China is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. China has followed a positive, open and transparent nuclear policy in a responsible way, which is in line with the goal of the international community on nuclear issues.

 — China is committed to a self-defensive nuclear strategy and has actively advocated the complete prohibition and complete destruction of nuclear weapons. Historical circumstances present China no choice but to develop a limited number of nuclear weapons. Rather than pose a threat to other countries, China’s nuclear weapons are solely for the purpose of self-defense, preventing nuclear war, and eventually, eliminating nuclear weapons. As early as in July 1963, the Chinese government issued a statement which called on all countries to commit to the complete prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons. Right after the success of the first nuclear test in October 1964, the Chinese government issued another solemn statement calling for the convening of a summit of world leaders to discuss the issue of complete prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons.

 China’s nuclear policy is more open and transparent than any other nuclear-weapon states. China made a public commitment on the first day it obtained nuclear weapons that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances. Moreover, China vowed that it would unconditionally never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states without such weapons or nuclear-free zones. In fact, China is the only state that has undertaken such a commitment.

 — China has actively supported and participated in international nuclear disarmament efforts and made a unique contribution in this respect. China has exercised the utmost restraint in developing nuclear weapons and conducted the smallest number of nuclear tests among the five states with nuclear weapons. China has kept its nuclear capabilities at the minimum required for national security and has not participated in any form of nuclear arms race, nor will it do so in the future. China has never deployed nuclear weapons on foreign territory or used or threatened to use them against other countries.

 China has actively pushed for the conclusion of an international treaty on no first-use of nuclear weapons among states with nuclear weapons. In January 1994 China officially presented a draft Treaty on No First-Use of Nuclear Weapons to the four other states with nuclear weapons. China made important contributions to the conclusion of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). China was among the first countries to sign this treaty and has honored its commitment to a moratorium on nuclear testing. China supports the Geneva Conference on Disarmament to early launch negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). China respects and supports efforts made by countries and regions working to establish nuclear-free zones. 

 — China has earnestly fulfilled its international non-proliferation obligations and has actively participated in international non-proliferation efforts. China firmly opposes proliferation of nuclear weapons in all forms. China has joined all international non-proliferation treaties and mechanisms, established a comprehensive system of laws and regulations on export control, applied a universally recognized licensing system and certificate system on end users and end-use, adopted the list control method and followed the “Catch-All” Principle. China played a significant constructive role in the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and has strictly implemented this and other non-proliferation resolutions. Moreover, China has actively engaged in multilateral and bilateral exchange and cooperation on non-proliferation.

 China has played a constructive role in pushing for the solution of nuclear issues in problem regions. China has been working for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the Six-Party Talks to safeguard the peace and stability of the peninsula and Northeast Asia. On the Iranian nuclear issue, China has been actively pursuing peaceful solutions and urging the parties involved to find a long-term, comprehensive and appropriate solution through diplomatic negotiations.

 — China attaches great importance to nuclear security and actively supports and participates in international cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Because China considers the peaceful use of nuclear energy to be an important issue, it has been actively developing its nuclear power industry and working to develop and apply nuclear technologies. China has successfully built three nuclear power stations in Qinshan, Zhejiang Province, Dayawan, Guangdong Province, and Tianwan, Jiangsu Province. China now has 11 nuclear power generators in commercial operation and 21 nuclear power units under construction. China has been actively engaged in bilateral and multilateral international cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It supports the efforts of the IAEA to strengthen technical assistance to help its member states in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, developing countries in particular, in accordance with the obligations outlined in its legal commitments.

 As a country that is highly concerned about the issue of nuclear security, China has taken strict and effective measures to ensure nuclear security and maintained a good record in this regard. China ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and started legal procedures for the country to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. China has established a sound legal regime on nuclear security, developed effective oversight and regulation for nuclear facilities and materials in accordance with the law and exercised strict control on nuclear exports. As one of the initial partners of “The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,” China carries out bilateral exchange with many countries.

 III. All countries share common interests and responsibilities in working for international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and ensuring that nuclear energy is solely used for peaceful purposes. To further this cause, the international community needs to concentrate on the following areas: 

 — All countries need to actively work for an international environment conducive to peace and stability and eliminate the motivation for developing and possessing nuclear weapons. All countries should adhere to a new security concept of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination” and resolve international disputes through peaceful means to enhance everyone’s sense of security. All countries should fully respect and accommodate each other’s rightful and reasonable security concerns, strive to develop state-to-state relationships based on mutual understanding and trust, and realize common security through win-win cooperation. Every country should pursue multilateralism, work to consolidate and strengthen the role of the United Nations, and establish a global collective security framework that is fair and stable.

 — All countries should actively work for gradual international nuclear disarmament to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. All nuclear states should make a clear commitment to never be the first to use nuclear weapons and to never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states or nuclear-weapons-free zones unconditionally. They should conclude international legal agreements as soon as possible as well as take concrete measures to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national security policies.

 Nuclear-weapon states should truly carry out the obligations for nuclear disarmament under the NPT and publicly vow to never seek permanent possession of nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia, the two countries with the biggest nuclear arsenals, bear a special responsibility in this regard and should be the first to make such a commitment. They should continue to take the lead in drastically cutting their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner and create the necessary conditions for comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament. The international community should continue to work to put the CTBT into force as soon as possible and start negotiations on the FMCT.

 Other nuclear-weapon states should also participate in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations when conditions are ripe. At the same time, they must abide by a principle of “safeguarding the global strategic balance” and “undiminished security for all.” Countries developing missile defense systems, which are detrimental to global strategic balance, should abandon their efforts and proceed in an appropriate manner with the development of advanced conventional weapons system. The international community should also vigorously promote the non-weaponization of outer space and launch multilateral negotiations on preventing an arms race in outer space as soon as possible. When the time is right, the international community should consider formulating a practicable long-term plan to be carried out in stages for comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament, including the conclusion of the Convention on the Complete Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

 — All countries should actively work to consolidate and strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and take credible steps to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They should continue to promote the universal acceptance, authority and effectiveness of the NPT, further strengthen the IAEA system of safeguards and expand acceptance of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and supplementary protocols. All countries should truly implement the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, strengthen non-proliferation export controls, and promote stronger international cooperation on the basis of existing international law. At the same time, international non-proliferation efforts should be fair and non-discriminatory and all double-standard practices should be renounced.

 Regional nuclear issues should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. Maintaining peace and stability and promoting non-proliferation in troubled regions are equally important. Disputes should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations under the existing framework of international law. Sanctions, let alone using force or threatening to use force, are not an effective way to resolve issues.

 — All countries should actively work for international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and take vigorous steps to enhance nuclear security. The peaceful use of nuclear energy is the inalienable right of signatories to the NPT and should be fully respected. International efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and strengthening nuclear security should not harm the legitimate right of any country, particularly the right of developing countries, to make peaceful use of nuclear energy. The IAEA should play an active role in ensuring the right of all countries to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

 Ensuring nuclear security is an important guarantee for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and sustainable economic development. It is also conducive to maintaining social stability and national security. All countries should implement their relevant international obligations, improve their related domestic laws and oversight and regulatory regime, and take effective measures to safeguard the security of their own nuclear materials and facilities. All countries should truly work to consolidate the existing international legal framework for nuclear security and strengthen communication and cooperation in nuclear security. Every country should strictly comply with the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, effectively crack down on illicit trafficking in nuclear materials, and prevent non-government groups from acquiring nuclear materials. The international community should also take effective measures to help developing countries enhance their nuclear security.

(From Qiushi in Chinese, No. 11, 2010)

Note: Author: Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs

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