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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Li Song At the Conference on Disarmament

Mr. President,

It is my great honor to take the floor for the first time at the CD as China’s 11th Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs. At the outset, please allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency, and thank you and other colleagues for your kind words of welcome.

Twenty-two years ago, as a young member of the Chinese delegation, I participated in the negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty right here in this august Council Chamber. At that time, against the background of the end of the Cold War and bipolarity, peace, development and cooperation had become the common aspiration of the international community, with important opportunities for the development of all countries brought about by globalization. Essential conditions had thus been created for the Nuclear-Weapon States and Non-Nuclear-Weapon States to make joint efforts for furthering the process of international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. However, neither colleagues from other countries nor I myself expected then to see the lack of CD’s substantive work in the ensuing 20 years.

While history will not attribute blame for this situation to the CD itself, it has witnessed the profound transformation of the international landscape. Over the past 20 years, the international situation and major-country relations has experienced significant changes, and the human society has increasingly become a community of shared future and common interests. With their collective rise, the emerging market economies and developing countries call for new concepts of global governance and the establishment of a more just and reasonable international order, thus constituting an important force to uphold multilateralism and to meet global challenges. As the UN Secretary-General Guterres has pointed out, today’s world is at the juncture when we need multilateralism the most. It is increasingly important and urgent for UN member states to make concerted efforts to maintain global strategic stability, by advancing international arms control and disarmament process and strengthening the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime.

Through reform and opening up over the past 40 years, China has maintained a steady growth in its overall national strength and international influence, and has extensively participated in the international system with the UN at its core. Two years ago, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech here at the Palais des Nations, he mentioned how much memories and special feelings Geneva would evoke around China’s participation in international multilateral affairs. He also emphasized that China will never waver in its pursuit of peaceful development, and nor will it seek hegemony, expansion or spheres of influence. History has already borne this out and will continue to do so.

Mr. President,

Progress in multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation can never be achieved in a vacuum, nor should the CD conduct its work behind the closed doors of this Chamber. As the most authoritative and professional mechanism in multilateral arms control and disarmament, the CD should stay true to its raison d’être and keep up with the times. It should work creatively with a more open and inclusive approach and a more flexible and practical manner in light of the current international political security reality, so as to renew its vitality and carry out its historical mission required by the new era. To this end, the Chinese delegation and I myself would like to reaffirm our support to you and the in-coming presidents in a proactive, constructive and professional manner, and will strengthen communication and coordination with colleagues from all delegations, in a joint effort to revitalize the CD. As both a “veteran” and a “newcomer”, I would like to share some preliminary ideas here.

First, we should open further to the international community, especially to all UN member states. The issues under discussion in the CD concern the security interests of all members of the international community, who have naturally the rights to know what is going on here and have their voices heard as well. At a time when the international community stands more firmly for multilateralism, it is necessary for the CD to make a political decision on its membership enlargement, with the aim of further enhancing its authority and effectiveness. Moreover, the CD could be more flexible and creative in its interactions with all UN member states whereby collective wisdom would be drawn upon and useful ideas absorbed, so as to motivate the international community to consolidate, push forward and participate in multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

Secondly, we should be open to new agenda items and issues. The Final Document of SSOD-I conferred upon the CD a lofty mandate and set out priorities and measures for disarmament. This is the “original purpose” of the CD, which we should never forget or abandon. We should advance traditional work of the CD actively and prudently, inter alia, upholding the CD as the only appropriate forum for negotiating FMCT and pressing forward with negotiations to reach international legal instruments on NSA and PAROS. It is also necessary to examine the issue of maintaining strategic balance and stability from a much wider perspective, and combine CD’s major traditional agenda items with the new reality and future prospects of global security in a synergetic manner. At the same time, with exceedingly rapid changes in international situation and in particular the enormous potential risks and challenges to international security posed by emerging science and technology such as cyber technology and artificial intelligence, the CD is duty-bound to perform the urgent task of exploring ideas and measures for preventive arms control diplomacy in relevant fields.

Thirdly, we should be more open to the improvement of methods of work at the CD. The main task of the CD is to negotiate legally-binding international instruments, and this mandate remains unchanged. However, in view of increasingly diversified security concerns of various countries and long-standing divergent views on priorities for negotiations, negotiating legal instruments should not necessarily be CD’s only mission. Activities such as negotiations and discussions at the CD to conclude some codes of conduct on pressing security issues could both help break the current deadlock and render the work and life of all our colleagues posted here in Geneva more substantive and meaningful. As long as there is the will, there will be many ways. If all parties could agree to conduct various forms of consultations, discussions and expert-level exchanges of views, the Chinese delegation would actively support and participate, and could invite our outstanding experts in relevant fields to make their contributions to CD’s discussions. Such work could serve as “pre-negotiations”, which would lay a solid basis and create favorable conditions for starting formal negotiations in relevant fields in the future.

Mr. President,

China supports reaching a comprehensive and balanced program of work for the CD. With joints efforts of all parties, the CD set up five subsidiary bodies last year to conduct discussions on core agenda items, which constitutes encouraging progress in the right direction for CD’s work. We should cherish, maintain and carry on this momentum. The ideas I have shared with you today are just some of my personal observations, which remain to be further developed. I look forward to in-depth discussions with all colleagues, in our common efforts to renew CD’s glory by achieving new progress in international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, thus making new contributions to the maintenance of world peace and security and the promotion of multilateralism and international cooperation.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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