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Statement by H.E. Amb. Wang Qun on the Work of the Conference on Disarmament
2011/03/17

Mr. President, dear colleagues,

First of all, on half of my delegation, may I express our sympathy and solidarity with the people of Japan for the losses they have suffered from the recent massive earthquake and tsunami. We express our profound condolences to the victims. It's our conviction that the people of Japan will be able to overcome their difficulties and rebuild their homeland as early as possible.

Mr. President, dear colleagues,

The CD is right now at a crucial cross-road, where we see both opportunities and challenges.

On the one hand, we have seen in recent years a renaissance in international arms control and disarmament. The international community generally wishes to see multilateral disarmament, especially CD's work revitalized so as to help achieve the goal of security for all through dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation. We've seen growing political impetus injected into the CD's work by the various parties. Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Obama on a number of occasions expressed their unequivocal support to CD's work. Foreign Ministers of many countries have come to address CD, including Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton as well as Foreign Ministers of Australia and Canada. The UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon has paid three visits to CD, calling for efforts to break its deadlock at the earliest possible date.

On the other hand, we are confronted with the formidable task, i.e. how could we, at CD, cater for the different concerns of all relevant parties and bring the CD out of its doldrums so that CD will be able to reactivate its substantive work as early as possible. Many colleagues here are utterly disappointed and frustrated at the CD's long stalemate.

Mr. President, dear colleagues,

I'd like to share with my colleagues here China's perception on CD, for instance, is CD a good body? what is the crux of CD deadlock? how to look at the current state of the CD work, and how could we be in a better position to explore and see the "light at the end of the CD tunnel", and, if not too ambitious, even to restore CD's glory?

Why is the CD a good mechanism for multilateral disarmament negotiation?

CD is a good body, not just because of its glorious past in reaching NPT, CWC and CTBT, which are part and parcel of the multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and of its significant contribution to international peace and security, but most importantly, is the simple fact that the treaties CD concluded, in spite of their imperfections, are most universal under the current circumstances.

CD, with its broad representation, is a body different from any exclusive disarmament and non-proliferation mechanisms. It evolved from 40 and to the current 65 members, covering major countries from all regions and groupings, both developed and developing. It includes in particular the five NPT nuclear powers, and other countries with nuclear weapons or certain nuclear capabilities. The arms control treaties reached at the CD, reflect the common interest of the international community conducive to the maintenance of security for all.

The CD also reflects the very spirit of democracy and rule of law, which stems from its sound international legitimacy and institutional safeguards. The CD was, as we may recall, came into being and established as the "sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum" following extensive consultations by UN members at SSOD I. In its final document, SSOD I explicitly provides that "the Conference on Disarmament shall work by consensus and shall adopt its own rules of procedure". The rules of procedure with "consensus" at their core constitute the fundamental character which makes the CD different from the GA and other multilateral disarmament machineries. This is the rationale why the CD has been reaffirmed as the "sole" multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.

There are some who may fling accusations at CD simply because they find the consensus principle detestable, and they even want to move FMCT negotiations out of the CD. But ironically, for the majority of people, it is precisely because of the consensus that makes the CD attracted to them. Such a principle can make sure that the treaties concluded at CD reflect the common will of the international community as represented by CD members, and in the meantime, ensure that the treaties thus concluded be effectively implemented.

While it is presumably not difficult at all for FMCT negotiations to be moved out of CD, it would be difficult for any new or alternative mechanism to replace the role and have the same effect of the CD. This, I believe, merits our careful reflection.

What is the crux of the CD deadlock?

To break the CD deadlock, we must, in the first place, identify the crux of the matter.

In my view, CD's deadlock is attributable first and for most to political factors. CD's work is like a barometer of the evolving international security situation. And multilateral negotiation process of arms control treaties, given its close correlation with the prevailing international security situation, bears very much on the security interests of various countries. Countries may pursue different disarmament and security agenda and policies as they vary from one another in terms of their historical stages, or their positions in the international political and security structure. Such differences will inevitably lead to different opinions, even conflicting views on the part of the CD members about the focus and priority of the CD's work. Since its inception, the CD has experienced many ups and downs, often on a bumpy road, or at times, even on a roller coaster. People referred to CD's in 1998, 2004 and 2009 as breakdown or breakthrough. I found such a description quite true to fact.

The CD's deadlock is also attributable to ways of thinking and working methods.

Firstly, some argue that CD's deadlock stems from the mechanism per se, especially its "consensus" principle. What is thought-provoking is the fact that why, within the same mechanism and under the same rules of procedure, the CD was able to negotiate and conclude treaties such as NPT, CWC and CTBT.

Secondly, some others argue that an open, transparent and equal intergovernmental negotiation process with the participation of all relevant parties is too time consuming. They only want certain countries engaged in negotiations, or to push negotiations through a non-intergovernmental process. The question is, whether this approach helps to facilitate the participation of all relevant parties? And whether this approach helps to achieve the desired effect of the treaty in the absence of the participation of key parties?

While a sense of urgency or impatience for concluding any treaty is certainly understandable, it is, nevertheless, necessary to remind ourselves the old saying "more haste, less speed". And also, while it is easy to resort to pressure at every turn, but whether such an approach help do away with differences or, on the contrary, enhance impasse? The confrontation witnessed in New York last September and its subsequent implications have virtually already furnished us with a thought-provoking answer.

How to view the current state of the CD work?

According some colleagues, the CD has been in a state of complete paralysis with no progress registered whatsoever in recent years. While it is true that since 1998 the CD has not concluded any new disarmament treaty, its achievements and failures should, nevertheless, be viewed from a historical perspective.

The CD's work is a process of gradual accumulation, with quantitative changes leading to qualitative changes. Considerations, communications, consultations and discussions are quantitative accumulations while making breakthroughs, reaching consensus and concluding treaties are quantum leaps. The CD's process of quantitative accumulations cannot be completed overnight. It requires accumulations both at the political and the technical level. It took 15 years for the CWC to be finally concluded through negotiations from its inscription in the CD's agenda in 1978. It took the CTBT 16 years to be concluded from its inscription in the CD's agenda in 1980. And if we count from the 1950's when the Indian Prime Minister Nehru proposed the initiative on a nuclear test ban, the duration is even longer.

While taking stock of the CD's work, one should not ignore its positive work or result while focusing on its negative aspect. Over the years, the members of CD have worked, in various ways to lift the CD out of its deadlock and to reactivate its substantive work. Their tenacity and resilience, in themselves, represent the most valuable asset of the CD. It shows that we have not lost confidence and hope, still less abandoned our noble responsibility for international peace and security. CD/1864 of May 2009 is a classic case in point. We've also started off on a good footing this year. Under the guidance of the two presidencies of ambassadors of Canada and Chile, the CD has been deepening its substantive discussions on the core agenda items in an orderly manner.

Of course, although it is not possible to expect the CD to achieve results every year, we should, as China's late Chairman Mao Zedong said, "seize the day, seize the hour".

How to break the CD deadlock?

The CD is not a vacuum, as it is directly subject to the developments in international and regional security developments. To give equal and adequate weight to the legitimate security concerns and propositions of various countries and to create a win-win situation will help bring about early progress in the CD. In the meantime, the dialogue between the countries concerned is also crucial if the issues related to the CD are to be put behind us.

To break the CD deadlock, right perceptions and good working methods are cried out for.

Firstly, we should work to identify and zero in on the crux of CD deadlock. For prescriptions to be effective, they have to be based on appropriate diagnosis.

Secondly, we should work to seek common ground while reserving differences, and it is especially important for us to detect and identify any evolving consensus even in embryo instead of doing things that would enhance impasse and deepen differences.

Thirdly, we should work to engage ourselves in open, transparent inter-governmental process in a common endeavour to move forward CD's work.

Fourthly, we should not belittle what may be seen as insignificant. Only when we are adept in detecting and accumulating minor common denominators, will it be possible to maximize our common ground and achieve progress in our work. There is profound truth in what China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi quoted not long ago at CD to the effect that, "unless one pile up little steps, one can never journey a thousand miles; unless one pile up tiny streams, one can never make a river or a sea".

Fifthly, we should work to focus on actual effects and objectives. As the current deadlock in the CD is primarily attributable to political factors, what are called for are political will and political wisdom, if we are to break the ice. The exercises CD has been engaged in on its programme of work is not at all of linguistic in nature, its objective is to break the political impasse and reactivate its substantive work. And we therefore should not be bogged down on its wordings per se.

Mr. President, dear colleagues,

The CD's current momentum is most precious. We should all cherish and strive to maintain such a momentum. We should continue to work to increase the mutual trust among members and identify and expand our common ground through open, transparent inter-governmental process with the participation of all parties.

As you may recall, the distinguished Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd quoted in his recent address to the CD these famous words from the late U.S. President Kennedy, "let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate". I believe the CD is precisely such a forum for negotiations, and we should never fear to negotiate in this august body.

It is my conviction that so long as all parities proceed from the principle of "sailing in the same boat and helping each other", continuously increase trust and remove doubts, a solution acceptable to all sides will not elude us further.

Let's channel all our efforts towards the objective of reactivating the CD's substantive work at the earliest possible date in promotion of the international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation process.

Thank you Mr. President.

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