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Work to Enhance Mutual Trust in Pursuit of A "Win-Win" at the Conference on Disarmament

Concluding Statement by the Chinese Presidency, Amb. Wang Qun  

Mr. Secretary-General,
Colleagues, and friends,

May I begin by telling you how grateful we are to all of you here for your vigorous support to China's Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. With your support, we have, since the assumption of our Presidency on 22 March, managed to accomplish the following tasks in the spirit of fairness, impartiality, openness and pragmatism and on the basis of the rules of procedure of the Conference:

  -- We had 8 formal plenary meetings, with three devoted to exchanges on the programme of work of the Conference in a bid to explore and identify, where we possibly can, the common ground of various parties;

  -- We had 9 informal meetings, with in-depth discussions on the four core agenda items of the CD, in particular, FMCT;

  -- We facilitated inputs, on the question of enlargement of membership, channeled into the CD through formal plenary meetings. In parallel, we had a dialogue, together with regional group coordinators, with 38 observer states on this issue;

  -- We also had a dialogue and interaction with representatives from the civil societies on disarmament matters;

  -- We had nearly 80 bilateral consultations, inter alia, with other P-6 members, regional group coordinators and other CD members; and

  -- In addition, we also facilitated the transitional arrangement for Secretary-General of the Conference. 

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

While in the Presidency over the past two months, I have benefited immensely from my predecessors, the distinguished ambassadors of Canada and Chile. Let me, once again, thank you as well as my other colleagues in the Presidency. In the meantime, while leaving China's Presidency, I would like to share with you, with your indulgence, some of my impressions and observations flowing from what have been transpired during this period.

It's my impression, Excellencies, colleagues and friends, that all countries, despite their different security concerns and propositions, have demonstrated a stronger political will, especially since the beginning of this year, and worked to safeguard the CD's authority and position in the multilateral disarmament field.

While there is no "extraordinary" achievement registered, the CD has nevertheless engaged itself in its "mundane" task in a down-to-earth manner. All countries have translated their political will into the specific work of the Conference, and they have all come to the CD meetings, both formal and informal, in a serious and constructive manner. From above, one will not fail to see their tenacious efforts and enterprising spirit to advance in the face of difficulties.

All Countries have come to the discussions on the program of work, and especially on FMCT, with substantive and thought-provoking inputs. Some delegations have also sent experts from capitals to the relevant discussions, which have virtually helped enhance the interaction and in-depth discussions among delegations. And subsequently, they've enriched their mutual understanding on many important issues.

We could also see, from the relevant presentations, the sincere and earnest hope on the part of many observer states like the Philippines to join the CD. This has, on the other hand, enabled us to see the confidence and expectation of the international community on the CD.

So, it is my belief that the CD is, on the whole, a good and promising multilateral disarmament body, though it may have problems of this or that kind.

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

As you may recall, I gave you a pretty detailed exposé of Beijing's view, on 17 and 22 March upon my assumption of the President, on how to break the CD impasse in reactivating its substantive work, especially the FMCT negotiations at an early date. On that basis, I would like to further share with you today some of my thoughts and observations as I leave the China's Presidency.

I. To break CD's deadlock, it is imperative that confidence be preserved. No retreat, because of fear, still less to give up.

And now, when talking about the CD, the word "confidence", far too often, seems to be too much a "luxury". Some believe the CD is a "paralyzed" body. And some others have recently tried to set up a "new kitchen" and move the FMCT negotiations out of the CD.

On the issue of FMCT, we should, in the first place, be very clear about our objective. China wishes to see a "good treaty" through "good negotiations" at the CD with all key players on board. A few days ago, I asked one of my colleagues, "what is the relevance of an FMCT, if it is produced in the 'new kitchen' and put on the table with no important guests coming to the dinner"?

His answer was pretty blunt, "If the CD is already paralyzed, I would rather go outside in search of new or alternative mechanisms for negotiations of an FMCT. I do not mind at all whether the key players are on board or not. We cannot afford to allow disarmament process to stop. And we must act now".

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

This is preeminently the time to assert my belief, in this context, that one has to be objective-driven and purpose-driven before embarking on any exercise, and that it is even more the case on matters pertaining to arms control and disarmament, as they bear very much on the national security of countries. A sense of historical responsibility is thus called for. If the purpose underlined of setting up a "new kitchen" is to have an FMCT, we should be clear, if not clearer about what the objective of the prospective treaty is in the first place. What is the relevance of such a treaty reached outside the CD in the absence of the participation of key countries with the capability of producing fissile materials, and how, under such circumstances, do we achieve the objective of nonproliferation of nuclear materials.

Although it presumably is not difficult at all for the FMCT negotiations to be moved out of the CD, it is, nevertheless, difficult for any new or alternative mechanism to replace the role and have the same effect as the CD.

So, on the FMCT issue, whether to remain on the CD track, or to set up a "new kitchen", this is a question merits our careful reflection.

President Roosevelt of the United States said, as you may recall, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Indeed, if the CD is truly in a paralyzed situation while putting aside the CD's on-going constructive and solid work, it would, first and foremost, be attributable to the unreasonable and unjustifiable fear that "paralyzed" our needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

As is known to all, the CD is indeed faced with many difficulties. However, which multilateral mechanism in the world today can be immune from difficulties of this or that kind? This reminds me of one old Chinese saying to the effect that "each family has a script difficult to recite". Yet more important and more cherished is the conviction faithfully followed by each and every family, whether ordinary or royal families, i.e. "to share weal and woe". Not long ago, billions of people worldwide watched Prince William and Kate taking the wedding oath, at the Royal Wedding, in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking each other whether they could "have and hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health…". The scene was indeed most moving and touching.

So, a family is bonded not by love alone, but more importantly, by mutual trust and confidence with a conviction to go through thick and thin together; it is also bonded not by oaths alone, but more importantly, by deeds. It is true for a family; it is even more true for a state. And it is all the more true for a multilateral body as the CD.

II. To break the CD deadlock, it is imperative that pre-conceived political views be put behind us.

The CD work during China's Presidency has, on the whole, proceeded reasonably smoothly in accordance with document CD/WP. 565. For this, I would like to thank all my colleagues here for their cooperation and support. In the meantime, I would take the liberty to suggest to my colleagues here, if they could take a few minutes to recapture the following process, i.e. after China put forward CD/WP.565 on 22 March, why did CD turn briefly to CD/WP.566 and then, turn back to CD/WP.565 again?

CD/WP.565 and CD/WP.566 were both based on consensual and well-established practices at the CD, then why would there have been such an episode? What did the process show? Two points, I assume, at least.

Firstly, there are still pre-conceived political views at the CD, which should be done away with. The international community has preeminently shared objective on FMCT negotiations at the CD, as nonproliferation of nuclear weapons in promotion of nuclear disarmament is in the interests of all parties. All of us should work to zero in on this consensus and to conduct our work in a down-to-earth manner. It would be undesirable to look at the CD work with colored glasses. We should work to enhance our mutual trust in pursuit of a win-win at the CD.

Secondly, the CD is a mature body. The above episode reflects the difference within the CD, coupled with lack of mutual trust; in the meantime, also demonstrates that the CD is able to properly address such differences. What is dreadful, I have to confess, is not differences per se, but rather the inability or failure to face and deal with such differences, or even to resort to pressure, out of fear, at every turn as a way to resolve such differences. The above episode shows that trust, understanding, dialogue and communication are, at least, formulas that stand better chance of working. So, from the above episode, I also see hope in the CD for progress from another perspective.

III. To break the CD deadlock, right perception and working methods are also crucial, apart from enhancing confidence, mutual trust and political will.

We should work to detect and identify, where we possibly can, any evolving consensus even in embryo, especially by proceeding from the actual effects and objectives.

It is my impression, based on what has been transpired in China's Presidency, that the basis for progress at the Conference is there in some measure.

Let me take the question of enlargement of membership as an example. Many people regard it as a taboo. There, however, are reasonably good inputs registered on this question at a recent CD meeting. In terms of substance, all parties attach attention to the role and the desire for CD membership by those observer states with contribution to the cause of arms control and disarmament, in particular certain country which made great contribution to the last year's NPT review process. So, it is hopeful that progress can be registered on this question at the Council Chamber as long as discussions are conducted on the basis of the rules of procedures of the Conference; in parallel, dialogue and consultations should be intensified.

Another example is the CD's programme of work. The very basis for emerging consensus is already there. Two points, in this context, should be reflected on.

Firstly, we have a good basis. CD/1864 is a document structured in a way with balance almost in every aspect. It is balanced, in terms of not only the mandate, but also the specific work of the working groups to be established. In terms mandate, CD/1864 talks about "exchange views and information" vis-à-vis "negotiation" or "substantive discussion". In terms of specific work, it talks about "practical steps" vis-à-vis "treaty" or "recommendations".

Secondly, the CD is now bogged down in a debate about how to define or characterize its on-going exercise as it relates to FMCT. Some want "negotiations" while others want "discussions". But on the other hand, we should not fail to recognize the following basis for an emerging consensus, i.e. no delegation has hitherto sought to dispute the early commencement, on the basis of the CD's balanced and comprehensive programme of work, of its substantive work, including FMCT. Moreover, there has been, in fact, constructive and serious work at the CD, inter alia, on FMCT on the part of all delegations.

Although some may see the above emerging consensus as insignificant, it should nevertheless not be belittled. On the other hand, the current CD debate on "negotiation" versus "discussion", no matter how significant, should not be unduly emphasized, especially with the caveat the CD exercise is not of linguistic in nature. And it is axiomatic that if a treaty is reached, the process leading to its conclusion can only be "negotiations" whereas even if no one seeks to dispute embarking on a "negotiating process", there could be considerable skepticism about whether it may produce something to that effect as long as a treaty long remains elusive.

Therefore, we should be clear, it not clearer, about what we want, "negotiations" or an FMCT? This is a question merits our serious reflection, on the basis of CD 1864, if an FMCT is really the aim.

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

As we say in China, "difficulties and hardships may open up unexpected new vistas", I am confident that so long as all parties work together, in a spirit of "sailing the same boat and helping each other", to strengthen their confidence and trust in pursuit of a win-win situation based on security for all, we will be able to see "the light of the CD tunnel" and restore the CD's glory.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the distinguished ambassador of Columbia on her assumption of the CD Presidency and we will do our very best to support and assist her work under her Presidency.

Thank you all.



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