South Africa has called on the international community to make a reinvigorated push to rid the world of nuclear weapons as they pose catastrophic risks.
Pretoria is convinced that neither the possession nor the pursuit of nuclear weapons can enhance international peace and security and development.
This is based on the belief that international peace and security cannot be divorced from development – that global security is not achievable when enormous financial and other resources continue to be diverted towards the acquisition of more and more destructive capabilities, while more than a billion people around the world continue to suffer from hunger and deprivation.
Speaking at the UN high-level segment of the conference on disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, DIRCO Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers said South Africa was particularly alarmed about statements seeking to justify the retention of nuclear weapons on the basis of the perceived benefits of nuclear deterrence.
Such justifications and the notion that nuclear weapons provide an ultimate security guarantee, weaken arguments against proliferation and the development of nuclear weapons by others, which tend to use the very same arguments to justify their decision to pursue the nuclear weapons option, Deputy Minister Landers said.
“Simply put, there are no right hands for wrong weapons and the idea of responsible possession of nuclear arms, therefore, has to be contested. The primary responsibility for undertaking the necessary steps for the elimination of nuclear weapons lies with the nuclear-weapon States.
“It is, therefore, incumbent upon these States to engage, without further delay, in an accelerated process of negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
SA remains the only country that has ever voluntarily disbanded its nuclear weapons programme which the government did towards the end of apartheid.
As a strong proponent of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control and an ardent supporter of a world free from the threats posed nuclear, Pretoria is one of the 50 countries who last year signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) at the United Nations, which only allows for the use of nuclear for purposes like energy and medicine.
The decision, according to Deputy Minister Landers, that was historic and is in line with the aims and objectives of the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly 70 years ago, the nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the provisions of the Pelindaba Treaty, which has already established Africa as a zone free from nuclear weapons.
Two-thirds of the UN member states present and voting supported the resolution, which provides evidence of the commitment of the vast majority of the world to heed the call to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons to the survival of the planet.
Deputy Minister Landers said Pretoria looks forward to the soonest signature and ratification of the TPNW by all States that are committed to the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons.
“TPNW is not the final word on nuclear weapons, but a critical step in the evolution of the regime that would be required to achieve and eventually maintain a world without nuclear weapons. Its approach is consistent with the approach taken in the elimination of other unacceptable weapons, where prohibition preceded elimination,” he said.
The TPNW, Deputy Minister Landers added does not distract from, but rather encourages, urgent progress towards the implementation of the nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments under the NPT.
He said what undermines confidence in the NPT is lack of the judicious implementation of article 6 and the necessary sense of urgency in fulfilling commitments.
“We believe that the faithful implementation of the nuclear disarmament commitments with the necessary sense of urgency will restore confidence in the regime and strengthen international peace and security.”
As the member states prepare for the 2020 NPT Review Conference, Pretoria said it is imperative that the international community takes stock of the progress made towards the implementation of all Treaty provisions and the solemn commitments made in this regard.