Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty [FMCT] Excerpts


20 February 1997

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 20 February 1997, at 10 a.m.
President: Mr. Grecu (Romania)

The PRESIDENT: Mr. Grecu (Romania)


I consider seeking the views of member States on how to deal with nuclear disarmament within our Conference as one of the most urgent tasks of my mandate.

Many of us believe that a multilateral, effectively verifiable treaty to prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices will constitute a prerequisite step in the way towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. An FMCT is meant to cap the amount of fissile materials available for explosive military purposes not only in nuclear-weapon States but also in those States which currently have unsafeguarded enrichment or reprocessing plants. It will contribute to ensuring the conditions under which the process of nuclear disarmament can broaden, constrain the opportunities for vertical proliferation and help prevent any future resumption of the nuclear arms race.

The year 1995 marked an encouraging development in this field because for the first time the CD agreed to establish a "cut-off" ad hoc committee with a negotiating mandate under item 2 of that session's agenda. I hope that consensus on the important initiative on banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices can be invigorated and brought to fruition soon.

While the importance of addressing issues pertaining to weapons of mass destruction cannot be overemphasized, I shall be remiss if I overlook the acute problem of conventional armaments, in particular anti-personnel landmines, which constitute one of the most dramatic realities of our times.


Mr. McKINNON (New Zealand):


The long-awaited Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban treaty will, I am sure, be seen by future generations as a major building-block of such a world, and one achieved by a multilateral negotiating process. We believe that there are additional multilateral negotiating steps which the CD can and must take which, taken together with other tracks inside and outside the CD, can be fairly viewed as a part of a comprehensive programme. Banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons is one such step ripe for CD negotiation, and I urge the Conference to take it up without further delay. New Zealand's view is that the report of the Canadian Special Coordinator allows for an approach which could address the concerns of all in relation to the scope of the production ban.

But again I stress that each of these steps has to be part of a broader approach. It is not satisfactory to wait until the conclusion of the cut-off convention before taking another step in the field of nuclear disarmament. An ad hoc committee with an overarching mandate to contribute to this ultimate goal could begin immediately with the cut-off negotiations, while also considering longer-term issues. The Committee would, in effect, be operating on two levels - an active negotiating track and a preparatory track. For the latter, there is already an abundance of material to begin with, including notably the Canberra Commission's report, while some members of this Conference have put forward their own "programme of action". Discussion of the various proposals would enable the Conference to identify those on which it can add value now itself, those on which it can add value in the future, and those on which immediate progress would more readily be achieved, for example if pursued among the nuclear­weapon States themselves.

I am aware of, and share, the view that the Conference must not become a talk­shop, but one does not have to look far into the past to find examples of ad hoc committees which prepared the ground carefully and effectively for eventual negotiations. This interactive approach was in fact the successful precursor to the CTBT negotiations. And a dynamic approach of this kind would be consistent with the programme of action defined by Non­Proliferation Treaty States parties in April 1995. Most importantly, it will help to restore and help to maintain confidence in the agreements reached in relation to that Treaty's indefinite extension.

While New Zealand agrees with the priority attached to the cut­off negotiations, I welcome the renewed focus in discussions on the role the Conference on Disarmament can play on conventional arms control and disarmament questions. An understandable preoccupation with the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction must not prevent the international community from addressing ways and means to reduce as quickly as possible the risks posed by the weapons which make up the armouries of the great majority of nations. Such weapons may not have the same destructive powers as nuclear, chemical or biological weapons but they can and do extract an appalling toll around the world and their proliferation can be, and is, destabilizing.


Mr. WYZNER (Poland):


Poland strongly believes that pending the conclusion of its consultations on the review of its agenda, and without prejudice to their outcome, the CD will agree on a practical programme of work which could eventually result in a new multilateral agreement. In Poland's view, such potential can be found in the cut-off in the production of fissile material for weapons or other military purposes. We believe that with the comprehensive test ban issue taken off the agenda of the Conference, the negotiation of an early cut-off treaty appears to us to be the logical next step to take, and in this regard we share your opinion as expressed in your opening statement.

In our view, a renewed effort must be made to re-establish the relevant ad hoc committee and launch negotiations in that respect as soon as possible. Squarely placed within the context of nuclear disarmament, such negotiations ought to be the focal point of CD efforts in 1997. Should we fail to seize this window of opportunity, our ultimate objective of a world free of the nuclear threat might not be a practical proposition and a credible beacon into the twenty-first century.

There are at least two abiding reasons why the CD should undertake cut-off negotiations. First, a fissile material cut-off treaty would constitute yet another major step towards meeting the obligations of article VI of the NPT. Second, the immediate launching of negotiations in that respect would be consistent with the "Principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament" adopted by the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

A fissile material cut-off treaty would represent a significant supplement to the NPT and CTBT, the two CD-negotiated instruments that form the mainstay of the non-proliferation regime.

In our view, the Ad Hoc Committee established in March 1995 should be reactivated immediately and instructed to start constructive negotiations under its original mandate which, as it is known, is broad enough to accommodate all legitimate concerns. I am sure that no delegation would be found out of order by raising for consideration in the Ad Hoc Committee any issue relating to the scope of the future treaty.


Mr. NARAY (Hungary):


The strengthening of the norm of global non-proliferation of nuclear weapons requires additional urgent measures. The Hungarian delegation strongly advocates the commencement of work on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT). As it was the case with the CTBT, the moratoria observed by the majority of the nuclear-weapon States indicate that this long-standing issue is ripe for serious negotiations. The Hungarian delegation has taken note of the divergent approaches to the question of existing stocks. Since the mandate contained in the Shannon report accommodates the different shades of opinion to that effect, the re-establishment of an ad hoc committee based on it seems to be within reach. We urge delegations to overcome procedural difficulties and get down to substantive work on an FMCT.

The Conference on Disarmament has won credit by negotiating several major treaties in the field of weapons of mass destruction. It is justified to continue this pattern. At the same time we cannot lose sight of the profound transformation of the international security agenda in recent years which put conventional disarmament into the limelight. The Hungarian delegation reiterates the importance of finding an appropriate place for this issue in the CD's programme of work. The resolve of the member States to address and solve really burning issues affecting the life of millions of people most immediately is put to the test.


Mr. TARMIDZI (Indonesia):


Much has been said on the need to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (cut-off treaty). Let me, however, reiterate my delegation's position on this delicate issue. First, my delegation considers that the completion of such a treaty will significantly contribute to the continued and tireless efforts of the international community in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects. Secondly, we view this cut-off treaty as a disarmament commitment as well. It should, therefore, encompass not only the future production but also the past production of these materials. We are fully aware of the sensitivity of making an explicit reference to past production in the mandate of the ad hoc committee as clearly highlighted in the Shannon report. My delegation, however, is of the opinion that brushing aside the issue of stockpiles would, once again, render the cut-off treaty a mere non-proliferation measure.

As a representative of Indonesia which has assumed immense non-proliferation legal commitments through inter alia article II as well as article III of the NPT and article III of the Bangkok Treaty, the cut-off treaty with such a characteristic has no added value to date. It is therefore unappealing to Indonesia. The mandate contained in the report of Ambassador Shannon indeed made no explicit reference to the existing stockpiles of fissile material, but it acknowledged that this issue to which many delegations attach great importance cannot be isolated with the Conference starts actual negotiations. It is with this understanding that my delegation stands ready to revisit the question of the cut-off treaty, using the Shannon report as a basis to begin.


Ms. ANDERSON (Ireland):


In the view of my delegation nuclear disarmament issues must remain at the heart of the CD's work; making progress on these core issues remains our top priority for 1997. We have all the ingredients for achieving progress if there is the necessary political will to do so. There is no shortage of material to work on. We have Ambassador Shannon's report including the mandate for an ad hoc committee on a fissile material cut-off convention; the G21 proposal for the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament; the phased programme of action for the elimination of nuclear weapons tabled by 28 countries; and the observations in September 1996 of the then Western Group coordinator on the CD's agenda.

Creating a wider context for our work, there is the document setting out the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament adopted the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995. The Australian Foreign Minister has also commended the report of the Canberra Commission to stimulate our thinking and discussion. And there is an important acquis which should remain intact; the consensus in this room that the Conference should negotiate a fissile material cut-off convention on the basis of the Shannon mandate and report.

Despite all of this groundwork, progress so far has not been possible. Some delegations are reluctant to embark on an immediate negotiation on cut-off unless and until they have placed it in the context of an overall programme to achieve nuclear disarmament. In the words of the Japanese Ambassador, the so-called blueprint approach. In the words of others, linkage.


The Conference is a negotiating body and the focus of all its efforts should be negotiations. It would surely be sensible for the Conference to establish a forum or a mechanism to enable it to consider the question of what nuclear disarmament measures it might negotiate in addition to, or after the conclusion of, the fissile material cut-off convention. That is, the Conference could seek to arrive at a consensus on those negotiating steps towards nuclear disarmament which might require a multilateral effort in the CD. The programme of action tabled by 28 countries could be just one proposal on the table in such a discussion. The discussion could also take into consideration the possible future bilateral or plurilateral efforts of the P5 and also the positions of the non-declared nuclear-weapons States.

The establishment of such a forum or mechanism for the consideration of the possible next steps in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations would not constitute, in itself, a substantive step. It would simply permit the CD to develop a longer-term perspective on its future nuclear disarmament agenda. In the meantime the Conference should immediately, on the basis of the Shannon mandate, get down to negotiations on the fissile material cut-off convention.


Mr. HOFER (Switzerland) (translated from French):


The meeting rose at 12.20 p.m.