On behalf of the Australian delegation, let me join the previous speakers in extending my congratulations to you on your assumption of the Chair of this Prepcom. We would also like to commend your efforts in undertaking preliminary work in Geneva and here in New York in setting the stage for what we hope to be a very productive two weeks. In an effort to make the best use of the time available to us, and as you have requested, Mr. Chairman, I will make my opening statement brief.
Next year State parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will gather in New York for the Sixth Review Conference to review the operation of a treaty which Australia considers is the single, most important, multilateral agreement underpinning global peace and security. The Conference will be an important expression of the new "strengthened review process" which States parties agreed to at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and will follow three sessions of this Preparatory Committee.
Australia considers that there is much to be done in the next two weeks if we are to fulfil the mandate with which we were charged by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, which in essence, is to prepare the groundwork for the 2000 Review Conference.
In order to prepare adequately in the short time available to us, Australia believes it would be useful to focus now on what sort of product or outcome we want to see from next year's Conference. Only then - when we have a clear, shared understanding of where we are headed
- does it make sense to consider the content or substance of the Review Conference's outcomes. In this statement, therefore, I will focus on what Australia sees as the most useful products to result from the 2000 Review Conference. In the discussions scheduled for the remainder of this week, Australia will make interventions providing greater detail on the full range of substantive issues before us at this meeting.
Australia believes that paragraph 7 of Decision 1 of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference on Strengthening the Review Process provides sound guidance on what the 2000 Review Conference outcomes should look like. That paragraph tells us "that Review Conferences should look forward as well as back. They should evaluate the results of the period they are reviewing, including implementation of undertakings of the States parties under the Treaty, and identify the areas in which, and the means through which, further progress should be sought in the future. Review Conferences should also address specifically what might be done to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty and to achieve its universality."
This seems to suggest to us that it would be appropriate for this Preparatory Committee and the Review Conference to focus on two documents: a review document examining the implementation of the Treaty in the period 1995 to 2000, and a forward-looking document
which identifies ways to achieve further progress in the full implementation of the Treaty in the future, as well as what might be done to strengthen implementation and universality.
Much has been achieved in eliminating the proliferation of nuclear weapons and pushing forward the nuclear disarmament agenda. We should be proud of these achievements. They should form the basis of the review document. These achievements include the following:
Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear disarmament has taken place at an impressive rate. In addition to unilateral nuclear reductions by France and the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia have more than halved their holdings of strategic nuclear weapons. START III, the guidelines for which were agreed in March 1997, would bring those same arsenals down to some 80 per cent below Cold War peaks. Unilateral reductions by other Nuclear Weapon States of their nuclear arsenals and postures have been most welcome. Australia urges all Nuclear Weapon States to continue this favourable trend, and in particular, looks forward to the Russian Duma's early ratification of START II and commencement of detailed negotiations on START III.
Since 1996, over 150 countries have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which bans all nuclear weapon tests and all other nuclear explosions. It marks a watershed in international efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. So far this year, a further four countries -Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa - have ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. These countries are on the list of the 44 specific states required to ratify the Treaty to enable it to enter into force. So far 17 of these States, including Australia, have ratified the Treaty. Australia welcomes these ratifications, and the decisions by the Republic of Korea and Poland to ratify the Treaty in the very near future. We strongly urge all countries that have not yet signed or ratified the Treaty to do so as soon as possible to strengthen the global no-testing norm embodied in it.
The next important agreement on the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament agenda is the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Mr Chairman, we welcome the decision of the Conference on Disarmament in August of last year to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate this Treaty and the reaffirmation, at UNGAS3, of the international consensus on an FMCT. But given the high hopes that followed those decisions, it is disappointing that there has been so little movement in the Conference on Disarmament on an FMCT. The objective of such a Treaty would be to ban any further production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons use. This is an important goal and Australia urges the Conference on Disarmament to make an early start to substantive negotiations.
It is self evident even from the examples I have just outlined that much has been accomplished. But while we can take heart in these positive developments, the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have cast a dark shadow on the progress made by the international community in pursuing the twin goals of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and working, progressively, towards the elimination of such weapons. This unwelcome development - together with developments in Iraq and the DPRK over the past five years -will need to be addressed by the Review Conference. We should consider an appropriate recommendation to the Review Conference on these challenges.
Obviously much still needs to be done but the challenges ahead are not insurmountable and through patience and persistence we will together be able to work through them. Australia encourages all States Parties to the Treaty to continue playing their role in attaining further incremental progress in fulfilling the objectives and principles of the NPT.
In conclusion, Australia's overriding goal for the Sixth Review Conference is to achieve an outcome which will further strengthen the effectiveness of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and let me assure you, we will be working hard to achieve this outcome. Australia believes this general goal will be attained by future progress in the areas which I have already mentioned, and the achievement of a number of other subsidiary objectives which would include:
further steps towards universal membership of the Treaty;
the further conclusion of comprehensive safeguards agreements, the entry into force of a
significant number of additional protocols to these agreements, and continued support for the work of the IAEA in strengthening the safeguards system;
further progress towards the consolidation of existing nuclear-weapon free zones, and the establishment of new zones;
significant progress towards universal acceptance of the nuclear export control regimes as a necessary and legitimate mechanism for the effective implementation of Treaty obligations; and
a strong reaffirmation of the support of Treaty Parties for the IAEA and its role as the Agency responsible for verifying the fulfilment of Parties' obligations under the Treaty and in facilitating the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for
With these comments Mr Chairman, my delegation looks forward to working closely with you to achieve substantive progress at this meeting on outstanding issues.
Thank you Mr Chairman.