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A Chinese Perspective on FMCT/FMT
Time:2011-08-19 16:56         Author:军控协会         Source:CACDA

 

By LI Changhe
 
Mr. Li Changhe, Vice President of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association (CACDA), expressed his view on the issue of negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices during his participation to the seminar entitled “Fissile Material Treaty (FMT): Possibility and prospect”, organized by South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI), on 20th-22nd March,2011 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The following is an abstract of his speech:
 
“These days in Geneva at the Conference on Disarmamentthe agenda item on the Negotiation of a Treaty Banning the Production of Fissile Material for Nuclear Weapons or Other Nuclear Explosive Devices, the so-called “Cut-off treaty” orcalled for short as FMCT/FMT, depending on different preferences , has drawn much attention with heated debates and activities around it. This is also supposed to be the core theme of this workshop. In accordance with conference organizer’s advice, I would like to share with you some of my own perspective as a Chinese individual understanding and cognition of China’s position and opinion in this regard for reference.
 
In 1993, the 48th UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution (48/75L ) calling for the negotiation of a "nondiscriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The resolution called for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide assistance in examining verification arrangements.
 
China joined consensus for the adoption of this resolution and voted for the relevant resolutions in the subsequent sessions of the UN General Assembly, in support of the establishment of Ad-Hoc Committee to negotiate the FMCT on the basis of the mandate contained in the “Shannon Report” with an expectation that the treaty would be conducive to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The above-mentioned “Shannon Report” mandate is a delicate balance between the interests and concerns of all parties and a hard-earned outcome through intensive consultations.
 
The FMCT will affect individual states differently due to the variance in their nuclear fuel cycles and pre-existing stocks of fissile material. Hence there are differences among states over what should be the ultimate aim of the FMCT and how it fits into the broader arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation processes. It is evident that whatever the scopes of the eventual FMCT, states that are parties to a full-scope safeguards agreement, essentially non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT, will by that fact alone satisfy the requirements of the FMCT. These states have undertaken not to produce or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and to accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear material to verify the fulfillment of this undertaking. Therefore, the FMCT will substantively affect only those states that have not accepted full-scope safeguards, the nuclear-weapon states and the threshold states.
 
Debate goes on about what specific materials and activities the FMCT should address. In terms of what the FMCT should cover, opinions span a wide spectrum from a treaty of narrow scope, which would be limited to future production of weapon-grade material and associated facilities, to a comprehensive treaty resembling the NPT safeguards. The problem is how to negotiate a treaty that is favorable for all participants, given that interests and priorities vary so much.
 
China stands for an early start of the FMCT negotiation based on a comprehensive and balanced program of work and believes that the CD should also carry out substantial work on other important agenda items such as Prevention of Arms Race in Out Space, Security Assurance of Non-nuclear Weapon States and Nuclear Disarmament. Hopefully, the CD would carry forward all tasks in a balance manner on the basis of a Program of Work that is agreed by consensus. 
 
Under the current circumstances, if the CD cannot reach a consensus on the Program of Work, it may continue to conduct discussions on the FMCT and other agenda items “informally” or in some other appropriate ways at plenary sessions, following the practice in recent years. In this way it can maintain the CD’s authority and its Rules of Procedure, but also ensure the general participation of member states. In order to achieve this goal early, it is essential that all the parties try to reduce differences gradually and expand common ground, in a spirit of mutual respect and equal consultation, taking into account of and accommodating each other’s  reasonable concern, so as to recover CD’s substantive work eventually. In the past three years, there were several rounds of informal discussion held in the CD and in fact some useful results have been achieved. (军控协会)
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