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China's envoy calls for collective action on nuclear disarmament

By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-03-19 10:11

China's top ambassador to the United Nations on Monday called on countries to resist Cold War thinking and promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation together.

"Nuclear weapons are a product of history, and nuclear disarmament will naturally have a historical process," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation on Monday.

Expecting countries with different nuclear policies and number of nuclear weapons to follow identical disarmament and transparency rules "is not consistent with the logic of history and reality, nor is it in line with international consensus, and as such will only lead international nuclear disarmament to a dead end", Zhang added.

The US "should continue to fulfill its special and priority responsibility to further reduce the nuclear arsenals in a drastic and substantive manner, so as to create conditions for other nuclear weapons states to join the nuclear disarmament process and play a lead role by example recognized by all parties," he said.

Zhang noted that in 2022, leaders of the five nuclear-armed countries agreed that nuclear war "cannot be won and must never be fought".

On that basis, said Zhang, nuclear weapons states should explore feasible measures to reduce strategic risks, negotiate and conclude a treaty on no first use of nuclear weapons against each other and provide legally binding, negative security assurances to nonnuclear weapon states.

The countries concerned "should reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national and collective security policies", he said.

The countries concerned should also "renounce the deployment of a global missile defense system, refrain from seeking the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region or in Europe and stop nuclear sharing and the so-called extended deterrence, so as to maintain the global strategic balance and stability through practical actions," Zhang emphasized.

Zhang urged countries to enhance the controllability of AI technology and "ensure that relevant weapon systems are under human control at all times".

In terms of recent hot spot issues such as the nonproliferation of the Korean Peninsula and Iran, they "have complex historical background and are closely linked to the continuity of the nonproliferation policies of a relevant country", said the ambassador.

"The United States should abandon the threat of use and the use of sanctions and pressure," said Zhang. He said the US nuclear submarine cooperation with certain countries "carries a high risk of nuclear proliferation".

He called such cooperation "a serious violation of the objective and the purpose of" the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and "undermines regional peace and stability".

Zhang said nuclear weapons states "should sign and ratify the protocols to the nuclear weapon-free zone treaties as soon as possible.

He reiterated China's readiness to "take the lead in signing the protocol to the Southeast Asian nuclear weapon-free zone treaty and its firm support for the establishment of a Middle East zone free of" nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday also underscored the urgent need for disarmament to eliminate the looming threat of nuclear conflict. He said that "states possessing nuclear weapons are absent from the table of dialogue".

"There is one path, and one path only, that will vanquish this senseless and suicidal shadow, once and for all. We need disarmament now," Guterres said.

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