Opening Plenary
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs-Nagasaki
August 7, 2001

Hasmy Agam
Ambassador
Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations


Mr. Chairman,

Permit me to express my thanks and appreciation to the Organizing Committee of the World Conference Against A and H Bombs for inviting me to address this important international Conference. It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to be in Nagasaki to participate in this important event. This is my second visit to this city with such tragic memory, a city that should always remind humankind of the great folly of warfare, especially of the nuclear kind, which, God forbid will never happen again.

2. Let me also commend you for organizing this event, which is important in reminding humankind of what happened here 56 years ago, and to learn from that tragic experience. This commemoration is appropriate both for the purpose of reminding ourselves of the great folly and consequences of war but also for a collective tribute to the victims who perished or suffered in that tragic event, here in Nagasaki. I believe a similar commemoration took place in Hiroshima a few days ago, which, unfortunately, I was unable to participate in.

3. Members of the international community-both governments and civil society-should continue to remain ever-vigilant to the dangers of nuclear war, which, in spite of the end of the Cold War and East-West conflict, are ever-present. Tens of thousands of nuclear bombs still remain in the arsenals of the declared nuclear-weapons states. Much less in numbers, but equally lethal and destabilizing, are in the possession of the non-declared nuclear-weapons states. Until these weapons of mass destruction are drastically reduced and finally eliminated, mankind cannot afford to ease their vigilance or lower their guard, hence the importance of the global nuclear disarmament campaign and the relevance of such conferences as this.

4. We must not be lulled or easily persuaded by the nuclear-weapons states, some of whom argue that the risks of a nuclear holocaust have receded, indeed, virtually disappeared in our contemporary world to the extent that nuclear disarmament is no longer the burning issue that should preoccupy humankind. They point to the tremendous achievements made in respect of nuclear disarmament in recent times and their pledge to proceed appropriately with further reductions of these weapons in their arsenals. They contend that progress in nuclear disarmament should be best left to the nuclear-weapons to negotiate among themselves. However, given their performance so far, we cannot afford to be too sanguine about their ability or commitment to deliver on these promises. The record of these so-called achievements has been less than salutary, for the following reasons:

5. As if these were not worrying enough, there are now talk of amending, or even abrogating, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in the context of the so-called National Defence Initiative-which, if pursued, would undermine and negate the remarkable achievements of decades of very difficult negotiations on nuclear arms. It would destabilize the current equilibrium in nuclear weaponry.

6. In 1995, when the NPT was extended indefinitely, Malaysia had reminded the NPT Conference that by extending the Treaty indefinitely we were giving gcarte blancheh to the nuclear-weapons states to keep their nuclear weapons for ever. We believed that in extending the NPT indefinitely the non-nuclear weapon states lost the only leverage they had vis-a-vis the nuclear-weapons states. We believed that we would have been better able to ensure compliance by the nuclear-weapons of their treaty obligations if the NPT was extended by an additional period or periods, instead. Given the current lackadaisical attitude of the nuclear-weapons states on the issue of nuclear disarmament, and the lack of real progress on this front, we are of the view that our cautious, even sceptical, attitude on the efficacy of the indefinite extension of the Treaty was well-founded.

7. In the context of the present situation, it is imperative for the international community to keep reminding the nuclear-weapons states members of the NPT to fully adhere to the provisions of the Treaty and to fulfill their legal commitment under Article VI of the NPT, namely to undertake serious negotiations and gin good faithh to bring about the further reduction of their nuclear arsenals, leading to their final elimination. This legal obligation on the part of the states parties to the Treaty was reiterated by the International Court of Justice in its historic Opinion on 8 July, 1996. The Court, in one of the most significant milestones in the development of international law, affirms that the threat and use of nuclear weapons are subject to the laws of war, especially humanitarian law, as well as environmental law and human rights law; that such threat and use are generally prohibited under international law, subject only to an extremely narrow possible exception. It further affirms that nuclear deterrence cannot be said to be sanctioned by law. The Court, without being asked to do so, also explains the meaning of Article VI of the NPT, which calls for good-faith negotiations towards nuclear disarmament, stating that gthere exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.h In other words, it affirms the solemn obligation to conduct and conclude negotiations leading to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. The overwhelming majority of the international community welcomed the historic Advisory Opinion, which, among other things, reinforced the legal obligation of States parties to the NPT on the implementation of Article VI of the Treaty.

8. We should ponder the words of the President of the Court, Judge Mohammad Bedjaoui of Algeria, who said, gwith nuclear weapons, humanity is living on a kind of a suspended sentencec Since Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945, fear has gradually become Manfs first nature. His life has taken on the aspect of what the Quran calls a elong nocturnal journeyf, like a nightmare whose end he cannot yet foresee.h He went on to say that gchumanity is subjecting itself to a perverse and unremitting nuclear blackmail. The question is how to stop itcit is to be hoped that the international community will give the Court credit for having carried out its mission -- even if its reply may seem unsatisfactory -- and will endeavour as quickly as possible to correct the imperfections of an international law which is ultimately no more than the creation of the States themselves.h

9. These are, indeed, weighty words by the then President of the World Court, which are as instructive as they are pregnant with meaning. Regrettably, the Opinion of the Court has been ignored by the nuclear-weapons states which dismissed it as being only an gopinionh that is not legally binding on them. We must commend the World Court for this landmark Opinion, however unsatisfactory though it may be, and strive to correct the imperfections of international law, that Judge Bedjaoui has enjoined us to do. We should be encouraged by the Opinion of the Court, not only for what it specifically said in respect of the threat and use of nuclear weapons, but also by what it implied or did not say in so specific terms. We should draw comfort by the fact that in seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons we are not only politically right but also on the right side of international and humanitarian law.

10. Inspired by the Opinion of the World Court, Malaysia, which attaches great importance to the Opinion, has since 1996 and subsequent sessions of the General Assembly, followed up on the Opinion by initiating a draft resolution in the First Committee and the General Assembly. We are very much encouraged by the strong co-sponsorship and support of the draft resolution by a large number of member States of the United Nations. In spite of the continued opposition of the nuclear-weapons states and their allies, we intend to continue with this initiative at the upcoming session of the General Assembly and future sessions. Among other things, the ICJ Advisory Opinion resolution:

The co-sponsors of the ICJ Advisory Opinion resolution in the General Assembly believe that the Opinion was not an ordinary gopinionh in the ordinary sense of the word, but an important Opinion by the highest legal tribunal in the world that had made an historic pronouncement in the field of nuclear disarmament which should be given due recognition by the international community and followed up. We continue to believe that States supporting multilateral negotiations on nuclear arms, leading to their final elimination, will have no reason to oppose the initiative. We believe that in the current improved geo-political climate in the world now is the time to make real progress in nuclear disarmament.

11. Many excellent ideas and proposals have been put forward on how to propel the disarmament process forward, such as those proposed by the Canberra Commission, the New Agenda Coalition and the Tokyo Forum, to name a few. They deserve serious consideration. However, if we are serious in our commitment towards nuclear disarmament in all its aspects then what is required is for the international community to work for a comprehensive legally binding international instrument prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, threat or use of nuclear weapons and their destruction under effective international control. One of the important elements of the Malaysia-initiated draft resolution in the General Assembly is precisely that -- the call for such a legally binding international instrument. It is heartening to note that there is in circulation since 1997 a model Nuclear Weapons Convention formulated by distinguished international disarmament and legal experts which deserves the serious attention of the international community.

12. The problem that we face is not the lack of ideas. It is lack of political will on the part of the nuclear-weapons states to move the process forward. This is where, in support of the effect, civil society could and should play a prominent role, as they did in respect of the convention on landmines. Non-Governmental Organizations, being close to civil society, can play a role in galvanizing public pressure, specifically against the continued existence and possession of these horrendous weapons of mass destruction. The voice of NGOs on the nuclear disarmament agenda is a powerful one and must continue to be heard. In this regard, no voice can be more authoritative and compelling than those of Japanese NGOs because of the unique and tragic experience of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War -- which must not be forgotten. It is for this reason that Japanese NGOs are best placed to lead in the global campaign on nuclear disarmament, particularly vis-a-vis their counterparts in the nuclear-weapons states and their allies. The NGOs of the nuclear-weapons states must be engaged and galvanized to be active, indeed, proactive, in this campaign. Only when they actively take up the cause of nuclear disarmament, as they had done in the past, would their governments wake up and listen to their clamour. In this regard, I would strongly urge Japanese NGOs to forge strong linkages -- indeed, a powerful alliance -- with their counterparts in the nuclear-weapons states. Together they would constitute a formidable moral force in the global disarmament campaign against nuclear arms and would be important, indeed, indispensable, allies to the non-nuclear weapon states in their own efforts in the multilateral disarmament process.


To the 2001 Wolrd Conference against A & H Bombs