Panel Discussion
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs-Nagasaki
August 8, 2001

Ambassador Karamchund Mackerdhuj
Republic of South Africa


The Organizing Committee, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

May I express my sincere appreciation to the Organizing Committee of the 2001 World Conference against A and H Bombs for inviting me to the Nagasaki Conference which has as its main theme gNuclear Weapon States must make good on their promise to abolish nuclear weapons: International Cooperation and Solidarity will ensure the future of the worldh. May I also express my countryfs gratitude for allowing its participation in the Conference and to state why it gave up the nuclear option. I thank you also for your hospitality and generosity in hosting this conference in this historically important city.

Shortly after the catastrophic events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States, gave a bleak warning to the world when he said in his statement to the United Nations General Assembly on 8 December 1953: gcthe dread secret and the fearful engines of atomic might are not ours alonech He was not wrong. Soon the world witnessed the birth of a gNuclear Clubh which rapidly grew to include five members -five members too many-who engaged in a nuclear arms races in the era of the Cold War. They were soon joined by others with the same aspirations, whereby possession of nuclear capacity meant possession of power, influence and prestige. The Cold War era forced the world to make national security concerns the center of their security policies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This was also true in the case of South Africa, as the country indeed had developed a limited nuclear deterrent capability. Apartheid South Africa, as part of its perceived national security policy embarked in a nuclear weapons programme. It perceived nuclear weapons to provide security and assurance to protect its policy of total onslaught.

While many has speculated about the nature of the nuclear capacity of Apartheid South Africa, the full nature of that capacity was revealed on 24 March 1993, when the then State President of South Africa, Mr FW de Klerk addressed a joint session of Parliament. He admitted that South Africa had indeed possessed a limited nuclear deterrent capability. He further admitted that it had been dismantled voluntarily before the countryfs accession to the 1991 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Events leading to this announcement were preceded by the establishment in November 1989, of a Steering Committee of senior officials to investigate the possibility of dismantling the nuclear programme. The terms of reference were:

The dismantling process was completed by the middle of 1991. Accession to the NPT occurred on 10 July 1991 and on 16 September, a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, was signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency. On 30 October, South Africa submitted its initial inventory of nuclear materials and facilities to the Agency.

At the thirty forth Session of the General Conference of the Agency the Conference requested the Director-General of the Agency to verify the completeness of the gInitial Reporth that South Africa had submitted. The Director-General reported that the Agency had verified the initial report submitted by South Africa.

The reasons for South Africa giving up the nuclear option are wide-ranging, and would probably depend on whom one consults. I am not going to venture into an analysis of the various arguments, except perhaps to suggest a few of these:

Taking the above-mentioned reasons into consideration, it became clear by the end of the eighties that the viability of the nuclear programme had to be questioned.

Following these events, South Africa found itself in a unique position of being the first country in history to have dismantled its nuclear capability. Given this unique position, the new South African Government of President Nelson Mandela, which took office in May 1994, extended its commitment to democracy, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection to also include the promotion of global peace and security through the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. A primary goal of the countryfs policy is to reinforce and promote South Africa as a responsible producer, possessor and trader of advanced technologies in the nuclear and related fields. In doing so, South Africa promotes the benefits which non-proliferation and arms control hold for international peace and security, particularly in Africa and in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to strongly emphasize, that the thrust of my address to you today, is not only to concentrate on the reasons for South Africafs decision to forego the nuclear option, but more importantly that South Africa had made the decision and implemented it.

The challenge facing the world today is not to idly stand by and simply applaud the steps taken by one country for a group of countries. The challenge is to move on and to remain constantly vigilant to ensure the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Cold War era, characterized by the arms race, is now behind us. We are now faced with the challenges of a new era where the allure of safety, supposedly guaranteed by nuclear weapons, has been exposed as a fallacy. The challenge of our global village today is decidedly greater than it was when nuclear weapons first emerged on the scene. The true challenge for us all, is to find security in nuclear disarmament rather than in proliferation especially after observing the devastation caused after its use during the Second World War. It would be a travesty of justice and supreme irony if we were to find safety in a device which could destroy the very essence of life - the very thing we are trying to save!!

It is this firm conviction which guided South Africa in its steps to give up the nuclear option.

As a possessor of advanced nuclear technology, South Africa devoutly shares the international communityfs concern about the spread of nuclear weapons.

South Africa has subsequently played un important role in nuclear disarmament efforts internationally and can show a proud record of its efforts.

Clearly one of South Africafs most successful efforts was the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, where it contributed significantly to the eventual decision to extend that treaty indefinitely. The proposal by our late Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo initiated a set of Principles and Objectives which included a commitment to concluding negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty no later than 1996.

It actively participated in the conclusion of such treaty and on 24 September 1996 it became a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

South Africafs commitment to nuclear disarmament extends to the African Continent, where together with its African Partners, it actively negotiated the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty which prevents nuclear arms race on the continents and the introduction of nuclear explosive devices into Africa; In addition to its non-proliferation, disarmament, verification and environmental protection functions, the Treaty promotes African cooperation in the various uses of nuclear technology for economic and social development. The Treaty represents an important contribution to a holistic approach to African security.

The Treaty of Pelindaba is an African success story even if it has taken 31 years to give birth to it. The Treaty represents some of the best news coming out of an Africa that continues to suffer its share of the tragic and destructive effects of conflict. The Treaty was signed by more than forty five African States on 11 April 1996 in Cairo.

In a very real sense our contribution is a reflection of the desire and intention of our people to strive toward a world of greater peace and security.

South Africa intends to continue down this path as we seek to engage both the nuclear weapon states, and the nuclear capable States to proceed with nuclear disarmament in a constructive and determined way.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) bans an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, and established a strict universally applied international control mechanism. This Convention regulates the production, possession and consumption of chemicals which possess properties of chemical welfare agents which can be converted into and be used to produce chemical weapons. Similarly, it is entirely feasible to build on the examples of this Convention, which bans an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.

Due to both the lack of progress as well as the deadlock within the international community on the nuclear disarmament debates, and especially the lack of progress since the 1995 Treaty on Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review and Extension Conference, the Foreign Ministers of South Africa, Brasil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden, launched on 9 June 1998 The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) by simultaneously releasing a Joint Ministerial Declaration for a new agenda for a nuclear-weapons-free world.

This initiative aimed to reinforce the commitment to nuclear disarmament and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons; to present a practical approach that would make it difficult for Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Threshold States to resist; and, to lend impetus to the disarmament debate.

At the 53rd session of the UN General Assembly 1998 the NAC submitted a resolution entitled gTowards a nuclear-weapons-free world: the need for a new agendah, which was adopted by a record vote.

At the 6th NPT Review Conference in April/May 2000 the NACfs new agenda played a key role in the outcome of the conference.

Although the NAC has only been in existence for a little over three years there is no doubt that it has played a key role in reshaping disarmament efforts.

Because South Africafs position in dismantling its nuclear capability is a principled one, it will continue to support the Treaty for the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and will consequently oppose all attempts to increase the number of nuclear weapon States. South Africa cannot condone the view that nuclear weapons promote security. It will continue to work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons held by the nuclear weapon states and towards ensuring the security supposedly guaranteed by the nuclear option is exposed for the fallacy that it is. It will continue to strongly discourage countries from keeping their nuclear options open.

Having worked that path we know that this is the challenge for all of us today.

Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.


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