The General Debate of the First Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2026 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review was held in Vienna on August 1, 2023. The conference was held under the theme, “Upholding the authority of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Serving international security and development”.
The Chinese Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Foreign Ministry of China, Sun Xiaobo, made a statement at the gathering. He started by noting that the growing geopolitical conflicts and the return of cold-war mentality represented by military alliances and bloc confrontation have seriously undermined global strategic balance and stability, and intensified the risks of nuclear arms races and nuclear related conflicts.
Secondly, the world economy is struggling to recover, and tensions and disagreements in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and other areas of development are prominent. In such context, the international security and development governance system represented by the NPT is facing severe challenges.
Faced with the profound changes in the international situation, China is willing to work with the international community to take the new NPT review cycle as an opportunity to promote the three pillars of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in a balanced manner, and give full play to the role of the NPT in serving security and development in the new era. To this end, China wishes to propose the following four points.
The world needs to uphold strategic balance and stability and promote nuclear disarmament in a rational and pragmatic manner. China understands the keen aspiration of non-nuclear-weapon States in advancing nuclear disarmament. The country advocates the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons, and undertakes not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances.
China also unconditionally commits itself not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free-zones. China always keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security and does not participate in any form of arms race. This is China’s solemn commitment and significant contribution to the cause of international nuclear disarmament.
Nuclear weapon is a product of history, and therefore nuclear disarmament is naturally a historical process, which should follow the principles of “maintaining global strategic stability” and “undiminished security for all”. To require countries with vastly different nuclear doctrines and nuclear stockpiles to fulfill the same nuclear disarmament and transparency obligations is not in line with the logic of history and reality, and will surely lead the international nuclear disarmament process to a dead end.
Therefore, countries with the largest nuclear arsenals should fulfil their special and primary responsibilities for nuclear disarmament, continue to effectively implement the New Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) Treaty and further reduce their nuclear arsenals in a significant and substantive manner, so as to create the conditions for other nuclear-weapon States to join the nuclear disarmament process.
President Xi Jinping has pointed out that nuclear weapons cannot be used and nuclear war must not be fought. Last January, leaders of the P5 issued a Joint Statement on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races. On this basis, China supports the P5 in continuing dialogue and cooperation to discuss feasible strategic risk reduction measures. We need to take into full account different nuclear capabilities, nuclear doctrines and security environment among the nuclear-weapon States.
Sun called on nuclear-weapon States to negotiate and conclude a treaty on the mutual no-first-use of nuclear weapons, assaying China advocates negotiations of an international legal instrument providing negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States at the Conference on Disarmament.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the right and effective solution to Iranian nuclear issue. The parties concerned should step up diplomatic efforts, restart negotiations as soon as possible, and restore the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA. The crux of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is the absence of a peace mechanism and the lingering remnants of the Cold War.
All parties should address their legitimate security concerns in a balanced manner through dialogue, follow the dual-track approach to promote the establishment of a peace mechanism and realise the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The international community should continue to support the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.
No State shall put its selfish geopolitical interests above nuclear non-proliferation obligations. The Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) nuclear submarine cooperation contravenes the object and purpose of NPT, undermines International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards regime, poses serious nuclear proliferation risks, and undermines regional peace and stability. China proposes that the AUKUS nuclear submarine safeguards issue should be discussed through an open, inclusive, transparent and sustainable intergovernmental process and decisions should be made by consensus.
China supports the central role of the IAEA in promoting international nuclear energy cooperation and opts for increasing financial and technical assistance to developing countries in order to contribute to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China supports multilateral export control mechanism, but opposes the use of non-proliferation as an excuse to draw ideological lines, stretch the concept of national security, and use export control as a political tool for decoupling. The peaceful uses of nuclear energy should not be achieved at the cost of natural environment and human health.