CD Deadlock Continues

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva ended its 2000 session as it began: totally deadlocked. As the only permanent multilateral disarmament negotiating body, the CD has become the proxy battleground between the United States on one hand, and China and Russia on the other, over Washington’s plan to deploy a ballistic missile defense (BMD).

Officially, the CD is deadlocked because it cannot reach consensus on a program of work. In closing the final session for 2000 on September 21, the CD President, Ambassador Petko Draganov of Bulgaria, said there was agreement on most of the elements for a program of work, but two issues - nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space - were unresolved.

BMD is not on the Conference’s agenda, but it has a direct bearing on those two outstanding issues. In addition, the one item where everyone expected some progress - a treaty to cut off the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons - is getting tied up with BMD as well.

The 2000 NPT Review Conference stated that 2005 is to be the year by which a fissile materials treaty should be completed, but this is tied to the consensus adoption of a CD program of work. China, which is concerned that a US BMD would make China vulnerable to a first strike and therefore may wish to produce more fissile material to support an arsenal buildup, has been insisting that negotiations on fissile materials be accompanied by negotiations on nuclear disarmament and on prevention of an arms race in outer space.

In the final meetings of this session, the US, Russia and China again sparred over the plan. Russia and China said the US system would result in the militarization of space while the US said the BMD is an earthbound, not space-based system. Russia said any amendment to the ABM Treaty would make it a treaty permitting a military buildup.

The US said it was ready to establish simultaneous CD committees to discuss, but not to negotiate, on nuclear disarmament and outer space. Washington also argued that holding fissile materials negotiations "hostage" to outer space negotiations was a "poorly disguised effort" to block fissile negotiations. China said the US rationale for BMD - defense against a limited missile attack - was "a poorly designed excuse" for deployment.

- JW



Umbrella Demo.tif (10191216 bytes)
A commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the first nuclear explosion, the "Trinity" test conducted near Alamagordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945, took place in front of the Isaiah Wall ("they shall beat their swords into plowshares"), across from the UN, on July 17, 2000. Participants read names of US nuclear tests, all 1000-plus of which are listed on the banner, only part of which is shown in the photo. Staff and interns were present from LCNP, Western States Legal Foundation, Peace Action Education Fund, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. (Photo by Jackie Cabasso)


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