Statement by FU Cong, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Foreign Ministry, at the EU Non-proliferation and Disarmament Conference
November 12, 2020
Today, international strategic situation is faced with the gravest challenges since the end of Cold War, and the international arms control architecture is at a critical juncture. The pursuit of unilateralist policies and withdrawal from a large number of international treaties and organizations by the US have dealt heavy blows to the multilateral and bilateral arms control and disarmament regime established since the end of WWII. Cold War mentality and double standard are impeding international non-proliferation cooperation and undermining the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation mechanism. The development of science and technology is bringing forth complex and profound repercussions on strategic stability and giving rise to a host of humanitarian, legal and ethical challenges. Against this backdrop, it is pertinent and timely to exchange views on the theme of “Rebuilding Mutual Trust in Arms Control, Non-proliferation and Disarmament”. It is both a pleasure and an honor for me to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic. In my view, in order to move international arms control and non-proliferation process forward, concerted efforts need to be made in the following areas.
First, we should adhere to the basic principles and concepts of arms control.
The purpose of international arms control is to enhance the security of all countries through cooperation, so as to achieve equal, common and universal security. Arms control that aims at increasing one’s own security at the expense of the security of others is neither acceptable nor sustainable. Over the past century, despite the changes in arms control both in terms of content and paradigm, the basic international consensus has always been that maintaining strategic balance and stability should be a basic principle of arms control. However, what the United States has done in recent years has violated this basic principle. Its real intention is to negate the checks and balances between the major powers and establish a uni-polar world. That is the root cause of the stalemate in the international arms control and disarmament process. Competition between major powers is only natural and even inevitable. What is important is to search for win-win solutions instead of playing a zero-sum game, to keep this competition under control by maintaining global strategic stability, so as to reduce the risks of war. Recently, some US officials have come up with some absurd theories or coinages, such as “three largest nuclear-weapon states” or depicting arms control as a battle between democracies and non-democracies. These rhetorics distort the basic narratives of international arms control efforts, harm the atmosphere of international dialogues and cannot be conducive to rebuilding trust. The international community should be vigilant against them.
Second, we should safeguard the existing international arms control architecture.
As Rome was not built in a day, progress could only be made by building upon past achievements. The existing international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including the bilateral arms control treaties between the United States and Russia, is an important component of the international security system, and the basis for resolving security dilemmas through a cooperative approach and for realizing common security and universal disarmament. That system is a valuable common asset of the international community, and should be strengthened, rather than weakened. That continuous withdrawal of the US from international treaties has not only damaged its own credibility, but also jeopardized international security. The international community should be united in rejecting the totally irresponsible actions taken by the current US administration aimed at sabotaging the international arms control architecture. The immediate priority now is to urge the United States to respond as soon as possible to Russia’s call for the unconditional extension of the New START. In addition, the international community should adhere to the existing international consensus, including the Final Document of SSOD-I and the outcome documents of the previous NPT Review Conferences, highlight the special and primary responsibilities of the two largest nuclear-weapon States for nuclear disarmament, and say no to the words and deeds that overthrow or undermine international consensus on arms control.
Third, we should further strengthen and expand the international arms control architecture.
While upholding the past achievements of the existing international arms control system, we also need to keep moving with the times and constantly renew and improve the system. The international community need to agree that fruits of scientific and technological development should be used to the maximum extent possible for peaceful development, and that there should be limits to their military utilization. We should push forward negotiations on cyber space, outer space, artificial intelligence, bio-technology and others, with a view to concluding legally-binding international instruments or codes of conduct as soon as possible, and establishing relevant international mechanisms, so as to guard against or reduce potential risks and challenges that these technologies could bring to international stability and security, due to the absence of international rules.
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has put bio-security under the spotlight, and highlighted the importance and urgency of strengthening global bio-security governance. In this context, it is important to restart the negotiation of BWC verification protocol as soon as possible, with a view to establishing an effective international verification mechanism to safeguard bio-security. We hope that next year’s review conference of the Convention could make a decision in that respect. At the same time, it is also necessary to establish a scientific advisory body under the framework of the Convention and formulate codes of conduct to better regulate biological scientific research and promote the healthy development of biotechnology.
With the rapid development of digital economy, the issue of data security becomes increasingly prominent and calls for a global solution. It is high time that we formulated global rules reflecting the interests and concerns of the majority of countries on the basis of universal participation. For the purpose of effectively dealing with the risks and challenges associated with data security, China has lately launched the Global Initiative on Data Security, which calls on all countries to take action to prevent and put an end to activities that impair or steal important data of other countries’ critical infrastructure, or jeopardize personal information, oppose mass surveillance against other countries through ICTs, remove mandatory requirements for domestic companies to store in their own territory data generated and obtained overseas, and require enterprises not to install backdoors in their products and services. This initiative provides a basis for the formulation of global rules and represents also solemn commitments by China on data security. China hopes that our interlocutors could support the initiative, and we also welcome suggestions for improvement.
Fourth, we should resolve non-proliferation disputes through peaceful means.
Non-proliferation issues such as the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the Iranian nuclear issue are complex issues that can only be resolved through political and diplomatic means. Facts have shown that maximum pressure and the threat of force will only make the issues more complicated. Sanctions are not the end, nor a panacea. Sanctions are means, so are the lifting or relaxing of sanctions. If the legitimate security and development concerns of Iran or DPRK are not properly addressed, attempts to impose solutions through sanctions will go nowhere.
Under the current situation, all parties should firmly fulfill the JCPOA obligations and resolutely oppose unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction. The parties concerned should resolve their differences in the implementation of the agreement through dialogue and consultation, and within the framework of the Joint Commission, by restoring the balance of rights and obligations under the agreement. China also attaches importance to the concerns of a new platform for dialogues on all issues related to regional security and stability. Trying to force DPRK to abandon its entire nuclear weapons program in one go without addressing its security and economic concerns is unlikely to succeed. The best way forward is to make progress through a synchronized, reciprocal and phased process. China urges the United States to demonstrate its good faith by responding to the legitimate and reasonable concerns of DPRK on security and development with practical actions, so as to bring the denuclearization of the Peninsula back on track.
Fifth, we should establish an inclusive and effective international non-proliferation mechanism.
It is the common responsibility of the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. However, for a long time, the existing export control mechanisms have been hindered by the lack of representation and double standard or even outright discrimination. In recent years, these problems have only been further exacerbated. The United States is trying to forge an alliance based on ideological demarcation against high-tech exports to countries like China, and transform these export control mechanisms into tools for high-tech blockade of, and decoupling from, China. For that purpose, the US has strenuously obstructed China from joining these mechanisms. Such practices have seriously undermined the foundation of international non-proliferation cooperation and disrupted normal international cooperation on science and technology and trade. The international community should be in line with genuine multilateralism and the rule of law, oppose such tendencies of politicization and polarization, and endeavor to establish a fair and inclusive non-proliferation control regime based on equal participation of all countries.