Joint Press Conference by ICNND Co-Chairs, Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi on the Conclusion of the North East Asia Regional Meeting of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament  


23 May 2009, Beijing, China.

SPEAKER: Welcome everybody, thanks for coming along to our press conference today. I'm sorry for the short delay, thanks for your patience.

The format of today's press conference will be that there are two co-chairs who will both give a short statement, and then we'll open the floor to questions.

So if I could just briefly introduce our co-chairs to you. We have Mr Gareth Evans. Mr Evans was Australia's Resources and Energy Minister from 1984 to 1987 and Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1996. He has been president of the International Crisis Group since 2000 and also the chair of [indistinct] Global commissions [indistinct].

We also have Mrs Yoriko Kawaguchi who was [indistinct] Director-General, Managing Director of Suntori(*) Limited and Japan's Environment Minister from 2000 to 2002, and the Foreign Minister of Japan from 2002 to 2004. She's currently a member of the House of Councillors, and she is chair of the Liberal Democratic Party Research Commission on Environment.

I would now like to hand over to [Indistinct]. Thank you.

MRS YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Thank you, Jill. First, I am sorry that we - we are late, that just shows that our discussion in the meeting was just so heated and everyone wanted to speak, so that's why we're a bit late.

First, I would like to say that we are very happy that it was possible to have this meeting on - the Regional Meeting on North East Asia. We thank very much the [indistinct] University, the Institute of International Studies, its chair Mr Young - Professor Young and his [Indistinct] for their efforts to make it possible.

Also we would like very much to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador who shall be in the [indistinct] and because we were very happy that we are able to invite the members, the specialist people from the nearby countries.

Now, the purpose of this meeting is first to tell the people in the region, especially in this field, to what we are aiming to achieve, our purposes, our objectives, what we have been doing, how we want to go about the nature of our work. And also, at the same time, to get the region's view on the issues that we are concerned with, namely, nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of the [indistinct] in our report. Some commissioners, I think you have the list of our commissioners and also participants in the official meeting, but some of the commissioners are here, present, and it is very useful for our discussions in the commission to get the region's view on the issues that we are interested.

I probably do not have to repeat probably because it's in the paper that is distributed to you, but this commission started out last year when Australian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Rudd, talked with Japan's then Prime Minister Mr Fukuda, and they agreed to jointly host this international commission on nuclear non-proliferation disarmament and peaceful [indistinct] that [indistinct] on this commission.

We have had two meetings already, the first one in Sydney last year, the second one in Washington DCm February, right after - actually about two, three days after the Obama Administration started. And we had a meeting, and also we met with American new leadership including Vice President Biden and Mr [indistinct] of [indistinct] and many other senior people in the [indistinct] and also State Department.

And we told them - we asked them if [indistinct] will take on leadership in moving this agenda forward. And the response we received from them was very favourable. They said that it was basically consistent with what - what we are thinking, it's basically consistent with their thinking. And we are therefore very happy to see that United States and Russia have started [indistinct] negotiation to replace 2009 committee, and also the United States is very [indistinct] for the Obama statement about [indistinct] etc.

We also said at that time that United States needs to make a confidence building measure [indistinct] with China and we are very also very happy it is moving.

In China we talked, we saw - two of us met with Foreign Minister Yang(*) and then we had a very good conversation with him. He was very warm to the activities of our commission.

Also, yesterday and today, in the morning, we spoke - we discussed disarmament and non-proliferation issues. The details of discussion I will leave my co-chair Gareth to talk about.

GARETH EVANS: Okay. Thank you [indistinct] and welcome to you all, thank you for coming.

Why the submission, why now? What use can it possibly be to have another group of people assemble to talk about these issues which have been around for such a long time? Short answer is there is a need to energise a very high level of global political debate on what remain very important risks, threats for the future of this world.

Those threats are in four main categories: from the existing nuclear weapons, of which there are some 25,000 or more still in existence, there are risks from new countries acquiring such weapons in the future; there are risks of nuclear weapons and material falling into the hands of terrorist [indistinct] who have the intention and the capability of causing catastrophic damage, and there are risks associated with the expected renaissance, so called, in civil nuclear energy, the multiplication of new power plants around the world for very good reasons creates problems of its own.

For the last 10 years the international community has really been sleep-walking on all these various risks. Some attention has obviously been paid to the particular problems of North Korea and Iran, but during those last 10 years we've seen India and Pakistan becoming nuclear powers, we have seen the complete collapse in bilateral and multilateral arms control negotiations, and we have seen failures of the last Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, failures of the 2005 UN World Summit to reach agreement about anything.

That's the background of bad news. The background of good news is that there is a new air of optimism in the world, particularly with the new US administration, a commitment to making major progress on disarmament from the Obama Administration and the response we have seen to that from Russia and others.

But it's not just a matter of US leadership, there has to be very strong engagement by all the other significant players, countries in the international community, not least China here in this region. And that's why this commission I think can add value.

We believe, the two of us and our commissioner Mr [Indistinct] because we have [Indistinct] opportunity to bring all these different complicated threads together, we have a very representative expert group of commissioners drawn from all around the world, and the way in which we are approaching this task will I think be a bit different from previous commissions and [Indistinct] we want to write our report in a way which is easily understandable by non-specialists, and let's face it most political leaders are non-specialists in this area, and we want to write it in a way which is both idealistic and very very strongly committed to achieving a world without nuclear weapons eventually.

But is also very realistic about the constraints and difficulties that are out there and the political environments that do exist for all the key countries.

So the report that we write and we'll hopefully publish by the end of this year will contain quite specific action plans both for the short term which we define as the next four years through to 2012, for the medium term which will go through to around about 2025 by which time we hope the world can make really really major advances on the disarmament front, reducing weapons to very low numbers and effectively locking them away. And then in the longer term after that, getting eventually to global zero. And our commission will address all these issues.

In the course of writing our report and drawing our conclusions together it's been very important for us to get input from all the key regions around the world where these issues are incredibly salient, incredibly important. We've already been to Latin America, we are here today in North East Asia, we'll be having another regional meeting quite soon in New Delhi covering South Asia, India, Pakistan area, and we will of course also be meeting in the Middle East to discuss the issues there.

Here in North East Asia we've had a very very lively discussion, I'm not sure that I would describe it as heated, it's certainly been strong and very engaged with all the countries here represented by experts and specialists, that's to say China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia. We did ask the North Koreans to come but they declined, so they didn't really want to get into this discussion at this stage. The discussion between the rest of us has been very very productive, very clear in identifying the issues, the different perspectives, and given a lot of information, a lot of ideas to the commission.

The primary thing to discuss, and I don't want to go into much more detail about the actual content, but the primary things we have discussed on the disarmament side have been first of all the question of nuclear doctrine, what are weapons good for, just for deterring against other countries with nuclear weapons or do they have a role still in deterring large scale conventional forces being [Indistinct] against a country? What is the role of nuclear weapons in the extended deterrence environment that's enjoyed by US allies in this region, Japan, Korea, elsewhere in NATO, Australia? What is the role of nuclear weapons? Can nuclear weapons begin to be justified for purposes other than deterring just against other nuclear weapons?

All of that very very complicated and sensitive debate, and very specifically on disarmament we talked about China's role, how soon can we move beyond a bilateral US/Russia arms reduction process and get into a serious multilateral arms reduction process which China could obviously be a very keen player along with eventually all the other nuclear armed states? Is it possible for China to do more now, right now by way of transparency, making clear what the size of its nuclear arsenal is? Is it possible for China to make a commitment right now that there be no increase in that arsenal at the very least? What is the impact of ballistic missile defence capability now being developed? What's the impact of space capability being developed? Is China right to worry about this?

These are the sorts of issues that we have been discussing in a great deal of detail.

On the non-proliferation side of the argument we have been discussing in very great detail the particular situation in North Korea, what is the actual capability, to the extent that we can judge it, of the North Koreans? What is their intent? Do they want to keep weapons permanently? For what purpose? Are they willing to bargain those weapons away for the normalisation of relations with the rest of the world and other advantages? To what extent are they willing to transfer those weapons and technology to other countries thus giving rise to very real fears about proliferation being helped by them?

What should United States' policy be? What should China's policy in response to this? What should be the policy of Japan, Korea and Russia, the other members of the six-party talks? Should it be calm and measured and reassured or should it be tougher?

GARETH EVANS: We're all struggling to reach conclusions on these issues and there are many different opinions being expressed but for present purposes this was not a meeting designed to reach conclusions on any of these things, this

was a meeting designed to give the commission a very strong input and understanding of regional positions, so we can go away, think about it, make recommendations, come up with some good answers.

This afternoon we will be discussing the third main area after disarmament and non-proliferation, and that's the question of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, what is the likely scale of that development of nuclear industry capability in the period ahead, in this region? What are the implications of that for concerns about proliferation and what can we do to better satisfy ourselves on these issues, not only of safety, but of safeguards and the security?

So they're the issues that we've been wrestling with and we'll be happy to try and answer any questions you might have a bit more specifically, but there are limits to which we can say much more frankly about what we've actually been talking about because obviously the positions that people were expressing were basically confidential. It was that kind of dialogue, it was not a public forum and it was important that we did hear views expressed confidentialy, so that we could understand the real positions of the various players.

So there are limits to which we can go further, but we'll be happy to try to respond to your questions.

Please identify yourselves.

QUESTION: [Indistinct] Beijing. Mr Evans you have [Indistinct] about China's role, the Chinese role for nuclear weapons reduction. How is their response to these discussions?

GARETH EVANS: China is very strongly committed, and has been, in all its public statements all the way back to the 1960s to a world without nuclear weapons and argues that its position is very defensive and it - weapons exist only for very, very limited purposes to ensure that the country will not be the subject of nuclear attack.

And it says, accordingly, that it's not [indistinct] and it also says it's committed to no first use of those weapons of other familiar positions. And China's basic position is that it's up to others to make the first moves in this respect, in particular the United States and Russia and that is almost certainly playing its part, once momentum is generated elsewhere.

Now that's basically this kind of Chinese position that one heard this weekend and one hears more generally.

But the matter in issue, however, which we raised with the Foreign Minister and was certainly discussed in a very lively fashion, was can China do more now to, itself, contribute to the momentum for change in particular, by being rather more transparent in making clear what the size of its own arsenal is and making clear what its intentions are so far as modernisation and expansion are concerned?

There is some reluctance on the Chinese side to go much further at this stage, but this is clearly a matter for ongoing debate, and I think the work of the commission may help to encourage an environment in which we will see some movement on the multilateral front sooner rather than would otherwise be the case. But Yoriko might wish to comment further on that.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: I just wish to add that in the meeting today and yesterday we did have discussions of how China could operationalise its nuclear philosophy, that [indistinct] everyone's disquiet. So they're have been, there were heated discussions on this [Indistinct]

GARETH EVANS: Other questions? Yes, gentleman at the front.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

GARETH EVANS: International?

QUESTION: International observation for the [indistinct] nuclear weapons [Indistinct]

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Which - who are you asking that question?

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: This discussion, when the question, we did a little bit of discussions on this subject. Now there are many ways of thinking on this, whether we will have a comprehensive one, or whether we should go one-by-one. Or it would not be useful unless we had conditions that would make it possible to - for the commission to really operating.

So there are discussions and we have not come to a conclusion on this yet at our commission. We will be discussing - this is going to be part of the discussion.

GARETH EVANS: In terms of the attitude of Chinese side to - Chinese Government to that question, I think the short answer is there's strong commitment in principle to ultimately negotiating such a catch-all, all embracing convention, which would provide for a zero world with appropriate verification mechanisms and so on.

But that - they think any such negotiation would be premature at this stage, that we have to proceed by a step-by-step process, that it would be unrealistic to plunge into such negotiations right now.

And frankly, it's hard to argue with that position. The question is how many steps and how quickly we take them and my hope is, of course, that this won't just remain a forever distant objective, but something that we can come to within, you know, some reasonable time period.

QUESTION: [Indistinct] question.


QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

GARETH EVANS: Do you want us to...?

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Sure. The first question, is the DPRK, [indistinct] and peaceful uses. My - now, our commission, it is not helpful for me to say any commissions view. So I am giving my own view, and also commission, this commission is a second track - meaning that what is discussed does not reflect the view of the government that one belongs to.

Now my view is that North Korea, DPRK should abide by the United Nations resolutions. And United Nations have a [indistinct] DPRK to fire the missiles, and also [indistinct].

So I - my view I offer to you is that they should abide by the United Nations resolution. DPRK issue played a large - did occupy a lot of time in our discussions.

This is one of the only important regional security issue pertaining to disarmament and also non-proliferation. So we did talk about this. And your second question was...

GARETH EVANS: That - why China. Why are we here in China?

QUESTION: Why China...

GARETH EVANS: Why is this meeting in China, and what are China's contributions to...

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Oh, yes. Well, we did have our second meeting in Washington and we will have our third meeting in Moscow. But in between, we feel that, as Gareth said, regional meetings to where the security issues are important, I mean, nuclear issues are important security issues.

We do have to accept the region's views and the commissioners in our report, and the commissioners will have to learn from the region. So we have chosen north-east Asia, and Gareth's central Asia, and also Middle East. And then we had - the biggest meeting was in South America.

Tsinghua University was nice enough to offer the hosting, co-hosting with us. So we thought it would be the place to have this meeting, in China, how to train our important for in bringing [indistinct] a mediator, in terms - in the field of DPRK issue.

GARETH EVANS: Another question.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

GARETH EVANS: Um - sorry, the Chinese - we didn't have the United States' active participation in this meeting. They were just here as observers and so they were not actually participating in the debate.

We have had extended discussions of course in Washington as my co-chair says, at our last meeting, and we have a pretty clear idea of what the US perspectives are on all these issues.

They clearly would like to get into a strategic dialogue with China, sooner rather than later, to start getting serious thought going as to how disarmament can proceed - not just between US and Russia, but bringing in the other players as well, with China being particularly significant in that respect.

And of course, the US position on North Korea is one which basically favours keeping the door open for negotiation, but also being fairly tough on the North Koreans in the sense of ensuring that there are minimal to zero opportunities for transferring technology or weapons, or titanium to anywhere else, should they want to; and we don't make any such assumption.

I don't think there are major differences of view as between the US and China on any of these issues, but there are questions of emphasis about timing and priorities and who should be doing what and when, but this is life. These are very, very complicated and [indistinct] issues.

But for the first time for a long time, I mean, the encouraging thing is we do, I think, at the commission, have a strong sense that people are wanting to find cooperative ways of moving together and whereas for most of the last decade, certainly for the last eight years, the US Government has not really been interested in pursuing arms control issues at all - certainly not on the disarmament side.

That situation has fundamentally changed. And I think that opens the door to very good cooperation.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

GARETH EVANS: Well [laughs], the main response is how frustrating an issue this is, because - I mean, one of the really basic issues is the differences of view that exist about what really North Korea's actual intentions are. Do they really want to hang on to their weapons capability in perpetuity because of security fears on the one hand, or the regime's fears on the other hand that if they don't keep talking up the idea of external threats and the need to have weapons to deter that they will be at risk from their own people?

Is it that, or is it the case that it's just a matter of the North Koreans wanting the best possible deal, in terms of normalisation of relations and economic assistance and so on? And playing a kind of precipice walking brinkmanship negotiating role?

Is it the case that they do want to deal, but feel that they - agreements they've entered into have not been sufficiently responded to, step-by-step, by others - the other side? I mean, if they do want to deal, in other words, is what we fear at the moment result of a genuine concern with the DSI, that the story has not been fully appreciated? Or is that an artificial concern, and what you're really talking about is a country that wants an artificially - a big deal that it can't reasonably expect to get, or that it doesn't really want to deal at all?

Now all of these different interpretations are around the table, as we discussed it today and picking and choosing your way through this is fairly difficult. I think in terms of response, it basically comes down to pretty much the same thing: keep the door open for dialogue, continue to explore what the possibilities are for resolving this thing peacefully. But also keep the pressure on to ensure that North Korea certainly doesn't assist any other countries, or any, God help us, terrorist factors, to behave badly.

And that raises issues like proliferation security initiatives and so on, about which again, there are differences of view, but there's no real difference of view on the question of containing North Korea.

I don't think anybody is really wanting to even think about military action or anything of that kind. And I'm not sure that anybody thinks the present situation is, you know, so scary as that that could be justified.

All these circumstances could change. It's a very difficult and very sensitive issue. But we're much better informed as a commission, about regional views, as a result of this meeting, than we were before. That's all I can really say.


GARETH EVANS: Yeah, sure.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Many interpretations, as Gareth was saying, weren't threats. But I think I can say that - firstly, say that there was a consensus from the importance of [indistinct] of these inter-party talks; that is denuclearisation of [indistinct].

And also, most of this, the majority of the people agreed, that sixty - six party talks, are very important for feeling that DPRK engage. Although there were some voice saying that UK and - sorry, US-DPRK talk, bilateral.

GARETH EVANS: Somebody else?

QUESTION: Thank you [indistinct] Reuters newspapers [indistinct]. A couple of questions. The first one, one about China. You said that China is going to wait for others to take the first step in this process of nuclear disarmament. Did you come away from the talks with any strong sense of just how far along the road other countries, especially the United States and Russia, will have to go, before China becomes substantially involved?

[Inaudible question]

And a second question. We have a problem with North Korea and also other declared nuclear trades [indistinct] aren't recognised by the NTP[sic]. Is your commission coming out with any new ideas about how to address those countries with [indistinct]?

GARETH EVANS: So, what [indistinct] outside the NPT?

QUESTION: Yeah, India, Pakistan.

GARETH EVANS: [Indistinct].

QUESTION: [Indistinct]

GARETH EVANS: Well, on the question of China's moving us to engage in this sort of multilateral negotiations, or serious commitment to disarmament, I think that's a work in progress. What I described was a sort of present position, you know, that's been articulated publicly and privately by the Chinese side. But I think as the months go on, this will be a position that does evolve.

I think it's - realistically it's a necessary precondition that anything much more happening, that we see some initial movements on the US-Russia talks which most people are hoping will occur by the end of this year; at least with an initial agreement on the start of a follow-on treaty.

But what happens after that, I don't think we should be pessimistic about it. I think it's - there's a real chance for evolution. And one way in which China could indicate its seriousness of purpose on all of this is to - short of actually either decommissioning some of its redundant weapons stock, which would be a very good step to take, or actually making a very firm commitment not to increase its arsenal, apart from that I mean just entering into high level - high-level strategic dialogue with the US and perhaps others would be an important way forward.

Another important thing that could happen would be for all the nuclear weapon states, under the NPT, to agree on a strong statement going into the NPT Review Conference, about their commitment to a nuclear weapons free world and determination to take serious steps towards that. And if China could play a leading role in the development of such a statement, of the kind that I think this commission will be recommending, now that would be an important contribution.

On the question of bringing in the, what we call the three elephants outside the NPT - India, Pakistan and Israel - this will be a significant preoccupation for this commission, even though, primarily, the immediate objective is to have something useful to say in the lead-up to the NPT Review Conference in May of next year, we do, of course, acknowledge that if we're really going to have progress on both disarmament and non-proliferation, we have to bring within the framework of international principles and rules and constraints, in both those areas, the countries which are not members of the NPT, including the - these big nucl... these three big nuclear armed ones.

So we are developing - we will be developing ideas about how to do that. I won't go into any more detail about it at this stage, but issues like the India-US nuclear deal and so on are some of the things we're discussing in that context; whether more stuff like that is helpful or unhelpful, and what other ways there are of moving forward.

And you know, it's very much a part of our repertoire.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Just one more piece to add to what my colleague just said. On - in terms of a constant(*) agreement, the regional meeting here, we did discuss transparency.

GARETH EVANS: Yep. The question was heightened transparency.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. [Indistinct]. I have two questions. The first one is [indistinct] Britain and Australia are all under the US nuclear safeguard. Are you [indistinct] and nuclear disarmament of the US, United States.

And my second question is, given your uranium stores is not enough to generate electricity for hundreds of years, so why Japan is spending millions [indistinct] on plutonium imports? Thank you.

GARETH EVANS: Well, Yoriko you can answer from a Japan perspective, I'll answer from an Australian.

YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: The first question is on extended deterrence? Right?


YORIKO KAWAGUCHI: Yes. The - Japan is under the extended deterrence of the United States and we need it at this present time, of course, given the situation in this area.

The Cold War is not over in this region. There is still uncertainty. We have countries which we have to pay attention in terms of security.

Extended deterrence is necessity - of necessity to prevent Japan - that's [indistinct].

And about plutonium, we will be using plutonium in the power generation and that's - that's the - that's why. Now, if you are worried about Japan going nuclear using that plutonium, there is no way that would do this. We are a member of NPT and we put ourselves in the category of a country which would be using material for peaceful uses.

And we will not - we should be [indistinct] you to be - if we are to be [indistinct]. And it will be past the target for sanction. And this is not a position that Japan is going to put itself.

Second reason is that Japan has a very strong public opinion against producing or having nuclear weapons in [indistinct]. And this comes from our experiences of our only - being the only nation who fell victim to the two nuclear weapons.

The third reason for this is that we have three rules which we have been applying to our policy. That is: we are not to produce nuclear weapons; we are not to own nuclear weapons; and we will not let nuclear weapons flow into Japanese territory. And we have a - if I [indistinct] many other reasons - we have a basic law on nuclear energy which just only talks about peaceful uses.

So, your concern about Japan's using plutonium for weapons is groundless.

GARETH EVANS: Just if I might have another word on the extended deterrence issue. Australia, of course like Japan and Korea and the NATO countries, is a beneficiary of an alliance relationship with the United States and US nuclear umbrella. I think this gives rise to two separate questions which sometimes get confused.

The first is the role of that nuclear umbrella in protecting US allies as well as the US itself from nuclear attacks by other countries. And I think the short answer is that so long as we are in a world where countries do retain nuclear weapons, we will be very happy to continue to be part of that protective - to shelter under that protective umbrella.

The second question is - the second issue which arises is does the commitment by the US to help its allies against any attack - any conventional attack, or chemical attack or biological weapons attack, does that require the use of - or potential use of nuclear weapons for that purpose? This raises the whole question of nuclear doctrine.

My very strong personal view - we're still discussing this on the commission - is that there can be no justification, if you're serious about beginning the process of eliminating nuclear weapons, of retaining nuclear weapons as a deterrent against non-nuclear threats, whether they be chemical, biological or conventional.

If you are serious about moving towards a world without nuclear weapons, the very first step is to get agreement on the principle that the only justification for having nuclear weapons is to deter other people from using nuclear weapons. This raises quite difficult security questions for many countries about conventional arms imbalances and so on or - which we are, you know, wrestling with.

But I said that's my personal view of how we have to move forward on that particular issue. And my personal view is that US conventional capability is so obviously great that you don't need to talk about nuclear weapons to deter any of those other classes of potential threats. But there are differences of view on that, and that's one of the many difficult issues we're dealing with on the commission.

I think we will have to wrap this up now if you don't mind. Thank you all, ladies and gentlemen, very much for being with us today.

[ Ends ]

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