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Home Articles Flashpoints De-Alerting at First Committee 2011

De-Alerting at First Committee 2011

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 In spite of the decision by the de-alerting group not to run a
resolution in 2011 first committee, the de-alerting/operational
readiness issue crops up in a number of resolutions, including the
widely supported United Action resolution of Japan/Australia (both
supported and sponsored by the United States and voted for by
virtually all the nuclear weapons states), the Indian 'Reducing
Nuclear Danger', a worthy resolution that ought to attract much more
support than it does, in the New Agenda resolution, (where it is new
and welcome language that helps to focus the resolution more on
disarmament), and in the NAM resolution.

As one who has never met a nuclear disarmament resolution that I have
not liked, and who welcomes the language on de-alerting particularly
in all these resolutions, I think it s a pity that so many resolutions
whose language is excellent, are not supported simply because of their
provenance and for no other reason.(NAM and Reducing Nuclear Danger
spring to mind) It would help the cause of nuclear disarmament greatly
if some of the 'western' nations could deliberately and consciously
'break ranks' and vote with 3/4 of the rest of the world on
resolutions such as the Reducing Nuclear Danger and the NAM
resolution. Problems with the sponsors of these resolutions could be
handled by an EoV.    I note that there is one resolution at least
where this crossover takes place to a limited extent, namely the
resolution on followup to the ICJ decision.A/C.1/66/L.42, which
attracts support from  Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, and

De-alerting is a vital issue: It has been pointed to as the single
action that would do most to 'take the apocalypse off the Agenda',
other then the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, to which it is
a vital first step. Action in the First Committee, and at NPT
conferences, needs to be translated into action in Moscow and

John Hallam

From Iranian resolution on

Follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995,
2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons


(d) Concrete agreed measures to reduce further the operational status
of nuclear weapons systems;
(e) A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies so as
to minimize the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to
facilitate the process of their total elimination;

From New Agenda Resolution:


(c) Further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in
all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;
(d) Discuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons and
eventually lead to their elimination, lessen the danger of nuclear war
and contribute to the non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear
(e)    Consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in
further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons systems in
ways that promote international stability and security;
(f) (g) 14.
Reduce the risk of accidental use of nuclear weapons; and

From united action towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons:


10.    Calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to take measures to further
reduce the risk of an accidental or unauthorized launch of nuclear
weapons in ways that promote international stability and security,
while welcoming the measures already taken by several nuclear-weapon
States in this regard;
11. Also calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to promptly engage with
a view to further diminishing the role and significance of nuclear
weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;

Resolution sponsored by India, Reducing Nuclear Danger:


Sixty-sixth session First Committee Agenda item 98 (r) General and
complete disarmament: reducing nuclear danger
11-54954 (E)
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chile, Congo, Cuba, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Haiti, India, Indonesia,
Libya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka,
Sudan, Viet Nam and Zambia: draft resolution
Reducing nuclear danger
The General Assembly, Bearing in mind that the use of nuclear weapons
poses the most serious threat
to mankind and to the survival of civilization,
Reaffirming that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would
constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations,
Convinced that the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects
would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war,
Convinced also that nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination
of nuclear weapons are essential to remove the danger of nuclear war,
Considering that, until nuclear weapons cease to exist, it is
imperative on the part of the nuclear-weapon States to adopt measures
that assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use
of nuclear weapons,
Considering also that the hair-trigger alert of nuclear weapons
carries unacceptable risks of unintentional or accidental use of
nuclear weapons, which would have catastrophic consequences for all
Emphasizing the need to adopt measures to avoid accidental,
unauthorized or unexplained incidents arising from computer anomaly or
other technical malfunctions,
Conscious that limited steps relating to de-alerting and de-targeting
have been taken by the nuclear-weapon States and that further
practical, realistic and mutually reinforcing steps are necessary to
contribute to the improvement in the international climate for
negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons,
Distr.: Limited 14 October 2011
Original: English
Mindful that a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in the security
policies of nuclear-weapon States would positively impact on
international peace and security and improve the conditions for the
further reduction and the elimination of nuclear weapons,
Reiterating the highest priority accorded to nuclear disarmament in
the Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General
Assembly1 and by the international community,
Recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice
on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons2 that there
exists an obligation for all States to pursue in good faith and bring
to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its
aspects under strict and effective international control,
Recalling also the call in the United Nations Millennium Declaration3
to seek to eliminate the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction
and the resolve to strive for the elimination of weapons of mass
destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, including the possibility
of convening an international conference to identify ways of
eliminating nuclear dangers,
1.    Calls for a review of nuclear doctrines and, in this context,
immediate and urgent steps to reduce the risks of unintentional and
accidental use of nuclear weapons, including through de-alerting and
de-targeting nuclear weapons;
2.    Requests the five nuclear-weapon States to take measures towards
the implementation of paragraph 1 above;
3.    Calls upon Member States to take the necessary measures to prevent
the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects and to promote
nuclear disarmament, with the objective of eliminating nuclear
4.    Takes note of the report of the Secretary-General submitted
pursuant to paragraph 5 of its resolution 65/60 of 8 December 2010;4
5.    Requests the Secretary-General to intensify efforts and support
initiatives that would contribute towards the full implementation of
the seven recommendations identified in the report of the Advisory
Board on Disarmament Matters that would significantly reduce the risk
of nuclear war,5 and also to continue to encourage Member States to
consider the convening of an international conference, as proposed in
the United Nations Millennium Declaration,3 to identify ways of
eliminating nuclear dangers, and to report thereon to the General
Assembly at its sixty-seventh session;
6.    Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-seventh
session the item entitled “Reducing nuclear danger”.

From the NAM resolution on nuclear disarmament:

7.    Also urges the nuclear-weapon States, as an interim measure, to
de-alert and deactivate immediately their nuclear weapons and to take
other concrete measures to reduce further the operational status of
their nuclear-weapon systems, while stressing that reductions in
deployments and in operational status cannot substitute for
irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, nuclear weapons;

Statement from Ambassador Fasel of Switzerland on behalf of De-Alerting Group

66th Session of the General Assembly
First Committee

Cluster Nuclear Weapons:
De-alerting – Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems

New York, 13 October 2011

H.E.  Mr. Alexandre Fasel
Permanent Representative of Switzerland
to the Conference on Disarmament

Mr Chairman,

I take the floor on behalf of Chile, New Zealand, Nigeria, Switzerland
and Malaysia - our current co-ordinator who unfortunately cannot be
here today due to their chairmanship of the Third Committee - on the
issue of decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons

Since 2007 our countries have called for action to address the
significant numbers of nuclear weapons that remain today at high
levels of readiness.  Our countries believe there is an urgent need
for action to address this situation.

It remains of deep and abiding concern to us that twenty years after
the end of the Cold War, doctrinal aspects from that era – such as
high alert levels – are perpetuated today.  While the tensions that
marked the international security climate during the Cold War have
lowered, corresponding decreases in the alert levels of the arsenals
of the largest nuclear-weapon states have not been forthcoming.

We welcome the lower levels of alert adopted by some nuclear-weapon
States.  As with all other nuclear disarmament measures, it is the
view of our Group that steps to decrease the operational readiness of
nuclear weapons should be irreversible, transparent and verifiable.

We welcome recent reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons.  What
is also required is increased recognition that the high level of alert
of those nuclear weapons that remain is disproportionate to the
current strategic situation and that steps should be taken to address
this inconsistency.  We are disappointed that recent reviews of
nuclear doctrine have not resulted in lowered levels of alert.  We are
encouraged, however, that the door has been left open for further work
in this area and look forward to receiving an update on how this work
is progressing.

We note the recognition of last year’s NPT Review Conference of the
issue of de-alerting and welcome the commitment by the nuclear-weapon
States to “consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear weapon
States in further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons
systems” on which they are to report on in 2014.  Reports in the
interim on how this work is progressing would be most welcome and we
will be pursuing updates at the preparatory committee meetings during
the forthcoming NPT review cycle.  We believe it is of utmost
importance to achieve greater transparency levels than exist at the
moment with regard to such military doctrines.  We view progress in
this regard as a major task for the years ahead which could facilitate
further reductions of alert levels.

We have also taken heart from the recommitment contained in the Action
Plan by the nuclear-weapon States to accelerate concrete progress on

the steps leading to nuclear disarmament contained in the 2000 NPT

outcome document given the strong reference in that document for
action on operational readiness.
A lowered operational readiness of nuclear weapon systems would
represent an important interim step towards a nuclear-weapon-free
world. It would demonstrate a palpable commitment to a diminishing
role for nuclear weapons.  In addition, steps to lengthen the
decision-making “fuse” for the launch of any nuclear attack would
minimise the risk of unintentional or accidental use.

We are keen to capitalise on changes in the global security
environment since the end of the Cold War.  The adversarial
relationships of those bleak times are clearly behind us and the
threat of a conflict among major powers has become remote.  Against
this backdrop, the rationale for high-alert levels has lost its

Mr Chairman

Our countries have presented a resolution on this issue to previous
sessions of the General Assembly.  While we remain committed to the
operational readiness issue, we will not be tabling a resolution this
year.  Rather, we will be looking ahead to the forthcoming review
cycle of the NPT, starting with next year’s preparatory committee
meeting in Vienna, and measuring progress in that context.  We will be
putting forward a paper for discussion next year that canvasses the
substantive arguments in favour of lowering the operational readiness
of nuclear arsenals – as well as considering the full range of steps
available in the multilateral political process to take the issue

We will spare no efforts in advocating for progress towards lowering
operational readiness in all relevant fora, including at the General
Assembly, and will look to revisit our resolution next year.