Statement by Ambassador Zhang Yishan on the Issue of Protection against Nuclear Terrorism at the November Board of Governors Session
30 November, 2001
In the aftermath of September 11th event, how to effectively combat terrorism has become a most frequent topic and focus of concern of the international community. The Chinese delegation fully endorses and supports the Board of Governors in setting aside one day of its time exclusively devoted to the discussion of how to protect against terrorism in nuclear field.
First of all, I wish to thank the Secretariat for the carefully prepared report of the Director General on Protection against Nuclear Terrorism contained in document GOV/2001/50. This report provides a very good basis for our discussion of prevention against nuclear terrorism. I also wish to thank Mr. for his comprehensive introduction.
On the afternoon of September 11 this year, as we were discussing in this Board room issues relating to the strengthening of security of nuclear material and nuclear facilities, the terrorists launched the stunning attacks on the US cities of New York and Washington. Very soon we all witnessed on TV screen this but yet another crime committed by terrorists against humanity. At first I could hardly believe all this was true, thinking it might have been another masterwork of those Hollywood super artists good at making disaster films. I know that most people went through a similar mental and emotional process as I did, from disbelief, to sadness, to sorrow and then to anger and finally immersed in deep thinking of how such tragedies can forever be prevented from reoccurrence. The September 11th terrorist attacks are not only attacks against the United States, but also challenges to all the peace-loving nations and peoples of the world.
Terrorism has become a common evil of the world and a common enemy of the entire humanity. Any form of terrorist activities, including nuclear terrorism, poses a serious threat to world peace and stability, inflicts harms to lives, dignity and safety of the people and threatens the social and economic development and prosperity of all the countries. Quite a number of countries, including China, have been victims of terrorism. The terrorist forces of the so-called "East Turkestan", which have close links with international terrorism, have long been recipients of training, financial assistance and support from international terrorist groups. To achieve their aim of splitting China, they have created a lot of incidences of terror and violence on the Chinese territory, causing huge losses of civilian lives and property.
After the event of September 11, the Chinese government stated on many occasions and in clear terms its position on the question of combating terrorism. Today, I'd like to reiterate once again that China opposes and condemns terrorism of any form, calling for the strengthening of international cooperation at all levels in the struggle against terrorism in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. China stands ready to make its contribution along with the international community to the common fight against all forms of terrorism.
Combating terrorism is the common duty and action of the international community. It is a matter of satisfaction for us that the IAEA, the international organization in charge of nuclear affairs, did not fail to live up to the expectations placed on us by the international community. We have already carried out a great amount of work in efforts against nuclear terrorism. On November 2nd, the Agency held a special session during its Symposium on International Safeguards exclusively to discuss the issue of combating nuclear terrorism. We have also noted that, on many occasions, including when speaking to the media, the Director General stated the objective views of the Agency on the issue of nuclear terrorism, which played a positive role in correctly leading the public opinion and reducing unwarranted panic. We express our great appreciation to the Director General and the Secretariat for their political acumen and the responsible spirit displayed on the issue of anti-nuclear terrorism.
Terrorist attacks through the use of biological, chemical, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction are no longer fictional. They are real threats to us. We must take this seriously and take no chances. We must do whatever we can to prevent realization of nuclear terrorism. On how to effectively protect against nuclear terrorism, I wish to share the following preliminary views.
1.To strengthen physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities to ensure their security is the unshirkable responsibility of the governments of various countries. Countries should develop and improve their national laws and regulations on the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities under their specific conditions accompanied by truly enforceable measures to ensure strict implementation.
2.Once a nuclear event does happen, the very nature of being nuclear means that its impact will not be confined to the event state per se. It is, therefore, necessary for all the parties to strengthen international cooperation in the protection and prevention against nuclear terrorism, for instance, by improving information exchanges between member states and the Agency , between the Agency and other international organizations and their member states on situations of trafficking and theft of nuclear material, etc.
3.In the area of protection against nuclear terrorism and strengthening of physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities, China supports the appropriate role to be played by the Agency in accordance with the objectives and principles of the Statute. China agrees that the question of amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material should be studied under the auspices of the Agency. As we all know, after 18 months of discussions, the informal Expert Meeting on Whether There Is A Need to Amend the Convention finally achieved its consensus view in May this year, a result that was truly not easy. Any attempt to modify this consensus runs the risk of opening up a prolonged debate. Therefore, in order to launch the formal process of the amendment as quickly as possible, the legal and technical expert meeting to be convened next week should proceed on the basis of the discussions at the May informal Expert Meeting and in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the 45th session of the General Conference.
4.Due to the time, we only had a preliminary study of the document GOV/2001/50. Our general impression is that the proposals of the Secretariat are quite comprehensive, covering various areas--- physical protection, safeguards, nuclear safety, management of radioactive sources and emergency response, etc. The required resources as proposed by the Secretariat are also quite substantial. This shows the strong determination of the Secretariat in protecting against nuclear terrorism and high enthusiasm. But we all know that there must be priorities in doing things; one can't do all at once (or: one can't prune his moustache and brows all at the same time). We believe that some of the proposals submitted by the Secretariat could produce immediate effects and should be put into operation promptly. Some others, though helpful in protecting against nuclear terrorism are relatively speaking not that urgent and could be looked at in a longer-term perspective. At present, the Secretariat should try to establish the level of priorities among all its proposals in the light of the needs against nuclear terrorism so that the focus can be maintained. On the issue of costs, we are still studying the four options. As a matter of principle, we think that we should first carry out intensive consultations on the issue of costs and listen to a wide range of views before it is submitted to the Board for consideration and decision.
The proposals of the Secretariat and views expressed by the Governors, including those of mine, are extremely important for our effective protection against terrorism in nuclear field. The implementation of the relevant measures will undoubtedly deal heavy blows at nuclear terrorism. To be frank, however, all these measures have certain limitations and inadequacies. We have a proverb in China that says: "To stop the boiling of water, it is better to quench the fire than pour out the water." It tells us that problems are to be solved at their root and both the symptoms and the causes are to be addressed. Vis-à-vis terrorism, we need to take proactive actions, that is to way, we must carefully study the root causes of terrorism in order to tackle this problem fundamentally. On 12th this month, the Ministerial-level meeting of the UN Security Council adopted the "Declaration on the Global Effort to Combat Terrorism". This Declaration emphasizes that the international community should continue its effort to enhance understanding between different civilizations and promote solutions of regional conflicts in hotspots and various other global issues including, inter alia, the widening gap between the South and the North and extreme poverty of the developing countries. All these will contribute towards eradication of international terrorism. In so far as our Agency is concerned, we should take the approach of walking on two legs, namely, addressing both symptom and the cause. In addition to actively developing relevant measures against (nuclear) terrorism, we should also take the technical cooperation as an effective measure for the final eradication of terrorism and increase technical cooperation and assistance to the developing countries so as to improve their capacity of sustainable development. Only in this way, can we be truly effective in protecting against and preventing the emergence of nuclear terrorism.
Although terrorism can be at times extremely ferocious, it is but an adverse current. It cannot hold back the advance of human history and cannot take away the aspiration and the pursuit of the world people for peace, cooperation, development and prosperity. Today, under the concerted attack of the international community, terrorism has turned into a rat crossing the street. I am confident that, with persisted efforts, the international community will surely and eventually lance off this malignant tumor of terrorism. My country looks forward to cooperating with other member states and the International Atomic Energy Agency in the protection against nuclear terrorism.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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