In an attempt to address the increasing threat of nuclear proliferation, existing nuclear weapons and emerging nuclear doctrines, the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) sponsored two resolutions at the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security at the United Nations on 15 October 2003. The New Agenda Coalition member countries are Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and Egypt.

The first resolution, A/C.1/58/L.40/Rev.1, “Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World: a New Agenda” is based on the Final Document of the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, where all parties to the NPT unanimously agreed to advance the nuclear disarmament agenda by means of 13 practical steps. The resolution expresses “deep concern at the limited progress to date” on implementing the 13 steps and calls for all nations to abstain from actions that could initiate a global arms race.

The resolution raises concerns about the possible effects of development of missile defenses in sparking an arms race around the world and in outer space. It is deeply apprehensive “about emerging approaches to the broader role of nuclear weapons as part of security strategies, including rationalizations for the use of, and the possible development of new types of, nuclear weapons.” These comments were made primarily in reference to the US.

Voting took place on 4 November 2003. The resolution received 121 votes in favor, 6 in opposition and 38 abstentions. USUK and France voted against the resolution. Whilst maintaining their commitment to the NPT, the three Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Permanent Security Council members claimed that the NAC resolution went beyond the agreements of 1995 and 2000 and did not take into account progress made since 2000, including the Moscow Treaty. In the text, the NAC resolution urged the US and Russia to make the Moscow Treaty “a disarmament measure” by making it verifiable and irreversible, and by addressing non-operational warheads.

Pakistan and India also voted against the resolution. They opposed the resolution’s language expressing the “regional tensions and deteriorating security situation” in South Asia and its further calls on India and Pakistan to join the NPT. Pakistan claimed that the resolution did not take into account Pakistan’s “reasons for acquiring nuclear weapons,” which were “for self defense and strategic balance,” whilst India said the resolution was “very prescriptive” and failed to reflect “ground realities.”

Israel was the sixth country to vote against the resolution, Iran voted in favor of it.GermanyJapan and Australia all abstained on the resolution. North Koreaalso abstained from the resolution, stating that it “did not fairly reflect the nuclear issues between DPRK and the US.” The North Korean representative added, “The draft resolution also does not speak a single word about US nuclear threats against DPRK. And instead highlights unilateral and one-sided demand calling for the DPRK to give up its own self-defensive rights, which is subjected to constant nuclear threats from the US.”

China and most members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) voted in favor of the resolution. China, however, expressed that they “are of the view that all Nuclear Weapon States should undertake not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, which is essential to the realization of total nuclear disarmament.” Canada was the only NATO member to vote in favor of the resolution.

Canada requested a vote on preambular paragraph 20 (PP20), which expressed concern that missile defenses “could impact negatively on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and lead to a new arms race on earth and in outer space….” The PP20 received 117 votes in favor, 6 in opposition and 39 abstentions. Canadaabstained from the vote, saying that if carried out cooperatively, missile defense “could complement non-proliferation efforts.” The US, UK, Israel and Micronesia voted against the PP20. Japan also voted against the PP20’s statement on missile defense, arguing that the steps needed to be “realistic and practical and take into account different circumstances”. Australia shared the same views.

The full text of the first resolution, “Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World: a New Agenda” can be found at

The second resolution, A/C.1/58/L.39/Rev.1, “Reductions of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons,” specifically addresses the issue of tactical (sub-strategic or short range) nuclear weapons. It raises concerns about the threats posed by Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons (NSNW) “due to their portability, proximity to areas of conflict and probability of pre-delegation in case of military conflict.” It also addresses “the risk of proliferation and of early, preemptive, unauthorized or accidental use,” as well as shifting security doctrines and the “possible development of new types of low yield” NSNW. The resolution highlights the need for transparent and verifiable measures to ensure the elimination of NSNW in the context of commitments made in the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

In addition, the resolution warns against Nuclear Weapon States in expanding or developing their NSNW arsenal as well as rationalizing their use. It also calls for the need to further reduce the status of NSNW in order to enhance global security, reducing the risk of the use of nuclear weapons. The resolution also called on the US and Russia to formalize their 1991-92 Presidential Initiatives on eliminating tactical nuclear weapons.

Voting took place on 4 November 2003 and the resolution received 118 votes in favor, 4 in opposition and 41 abstentions.

The US, UK, France and Russia voted against the resolution, while China did not vote at all, claiming that “both the concept and definition of ‘non-strategic nuclear weapons’ as mentioned in the resolution are unclear.” Speaking on behalf of the UK and France, the US said the “three countries could not support the resolution because it fails to take into account efforts already under-way to address the concerns underlying the resolution.” The US said it completed its pledges under the 1991-2 Presidential Initiatives without a formal treaty and that a multilateral approach to the issue would only complicate matters.

Russia said it was compliant with commitments it made in reducing NSNW. It claimed the resolution was insufficiently precise and proposed “new and specific” commitments that went beyond agreements taken in 1991-2 and 2000.

The full text of the second resolution, “Reductions of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons” can be found at

*Justine Wang is the Research and Advocacy Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.