Speech by minister Wopke Hoekstra at the Conference on Disarmament

Speech by Wopke Hoekstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Conference on Disarmament, 1 March 2022.

Your Excellencies,

One morning Toyofumi Ogura, a Japanese professor, was on his way to work when the world changed forever.

A blinding flash of bright-blue light suddenly split open the sky.

Moments later, red flames and smoke poured down on the streets around him.

In his words, it was ‘like lava from a volcano that had erupted in mid-air. Its shape was constantly changing and its colours were kaleidoscopic.’

The blast hit him. He fell to the ground and heard the ‘tremendous ripping, slamming and crashing sounds’ of a city being torn apart.

When he stumbled to his feet, all he saw was ‘a vast sea of smoking rubble’ with only a few buildings left, like ‘pale tombstones shrouded in smoke.’

Two weeks later, Ogura’s wife died from radiation poisoning.

It was to her that he wrote his Letters from the End of the World.

This was the world’s first eyewitness-account of an atomic bomb attack.

Hiroshima, the 6th of August 1945.

This is when a new age began.

An age defined by our capacity to destroy the entire planet.

An age in which we need diplomacy more than ever: to make sure that such destruction will never happen.

The Conference on Disarmament is crucial to this process.

It was here that vital agreements, like the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, were negotiated.

That’s why it’s so worrying that the Conference has been stuck in a deadlock for over a decade.

The world needs this forum, and it needs it today.

We cannot ignore the geopolitical reality.

Russia’s unwarranted, unprovoked, and illegal invasion of Ukraine is an outrageous violations of international law and Ukrainian sovereignty.

The Netherlands condemns this invasion in the strongest possible terms.

Moreover, President Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear forces on a higher alert level is a reckless act.

I call on the Russian government to immediately cease all hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

Your Excellencies,

We also have serious concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, and its recent missile tests.

Rapid developments in domains like outer space and cyberspace are also cause for concern.

We need to prevent escalation in all these areas, work on the application of international law, and set norms of responsible behaviour.

To do that, this forum must pick up where it left off, agree on a working programme, and restart its activities.

The Netherlands has long argued that we can’t afford to spend too much time on the process.

Instead, we should be focusing on the substance.

On issues like a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear and explosive weapons.

And we should do so in an inclusive manner: fully committing to gender equality and diversity in international peace and security.

Finally, this Conference must never relent in its efforts to curb the threat of nuclear weapons…

… and remain committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Diplomacy is the only way forward. This is true for Russia, and it is true for the Iran nuclear deal.

Because, in the words of a recent statement by the 5 nuclear-weapons states: ‘a nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought’.

When we think back to the horrors of Hiroshima, this is the only position that makes sense.

Diplomacy, and preventing destruction.

That’s what disarmament is all about.

Thank you.