24 Sep 2022

New Zealand's 'strong and firm' stance on nuclear weapons more important than ever - Ardern

8:48 am on 24 September 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand has an important role to play in continuing international efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation.

Ardern has held a media briefing after delivering her speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The PM took to the United Nations podium this morning to condemn Russia and call for a complete ban on all nuclear weapons.

The prime minister also used her to speech to demand UN reform, saying it risked irrelevancy unless it abolished the veto held by Security Council permanent members.

Speaking to media after her UN address, Ardern said she felt it was important to reaffirm New Zealand's strong opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine

"But more than that, New Zealand has long had a reputation for standing firm on issues like nuclear non-proliferation and for me it was really important to restate on behalf of New Zealand that ongoing opposition.

"Some of that conversation has fallen by the wayside over the years, but even this week we've seen the threat that has been posed by leaders who have access to nuclear weapons. And I think it's now more than ever important that New Zealand restates its strong and firm commitment there."

Watch Ardern's stand-up here:

Ardern said New Zealand had the ability to be a "principled" voice in the discussion on nuclear non-proliferation.

"New Zealand is in demand, we're also really highly regarded and that's not just recent times, over decades New Zealand has built a reputation of being strongly consistent and principled.

"I've been lucky enough to witness the reputation that New Zealand has globally on issues that matter like nuclear issues, so I do think actually that it doesn't matter what our size is, the fact we've been so principled and consistent and that right now the world does need solutions on this question because everyone is feeling vulnerable."

Ardern said the alternative to removing nuclear weapons from the world's arsenal is to assume we're safer through the idea of mutually assured destruction.

"I don't think that makes anyone feel safer and I don't believe anyone is safer through that strategy. That's not to say it's simple, but our position has always been that the world will be better off without nuclear weapons.

"For us it's about a nuclear prohibition and we have encouraged other parties to become at least observers to that work so we can grow the community that supports that treaty and statement.

"We've got an outlier at present and the emergence of this outlier I think was demonstrated when the talks around the non-proliferation treaty were not able to essentially be successfully concluded. So I wouldn't take Russia's current position as indicative of the position of the rest of the world - in fact Russia's position demonstrates why the world needs to drive towards consensus and keep working towards eventually the removal of nuclear weapons altogether."

The majority of Ardern's meetings in New York had been focused on climate change and climate action in the Pacific region, she said.

Ahead of the address Ardern said she had made some changes in light of Russia President Vladimir Putin's fresh threats this week of using nuclear weapons during the ongoing war in Ukraine.

She was also unenthused about suggestions New Zealand could soon expel its Russian ambassador, saying sanctions were far more meaningful.

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