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Statement by Ambassador Kennedy to the Main Committee Subsidiary Body One at NPT Conference
May 10, 2010

2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

U.S. Statement to Main Committee Subsidiary Body I

By Ambassador Laura Kennedy

U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

May 10, 2010

The United Nations

New York, NY

Thirteen months ago in Prague, President Obama highlighted the nuclear dangers of the twenty-first century and laid out a pragmatic agenda to confront those dangers. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, and pledged to take concrete steps to achieve that goal. The United States is unequivocally committed to this goal.

In my earlier statement I outlined some of the steps the United States has taken and plans to take, as well as the actions we must all take together if we are to achieve in this aim. Among these steps, President Obama expressed his determination to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and their role in U.S. national security strategy. The Nuclear Posture Review and the New START agreement make good on this commitment.

The United States is reducing the role of nuclear weapons in several ways. First, we have revised our “negative security assurance,” which now states that as a matter of national policy the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations. And in the context of nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties, we are prepared to make this commitment legally binding. We have done so by adhering to the relevant Protocol for the Treaty of Tlatelolco, and we are now seeking the U.S. Senate’s consent to ratification of the Protocols to the Treaties of Rarotonga and Pelindaba, which we have signed. As Secretary Clinton stated last week, we are also prepared to consult with the parties to the nuclear weapons free zones in Central and Southeast Asia.

Second, we have made clear that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack against the United States or against U.S. allies and partners. The Nuclear Posture Review has affirmed that the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances, to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will continue to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent while actively working to create the conditions under which a world without nuclear weapons is possible.

Third, the United States has, and will continue to take steps to reduce the risk that nuclear weapons might be used accidentally or by miscalculation. To that end, all U.S. heavy bombers have been taken off full-time alert and all U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs are either off alert or targeted on the open ocean so that in the highly unlikely event of an accidental or unauthorized launch, destruction would be minimized. And to further reduce those risks, the United States is committed to finding ways to maximize the time available to the President to consider whether to authorize the use of nuclear weapons.

Fourth, we are undertaking a comprehensive national research and development program to support continued progress toward a world without nuclear weapons, including expanded work on verification technologies and the development of transparency measures.

Once the New START Treaty enters into force, it will reduce U.S. strategic warheads to levels not seen since the 1950s. Our lead negotiator, Rose Gottemoeller, will offer a briefing tomorrow on New START and the way ahead with her Russian counterpart, Anatoliy Antonov.

In signing this treaty, President Obama acknowledged that it is just one step on a longer journey that will set the stage for further cuts. Going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons. And we will pursue high-level dialogues with both Russia and China, aimed at fostering more stable, resilient, and transparent strategic relationships that will help build confidence and create the conditions for further nuclear reductions and eventually for multilateral negotiations that involve other nuclear weapon states.

The United States is working to achieve the long-sought disarmament goal of a ban on nuclear testing. We have committed to maintain our nuclear testing moratorium, pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. We are making preparations for securing Senate approval for ratification of the CTBT and working globally to convince other hold-out states to bring that treaty into force. We are also working in the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to complete preparations necessary to implement the CTBT.

The elimination of nuclear weapons will not be achieved quickly, and will take patience and persistence. And until we reach that point, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal. We have done so for nearly twenty years without nuclear tests, and the Nuclear Posture Review confirms that we will not test in the future. Nor will we develop new nuclear weapons or new missions or capabilities for existing weapons.

Another key step will be to negotiate and bring into force a worldwide treaty to end the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The United States stopped such production decades ago. We are committed to maintain that moratorium, and call on others to do likewise.

But there is no substitute for a legally binding and verified treaty to ban the production of the essential ingredients for nuclear weapons. A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty would cap global nuclear stockpiles and help us reduce those stockpiles over time. Like most of you, we are frustrated that the Conference on Disarmament remains unable to make progress in negotiating this treaty, but we are sparing no effort to persuade our essential partners to allow negotiations to begin.

These are the main steps the United States is continuing to pursue on nuclear disarmament. It is an ambitious agenda, and the progress we have made has taken a tremendous effort and persistence.

Some have argued that progress on disarmament has been too slow and that we need to begin work on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, or a timetable of specific steps, in order to accelerate that progress. The United States does not share that view. A Nuclear Weapons Convention is not achievable in the near term and therefore is not a realistic alternative to the step-by-step approach we are taking. Trying to combine all the issues into a single negotiation would be a formula for deadlock, as the Conference on Disarmament has demonstrated over the last decade, and such an effort would distract our energy and attention from practical, achievable steps.

Negotiating and implementing each step toward disarmament is hard work. Each step builds on preceding steps and takes into account changes in the international security environment. We cannot predict what new opportunities may open up along the way, or what unexpected challenges we may encounter. Therefore, we cannot map out every step of the disarmament process, nor can we define a schedule for achieving them.

No one should mistake this inability to foresee the future for an unwillingness to move boldly to pursue future disarmament steps. As we do so, there are certain principles that guide us along the way.

One of these principles is irreversibility. While not every step can be irreversible, we know that making key steps permanent helps build the confidence needed for further progress. It is worth recalling that the United States has shut down and decommissioned virtually all the facilities – the production reactors, enrichment and reprocessing plants – that we once used to produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons, and has permanently removed over sixty tons of plutonium and nearly four hundred tons of highly enriched uranium from weapons.

Last month, the United States and Russia signed a protocol to amend a 2000 agreement to eliminate at least 34 metric tons each of excess weapons-grade plutonium in fuel for civil nuclear power plants, starting later this decade. I encourage you to read the U.S. information paper for more information on U.S. disarmament actions.

Another key principle is the need for transparency and verification, which provide the confidence necessary for states to act together, with common purpose, towards disarmament. This need becomes more acute and the challenges more complex as we get closer to that goal. The comprehensive national research and development program that I mentioned earlier will help us develop technologies and methods to meet that need.

Finally, we must recognize the enormity of the challenges to be overcome in order to uphold our commitment to disarmament. Because nuclear weapons pose such a serious threat, deterrence has become deeply embedded in international security. As a consequence, eliminating nuclear weapons requires a transformation of security in a way that eliminating chemical or biological weapons has not.

In seeking concrete progress toward disarmament, we need to reduce tensions and seek to transform hostile and adversarial relationships into peaceful partnerships, as the United States and Russia have done.

In closing, let me assure every delegation of the unequivocal U.S. commitment to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. But we cannot do this alone, and we look forward to working with each of you to make that goal a reality.