Ambassador Kennedy on Negative Security Assurances

February 10, 2011

Statement by Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy

CD Plenary Discussion of Negative Security Assurances

To help frame this debate on Negative Security Assurances, I would like to recall the main tenets of our 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as to the declaratory policy of the United States:

— The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

— The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend our vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.

— The United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks. We are not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons, but will work to establish conditions under which such a policy could be safely adopted.

This is a comprehensive assurance extending to all corners of the globe. It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that our 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.

We have also long supported properly crafted nuclear-weapons-free zones (NWFZs), which when rigorously implemented under appropriate conditions can contribute to regional and international peace, security and stability. The key conditions for establishment of a NWFZ, in accordance with UN Disarmament Commission guidelines, include that:

  • The initiative for the creation of a nuclear weapons free zone comes from the states in the region concerned;
  • All states whose participation is deemed important participate in the zone;
  • The zone arrangement provides for adequate verification of compliance with the zone’s provisions;
  • The establishment of the zone does not disturb existing security arrangements to the detriment of regional and international security;
  • The zone arrangement effectively prohibits the parties from developing or otherwise processing any nuclear explosive devices for whatever purpose;
  • The zone arrangement does not seek to impose restrictions on the exercise of rights recognized under international law, particularly the high seas freedom of navigation and overflight, the right of innocent passage of territorial and archipelagic seas, the right of transit passage of international straits, and the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage of archipelagic waters; and
  • The establishment of the zone does not affect the existing rights of its parties under international law to grant or deny transit privileges, including port calls and overflights to other states.

NWFZs are not identical, but all five existing agreements contain prohibitions against the development, possession, stationing, transfer, testing and use of nuclear weapons within the zone. The protocols to each also provides for legally binding “negative security assurances.” As such, these treaties and their protocols provide valuable support to the NPT and the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. The 2010 Review Conference final document recognizes the importance of these zones and encourages all concerned states to ratify treaties and protocols and constructively consult to bring about their entry into force.

We are prepared to do our part using this valuable instrument of NWFZs. In addition to having signed and ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the United States is preparing to submit for Senate advice and consent to ratification protocols to the nuclear weapons-free zones established for Africa and the South Pacific, following up on Secretary Clinton’s announcement at the NPT Review Conference.

Secretary Clinton also made clear that the United States was prepared to consult with parties to nuclear weapons-free zones in Central and Southeast Asia in an effort to reach agreement that would allow us to sign the treaties’ protocols. Work has been ongoing since the Review Conference to fulfill these pledges and we remain ready for constructive dialogue with the parties to the Central and Southeast Asia nuclear weapons-free zones. We also welcome Mongolia’s declaration of its nuclear-weapons free status and support the measures taken by Mongolia to consolidate and strengthen this status, reflecting its unique geographic position.

The United States supports the aspiration of a MEWMDFZ, but recognizes that, like President Obama’s disarmament vision, this is a long term goal. Conditions will need to be in place, including comprehensive regional peace and full compliance with nonproliferation obligations. We also recognize that the impetus must come from states in the region since it cannot be imposed from outside.

The United States stands ready to lend its full support to the 2012 Conference on a MEWMDFZ. This conference should include all states in the region and cover a broad agenda, to include regional security. Further, states must be confident that the conference can be carried out in an unbiased and constructive manner. In this regard, we were very disappointed with the decision of some states to pursue an Israeli Nuclear Capabilities resolution at the IAEA General Conference last fall. We are hoping for better — a return to a consensus based approach — this year.

Mr. President, the United States believes that the most appropriate way of implementing legally-binding negative security assurances is through adherence to the protocols establishing nuclear weapon free zone treaties. Such treaties can only be negotiated on a regional basis with compliance by all regional parties and under appropriate conditions unique to each region. We are not persuaded that a global convention on Negative Security Assurances is practical or achievable, but are willing to engage in a substantive exchange of views regarding different national perspectives on negative security assurances.

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