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Assistant Secretary of State Gottemoeller Delivers U.S. Opening Statement at Conference on Disarmament
January 24, 2012

Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller
Opening Statement at the Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, Switzerland

As Delivered

A woman speaking at the UN
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller

Thank you very much Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President. At the outset of my remarks, please allow me to congratulate Ecuador, and you personally, on your assumption of the first Presidency of the 2012 session of the Conference on Disarmament.

Ambassador  Kennedy and I wish you well as you guide the work of this Conference forward; you may count on the U.S. delegation’s full support.

I  would also like to extend our best wishes to the other CD Presidents for the 2012 session – Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, and Germany. We look forward to working with all of you  during this year.


I  spoke at the CD’s opening session last January and I am pleased to be here again  to highlight the progress on arms control and disarmament that has been made over  the course of the past year.

The  New START Treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011. Implementation is going well and continues to contribute positively to the U.S. – Russian relationship. The treaty represents  a strong foundation for further bilateral reductions and an important step on  the path towards a world without nuclear weapons.  Discussions between our two governments on the next steps are underway.

I  am also pleased to report that the U.S.-Russian  Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) and its Protocols came into force in 2011.  The PMDA commits the United States and the Russian Federation each to dispose of no less than 34
metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium – enough material in total for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Expanding beyond bilateral issues, the five Nuclear Weapon States have started a regular dialogue on verification issues and confidence-building measures related to nuclear disarmament, as part of our commitment to carry out our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI obligations.

The United States is proud to be at the leading edge of transparency efforts – publically declaring our nuclear stockpile numbers; participating in voluntary and treaty-based inspections measures; working with other nations on military to military, scientific and lab exchanges, sponsoring site visits and frequently briefing others on our nuclear programs and disarmament efforts.

The United States is committed to securing ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and we have been engaging the United States Senate and the American public on the merits of the Treaty.  As we move forward with our process, we call on all governments to declare or reaffirm their commitments not to conduct explosive nuclear tests.  We thank and congratulate Ghana, Guinea, Guatemala and Indonesia for ratifying the Treaty in the past year.  We ask that all the remaining Annex 2 States join us in moving forward toward ratification.

I am also gratified to report progress on the extension of treaty-based negative security assurances through regional Nuclear Weapons Free zones.  The Obama Administration transmitted the relevant Protocols of the African and South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.   We were also glad that the Nuclear Weapon States and the states of ASEAN resolved long standing differences related to the South East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone’s Protocol language: Along with the other NPT depositary states, we have lent our strong support to the efforts of the facilitator for the 2012 Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone Conference, Finnish Under Secretary Jaako Laajava.

Regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States is proud of the progress made towards a world free of chemical weapons. We continue to make steady progress in destroying our chemical weapons. By April of this year, we anticipate we will have destroyed 90% of our stockpile.  The remaining 10% will be destroyed while assigning highest priority to ensuring the safety of people, protecting the environment, and complying with national standards for safety and emissions, as called for in the Convention.

Last month, the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention met here in Geneva for their Seventh Review Conference.  They agreed to a standing set of agenda items that cover national implementation, developments in science and technology and assistance and cooperation, all of which will serve to strengthen the effect of the treaty and help bridge the interrelated work being undertaken in the security, public health, law enforcement and scientific communities.  This was done under the able direction of our CD colleague, Ambassador Paul van den IJsell.

Mr. President, before proceeding further on CD matters, please allow me to discuss recent developments regarding the European Union’s proposal for a “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.”

Over the past four years, United States and European experts have regularly consulted on drafts of the EU “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.” After an extensive interagency review of the EU’s initiative, the United States has decided to enter into formal consultations with the European Union and spacefaring nations to develop an International Code of Conduct, because the long-term sustainability of the space environment is at risk from space debris and irresponsible activities.

As Secretary Clinton announced on January 17, the United States is prepared to work in active partnership with all governments to develop a Code that can be adopted by the greatest number of spacefaring nations around the globe.

We believe that an international Code can help strengthen the long-term sustainability of space and promote safe and responsible use of space, while at the same time ensuring the inherent right of self-defense is not impaired.  As more countries and companies field space capabilities, it is in our mutual interest that they act responsibly.  A widely-subscribed International Code can
encourage responsible space behavior and single out those who act otherwise, while reducing risks of mishaps, misperceptions, mistrust, and misconduct.

We expect to actively participate in the international discussions on an international Code throughout this year and beyond.  As part of this process, the United States looks forward to the multilateral experts’ meetings that the European Union plans to convene in the near future.

We also look forward to the Group of Government Experts on outer space TCBMs that is scheduled to convene this summer.  We
see this as a key opportunity to develop practical measures to enhance transparency and confidence building and sustain the peaceful exploitation of outer space.

The Impasse at the CD 

Mr. President, while the international community has been active and achieved results in many areas during the past year, the Conference on Disarmament appears to be no closer to an “honest day’s work” than it was last January.

Despite herculean efforts by a number of CD Member States, the CD continues to languish, and a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), the next logical and necessary step in the multilateral nuclear disarmament process, remains no closer to negotiation.

We did see some rays of hope last year. Australia and Japan hosted a series of extensive FMCT technical experts’ discussions on the CD’s margins that allowed the international community an opportunity to exchange views and gain perspectives in a sustained and organized way.  The Chairs’ summaries of these discussions will make a useful contribution to our collective body of
knowledge when eventual FMCT negotiations begin.

The United States initiated consultations among the P5 and others on unblocking FMCT negotiations in the CD and to prepare our own countries for what certainly will be a prolonged and technically challenging negotiation.

summer, the Secretary-General of the United Nations asked Member States to continue their dialogue on ways to improve the operation and effectiveness of the UN’s multilateral disarmament machinery, in particular the CD.

In the view of the United States, all of these efforts have been worthwhile, but regrettably, none has achieved the desired result of moving this body forward on FMCT negotiations and work on other important issues.

Mr. President, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the CD last February, she had stressed that, “Global nuclear
security is too important to allow this matter [FMCT] to drift forever.

At the most recent session of the UNGA First Committee, we all witnessed and experienced the growing international frustration with the status quo here in Geneva.  Not surprisingly, and with no small amount of justification, many in the international community are losing patience with the current situation in the CD.

Every government represented in this room has national security concerns and obligations associated with an FMCT, including my own.  But as responsible governments, we also have a collective obligation to and responsibility for international peace and
security, to which an FMCT would significantly contribute.

An FMCT is as vital as ever

The FMCT is not some sort of deliberate diversion from “real” nuclear disarmament.  Along with the CTBT, an FMCT is an absolutely essential step for global nuclear disarmament.

Simply stated, we can’t get to the end, if we don’t start at the beginning. A verifiable end to the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons is necessary if we are to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.  How can we make
progress towards a world without nuclear weapons while some states continue to produce the key component for building up their nuclear arsenals?

A universal halt to the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons is essential.  Some states have already declared a
moratorium on such production, but others have not. Some, such as the United States, have reduced their military stocks of fissile material, whereas others are actively engaged in further production.

The path to a world without nuclear weapons will require many steps.  The next logical step in halting the increase of nuclear arsenals is an FMCT.

Mr. President, in Action 15 of the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document’s Action Plan, all States Parties agreed that the CD should begin immediate negotiation of an FMCT.  The United States remains firmly committed to an FMCT as a tangible contribution to our “full, effective and urgent implementation of article VI,” as stated in that Action Plan.  As the 2015 NPT review process gets under way this year, every NPT State Party has a responsibility to help make an FMCT a reality. In fact, every nation should share in the work that will create the conditions necessary to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world. 

Looking Ahead

Here in Geneva, and New York, and in capitals around the world, there has been a vigorous debate over the state of the UN’s multilateral disarmament machinery in general and the CD impasse, in particular.

I have been speaking about this at various venues and I will reiterate my thoughts here.  Some people have spoken about amending the consensus rule at the CD, in order to break the current logjam.  The United States does not share the view that the impasse in the CD is the result of its procedural rules.  On the contrary, we believe that the consensus rule has served CD members well by providing assurance that individual member states’ national security concerns can be met.

There may be a case for some modifications to how decisions are taken on small procedural items at the CD, but those issues are not at the heart of the impasse. The road will remain blocked until all members of the CD are convinced that commencing negotiations is in their national interest, or at least, not harmful to those interests. The United States is working hard to make the case to those countries with reservations about the FMCT that starting negotiations is not something to fear.

Of course, for any negotiation to be substantive and worthwhile, the key states most directly affected by an FMCT should be involved.  When it comes down to what is in the best interest of international security, the negotiating venue for the FMCT is of
less importance than the participants. As a matter of pragmatism, however, the CD – which includes every major nuclear capable state – remains the best option for achieving a viable, effective FMCT.

Once FMCT negotiations have begun, CD members will face many complex and contentious issues, including the difficult issue of scope. We are well aware that CD members are divided on this issue.  Ambassador Shannon’s Report to the CD, from which the Shannon Mandate is derived, highlighted these disagreements. His Report of his consultations made it abundantly clear that members could not agree on this key issue, nor on many others.  What members did agree on is embodied in a key line in that Report following a listing of those contentious issues. That crucial line said: “…it has been agreed by delegations that the mandate for the establishment of the ad hoc Committee does not preclude any delegation from raising for consideration in the ad hoc Committee any of the above noted issues.”

The U.S. position is clear: FMCT obligations, including verification obligations, should cover only new production of fissile material.  Step-by-step approaches to arms control and nonproliferation have been very successful over the years.  A step-by-step approach would serve us well with an FMCT. One essential step in the process should be a legal ban on the production of
fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

We are fully aware that many CD members have a different view and this issue will be the subject of vigorous debate.  That is what
negotiations are for, and the United States is ready to have that debate.  What is not helpful is an effort to “pre-negotiate” the outcome of any negotiations by an explicit reference to existing stocks in a negotiating mandate.

We would not be alone in seeing this as a thinly-veiled effort to prevent negotiations from getting underway.

Regarding the possibility of the CD simultaneously negotiating on the four core issues (FMCT, nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances, and prevention of an arms race in outer space); it is not a practical option.  It is difficult to see how a body that has not negotiated any of these topics over the last sixteen years could take on the responsibility for negotiating all four at one time.  The CD should focus on one major negotiation at a time, as it did during the CTBT negotiations.   Given the reality that an FMCT would set the stage for further progress in reducing nuclear arsenals, it has been repeatedly endorsed by CD member states as the priority nuclear disarmament negotiation.


Mr. President, we hope that 2012 will be the year when the Conference on Disarmament emerges from its prolonged impasse
and once again contributes to international peace and security by beginning negotiations on an FMCT.

The CD and its predecessor bodies have a long history of delivering landmark agreements, all of which were contentious in their own right and took years to complete. But in each case, the nations and people who assembled in this historic chamber persevered, and helped to create a multilateral arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament structure that supports the security of the international system to this very day.

An FMCT will make a critical contribution to this international security architecture. As Secretary Clinton said last February, this agreement is “too important a matter to be left in a deadlock forever.”

If the CD fails to deliver an FMCT negotiation this year, we will again have shirked our responsibility to move forward towards a world without nuclear weapons…. We recognize that this is a crucial year for the CD as an institution and that the UN General Assembly is monitoring our progress closely. Let’s seize the opportunity to make real progress here and restore the vibrancy of this once vital institution.  Business as usual is a recipe for disaster.

We look forward to consulting and working with the CD Member and Observer states as the 2012 session proceeds. Time is short and the stakes are high.

Thank  you, Mr. President.