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The U.S. Practices What it Preaches on Nuclear Disarmament
May 23, 2012

Statement by Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
May 22, 2012

Mr. President, Thank you for developing a schedule of discussion topics. Of course, our collective goal must be to achieve consensus on a Program of Work that would allow for negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament.  That should be FMCT, a goal that has been with us since the SSOD in 1978.

The United States recently gave an extensive statement on disarmament at the NPT Prepcom in Vienna, which is directly relevant to our discussions today.  Allow me to summarize some key points.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama highlighted the nuclear dangers of the 21st century and declared that, to overcome these threats, the United States reaffirms our enduring commitment “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”  Speaking in Seoul this past March, the President reaffirmed U.S. support for this goal and highlighted the near-term, practical steps that the United States is taking to move in that direction.

The United States practices what it preaches on nuclear disarmament.  The U.S. has been reducing our inventory of nuclear weapons for more than four decades.  By September 2009, the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been reduced by 84% to approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads from its peak of approximately 31,000 nuclear warheads in 1967.  When the New START Treaty is fully implemented, the strategic nuclear forces of the United States and Russia will reach their lowest level since the 1950s.  Moreover, when President Obama signed the New START Treaty in April 2010, he pledged that the United States will pursue a future agreement with Russia for broad reductions in all categories of nuclear weapons.

The United States is now conducting the follow-on analysis called for in the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to set goals for future nuclear reductions in line with strategic requirements.  Concerning modernization, let me reiterate in the clearest terms; the NPR has ruled out the development of new U.S. nuclear warheads and ruled out new missions and capabilities for existing warheads.

The United States has also demonstrated leadership through unilateral transparency measures.  Examples include the U.S. release in 2010 of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile figures and articulation in the 2010 NPR of the reduced role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national strategy.  In addition, the U.S. nuclear community is exploring the technical steps needed to ensure irreversibility, verifiability, and transparency as essential building blocks of nuclear disarmament.

Since the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states have met regularly to discuss our commitments in the NPT Action Plan.  Following the 2009 London and 2011 Paris P5 conferences, the United States will host a P5 conference in Washington June 27 – 29, 2012, as we announced at the NPT Prepcom.

With regard to nuclear testing, the Obama Administration has been laying the groundwork for positive Senate reconsideration of the CTBT.   The United States has maintained a voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing since 1992.

With regard to fissile material, the United States has not produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons since 1964 or produced plutonium for weapons since 1988.  The United States has worked with Russia for a number of years to eliminate excess stocks of HEU and plutonium that could be used in nuclear warheads. In July 2011, the United States and Russia brought into force the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 Protocols, committing each country to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium.  This is enough for a total of 17,000 nuclear weapons.  The United States remains committed to completing an agreement with Russia and the IAEA to enable the Agency to verify each side’s disposition programs.

As we bring down our stocks of fissile material, the United States remains committed to negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty that would ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices as an essential, and the next logical, multilateral step toward nuclear disarmament and an important foundation for future nuclear reductions.

Mr. President, implementation of President Obama’s Prague agenda and the 2010 NPT Action Plan is well underway.  Much progress has been achieved, yet much remains to be done. The CD too must do its part to advance nuclear disarmament beginning with this critical next step, which we will discuss in detail at next week’s Plenary.

Finally, let me extend a warm welcome to our new colleagues from Algeria and Malaysia.

Thank you, Mr. President