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State’s Burns at U.N. Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism
October 1, 2012

Statement by the Honorable William J. Burns
United States Deputy Secretary of State

New York, NY
September 28, 2012

Foreign Minister Kim, Executive Director Fedotov, friends and colleagues: I am pleased to be here, knowing the importance Secretary Clinton and President Obama place on securing and keeping nuclear and radioactive material out of the hands of terrorists who might use them as weapons.

This is not a far-fetched scenario. It is a longstanding goal for a weakened but still dangerous Al Qaeda. And the 400 incidents reported by governments to the IAEA since 1995, involving smuggling of nuclear or radioactive material outside of regulatory control or other criminal activity, suggest that the risk to all of us is very real, and complacency is a luxury we cannot afford. Vigilance is not a static proposition; the techniques which may have thwarted terrorists in the past require constant examination, refinement, and enhancement. The United States is deeply committed to this endeavor– as, I know, are others in this room.

The IAEA, which has the central role in so many of our shared efforts, remains a critical and valued partner. I thank Director General Amano for his leadership and work in this area.

I want to speak a bit about some of the steps my country is taking to shoulder its share of our responsibility to meet this threat head on, and what we urge all to focus on going forward.

First, as President Obama has challenged us to do, we are working with many of you to remove and eliminate vulnerable nuclear material and ensure that it cannot move freely through the world’s black markets. To that end, we are upgrading security at nuclear facilities throughout the world and converting research reactors from HEU to LEU.

These efforts depend on the efforts of many countries, and so we are putting special emphasis on capacity-building. We are encouraging the development of national Counter Nuclear Smuggling teams. And through programs like our Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative, we are helping build and strengthen national government capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to trafficking—because it adds to our collective security when countries take ownership of this agenda.

Second, the United States wants to continue our close work with other governments and international organizations, such as the IAEA to strengthen nuclear security and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to create a basic framework for international cooperation to shut down illicit financing networks that support nuclear smuggling or other proliferation activity.

We encourage all nations to implement their binding non-proliferation obligations in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540, including prevention of nuclear smuggling. As this year’s chair of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we have explored ways the Global Partnership can assist the 1540 Committee and help countries wishing to strengthen their capacity to prevent the proliferation of WMD. I am pleased to report that the United States recently contributed an additional $1.5 million to the UN’s voluntary Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament to support UNSCR 1540 implementation activities.

And let me add that we remain dedicated to fully implementing the provisions of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) and the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM), even while U.S. ratification of both is pending passage of implementing legislation in our Congress. We urge other countries that have not yet done so to sign and ratify these treaties as soon as possible.

The United States and Russia established the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) in 2006 to help build capacity to prevent, detect and respond to a nuclear terrorism threat or executed attack. We thank our 85 partner nations in the GICNT, and our Russian co-chair, for their commitment to the fundamental principles of the Initiative and their work carrying out activities designed to support these principles.

Third, we work with our partners to secure international land borders, seaports and airports and enhance global capacity to detect and respond to smuggling activities. This includes initiatives such as the Export Control and Related Border Security program, the Second Line of Defense and the Megaports Initiative.

Securing materials, countering smuggling and protecting borders— these are challenges that no country can solve on its own, but also challenges that will not be solved without leadership. They remind me of the words of American founding father Benjamin Franklin, who said “we must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.” The only path to nuclear security is through intensive cooperation, determined efforts, more widespread capacity, a shared sense of ownership and a shared sense of urgency.

The United States appreciates the Secretary General’s convening today’s meeting and hopes that others in this room will take it as the rallying call for further action it is meant to be. Empowering the UN and IAEA to play their respective nuclear security roles more effectively is critical. Taking greater responsibility for our own safety and that of our partners is equally critical. We stand ready to work with all nations to translate our shared concern into shared responsibility for our nations and increased security for our people.

Thank you.