Statement delivered by United States Ambassador to the
Conference on Disarmament Laura Kennedy
“Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States
against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
March 26, 2013
I welcome this occasion to speak to the subject of “Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.”
The United States recognizes the importance many countries place on security assurances. My Government has provided such assurances to states that have renounced nuclear weapons and that are in full compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. The U.S. negative security assurance was first issued in 1978. Since then, it has been updated in 1995, and then revised and strengthened again in April 2010 as part of our Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The current formulation followed a comprehensive assessment of U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, strategy, and force posture. Under this formulation, the United States declared that it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
The latest formulation of our assurance strengthens our long-standing negative security assurance in several ways. As a policy matter, the U.S. assurance applies to any non-nuclear weapons State Party to the NPT in compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations. This demonstrates that there is a clear security benefit to all who adhere to and fully comply with the NPT.
Additionally, in strengthening the assurance, the United States in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review also affirmed that any state eligible for the assurance that used chemical or biological weapons against the United States or our allies and partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.
This negative security assurance is one of the benefits that non-nuclear-weapon states derive from being parties to the NPT and fulfilling their nonproliferation obligations. But even for states not meeting the criteria for this assurance, the 2010 NPR made clear that it is in the interest of the United States as well as that of all nations, that the nearly 68-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever. The United States is fully aware of the consequences of nuclear use and will continue to give the highest priority to avoiding such an outcome. Former President Ronald Reagan had it right when he acknowledged back in 1984 that “[a] nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That is why the United States has already destroyed 87% of its nuclear arsenal and will continue to do its part to maintain the record of non-use, and to move us towards a world free of nuclear weapons. A practical step-by-step approach, as laid out by President Obama in his 2009 Prague speech, has proven to be the most effective means to increase stability, reduce nuclear danger, and advance the disarmament objectives of the NPT.
Among these steps, as noted in the 2010 NPR, the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security and U.S. military strategy has been reduced significantly in recent decades. Further steps can and should be taken. The fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners. We will continue to work to establish conditions under which a universal policy that makes deterrence of nuclear attacks the sole purpose of nuclear weapons could be safely adopted.
Another practical step could take place right here in the Conference on Disarmament. We’ve been striving to take the next logical and essential step toward the goal of global elimination of nuclear weapons by initiating negotiations on a Treaty to ban production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We regret this has yet to happen. Practical steps also include the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation. February marked the beginning of its third year in force, with implementation successfully underway. Additionally, Russia and the United States continue to engage in a bilateral dialogue to promote strategic stability and increase transparency on a reciprocal basis. In addition, the P5 are looking forward to a fourth meeting in Geneva April 18-19, hosted by the Russian Federation, where we will continue the work of meeting our NPT commitments to break new ground through discussions on nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and the associated verification challenges.
The United States also strongly supports nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties that are properly crafted, fully complied with, and adopted in accordance with internationally accepted guidelines. They contribute to the stability and security goals of the regions adopting them, and provide important regional complements to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as valuable reinforcements for the global nonproliferation regime.
While the United States does not support a global treaty banning use of nuclear weapons against such non-nuclear weapon states, we are prepared to continue to consider providing legally binding negative security assurances in the context of specific nuclear weapon free zone treaties. This policy allows us to consider such a legal commitment on a region-by-region basis.
The United States has worked actively to contribute to the establishment and success of nuclear-weapon-free zones. We have attended meetings of the members of nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties as an observer, and in 2012, joined in the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first nuclear-weapon-free zone, which predated even the NPT. Keeping to the promise of then- Secretary of State Clinton to the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have submitted to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent to ratification the relevant protocols to the Treaties of Pelindaba and Rarotonga – the nuclear-weapon-free zone Treaties for Africa and the South Pacific. We have also engaged with the parties to the Treaties of Bangkok and Semipalatinsk – the nuclear-weapon-free zones for Southeast Asia and Central Asia – in an effort to reach resolution of long-standing issues that would allow us to sign the relevant protocols to those treaties.
We and our P5 and ASEAN partners announced at the East Asia Summit in 2011 that negotiations on the Protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok had reached a successful conclusion, and the United States and the other members of the P5 remain ready to sign the Protocol. We are also working with interested States on creating the conditions that would enable us to sign the relevant Protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.
The United States is pleased that in 2012 the P5 and Mongolia issued parallel declarations regarding Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status. This is the capstone of many years of effort by the P5, Mongolia and the United Nations, and was welcomed in a consensus resolution of the UN General Assembly.
The United States also shares the goal of a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, and we stand ready to help facilitate discussions among states in the region at the proposed Helsinki conference. We support this goal, recognizing that the mandate for a zone cannot be imposed from outside or without the consent of all concerned states; it must come from within the region. We regret the Helsinki conference could not be convened in 2012, but our commitment to working with our partners and the states in the region to create conditions for a successful dialogue remain.
We appreciate this opportunity once again to share our views on negative security assurances, regional NWFZs, and the practical steps we are taking to help prevent forever the use of nuclear weapons.