Opening Statement of the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament
Delivered by Christopher L. Buck
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.
January 21, 2014
Thank you Mr. President.
I am pleased to congratulate Israel and you personally on your assumption of the Conference Presidency as we begin the 2014 session. The challenges the CD will confront this year are no less difficult and no less important than those this forum faced in 2013, and you can count on the full support of the United States in your efforts to guide the work of the Conference. Allow me also to congratulate Mr. Michael Moeller on his assumption of his duties as Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, and to express my delegation’s appreciation for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s joining us this morning and underlining the importance of the CD’s work.
Much has been and will be said about the current deadlock at the CD, and the pressing need to return this body to its abiding vocation, which is to negotiate disarmament treaties. 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. Mindful of that legacy and the CD´s unique and enduring potential, the United States certainly shares the growing impatience of many in the international community to end the impasse at the CD.
In confronting the current impasse, it is essential to avoid any temptations to lower the level of our collective ambition. We take this view against the backdrop of the ongoing, ambitious U.S. agenda to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons. Working with our partner Russia, no country has taken deeper and broader reductions to its nuclear arsenal. The United States has reduced its nuclear weapons stockpile by 84% since its highest levels during the Cold War, and this work continues. The daily, intensive implementation of the New START Treaty – including the exchange of over 5,600 treaty notifications and a total of more than 100 on-site inspections conducted by the United States and the Russian Federation since its entry into force nearly three years ago — is on track to cut American and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.
And, even as this vital implementation work progresses on schedule, the United States is seeking to negotiate further nuclear reductions with Russia.
This steady, necessarily painstaking step-by-step process of nuclear disarmament has ensured continued strategic stability at dramatically lower levels of nuclear weapons. It has also produced methodologies and habits of cooperation that are essential to our achieving transparency and required confidence in security frameworks at increasingly lower levels of nuclear arsenals going forward. Indeed, we are proud of this progressively evolving U.S.-Russian legacy of verified nuclear disarmament, which we are convinced will provide valuable impetus and useful tools for multilateral nuclear disarmament approaches in the future. In recent years, these bilateral efforts have been complemented by our very active P5 Conference agenda, including the ongoing development of a common reference for nuclear disarmament-related definitions in a P5 working group led by China, and other efforts by the UK and France to promote transparency and to further develop verification methodologies.
In the meantime, we believe the next logical and indeed necessary step to achieve our shared nuclear disarmament goals is the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). The FMCT is an absolutely essential step that all states could contribute to achieving immediately. Simply stated, we can’t get to the end, if we don’t start at the beginning. A verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons is necessary if we are to create conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.
In approaching this objective, the United States continues to view the CD as the preferred forum for negotiation of an FMCT. Because the CD operates by consensus, ensuring equitable protection of national security interests in a negotiation, it is uniquely situated to negotiate an FMCT. In the year ahead, we look forward to the upcoming meetings of the FMCT Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), which can usefully complement – but cannot supplant – our efforts to promote negotiations of an FMCT in the CD. It is past time to advance this core international goal, which must be integral to any CD Program of Work.
We do not discount the importance of other “core” issues on the CD’s agenda: nuclear disarmament, Negative Security Assurances (NSAs), and Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). We are willing to engage in substantive discussions on each of these issues in the CD as part of a consensus Program of Work. At the same time, the United States has taken practical steps to advance each of these issues. We were pleased to support the UN Group of Governmental Experts study of transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities, and to co-sponsor UNGA Resolution 68/50, which allows for further consideration of the study’s recommendations. There are important, pragmatic bilateral and multilateral measures that states can take to enhance space security, such as the completion and implementation of an International Code of Conduct on Outer Space Activities. The United States also continues to support the extension of Negative Security Assurances through Protocols to Nuclear Weapons Free Zone treaties. In that regard, we are consulting with the parties to the Central Asian zone to resolve outstanding issues, and we remain committed to signing the Protocol to the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as soon as possible.
I would emphasize also that the United States continues to work determinedly with Ambassador Laajava and the “co-conveners” to create the conditions for a conference on a Middle East WMD-free zone. We are committed to holding a meaningful Conference that includes all states of the region, and we continue to encourage the states of the region to engage directly with each other in order to bridge remaining differences so that a Conference can be held at the soonest possible time.
In looking to the year ahead in the CD, it is important to recall that the 2013 session of the Conference did in fact achieve a noteworthy consensus late in the year. While it was not an agreement on a Program of Work, the decision to create an Informal Working Group (IWG) with the mandate to develop a Program of Work “robust in substance and progressive over time” shifted the dynamic of the conversation, providing for more interactive exchanges regarding the obstacles and opportunities facing the CD Member States as we try to get the Conference back to work. Should a viable Program of Work remain elusive as we proceed with our deliberations this year, the United States would be open to reviving the IWG at an appropriate point, with a view to testing that format further as a mechanism for overcoming the current deadlock and achieving a Program of Work that responds fully to the CD’s vocation and potential at the current juncture in multilateral disarmament. At the same time, we hope that the tools offered by the Conference on Disarmament for substantive engagement on important issues will be deployed to provide for fruitful and productive discussions on the items before the Conference.
Mindful of all that the CD has accomplished in past years and of its tremendous potential, the United States looks forward to working creatively and persistently with the CD Member and Observer States to advance our shared interests and common security.
Thank you, Mr. President.