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Secretary Kerry: Remarks At The Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Ministerial
September 27, 2014

Remarks At The Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Ministerial

John Kerry
Secretary of State
United Nations Headquarters
New York City
September 26, 2014

Thank you, Fumio. Thank you very, very much. Mr. Secretary-General, let me begin by thanking you for an extraordinary week here at the United Nations. I think this has been an UNGA that’s been as seized with the issues of the day as forcefully and as directly as at any time, and we’re very appreciative for all of the UN’s efforts to make that happen. And I can tell you that everybody here with respect to the CTBT will say “Ban forever,” I promise you. (Laughter.)

It’s a privilege to join the friends of the CTBT ministerial because we are here in pursuit of a very noble goal, and that is to ensure that one day our children and our grandchildren will live in a world where the very real threat of nuclear weapons is a subject to be read about in the history books and not in the newspapers, not as a matter of daily currency. And I am mindful of what Fumio said about representing the one country in the world that has seen nuclear weapons in time of war. We learned, all of us, the awesome power that we’ve sought to contain ever since that time, and I believe it is containable. And I might say that I’m proud that President Obama has been pushing to reduce America’s arsenal along with Russia, and that we did manage to pass, when I was in the Senate, the START Treaty.

But the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban treaty has thus far eluded for various reasons. It remains a critical part of our effort to strip the world of these weapons. Some people don’t think that’s possible. I don’t agree. It’s interesting when you have Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, former secretaries of Defense and State all joining together saying it is possible. So people need, obviously, to embrace the notion that how we resolve conflicts has to change dramatically. That’s the purpose of the UN. How we deal with each other has to change. But if we lose the ability to envision that change, we lose something very special in the human spirit, and I think everybody here understands what I mean. We have to believe in the possibility of changing the way we resolve conflict, and if we do, then deterrence by nuclear weapons is something that can change.

So any time we work cooperatively to address the threat of nuclear weapons, we do make the world a safer place, and I have said to people who are doubters about the capacity to take this deterrence away – I’ve said to them, “Every step you take towards it – whether you get there tomorrow or in 50 years or what – makes the world a safer place. There is no question about that.”

The interim agreement that we struck with Iran, the P5+1, has made the world safer because a nuclear stockpile that was at 20 percent has been reduced to 1 – and nothing. And inspections are taking place and there is greater certainty about possibilities than there was before it went into place. And it remains our fervent hope that Iran and the P5+1 can in the next weeks come to an agreement that would benefit the world and it would deal, ultimately, with the issues that are contained in the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.

So I come here to reiterate the Obama Administration’s unshakable commitment to seeing this treaty ratified and entered into force. And though we have not yet succeeded in ratifying it for pure political, ideological reasons – not substance, I assure you – we nevertheless are pledged to live by it, and we do live by it, and we will live by it.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz made clear a very compelling case for the value of stockpile stewardship in the context of this treaty. And I’ll say just a word about our commitment to the verification regime. Part of that commitment means engaging the American people, our citizens, on the treaty’s merits. And I know some members of the United States Senate still have concerns about this treaty. I believe they can be addressed by science, by facts, through computers and the technology we have today coupled with a legitimate stockpile stewardship program.

So let me be crystal-clear about what this treaty is and what it isn’t. This treaty is about diminishing our reliance on nuclear weapons. It’s about reducing dangerous competition among nuclear powers. It’s about responsible disarmament, and ultimately it’s about advancing international peace and security by building a different structure on which we can all rely.

I also want to be clear about what this treaty isn’t. This treaty isn’t just a feel-good exercise. It’s in all of our national security interests, and it’s verifiable. In fact, its verification regime is one of the great accomplishments of the modern world. The international monitoring system is nearly complete; it is robust, it is effective, and it has contributed critical scientific data on everything from tsunami warnings to tracking radioactivity and nuclear reactor accidents.

What this treaty does is simple: It sets standards and enforces the kind of verification measures that the United States already has in place, and that’s why we remain a strong supporter of the treaty. And we continue to be the single largest contributor to its budget. In fact, we’ve already provided more than 40 million above our assessment over the past two years. As the United States Senate considers ratification, it will require assurances not only that an effective, operational, and sustainable verification regime is in place, but that other nations are committed to sustaining it. That’s why we urge the seven other Annex II states to accelerate their efforts to ratify the treaty and urge all signatory states to provide the resources necessary to complete the verification regime. Let me be clear: There is no reason for the Annex II states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification process, and this treaty is a national security imperative for all of us.

So I close by just saying that President Obama and I believe that this time we’re living in, with all the conflict of ISIL and failed and failing states and Ebola and conflicts that we wish did not exist, still could become an age of construction, not destruction. A lot of that depends on the people in this room and on the leaders who are not here but were here this week, and it certainly depends on our willingness to fulfill a promise to our children and what they will inherit.

So we have to act with courage in the months ahead – days, weeks, and months ahead, and we know that our goal of a nuclear-free world may be a lofty one. But believe me, it is absolutely one worth fighting for, especially in an age where dirty bombs and nuclear materials and all of these other dangers exist. We would be better off, clearly, emphasizing the passage of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty so that we will never again see additional nuclear powers, and so that the existing nuclear powers will continue to move to eliminate these weapons from Earth.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. (Applause.)