Ambassador Robert Wood Addresses Conference on Disarmament Opening Plenary

U.S. Opening Statement
2016 Session of the Conference on Disarmament
Geneva,  January 26, 2016
– as delivered –

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am pleased to congratulate you on your assumption of the Conference Presidency as we begin the 2016 session.  I want to assure you that you can count on the support of the United States in your efforts to guide the work of this forum in what we hope will be an historic and path-breaking year for the CD.

Mr. President,

We are coming off the heels of another challenging year in the CD, but the United States continues to have faith in this distinguished forum.  In the past, when the CD has been able to negotiate on substance, it has made great progress in the fields of arms control and disarmament, resulting in landmark agreements.  We firmly believe there is both the need and the opportunity to do so again.  Nothing makes this clearer than the intensity of last year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and UNGA First Committee session.

The CD has to get back to work.  This will require some flexibility on the part of all Member States, and the United States stands ready to do its part.  Indeed, in preparation for the 2016 CD session the U.S. delegation has offered the Nigerian Presidency ideas for a program of work seeking to address the expressed concerns of some states.  We hope that others will demonstrate a similar spirit of flexibility and that consensus will be achieved.  My delegation will continue to work openly and constructively with our CD colleagues to develop ideas to break the current impasse.

In addition, cognizant of the strong and abiding interest of a number of states in joining this forum, the United States remains open to discussing a limited, appropriate expansion of the CD membership.  We also believe it would be appropriate for the CD to consider updating its engagement with civil society.  The approach employed at UN First Committee could be a useful model in this regard.

Mr. President,

The United States is committed to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.  To achieve this long-term objective my nation continues to pursue a practical, full-spectrum approach.  By steadily reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons in a way that advances strategic stability, we create the conditions and opportunities for further progress.

As part of this full-spectrum approach to disarmament, the United States has reduced its total stockpile of warheads by 85% from its Cold War peak.  The United States is fulfilling all our treaty obligations, including those of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which has long been a pillar of European and international security.  Moreover, in line with our 2010 Nuclear Posture Review the United States has reduced further the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national strategy, and made clear that the United States 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.  And, it is important to underscore that the United States is neither developing new nuclear weapons, nor are we pursuing any new nuclear missions.  Our Stockpile Stewardship and management activities are intended only to sustain existing warhead designs while further enhancing the safety and security of a shrinking stockpile.

On February 5 of this year, the United States and the Russian Federation will mark the 5th Anniversary of the entry into force of the New START Treaty, the most comprehensive nuclear arms control agreement in more than 20 years.  Both sides continue to successfully implement the Treaty as we move ever closer to the deadline to meet the Treaty’s central limits by February 5, 2018.   When the Treaty is fully implemented, U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear weapons will reach their lowest levels since the 1950s.  As the steady implementation of the New START Treaty proceeds, President Obama has made clear his willingness to seek further reductions of up to one-third below those New START levels.  Of course, progress will require a willing partner and a conducive strategic environment.

Mr. President,

Beyond these ongoing efforts, the United States is working for multilateral arms control and disarmament progress.  In this context, it is clear that a treaty that constrains the building blocks of nuclear weapons – a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) – is the next logical and achievable step for the international community – and, more specifically, for the CD.

At home in the United States, we are continuing to work to build support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, CTBT, making the case to our citizens and legislators that the CTBT is in our national  security interest.

As we seek to promote multilateral progress toward nuclear disarmament, it is more important than ever to find ways for nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states to engage in dialogue and constructive cooperation on disarmament matters.  As a contribution to this dialogue and cooperation, the United States and the Nuclear Threat Initiative launched the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification in December 2014.  This exciting new endeavor brings together twenty-seven states – states with and states without nuclear weapons  – committed to exploring what tools and technologies will be needed to effectively verify future nuclear disarmament agreements.  We were very pleased with the outcome of the 2nd plenary of the Partnership, hosted by Norway last November, and we look forward to the first meeting of the Partnership’s three working groups here in Geneva next month.

Mr. President,

As we have emphasized in this and other forums, we are ever mindful of the potential humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use.  Our understanding of these consequences has underpinned U.S. efforts to achieve deep reductions in our nuclear arsenal in ways that take account of and promote strategic stability and international security.  They also underpin our concerted efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, including to terrorists.   These efforts benefit all of us.  We also know that effective nuclear arms control and disarmament measures cannot be pursued in a vacuum, and restrictions, reductions, and eliminations by themselves do not ensure greater security absent strategic stability and effective verification.  It is for this reason that President Obama made clear that we work toward the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons; but so long as such weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies.

Recent events in North Korea remind us of the grave security challenges that we face.  As U.S. Secretary of State Kerry stated on January 6, “The United States and nations around the world have unequivocally condemned North Korea’s latest nuclear test.  This highly provocative act poses a grave threat to international peace and security and blatantly violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.  The U.S. is committed to defending the American people and honoring our security commitment to our allies in the region.  We do not and will not accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state, and actions such as this latest test only strengthen our resolve.  We will continue to work closely with our partners on the UN Security Council and in the Six-Party Talks to take appropriate action.  We call on the North to end these provocations and choose a better path.  North Korea will only achieve the security and development it claims to seek by living up to its international obligations and commitments. ”

Mr. President,

While North Korea continues to ignore its commitments to the global nonproliferation regime, it is important to recognize the recent progress to strengthen that regime.  The United States welcomes the IAEA’s report verifying that Iran has completed the nuclear-related steps it committed to under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  The United States also welcomes the joint statement from the EU and Iran, on behalf of all JCPOA participants, confirming that we have reached Implementation Day.  Continued adherence to the JCPOA will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.

Finally, Mr. President,

We have all seen and are mindful of the benefits of persistent, tireless diplomacy.  That is why the United States believes it is high time for CD Member States to redouble our efforts to reach agreement on a Program of Work.  We know that there are no short-cuts to a nuclear-free world or any viable alternatives to practical, verifiable disarmament, but in this body we can blaze a trail for progress.  Given all the CD has accomplished in the past and its continued potential, the United States looks forward to working with other CD Member States to seize the promising opportunities before us.

Thank you, Mr. President.