U.S. Acting Permanent Representative Aud-Frances McKernan’s
Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament
January 27, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ambassador Li, let me join my colleagues in congratulating you on the assumption of the Presidency and assuring you of our full support for your efforts to revitalize the CD.
A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. President Biden joined the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom in releasing this P5 statement on January 3, 2022, after serious and well-organized discussions led by France.
This is a statement of fact – an acknowledgement of the danger we all face. It is a statement that requires action on the part of the five nuclear weapon states recognized under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This statement also makes clear why action is required from all nations represented here today. All states must work together to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. It is incumbent upon all of us to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear dangers.
Historically, the Conference on Disarmament has made fundamental contributions to international peace and security. Unfortunately, for over twenty years, it has also been gridlocked and stymied in its potential for progress. We hope you can help spur movement here in Geneva.
Nationally, the United States has made significant progress towards disarmament – reducing the total U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.
President Biden renewed the United States’ commitment to disarmament when he made clear that we have a national security imperative and a moral responsibility to manage and eventually eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Consistent with our steadfast commitment to Article VI of the NPT, we will continue to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.
In February 2021, the United States engaged with the Russian Federation to extend the New START Treaty for the maximum five-year period and recommenced a deliberate and robust Strategic Stability Dialogue – to reduce risk and lay the groundwork for future arms control.
While 2026 may seem distant to some, we see it as fast approaching, and the challenge is before us in seeking to address all Russian nuclear warheads in the follow-on arms control to New
START. The United States is ready to engage Russia for the next steps in our dialogue, as soon as possible.
We have been clear diplomacy is the more durable path to stability and security; we urge, we urge Russia, to de-escalate from its current build up in Europe to enable us to walk the path of diplomacy together.
Building on the momentum of the P5’s Prevention of Nuclear War Statement, the United States and China should move quickly to engage on nuclear risk reduction matters. We hope that the PRC is now ready to explore measures to reduce the risks of inadvertent conflict and destabilizing arms races.
The United States knows we are facing challenges in disarmament and nonproliferation efforts. Moving past those challenges requires leadership and initiative.
As an act of good faith and transparency, as well as a demonstration of our commitment to Article VI of the NPT, we publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile during the UNGA First Committee in October of last year. As of September 2020, the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons consisted of 3,750 warheads. That represents an approximate 88 percent reduction since its maximum in 1967. Further, since the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the United States has dismantled more than 800 nuclear warheads. In the same light, we will brief the CD on our new Nuclear Posture Review as soon as it is released.
In multilateral fora, we continue to engage with the NPT nuclear-weapon States through the P5 Process. We greatly appreciate France’s leadership of the P5 process over the past few years now and look forward to following France as the P5 Coordinator. In this vein, the United States will seek meaningful multilateral dialogue and diplomacy among the nuclear-weapon States with the aim of developing and implementing effective risk reduction measures.
We regret the postponement of the NPT RevCon yet again and look forward to hearing Ambassador Zlauvinen’s new proposal. I am pleased to note that our substantial joint statement with Japan on the NPT was circulated by Japan yesterday and I hope you all will take the time to read it.
The United States supports the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and is committed to work to achieve its entry into force. For nearly 30 years, the United States has observed a zero-yield moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. We call on all states possessing nuclear weapons to declare and/or maintain such a moratorium.
We also continue to support the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Another essential step toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons, an FMCT remains a key step to cap nuclear stockpiles, prevent future nuclear arms races, and enable progress on nuclear disarmament. We strongly encourage all states to declare and maintain moratoria on production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
On outer space security matters, the United States welcomes the upcoming meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviors. We look forward to the start of these discussions and encourage all Member States to participate actively and contribute constructively to this effort.
This is an important opportunity for all of us to move past the stale and fundamentally flawed arms control proposals on space that have been the focus of the CD for too long. Among other shortcomings, these proposals fail to address the threat demonstrated by ground-based anti-satellite weapons, such as the irresponsible and dangerous destructive anti-satellite missile test the Russian Federation conducted last year on November 15. That test, which was planned with no warning to the international community of its nature, and after years of Russia denying the development of anti-satellite systems, created long-lived debris that as Secretary of State Blinken noted, will “threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests for decades to come.” That is why the upcoming Open-Ended Working Group is an especially important opportunity.
History shows success in arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament efforts requires political will and good faith from all those pursuing such efforts. Success also requires we account for the instability and insecurity of today’s international security environment. We must identify these security challenges and mitigate them to secure progress on nuclear disarmament. That work is being done through initiatives like Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament and the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. We look forward to the next steps in both of those groups.
The United States was very disappointed that the proposal to update the CD Rules of Procedure with gender inclusive “technical/linguistic changes” did not achieve consensus at our last session. This is a long-overdue update that would help the CD move at last finally into the 21st century, and we support efforts to find a way forward on this issue.
The United States emphasizes the need to facilitate women and gender-diverse persons’ participation and representation in all levels of policymaking, planning, and implementation processes related to disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control. This includes women, girls, and gender diverse persons facing intersecting forms of discrimination that may be based on disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or religion.
We would also welcome discussions on our membership, working methods, or any other topic that could make the CD a more effective conference. We are flexible on the arrangement of such discussions and look forward to working with you and our fellow member states to find a productive way forward.
We also look forward to welcoming all observers who requested to observe the CD this session.
The United States is ready to work. From creating and enhancing verification tools and technologies to engaging in bilateral or multilateral dialogues to negotiating new agreements and arrangements, our nation will continue to demonstrate in both word and deed, our commitment to nuclear risk reduction and nuclear disarmament. We hope every nation present here at the Conference on Disarmament will join us in these efforts.