Senior Advisor Mather-Marcus’s Remarks for
Conference on Disarmament Subsidiary Body 2
Prevention of Nuclear War, Including all Related Matters
Prevention of Nuclear War: Technical Considerations
Thank you, Mr. Coordinator. And thank you Mr. Podvig for your presentation.
These subsidiary bodies are meeting under the cloud of international security threats the likes of which we have not seen at any time since the end of the Cold War.
Russia’s vicious war on Ukraine continues – as do characteristically bellicose statements by Kremlin officials. The conduct of the Russian state is intolerable and those responsible must not go unpunished for unleashing such violence and blatantly violating the principles that undergird international peace and security.
Concurrently, the DPRK continues to launch ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and may also be reconstructing its nuclear testing site in preparation for a seventh nuclear test.
The United States strongly condemns all the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches and encourages all CD Member States to join us in denouncing both Russia and the DPRK’s unlawful behavior.
We cannot – and should not – carry on as though these events are not happening.
The questions raised about transparency, accountability, and operating in good faith are directly relevant to every one of the CD’s agenda items.
The United States would like to hear from more delegations on how you think these actions impact the disarmament discourse and our work, both immediately and in the long-term. We also hope to see such thoughts reflected in our final reports.
Today’s discussion is meant to be on the technical considerations of an FMCT – a treaty that would, at a minimum, ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.
The U.S. view on these technical considerations is well known.
We have detailed those views here in the CD and, in even greater detail, during the two UN-mandated groups that previously met on this subject.
Briefly, the treaty should define fissile material for purposes of the treaty based on the IAEA’s definition of unirradiated direct use material. This would align the FMCT with the long-standing definition of materials subject to concern.
A verification regime should be focused on the key steps of enrichment and reprocessing. Verification would ensure that any fissile material, which is produced for non-weapons purposes, is not subsequently diverted to weapons.
This regime would apply to all states not currently obligated under the NPT to implement IAEA safeguards. NPT non-nuclear-weapon States Parties who become party to an FMCT would satisfy the verification requirements with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and an Additional Protocol.
I could go on, but these positions are readily available in our submissions to this body over the years.
We agreed in 1995 to establish an Ad Hoc Committee within the CD to negotiate, on the basis of CD/1299, a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
DVDs had not hit the market yet when we made that commitment.
Neither had hybrid vehicles, flat screen displays, the iPhone, Facebook, YouTube, or Google Search. Never mind Bitcoin or rockets that can deliver a payload and then safely return to Earth for re-use.
The United States continues to reaffirm its commitment to negotiate an FMCT on the basis of consensus and with the participation of all the key states.
An end to the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices remains an essential step toward achieving the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Such an Ad Hoc Committee is the appropriate entity to answer questions on all aspects of an FMCT, and there is a lot of existing work that it can and should draw upon.
Examples include the findings of the Group of Governmental Experts, which met in 2014 and 2015, and the subsequent High Level FMCT experts Preparatory Group (HLPG), which met in 2017 and 2018. We believe these groups laid important groundwork for future FMCT negotiations.
The key to the various mandates that have been proposed for FMCT over the years is not the phrase “a ban on the production,” although that does establish the essential minimum goal of an FMCT, or FMT if you prefer.
No, the key lies in what leads these mandates, and that is the task to “negotiate on the basis of CD/1299.”
It’s been so long that perhaps people have forgotten what the Shannon Report actually says about these negotiations, and so I will quote the report at some length.
In CD/1299, Ambassador Shannon said, and I quote:
“During the course of my consultations, many delegations expressed concerns about a variety of issues relating to fissile material, including the appropriate scope of the Convention. Some delegations expressed the view that this mandate would
permit consideration in the Committee only of the future production of fissile material. Other delegations were of the view that the mandate would permit consideration not only of future but also of past production. Still others were of the view that consideration should not only relate to production of fissile material (past or future) but also to other issues, such as the management of such material.
It has been agreed by delegations that the mandate for the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee does not preclude any delegation from raising for consideration in the Ad Hoc Committee any of the above noted issues.” End quote.
So there it is — CD/1299 puts no limitation on what members may raise. And that has been abundantly clear in both the UN-mandated Groups which met to discuss FMCT, also on the basis of CD/1299.
There’s nothing hard about coming up with a negotiating mandate that protects everyone’s interests. It’s been there for years.
The hard reality is that the real barrier to progress is a lack of political will.
The challenge is that an FMCT is intended is to constrain potential nuclear arms races by capping stockpiles of fissile material available for use in nuclear weapons, an increasingly urgent commitment that some states are unwilling to do make.
FMCT negotiations will not begin until the remaining key states are prepared to cap their stocks of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. It will happen when they come to realize that endlessly building up their nuclear stockpiles is a problem masquerading as a solution.
Responsible states ended this practice years ago and went the reverse route by spending a great deal of money down-blending and disposing of much of the fissile material they had spent a great deal of money producing.
Learn from our lesson. We call on all states who have not done so to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons until we are able to codify that commitment in a legally-binding treaty.
Thank you, Mr. Coordinator.