An official website of the United States government

Ambassador Bruce Turner’s Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament On Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
January 31, 2023

U.S. Ambassador Bruce Turner’s Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Mr. President,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the United States today at the Conference on Disarmament about the role of nuclear-weapon-free zones. I want to thank UNIDIR also for its useful presentation.

The United States strongly believes that nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, properly crafted, are important regional complements to the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime.

The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among all the States of the region concerned, and in accordance with the 1999 United Nations Disarmament Commission principles and guidelines, enhances global and regional peace and security, strengthens the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, and contributes to realizing the objectives of nuclear disarmament and promoting full access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The provisions of zone treaties both complement obligations under the NPT and in some cases go beyond its requirements. We note, for example, that certain zone treaties contain restrictions on the testing and stationing of nuclear weapons and include the requirement for adoption of the Additional Protocol to IAEA safeguards agreements.

The zone treaties provide other concrete benefits, including through prohibitions on the dumping of radioactive wastes and requirements to maintain the highest standards of security and physical protection of nuclear material. Taken together, these treaties advance nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament goals at the regional level, while also further strengthening the global NPT regime.

The United States recognizes the important role that we and the other NPT nuclear-weapon states can play by signing and ratifying the relevant treaty protocols. Most importantly, ratification by a Nuclear Weapons State of relevant protocols brings into force legally binding negative security assurances to States Parties of the relevant zone treaty, as well as an obligation not to contribute to acts by a zone treaty party that would constitute a violation of the treaty.

The international security environment currently is not conducive to a universal, legally binding negative security assurance treaty. However, as affirmed in the recent U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, our negative security assurance policy is crystal clear: we 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.

The United States has been a strong supporter of the Treaty of Tlatelolco since its inception. We continue to stand by our obligations under the Protocols to the Treaty, andI would highlight that the U.S. commitment to the negative security assurance extended under Protocol II has never been in question. The U.S. administration is also working to advance ratification of the relevant protocols to the three zone treaties covering the South Pacific, Africa, and Central Asia. Furthermore, as expressed in the Tenth NPT Review Conference’s draft final document, we recognize the utility of further dialogue on any interpretative statements made in connection with ratification of the relevant protocols to the existing nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, and we would be open to having such conversations in the CD.

Mr. President,

We appreciate that the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) entered into force in March 1997, and we reaffirm our support for the Treaty. We also recall that the Nuclear Weapon States and SEANWFZ Treaty Parties reached consensus on the content of the revised SEANWFZ Protocol in 2011. We remain ready to engage with ASEAN and the other P5 countries on these issues, with a view to signature and ratification of the SEANWFZ Treaty Protocol.

We also remain committed to working with the regional states concerned to advance the goal of a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, consistent with the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference’s Resolution on the Middle East.We remain convinced that the only practical path to achieving such a zone is through regional cooperation and dialogue on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by all the states of the region. We would note, in conjunction with such a zone, that there are a number of unresolved questions related to chemical weapons development and use, in addition to nuclear issues.

A world without nuclear weapons remains our goal, and the agenda to achieve that vision outlined by President Biden remains our program of work. We are committed to working with the governments represented here to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, which includes these important initiatives to promote treaty-based regional nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Thank you, Mr. President.