Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on Prevention of Nuclear War Including all Related Aspects
As Delivered by U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Aud-Frances McKernan
Thank you, Madame Chair for giving me the floor. And I’d also like to really congratulate France on pulling together a very interesting panel. And thank you to all the panelists for your very interesting comments and remarks. I found this a very useful and hopeful, in a way, discussion, so thank you so much.
For the U.S. statement today, Agenda Item 2, the Prevention of Nuclear War, Including all Related Aspects, is a topic which the United States highly values. We and many others in the CD have called attention to the 2022 leader level P5 statement that affirmed a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This year, the G7 Leader’s Hiroshima Vision recalled that statement and also called for the immediate commencement of long overdue negotiations of an FMCT. This is the next logical step for Agenda Item 2, and, as such, we welcome the French Presidency’s discussion of the topic today. The G7 statement noted that 2023 will mark the 30th year since the consensual adoption of the UNGA resolution calling for an FMCT – something that the Canadian delegate also pointed out. Thirty years is quite a long period of time.
While an FMCT by itself cannot prevent nuclear war or arms racing altogether, it would impose significant constraints. A cap on the production of new fissile material for use in nuclear weapons would be welcomed as a positive step by the vast majority of CD and UN member states, as evidenced by the support for the annual UNGA resolution. The need to launch FMCT negotiations is especially urgent in today’s deteriorating security environment, as the process could mark a positive and hopeful development that could play a stabilizing role in reducing nuclear risks.
Unfortunately, since this body reached consensus to adopt a mandate to negotiate FMCT in 1995, consensus has mostly been out of reach, with two brief and unproductive exceptions in 1998 and 2009. And to add, today also we talked quite a bit – the panelists addressed quite a bit – the procedural situation in the CD, and I would like to call attention to our Food for Thought paper, that we’ve circulated with regards to perhaps overcoming some of those hurdles. If anyone needs a copy, we can share further as well.
A number of member-states have put forward various creative proposals, draft texts, and draft Programs of Work that have included a mandate to negotiate an FMCT. Nonetheless, negotiations and any meaningful progress has been stifled as a result of continued opposition by a few States. At least one P5 state is not even willing to declare a self-imposed, voluntary moratorium on the production of fissile material, likely because that state is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. As we have said in many of our sessions over the past months, the United States is ready to work with CD members to exercise creativity and demonstrate flexibility to begin such a negotiation. We call on others to join us in that effort.
The United States understands fully that a unilateral moratorium on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices is not a substitute for a negotiated FMCT. At the same time, we think it is undeniable that it could help build confidence and trust. A unilateral moratorium can demonstrate good-faith commitment to the FMCT’s objectives pending the outcome of a negotiation to ban the production of fissile material. The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Russia have long maintained such moratoria. We reiterate our call to all states that have not yet done so to declare a moratorium on such production immediately.
The United States continues to support negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament on the basis of the Shannon Mandate, which I would like to underscore does not limit what issues delegations may raise, including matters pertaining to stocks. This was demonstrated conclusively by the UN GGE and the UN High level Preparatory Group, which both conducted their work on the basis of CD/1299 and featured extensive discussion of the stocks issue.
However, as was noted also by some of the panelists today, keeping in mind the sheer technical complexity of the stocks issue, particularly with respect to questions of accountability and effective verification, the United States believes that it is far more urgent and practical to deal with the issue of new fissile material production first. While we recognize that to achieve the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, we will need at some point to address stocks, we need to start somewhere.
That is not to say that we would not expect others to raise stocks, or that we would not be prepared to talk about the issue ourselves or explore ways to build confidence. We would welcome the opportunity to address the significant steps we’ve taken to provide transparency into U.S. fissile material stocks, to declare fissile material excess to national security needs, and to permanently remove this material from potential further use in nuclear weapons.
Ambassador Turner also laid out these points with regards to the specifics of these steps in his intervention last week – quite a few details are available. That is also available in our national report to the 2022 NPT Review Conference. Far more progress has been made in managing and reducing excess stocks than would have been possible if we had linked such reductions to negotiation of an FMCT. Far from stimulating progress on both fronts – new production and existing stocks – such linkages have instead created impediments to progress on either front.
In sum, the time is long past due for commencing formal negotiations of an FMCT. Beginning such negotiations is all the more urgent in the current security environment. We are ready to begin now. Given the importance of making progress, we are also open to new and creative solutions and formats – also something the panelists talked about today. The important thing is that we do something and do something now.
Madame President, it has been more than 25 years since this body took up a mandate to negotiate an effectively verifiable FMCT. The United States stands ready to work with all delegations to make this negotiating mandate a reality. It is long past time for the CD to get back to work.