Thematic Discussion on Nuclear Weapons – UNFC October 2023
Statement by the United States As Delivered by Ambassador Bruce Turner
Thank you, Chair,
The United States remains fully and firmly committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime, and an essential foundation for progress toward the shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
The 2022 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review reaffirmed our longstanding declaratory policy that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on, and defend the vital interests of, the United States, our Allies, and our partners. A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and we encourage all nuclear-weapon states to act in accordance with that principle. Our commitment is fully consistent with international law and our understanding of the catastrophic and far-reaching consequences of nuclear war.
As long as nuclear weapons continue to exist we will demonstrate and promote responsible behavior, particularly when it comes to transparency and accountability. Transparency measures can play a critical role in reducing misunderstandings and reassuring others that a state’s words and actions are in alignment.
To that end, at last year’s Review Conference, we submitted a national report with detailed information on the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise. On May 15, 2023, we voluntarily and unilaterally released aggregate data on U.S. strategic offensive arms under the New START Treaty, despite Russia’s purported suspension. But Russia did not reciprocate. Ultimately, we must be judged not only by our words, but by our actions. It is plain to see which states are serious about nuclear disarmament and which are not.
The world has borne witness for 20 months now to the horrors resulting from Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine, which shattered peace in Europe. Russia continues to isolate itself in this and other multilateral bodies by repeatedly violating international law, including the UN Charter, and UN Security Council resolutions. As President Biden said in this very building just a few weeks ago, “Russia is shredding longstanding arms control agreements… it is irresponsible and makes the entire world less safe.” Now the Duma is considering withdrawing Russia’s ratification of the CTBT. A move like this needlessly endangers the global norm against nuclear explosive testing. We urge the Russian Federation not to take this step.
The People’s Republic of China’s actions rapidly and opaquely to build a larger, more diverse nuclear arsenal are also concerning. Beijing’s continued refusal to acknowledge this buildup, or its scale, calls into question its intentions. The PRC remains the only Nuclear Weapon State not to have put in place a moratorium on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. It also has not reported on its fissile material production, as appropriate, to the IAEA. Yet in spite of these concerns, Beijing remains reluctant to engage substantively on risk reduction, transparency, or broader arms control measures, either bilaterally or multilaterally.
The DPRK’s continued violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions pose a growing threat to the international security environment, the global non-proliferation regime, and regional stability. Its reckless pursuit of its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs is of particular concern. Moreover, Russia, a permanent Security Council member, is now pursuing arms transfers with the DPRK that violate the very resolutions Russia voted for in the Council.
Not withstanding the challenges I’ve outlined, the United States stands ready to engage.
- We are prepared to work constructively with Russia on a pathway back to full implementation of the New START Treaty, and on nuclear risk reduction, and on a post-2026 nuclear arms control framework.
- We seek a mutually-beneficial bilateral discussion with the PRC on ways to promote strategic stability and reduce tensions.
- Concerning the DPRK, our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Contrary to what the DPRK representative would have you believe, we seek dialogue with Pyongyang on these and other issues.
- In sum and to be clear, we are willing to engage in all these dialogues “without preconditions” understanding that does not mean “without accountability.”
Cooperative initiatives such as the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, IPNDV, and the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament, CEND, initiative deserve support for bringing together diverse states with and without nuclear weapons to collaborate on issues vital to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
It is time to come together to support the immediate launch of multilateral negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. Complementing this undertaking, we will promote efforts within the five nuclear weapon states to develop concrete measures to reduce the risk of nuclear use.
The United States is ready, as Under Secretary-General Nakamitsu charged us, to work with urgency and spur concrete action for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.
We will upload a longer version of this statement online.
Thank you, Chair.