Thematic Discussion on Regional Disarmament and Security – UNFC October 2023
Statement by the United States as Delivered by Ambassador Bruce Turner
The United States has an enduring interest in promoting international peace, security, and prosperity. These goals are best achieved through strong partnerships and cooperation with regional and other inter-governmental organizations. Unfortunately, this year has seen continued threats to regional cooperation and their disastrous consequences for global stability.
Chair, I will concentrate on the most urgent and concerning trends affecting regional stability. A longer version of these remarks will be posted online.
First, we cannot discuss regional security without addressing the intensifying conflict in the Middle East. Hamas must be condemned for the barbaric terrorist attacks against Israel and its citizens on October 7. Hamas has compounded and perpetuated the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza at every step of this crisis.
Just as we stand with the people and government of Israel and affirm its right to defend itself against terrorism, we believe Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians. We mourn the loss of every innocent life in this conflict – Israeli and Palestinian; Muslim, Jew, and Christian; and people of all nationalities and faiths. As Secretary Blinken stated yesterday, the only road to lasting peace and security in the region is through two states for two peoples.
This conflict reminds us not to lose sight of Iran’s role in destabilizing the region through its support for terrorist proxies like Hamas, proliferation of conventional arms, and continually expanding nuclear activities that have no credible civilian justification. Iran must address serious, longstanding, and unresolved IAEA questions related to its possible undeclared nuclear materials and activities and fully cooperate with the Agency, as required by its safeguards obligations. Only when Iran takes these steps to reverse its deliberate hampering of normal verification and monitoring activities can the IAEA provide the necessary assurances Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.
Chair, turning to the European continent, Russia’s continued war of aggression in Ukraine is a blatant violation of the UN Charter. The Kremlin has increased the risks of nuclear war and proliferation and interfered with Ukraine’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, cutting across all three pillars of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We condemn Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure and cities across Ukraine and reject the ongoing attempt to seize land and property by force. We denounce Russia’s seizure of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the continued intimidation of the plant’s Ukrainian staff. We applaud the IAEA’s extraordinary efforts to establish and maintain a continuing presence there.
Since we last met in this forum, Russia has opened a new destabilizing partnership by pursuing arms transfers from the DPRK. My government released publicly on October 13 imagery showing the movement of more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions from the DPRK into Russia by ship. We condemn this transfer, which will be used to attack Ukrainian cities and kill civilians in Russia’s illegitimate war. Alarmingly, these transfers do not appear to be one-way. The United States continues to assess the DPRK is seeking fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment and materials, and other advanced technologies from Russia. We have already observed Russian ships offloading containers in the DPRK that might constitute deliveries of such materiel. This expanding military partnership undermines regional stability and global nonproliferation, and these transfers directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions.
Finally, the People’s Republic of China’s lack of transparency on its capabilities and intentions with regards to the rapid build-up of its nuclear forces raises the risks of destabilizing arms racing and regional tensions. Other actions by the PRC also contribute to regional instability, and we remain deeply concerned about its persistent military, diplomatic, and economic pressure campaign against Taiwan. Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is critical to global security and prosperity, and a matter of significant international concern.
The United States robustly supports positive regional engagement efforts and urges States to join us in the following steps to improve regional stability:
- Urge Iran and Syria to cooperate fully and without delay with the IAEA;
- Hold Russia accountable for breaking the peace in Europe;
- Hold the DPRK accountable for its illegal activities;
- Encourage the PRC to engage in multilateral and bilateral disarmament and nonproliferation talks, which we stand ready to conduct, without preconditions;
- Continue to bolster and support ASEAN’s centrality to Indo-Pacific stability;
- Promote nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties that are freely arrived at through consensus by all regional states, and which reinforce the NPT and regional security; and
- Further implement the Women, Peace, and Security agenda to reinforce the disarmament agenda.
My posted statement addresses these topics in more detail and outlines the unwavering U.S. commitment to regional and global stability.
Thank you, Chair.