Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U. S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Briefing on Maintenance of International Peace and Security Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Security, April 19, 2012

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 19, 2012


I want to thank the Secretary-General for his participation and leadership on this issue, as well as my fellow Council members for today’s discussion of an issue at the very top of our agenda and for their agreement to the presidential statement I will read shortly.

When it comes to the urgent nuclear threats we have discussed today, including nuclear terrorism, the Security Council must embrace its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. As President Obama stated three years ago this month in Prague, the explosion of a single nuclear weapon would have catastrophic consequences for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, and even our very survival.

We all share an interest in preventing and containing nuclear threats. During the Security Council’s historic September 2009 Summit on non-proliferation and nuclear security, heads of state reaffirmed this shared interest by adopting a landmark resolution, resolution 1887, which resolved to “seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.” Resolution 1887 was the Council’s first comprehensive action on these issues since the mid-1990s.

Building on the momentum of the 2009 summit, the Security Council and the world have made significant progress. In an historic first, the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference resulted in a Final Document that included a comprehensive Action Plan adopted by consensus on steps to strengthen all three “pillars” of the NPT. There is no denying that the NPT remains the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As President Obama said in Seoul last month: “We’ve upheld the basic bargain of the NPT: countries with nuclear weapons, like the United States and Russia, will move toward disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries will have access to peaceful nuclear energy.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has continued to play an essential role in implementing safeguards and promoting the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The combination of an NPT safeguards agreement and an Additional Protocol is widely recognized as the standard for strengthened IAEA safeguards. To date, 115 states, including the United States of America, have brought into force an Additional Protocol granting to the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and sites. We continue to seek partners in the effort to expand and accelerate IAEA activities to strengthen the agency’s ability to detect and deter undeclared nuclear activities.

In 2011, this Council adopted resolution 1977, extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee for an unprecedented ten years. The 1540 Committee’s work to help states prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors is a crucial part of the international non-proliferation regime. The United States fully supports 1540 implementation efforts and made a voluntary contribution of $3 million last year to promote this work.

Finally, the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C. was followed up by a second summit last month. Over 50 heads of state met in Seoul and reaffirmed their commitment to combat nuclear terrorism and increase nuclear security. The actions and commitments undertaken by participating states are being translated into tangible steps to protect against nuclear terrorism.

The United States is also strengthening global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. The 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) outlined our approach for reducing the role of nuclear weapons and pursuing the goal of a world without such weapons. Through the posture review, we announced that the United States 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 non-proliferation obligations. And we emphasized our collective interest in ensuring that the record of more than six decades of nuclear non-use continues forever.

The New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation, which entered into force on February 5, 2011, is being implemented successfully. This treaty illustrates yet again the United States’ strong commitment to meeting its disarmament obligations. When the treaty is fully implemented, the deployed strategic nuclear forces of the United States and Russia will reach their lowest level since the 1950s. The rigorous provisions of the New START Treaty testify to the importance of transparency and effective verification in providing predictability and stability in international relations.

Continuing the process of P5 engagement established through the 2009 London and 2011 Paris P5 conferences, the United States will host a P5 conference in Washington later this year to continue discussions on verification, transparency, and confidence-building measures. The P5 process now underway expands the long-standing U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament dialogue into an ongoing process of P5 engagement on issues related to nuclear disarmament, consistent with our obligations under Article VI of the NPT and our commitments under the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is also an essential step toward a world without nuclear weapons, and the United States remains committed to working toward our ratification of the Treaty and its entry into force. We continue to maintain our voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing, which went into effect two decades ago, and we call upon all states to refrain from nuclear explosive testing.

Despite these many multilateral and national efforts, much work remains to be done. We must continue strengthening global nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and security efforts. We cannot let our guard down. Certain countries continue to pursue nuclear-weapons capabilities in violation of Security Council resolutions and contrary to the clearly expressed will of the international community. The dangers we face and the price of complacency remain much too high. We cannot, for example, allow the NPT to be weakened by tolerating non-compliance with its requirements or violations of international safeguards agreements. The implications of any case of non-compliance, whether by North Korea or Iran, concern more than just the offending country and its neighbors. Every violation of the NPT has the potential, if left unchecked, to erode confidence in the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. We cannot and we will not let that happen.

Beginning negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty is the next logical step in nuclear arms control. It is thus a great disappointment that, due to one country, the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to agree to move forward. The Conference should agree to commence negotiations without further delay.

We must also sharpen our commitment to nuclear safety and security. The terrible accident at the Fukushima plant last year was a reminder of our shared vulnerability as much of the world looks increasingly to nuclear power to fuel economic growth and development. The choice safely to develop and maintain nuclear power is and should remain a national one. However, we will continue strongly to support international efforts, led primarily by the IAEA, to facilitate better nuclear-safety training and cooperation and to improve accident-response capacities.

The United States believes that it has a moral responsibility to lead and act now, in cooperation with the members of this Council and the international community, to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Today's session and presidential statement mark a milestone on that path. As President Obama remarked in Seoul last month, "no one nation can do this alone."

I thank you.


PRN: 2012/091