Statement by Ambassador Susan F. Burk, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, at the Informal Meeting of the UN General Assembly to mark the Observance of the International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Ambassador Susan F. Burk
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation 
New York, NY
September 6, 2012


Good Morning. To begin, I would like to thank our organizers, Amb. Al-Nasser and the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan, for bringing us together on this day to address a topic of such profound importance to international peace and security. I thank Amb. Al-Nasser, the Secretary -General and Amb. Toth for their opening statements.

Our organizers asked me to address the topic, “From Here to 2015 and Beyond.” The topic sparked for me three questions. First, where is here? What is the state of affairs at the intersection of nuclear technology and international security? Second, how did we get here? Why have we made the progress we have made? And third, what lessons can we take from the past few years as we approach the 2015 NPT Review Conference as well as the nuclear challenges--nonproliferation, disarmament, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and security--that we face now and will meet in the years ahead?

As we look back on the past few years in the nuclear arena, we can see important successes as well as persistent challenges. Among the achievements, we can point to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, its constructive atmosphere, and Parties’ agreement on a series of meaningful actions to advance the NPT in each of its three pillars: nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses. This spring’s first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference proved to be a productive step on the road to 2015 by demonstrating NPT Parties’ commitment to sustain constructive dialogue on the broad and complex nuclear nonproliferation agenda. At the PrepCom, parties provided information on their progress in fulfilling the Action Plan that had been adopted in 2010. This progress includes active P5 engagement, as the Action Plan calls for, on nuclear disarmament, transparency, and confidence building.

We can also point to the entry into force of the New START Treaty in February, 2011, between the United States and Russia. Implementation is going very well, and when it is fully implemented it will result in the reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to levels unseen since the 1950s. We have had two successful Nuclear Security Summits, the first in Washington in 2010 and the second this spring in Seoul, which have bolstered international efforts to protect nuclear materials. The steady rise in the number of states with Additional Protocols in force has enhanced the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to fulfill its nonproliferation role. The steady increase in the number of states supporting and benefiting from the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, designed to provide substantial additional resources to fulfill the NPT’s promise of peaceful nuclear cooperation, has enhanced the Agency’s ability to do just that. The Agency’s Board of Governors’ approval of a series of new measures to assure adequate supply of nuclear fuel for power reactors also reflects progress. And we have made other advances on Action Plan items, from the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone protocols to plutonium disposition.

However, challenges temper this progress. Iran, despite multiple resolutions by the IAEA Board and the UN Security Council, refuses to comply with its international nuclear nonproliferation obligations and continues to engage in the activities that gave rise to those resolutions. Iran’s actions pose a grave challenge to the authority and future of the NPT and IAEA safeguards, which is why it is of such fundamental importance that concerns surrounding Iran’s nuclear program be resolved fully. Syria, despite the Board of Governor’s finding of noncompliance with its safeguards obligations, has failed to provide any credible explanations to clarify the true nature and scope of its clandestine nuclear activities. And North Korea continues to add provocation on top of noncompliance.

Nuclear disarmament too has its frustrations. We continue our efforts to move forward negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Likewise, the threat of nuclear or radiological terrorism and the possibility of black markets in nuclear materials or technology persist. There are increasing calls for greater access to the benefits of nuclear energy, without calls for a parallel buildup in resources for the infrastructure needed to safely and securely use those technologies.

Both the progress we have achieved and the challenges that we face are significant. And, understanding how we have achieved the progress we have made can help us in addressing the challenges that we face now and those that we will face in the future.

Fundamental to the progress we have achieved is a commitment by each state to the mutual obligations and legal commitments embodied in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. For the United States, President Obama voiced that commitment at Prague in 2009. He noted the irony that “the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up” as well as the grave and global consequences of a nuclear attack anywhere. In the light of this threat, the President reaffirmed “America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and he outlined concrete steps to work toward this goal: reducing the number and role of U.S. nuclear weapons, strengthening the NPT in all of its aspects, and keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. The United States is making steady progress in each area: issuing the transformative 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, bringing into force New START, launching the Nuclear Security Summit process, highlighting member states’ commitment to technical cooperation through the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, and pursuing new frameworks for civil nuclear cooperation.

The nuclear nonproliferation regime is multilateral, and its benefits are shared by all. Preserving and strengthening it requires action by all its members. All states must live up to their obligations and abide by their mutual responsibilities. The 2010 NPT Review Conference succeeded in no small part because the Parties accepted and acted on these principles. Most Parties came to New York at that time eager for the Review Conference to succeed and concerned with the prospects for the Treaty and the regime if the conference failed. They sought and achieved a conference outcome that reaffirmed the Treaty’s vital importance to international peace and security. They benefitted from able conference leadership and made progress where they could on each of the Treaty’s pillars. And success breeds success. The Review Conference’s achievement provided momentum that helped produce success elsewhere and continue to do so.

Our task as we move toward 2015 and beyond is to sustain and expand this momentum. All Parties must keep in mind the benefits the regime can bring, and act on their obligations under the regime and their responsibility to sustain and strengthen it. Preserving the regime cannot be a project of the few; it is a project to which all can and must contribute.

And this holds no matter the task at hand. Whether it is through bolstering efforts to address noncompliance, pursuing steps that contribute to nuclear disarmament, or promoting the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy for all states. It is also important that states in the Middle East deal with the issue of a regional WMD free zone in a respectful and serious way. Decisions of the NPT are no substitute for regional action and responsibility, and we hope for better looking forward.

The 2010 Action Plan can get us to 2015 and beyond. Each Party can make clear its commitment to the Treaty and the regime by working to fulfill the Action Plan. Progress there will preserve and increase the Treaty’s benefits, address the challenges that the Treaty and the regime face, and strengthen the Treaty and the regime in the face of the new challenges that inevitably will come.

Thank you very much.


PRN: 2012/182