Last Spring in Prague, President Obama stood before the world and set a new direction for the nuclear weapons policy of the United States – to take us out of Cold War postures and instead meet today’s security threats.
He declared America’s commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The President also spoke of the work that would be required to realize that goal, and the security benefits we would gain as a result.
In the year since Prague, President Obama has backed up his words with concrete progress: A United Nations Security Council Summit last September on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament that gained the Council’s unanimous endorsement of many elements of the Prague agenda;
a new START Treaty that will bring our stockpile of deployed strategic warheads to its lowest point since the 1950’s; a Nuclear Posture Review that reduces the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy, strengthens our negative security assurance for NPT parties in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, and commits that we will not develop new nuclear warheads or engage in nuclear testing. The President also directed, as part of the NPR, a review of our arms control objectives to achieve future reductions in nuclear weapons and he reaffirmed his commitment to work toward Senate ratification of CTBT.
On nonproliferation, we have also moved forward. Most recently, President Obama convened a Nuclear Security Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders convened by a U.S. president since 1945, to agree on steps we can take collectively to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.
The U.S. has worked with other states to help them adopt and enforce effective laws prohibiting proliferation consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 1540. In addition, the U.S. has helped lay the foundation for an international agreement to end the production of fissile material.
In addition, we have strengthened our commitment to the rights of parties that are in compliance with their NPT obligations to access nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes.
The United States has enhanced civil nuclear infrastructure cooperation, and in the past two years alone we have led technical cooperation delegations to a dozen countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Next week in New York, the United States delegation, led by Secretary Clinton, will join nearly all of the 188 other nations that are party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – and they will gather.
This is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the importance of the Treaty as a cornerstone of our collective security, to undertake a constructive, balanced review of where things stand, and to assess what steps we can take together to strengthen the Treaty.
As President Obama said last spring in Prague, the “basic bargain [of the treaty] is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy.”
We expect that that the Conference will demonstrate the critical role the NPT plays in the international nonproliferation framework and in reinforcing regional and global security and stability.
Our goal for the Review Conference is to strengthen the Treaty across all three of its pillars: disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. But, we don’t just come to this Conference with the resolute commitment of President Obama to make progress across all three pillars. We also come with months of hard work already underway and already bearing fruit.
We will focus on ways to improve compliance with the nonproliferation requirements of the Treaty and to strengthen support for the IAEA. The noncompliance of any State with its NPT obligations undermines the nonproliferation regime as a whole.
We will emphasize the fundamental importance of IAEA safeguards for assuring Parties that their neighbors and others are complying with their NPT obligations.
Without these assurances, insecurity and instability grow both regionally and globally. NPT violations are corrosive – if one country in a region violates the NPT, other countries are forced to reevaluate their security needs and military decisions. In the end, a single violator can potentially undercut longstanding efforts to achieve universal adherence to the NPT.
We also strongly believe that the IAEA must have the resources and the authorities it needs to carry out its mission. At the same time, we will work with others on preventing parties to the NPT from misusing the Treaty by seeking key nuclear assistance under it and then withdrawing from it when they wish to violate its terms.
Also at the Conference, we hope to fortify the “peaceful uses” pillar, by expanding cooperation to help developing countries build their capacities. As President Obama noted at the Nuclear Security Summit, “for nations that uphold their responsibilities, peaceful nuclear energy can unlock new advances in medicine, in agriculture and economic development.”
So, as you can see, we have a full agenda for this Review Conference next month that has been built on months – and years – of hard work on these issues.
There will undoubtly be challenges, but the United States delegation will focus on areas where we can make concrete, meaningful progress. We will seek common ground, and we will be a constructive, flexible, and consensus-building voice during the Review Conference to make the most of this opportunity – and to continue building on that progress in the months and years ahead.
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