Statement by Richard J.K. Stratford, Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security, U.S. Department of State, at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

Richard J.K. Stratford
Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security 
New York, NY
May 11, 2010


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, allow me as well to congratulate you on your assumption of the Chairmanship of Subsidiary Body III.  You will have our full support. 

Mr. Chairman, I take the floor to address a relatively new Challenge to the NPT, namely the threat posed by countries that violate the NPT and then withdraw from the Treaty.  North Korea undeniably violated its NPT safeguards obligations in the pursuit of its nuclear weapons ambitions prior to its announcement of its intention to withdraw from the NPT in 2003. 

The fact is that the NPT offers substantial benefits to Parties, both in terms of enhanced security and cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  But the NPT also imposes responsibilities – responsibilities that serve the mutual benefit of all.  Parties cannot and should not seek to acquire the benefits without living up to their responsibilities – and not on a part-time or temporary basis.  Yet, since the last Review Conference in 2005, the global nonproliferation regime has seen several instances of clandestine development of nuclear facilities without the knowledge of the IAEA.  As President Obama stated in 2009 in Prague, “[w]e need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the NPT without cause.” 

The United States does not propose to limit or alter the right to withdraw from the NPT.  We do not propose any amendments to the NPT.  Instead, as President Obama has suggested, we propose that Parties look to how we can act collectively to discourage withdrawal from the NPT for the purpose of evading accountability for noncompliance.  It is clear that a State Party may withdraw from the Treaty as stated in Article X.  However, it is also clear that other Parties have the right to consider the potential effect of a withdrawal by a Party in breach of its NPT obligations on their individual and collective security.

A Party to the NPT remains responsible under international law for violations of the NPT committed prior to withdrawal.  This is reflected in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and was recently affirmed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1887.  Our collective response to such withdrawal should ensure that states are held responsible for their treaty violations, and demonstrate the benefit of addressing such issues through constructive international engagement.
Mr. Chairman, the United States is pursuing its responsibilities to work towards nuclear disarmament and to deal with proliferation with great resolve.  Other NPT Parties bear an equal responsibility to work actively and continuously towards nuclear disarmament and full compliance with the NPT’s non-proliferation obligations.  That responsibility does not end with the decision to forgo nuclear weapons capabilities and accept NPT-mandated safeguards.  Rather, that responsibility must continue through the participation of all NPT Parties in collective efforts to establish consequences for noncompliance and for withdrawal from the NPT following noncompliance.  The outcome of such efforts will affect profoundly the security of all NPT Parties.  In short, we need pragmatic solutions to a real world problem that is facing us today.

Nuclear Weapon States and Non-Nuclear Weapon States alike discussed the importance of this issue at the 2005 Review Conference.  Constructive proposals were circulated at subsequent PrepComs to prepare for addressing this issue during this Review Conference.  In our judgment, this important work is a solid basis for concrete action at this Review Conference.

We believe today’s discussion shows that there is broad agreement on the importance of this issue and on the need for appropriate international response.  We believe that there is broad agreement that withdrawal is a right under the Treaty that should not be amended, but at the same time we believe there is broad agreement that withdrawal from the NPT by a Party that is in violation of its obligations undermines the objectives of the Treaty and could present a threat to international peace and security.  We certainly can agree, I hope, on the importance of consultations by the international community with a withdrawing Party prior to the effective date of any proposed withdrawal.

Mr. Chairman, you asked that delegations focus on concrete proposals to address withdrawal, so let me skip some of my prepared remarks to get to specific proposals:  The Review Conference should focus on four specific mechanisms to address withdrawal:  (1) nuclear supply arrangements that require fall-back safeguards and a right of return of nuclear material/equipment previously provided to the withdrawing Party ; (2) consultations with a withdrawing Party prior to the effective date of a notice to withdraw (to perhaps solve their problem in advance);  (3) verification that a Party that has provided notice of its intention to withdraw is in compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement (that means consulting with the IAEA); and (4) restriction of future supply of nuclear material/equipment to Parties that withdraw while in noncompliance.  
Mr. Chairman, it is important that these mechanisms be addressed by this Review Conference.
The international community and especially members of the UN Security Council must summon the political will to respond effectively to NPT non-compliance.  It is not enough to detect violations of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agreements.  The inability of the international community to enforce compliance in recent years should be unacceptable.  The UN Security Council recently reaffirmed its role in addressing noncompliance with nonproliferation obligations, and in reviewing any notice of intention to withdraw from the NPT.  Resolution 1887 (2009) states that a situation of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations shall be brought to the attention of the Security Council, which will determine if that situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and emphasizes the Council’s primary responsibility in addressing such threats.  The Council also expressed its intention to address “without delay” any state’s notice of withdrawal from the NPT, while noting ongoing discussions among NPT Parties on modalities under which we can respond collectively to a notification of withdrawal.  

Mr. Chairman, let me say our Delegation looks forward to working with all NPT Parties to develop specific proposals to address withdrawal from the Treaty by Parties in violation of their obligations, with a view to securing the adoption of these proposals by consensus at this Review Conference. 
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 


PRN: 2010/091