Statement by Mr. John Bravaco, U.S. Representative to the UN Disarmament Commission, during the opening plenary session

Mr. John Bravaco, U.S. Representative to the UN Disarmament Commission
New York, NY
April 1, 2013


Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Good afternoon everyone.

Mr. Chairman, the United States congratulates Malta on its election to Chair the 2013 session of the UN Disarmament Commission. As you work to facilitate a successful outcome for this important body, you may count on the full support of the U.S. Delegation. We thank both you and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kane for your thoughtful remarks this morning.

We also congratulate the other members of the Commission’s 2013 Bureau on their elections, and express our gratitude to Peruvian Ambassador Román-Morey for his tireless efforts last year to advance the Commission's objectives.

This session, we will resume work on two agenda items that have received considerable attention in recent years, namely, in Working Group I, “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” and in Working Group II, “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.” We strongly support the efforts of the Working Group Chairs, Saudi Arabia in Working Group I and first Canada and now Norway in Working Group II, and thank all of them for their willingness to serve.

Before addressing nuclear matters, let me mention the importance of conventional weapons confidence-building measures, or CBMs. CBMs can enhance security and predictability, foster cooperation and trust among states, and strengthen regional relations among armed forces and security forces. Promoting openness and transparency in military forces and activities helps to enhance mutual understanding and confidence. For these reasons, we believe pursuit by the Commission of consensus recommendations in this area is a worthwhile effort.

Mr. Chairman, once again this year, our work takes place just before a Preparatory Committee session for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. With this second NPT PrepCom set to begin in Geneva on April 22, the United States reaffirms its commitment to the shared goal of nuclear disarmament. We continue to implement the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan across all three pillars of the NPT – disarmament, nonproliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The grand bargain of the NPT, where nuclear weapon states pursue disarmament, non-nuclear weapon states abstain from the pursuit of nuclear weapons, and all countries are able to access the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy, sets an enduring standard that is as relevant today as it was at the Treaty’s inception.

President Obama’s 2009 Prague speech clearly reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. But it was not a call to unilaterally disarm, nor did it assume that the world would change overnight. It was a road map to the future – a step-by-step, measured strategy that takes into account the changed and changing security landscape of the 21st century. The 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review rightly emphasized that today, our greatest nuclear threat is no longer a large-scale nuclear exchange, but the danger that terrorists could acquire nuclear materials or, worse, a nuclear weapon.

In addition to working on the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, we have taken steps to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. We are not developing nor are we planning to develop new nuclear weapons. Moreover, the life extension programs for our nuclear weapons will not support new military missions. We have committed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT and are in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. And we have clearly stated that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly seven decade record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever.

The step-by-step approach that the United States is pursuing is suited for our security needs and tailored to address 21st century global security threats. By maintaining and supporting a safe, secure, and effective stockpile – sufficient to deter potential adversaries and reassure U.S. non-nuclear allies and partners – at the same time that we pursue responsible reductions through arms control and work to stem and prevent nuclear proliferation – we will make this world a safer place.

Mr. Chairman, there is no “quick fix” to achieving nuclear disarmament. The United States remains committed to achieving the safety and security of a world without nuclear weapons. But the only practical path is a careful, step-by-step approach to verifiably reach this objective. The United States will continue to use existing multilateral mechanisms to inform the international community on the progress we are making and to build support for continued successes. Thanks to the important role that civil society plays in providing information to national governments and publics alike, the United States record of accomplishment on this score is well known.

The United States is devoting its time, efforts, resources, and attention to create the conditions for the further reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. While we have made significant progress, more hard work remains. In this step-by-step endeavor, the United States values its partnerships with committed states and civil society. Even if we may differ from time to time on the most appropriate roadmap for moving toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we all share the same vision.

Mr. Chairman, as a contribution to the Commission’s ongoing substantive efforts on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, this session the United States is pleased to submit a formal Commission Working Group I paper entitled, “Preventing the use of nuclear weapons.” This document, which should be available shortly from the Secretariat, details the United States record of accomplishment in achieving the safety and security of a world without nuclear weapons and forestalling their use. We hope that the numerous facts, figures, policies, and positions it contains will be taken into account as Working Group I moves to develop consensus recommendations.

Mr. Chairman, since the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States has fully understood the potential serious consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons. For as President John F. Kennedy said nearly fifty years ago, in June of 1963: “I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.”

Mr. Chairman, United States arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament policies are predicated on preventing the use of nuclear weapons ever again. We continue to accord the highest priority to avoiding such use.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, as efforts to develop consensus recommendations in both Working Groups proceed, let me suggest that even a modest, incremental advance is better than no progress at all. As the Commission embarks on its 2013 deliberations, we respectfully urge all delegations to exercise flexibility in national or geopolitical group positions to the extent possible, as well as a willingness to consider potential compromise language. The reality is that absent a genuine, collective effort to forge common ground, this Commission’s inability to fulfill its mandate as the arms control and disarmament “think tank” of the international community will regretfully endure. For our part, the United States delegation pledges its best efforts to promote a successful outcome.

Mr. Chairman, this statement will be made available on the website of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Thank you, Sir.


PRN: 2013/041