Remarks by Mr. Michael Aho, U.S. Representative to the UN Disarmament Commission, during the Open Plenary Session

Mr. Michael Aho, U.S. Representative to the UN Disarmament Commission
New York, NY, United States
April 7, 2014



Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ambassador Drobnjak, the United States congratulates you on your election as Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission during its 2014 session. We offer our full support as you guide the work of this conference forward. We also thank Ambassador Christopher Grima of Malta for his able stewardship as the Commission’s Chair in 2013. Allow me to thank as well Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson for his thoughtful remarks, of which we have taken good note.

Mr. Chairman, before making a few observations about this year’s session of the Disarmament Commission, the United States would like to outline its approach to the April 28-May 9 Preparatory Committee meeting (PrepCom) for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon).

The United States regards the 2014 PrepCom as a further opportunity to strengthen the NPT and to reinforce our shared responsibilities to uphold it. Heading into this third PrepCom before the 2015 RevCon, NPT Parties should work to preserve and build on the positive momentum of a successful Review Conference in 2010 and the 2012 and 2013 PrepComs.

Parties should emphasize the mutually reinforcing nature of the NPT’s three pillars (which are nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy), and that all Parties benefit from the NPT and can contribute to strengthening it. We seek to foster a sense of common purpose by focusing on accomplishments and shared responsibilities.

Mr. Chairman, the United States will continue to fulfill its NPT obligations, and remains committed to full implementation of the 2010 RevCon Action Plan. We encourage a balanced review of NPT implementation that addresses each of the three pillars, and builds on the consensus achieved in 2010.

Turning to the topics on the Commission’s agenda, United States policy is to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. In this, the fifth year since President Obama’s Prague address on nuclear disarmament, we are working to create conditions for the eventual achievement of this goal.

We are sensitive to concerns over the pace of progress on disarmament, but as the President has said, the path to zero will require patience and persistence. It can only be achieved through concrete and progressive steps. Disarmament will not be achieved in a single negotiation or by setting artificial deadlines as some propose with a nuclear weapons convention.

We are also sensitive to the effort to raise awareness of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. In this regard, we cannot stress strongly enough that it is precisely because we well understand the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use that we have devoted the time, hard work, and considerable resources in a decades-long endeavor to reduce and, ultimately eliminate, nuclear weapons.

As next steps toward nuclear disarmament, the United States remains committed to pursuing entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and an international agreement to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). The United States is actively participating in the UN General Assembly FMCT Group of Governmental Experts that began its work on March 31, with a view to providing impetus for FMCT negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament.

We welcome China’s hosting the fifth P5 conference in Beijing from April 14-15. This process is promoting regular dialogue among the five and can lay the foundation for eventual multilateral nuclear negotiations. We will continue to keep the international community apprised of this work.

Regarding nuclear nonproliferation, we encourage NPT Parties to highlight the security benefit that comes from the commitment of non-nuclear weapon states in the NPT not to acquire nuclear weapons and to accept safeguards on all peaceful nuclear activities.

By promoting regional and global security and stability, effective nonproliferation helps create the international conditions necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament.

Nonproliferation also provides a framework that promotes the broadest possible cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy to benefit all humankind.

Noncompliance should be challenged, and states should be held accountable for their violations. Serious cases of noncompliance threaten the integrity of the NPT and IAEA safeguards. All states should insist that Iran, North Korea, and Syria return to compliance with their international obligations.

P5+1 efforts on Iran offer an important opportunity to peacefully resolve one of the greatest challenges to the NPT regime. This has our fullest attention.

NPT Parties should encourage the full implementation of the Treaty’s safeguards provisions. A key priority is gaining universal support for the Additional Protocol (AP) so that the IAEA has the essential tools it needs to identify possible noncompliance. With over 120 adherents, the AP is an established norm. NPT Parties should also endorse the AP as an international standard for verification.

We also draw attention to the important work being done to prevent terrorist organizations from acquiring nuclear materials. We are making great strides to address this threat through the nuclear security summit process launched by President Obama in 2010. Over the course of three Summits, we have established a global network of experts who work on nuclear security at senior levels in 53 governments and multiple international organizations. And the trends we’re seeing are very positive: the number of countries and facilities with highly enriched uranium and plutonium is decreasing, security at storage sites is increasing, more countries are prepared to counter nuclear smuggling, more countries are seeking international advice, and the global nuclear security architecture is stronger. We thank the Netherlands for hosting the most recent Nuclear Security Summit from March 24-25 in The Hague.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to arms control, confidence-building measures are effective tools in a limited toolkit for reducing tensions and preventing further escalation in a time of crisis. The crisis in Ukraine has demonstrated the continued value of implementing transparency and confidence-building regimes such as the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures and the Open Skies Treaty.

I would now like to touch on several other important issues.

Mr. Chairman, although Russia’s actions in Ukraine have significantly undermined mutual trust, no one should forget that even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and Russia found it in our mutual interest to work together on reducing the nuclear threat.

At the appropriate time, we will seek discussions on additional negotiated reductions with Russia to address all categories of nuclear weapons – strategic and non-strategic – when the conditions are conducive for further steps.

On the matter of the Middle East, the United States stands by its commitment to work with the other conveners, the facilitator, and states in the region to hold a conference to discuss a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. We continue efforts to arrange for a conference in which all states in the region participate and make a first step toward discussing this long-sought goal.

Mr. Chairman, the United States is committed to the stable, sustainable, and peaceful use and protection of outer space to support the vital interests of all nations.

In this regard, the United States was pleased to co-sponsor with Russia and China UN General Assembly Resolution 68/50. This resolution refers the recommendations contained in the report of the consensus Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities (A/68/189) to this Commission for consideration.

Mr. Chairman, the GGE’s recommendations on space transparency and confidence-building measures, or TCBMs, are an ideal topic for in-depth consideration at a future substantive session of the Disarmament Commission. Specifically, the United States believes the Commission should establish a working group on space TCBMs as part of the Commission’s agenda for the 2015-2017 issue cycle.

Mr. Chairman, this year the Commission is set to conclude its three-year consideration of nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation in Working Group I, and confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons in Working Group II. The Chairs of Working Group I and II, from Saudi Arabia and Norway, respectively, have left no stone unturned in the pursuit of compromise on these important issues. We thank them as well for their sincere efforts.

Over the course of the last two annual sessions, it is safe to say that the Commission has achieved at least part of its mandate – to deliberate. We have pondered and sifted through a vast amount of information on often contentious matters. But if the Commission is to have any chance of fully meeting its responsibilities by producing consensus recommendations to the UN General Assembly, the time has come to act, to decide, this year.

As this delegation has often said, even a modest consensus outcome on the nuclear and conventional topics before us would be better than no outcome at all. In the view of the United States, this is the realistic goal that the Commission should be striving for in these next few, short weeks. The United States will do all that it can to breathe a measure of life back into this body. We pledge to exercise “political will” to reach our goal, ever mindful that “political will” can only yield results when it is practiced in good faith, and approached as a reciprocal, two-way street.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your attention.



PRN: 2014/068