Nuclear Weapons

Obama’s statement on nuclear weapons delivered at UN

Many NGOs are at the UN in New York this week and next for the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT is a cornerstone treaty underlying global non-proliferation efforts and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Next year’s conference will be a big opportunity to strengthen the treaty and demonstrate the US’ commitment to fulfill its obligations as a nuclear weapon state under Article VI to work towards eliminating nuclear weapons.

US Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, the lead negotiator for an agreement to replace the expiring START treaty on nuclear weapons reductions with Russia, presented a message from President Obama at the UN:

I am pleased to send my best wishes for a successful meeting to all those gathered here today.

One month ago in Prague, I reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As I said then, the United States believes that the NPT’s framework is sound: countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can have access to peaceful nuclear energy.

While we agree on this framework, we must strengthen the NPT to deal effectively with the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism. Action is needed to improve verification and compliance with the NPT and to foster the responsible and widest possible use of nuclear energy by all states.

To seek the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, in Prague, I committed the United States to take a number of initial steps in this direction. Through cooperation and shared understanding, I am hopeful that we will strengthen the pillars of the NPT and restore confidence in its credibility and effectiveness.

I recognize that differences are inevitable and that NPT parties will not always view each element of the treaty in the same way. But we must define ourselves not by our differences, but by our readiness to pursue dialogue and hard work to ensure the NPT continues to make an enduring contribution to international peace and security.

Again, please accept my thanks for your hard work on building a better, more secure future and my best wishes for a successful meeting.

She went on to give her own comments. Here are a few highlights.

On reducing the US nuclear weapons stockpile:

Mr. Chairman, allow me to elaborate on the concrete steps toward disarmament and the goals of the NPT’s Article VI outlined by President Obama in Prague. First, the United States and Russia will negotiate a new agreement to replace the strategic arms reduction treaty, which expires in just six months from now. The President said in Prague that: “We will seek a new agreement by the end of the year that is legally binding and sufficiently bold…. This will set the stage for further cuts, and we will seek to include all nuclear weapon states in this endeavor.”

President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have instructed that the new agreement achieve reductions lower than those in existing arms control agreements, and that the new agreement should include effective verification measures drawn from our experience in implementing START. The Presidents have directed that the talks begin immediately, and further charged their negotiators to report, by July, on their progress in working out a new agreement.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

Mr. Chairman, President Obama confirmed in Prague that the United States will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). We will also launch a diplomatic effort to bring on board the other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

On negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to help prevent new nuclear weapons states from emerging:

President Obama also said that the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons – a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. Such a treaty would not only help fulfill our NPT Article VI commitments, but it also could help avoid destabilizing arms races in regions such as South Asia and, by limiting the amount of fissile material worldwide, could facilitate the task of securing such weapons-usable materials against theft or seizure by terrorist groups.

The negotiation of a verifiable FMCT is the top U.S. priority at the Conference on Disarmament. The CD has been unable to achieve a consensus on beginning negotiations to end the production of weapons-grade materials dedicated to use in nuclear weapons for far too long, and it is time to move forward. The United States hopes that its renewed flexibility on this issue will enable negotiations to start soon in Geneva.

Pending the successful negotiation and entry into force of an FMCT, the United States reaffirms our decades-long unilateral moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. We call on all other governments, especially the other nuclear weapon states, publicly to declare or reaffirm their intention not to produce further fissile material for weapons. Similarly, until CTBT enters into force, the United States will continue our nearly two-decade long moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. We call on all other governments publicly to declare or reaffirm their intention not to test.

On nuclear non-proliferation and the NPT:

The Treaty’s basis will be strengthened as we pursue additional, complementary measures, including a campaign we will lead to ensure nuclear materials worldwide are adequately secured or eliminated and to ensure that international commerce in nuclear material and technology supports solely peaceful uses. Such efforts are necessary not only to prevent proliferation to states, but also to ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon, the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. To address these dangers, President Obama has announced he will convene a Global Summit on Nuclear Security to be hosted by the United States within a year.

Reaching Critical Will is following the events at the PrepCom and posting government statements online here.

Categories: Nuclear Weapons, Obama

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