Forty years ago today, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty entered into force, setting up a framework of norms and rules to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons. In the decades since, more states have relinquished nuclear weapons – or decided against pursuing them – than have acquired them, in large measure because of the international consensus embodied in the NPT.
The Obama administration is working to renew that consensus. We are reaffirming our NPT commitments to make progress toward nuclear disarmament and guarantee access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes to all those abiding by their nonproliferation commitments. Our diplomats, including Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk, have been traveling the globe to bolster international support for the Treaty. And in May, the nations from around the world will convene at the United Nations in New York for the NPT Review Conference, which takes place every five years.
A key to the Treaty’s success has been its legally binding structure, which holds member nations accountable, discourages proliferation, and brings the benefits of nuclear energy to all corners of the world. As President Obama said in Prague last year, “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Unfortunately, a few states, such as North Korea and Iran, continue to defy the international community and their own obligations. We are working with our partners to convince these states to change their course.
The United States is taking other steps to address worldwide nuclear threats and build on the NPT’s foundation. We are negotiating a verifiable arms reduction treaty with Russia. President Obama is hosting a Nuclear Security Summit in April to prevent nuclear terrorism. Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. And the administration will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pursue a verified fissile material cut-off treaty.
President Obama set forth a vision last April on moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The NPT regime is integral to that vision and on this anniversary we reaffirm our commitment to lead the world’s effort to renew and revitalize this historic agreement.