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Diplomacy in Action

The NPT and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Ambassador Susan F. Burk
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation 
Moscow Nonproliferation Conference Center for Energy and Security Studies
Moscow, Russia
March 5, 2010


I am honored to speak to you on the fortieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).


I want to thank Anton Khlopkov, Director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies, for organizing this conference and all of the governments and non-governmental organizations that have provided support. No topic could be more fundamental to international peace and security than the vitality of the NPT and the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The Eighth Review Conference of the NPT will be held in May, and it is critically important that the parties at the Conference deal effectively with important Treaty issues. In confronting the challenge of nuclear nonproliferation for four decades, the NPT has demonstrated its ability to contribute to international peace and security. I believe that it will continue to do so, but to understand what the NPT means today and why it is so important we first must recall why this Treaty was negotiated in the first place.

By the early 1960s, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy were growing, and it was evident that the nuclear industry’s growth would be even greater in the future. Notwithstanding the creation in 1957 of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the development of IAEA safeguards, without a legally binding nonproliferation agreement there was a real danger that that the spread of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes could be accompanied by a rapid spread of nuclear weapons. In 1963, for example, President Kennedy told news reporters that he worried that in the future as many as 25 states might possess nuclear weapons.

With strong support from the UN General Assembly the NPT was negotiated in the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee. The Treaty that opened for signature on July 1, 1968 created three mutually reinforcing pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses.

There have been two major changes since the NPT entered into force on March 5, 1970. First, although only 46 states were Treaty Parties on that date, since then the Treaty has achieved near universality and is the most widely subscribed arms control treaty. Second, regarded historically as one of the most important international legally binding agreements, the Treaty has achieved such a level of acceptance that, in 1995, the Parties extended it indefinitely.

As predicted when the Treaty was negotiated, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy have grown substantially, bringing great benefits to humankind through power generation, and through research and applications in medicine, industry, and agriculture. The United States supports the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and remains the leading contributor to IAEA technical assistance. The growth of nuclear energy has not been without its challenges, however.

As nuclear technology has spread, so, too, has the challenge of making sure that programs that are said to be peaceful are, in fact, peaceful. The principal burden falls upon the IAEA and its safeguards mission. We have learned that standard NPT full-scope safeguards agreements alone are not adequate. For this reason, in 1997 IAEA members agreed upon the model Additional Protocol, which gives the Agency the capability of investigating undeclared nuclear activities. The United States believes that the Additional Protocol should be considered an essential international standard for NPT safeguards and that all NPT Parties should conclude and bring into force the Additional Protocol. The United States brought its Additional Protocol into force in January 2009 and now is fully implementing the Agreement.

The United States also believes that the IAEA must be provided with the resources that it needs to carry out its considerable and growing responsibilities in promoting the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

As President Obama said in his speech in Prague last year, we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation. At the November 2009 meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, the United States strongly supported the Russian proposal to establish the first international fuel bank at Angarsk. As a result of the Russian initiative, there will be a guaranteed reserve of low enriched uranium for nuclear fuel available at the request of the IAEA and located in an IAEA-safeguarded facility.

As stated in the NPT, the necessary condition for the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is compliance with all of the nonproliferation obligations of the Treaty, including the safeguards agreement required of Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties. Nearly all NPT Parties comply with their Treaty obligations. When Parties violate provisions of the Treaty they must be brought back into compliance. President Obama made clear last year in Prague the U.S. position that there must be “real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules.”

In sum, the pillars of peaceful uses and nonproliferation are inextricably linked.
The disarmament pillar has experienced significant developments over time and is now being revitalized. A complete catalogue of nuclear and conventional arms control agreements is far too large to enumerate here, but I will touch briefly on one area, nuclear weapons. When the NPT entered into force forty years ago there were very, very few nuclear arms control agreements in force. Since then, largely as a result of joint efforts by the United States and Russia, more than a dozen strategic and other nuclear arms control agreements have been negotiated. We are now in the late stage of negotiating a follow-on agreement to Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Moreover, in a joint statement last April, Presidents Obama and Medvedev committed their two countries to achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Our government is preparing to seek the consent of the United States Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In the meantime, the United States will continue its nuclear testing moratorium begun in 1992 and calls on all other states publicly to declare moratoria of their own.

The United States is also committed to pursuing a verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in weapons (FMCT). While the Conference on Disarmament (CD) last year broke its decade-plus deadlock on a program of work that included a negotiating mandate for an FMCT, it failed to agree on the procedural steps necessary to implement that program of work and begin negotiations. The United States will continue working with others in the CD to advance the objective of an FMCT and begin negotiations on the basis agreed last year. For decades, the United States has maintained a unilateral moratorium on producing fissile material for use in weapons. We call on all other countries to join us in this moratorium.

The United States and the other nuclear weapon states bear a special responsibility under the NPT to pursue nuclear disarmament. But non-nuclear weapon states bear no less responsibility to work constructively and actively to prevent further proliferation and help create the conditions for nuclear disarmament efforts to succeed. In this way, the disarmament pillar is also linked inextricably to the nonproliferation pillar because nuclear nonproliferation is fundamental to nuclear disarmament. Strong nonproliferation norms must be upheld in order to create the environment nuclear weapon states need to fulfill their disarmament commitments. At the same time, progress on disarmament reinforces the nonproliferation pillar.

In his address to the UN General Assembly last year, President Obama spoke of a “new era of engagement with the world” by the United States and also of a “shared responsibility.” We must all seize the opportunity to take stewardship of our shared Treaty responsibilities at the upcoming NPT Review Conference. The Conference will look back at the implementation of the Treaty and, we hope, agree on the way forward. A constructive Review Conference requires that all States Parties look beyond their differences to identify areas of agreement on concrete measures to reinforce the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and also identify areas where further work is needed for future steps to strengthen the regime. The United States will work hard with our Treaty partners to seize the opportunities we have to revalidate the Treaty’s indispensable contribution to international peace and security. Thank you.

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