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Prime Minister Kishida, Ministers, thank you for your leadership in convening this important event.

As highlighted by the G7 Leaders in Hiroshima this May, commencement of negotiations of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices is long overdue and increasingly necessary.  Negotiation of an Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) was thirty years ago and remains today the next logical step to forestall nuclear arms races and advance multilateral disarmament in pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons.  As we have for many years, and in keeping with our Article VI commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States remains firmly committed to taking all possible steps to advance this foundation-setting element of the disarmament agenda.

Some argue that the FMCT is inadequate to this agenda; that it would serve not as a step towards disarmament but rather to freeze existing stockpiles in place and ensure their indefinite retention.

We reject this perspective.  The FMCT is not by itself a solution to the issues facing nuclear arms control, which are significant.  It cannot by itself prevent nuclear war or accomplish total nuclear disarmament.  We can and must pursue multiple, reinforcing measures, dialogues, and compromises to realize our arms control objectives, built on the cornerstone of the NPT and of which FMCT is a critical plank.  But while it is not the only disarmament step, the FMCT is an essential next step if we are to work towards achieving a more secure world.  What an FMCT would do is place a verified cap on the production of new fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.  Doing so would limit the unconstrained expansion in nuclear arsenals and play a stabilizing role in today’s deteriorating global and regional security environment, and in doing so help reduce nuclear risks.  This contribution is why negotiation of an FMCT must begin without further delay, as recognized by the international community repeatedly over decades, as reflected in the consensus decisions of the 1995, 2000 and 2010 NPT Review Conferences, and as underscored by our gathering here today.

The greatest mistake we can make today would be to underestimate the utility of an FMCT at the precise the moment in history when it is most urgently needed.  One need only consider the rapid nuclear build-up underway in the People’s Republic of China, the only NPT nuclear weapon state not to implement a voluntary moratorium on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.  This is hardly conducive to the pursuit of mutual security or nuclear restraint.  This environment inevitably risks impacting conditions of strategic stability that have proven to be so essential to the health and durability of the global nonproliferation regime.

Unfortunately, despite the many years that have passed and the determined efforts by many, FMCT negotiations have not begun at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva.  Despite creative proposals, expert work, and draft treaty texts, negotiations and any meaningful progress have been stifled in that venue by one or two States.

It is natural and appropriate that negotiation of an FMCT should take place at the CD.  This kind of work is precisely why the CD was created in the first place.  We share the disappointment of many that this has not been possible in Geneva, and we will continue to exercise every available avenue to find a way forward in that body.

If, however, it remains the case that it is not possible to move forward on the FMCT in the CD, then it is time that we consider alternative venues.  Whether inside or outside of the CD, the U.S. position will remain that FMCT negotiations should take place on the basis of consensus, with the participation of all key states, and on the basis of already defined substance and terms of negotiations.  We understand and anticipate that those negotiations would be challenging.  But at least they could begin.

We challenge our partners and other key states, in particular the five nuclear weapon states, to join us in finding a way forward on this urgent priority.

Thank you, Prime Minister Kishida, Foreign Minister Manalo, and Foreign Minister Wong, for convening us here today in this format to reiterate our commitment to this important goal and to reaffirm our determination to find a way forward.

U.S. Department of State

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