Good afternoon. I’d like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, as well as the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, for the opportunity to be here today. It is my great pleasure to help kick off this session by briefly discussing what I see as the building blocks for a successful 2020 RevCon.
Areas of Convergence
Allow me to start by outlining the most important area of convergence, which is that all States Party, nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States alike, recognize the shared benefits we all derive from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), both in terms of security and economic development. While this may sound obvious, it is easy to lose sight of this shared recognition amidst the painstaking daily work of advancing the nonproliferation regime and the petty arguments that sometimes appear to overshadow it. Yet this fact remains: the NPT is at least as important today as it was 25 or 50 years ago.
At the core of the Treaty is its strong nonproliferation foundation, which provides the basis for nuclear-weapon States – most of them, anyway – not only to halt the growth of their nuclear arsenals, but to reduce them dramatically. Just as important, this foundation has allowed non-nuclear-weapon States to remain so, in the confidence that their neighbors are not pursuing covert weapons programs. These laudable achievements would be unimaginable if we lived in a world without a modern and effective nuclear nonproliferation regime. It is equally unimaginable that the tremendous benefits of the spread of peaceful nuclear technology could have been achieved without this regime. Let’s not lose sight of these important areas of convergence.
Creating a Favorable Environment for the Review Conference
This brings me to what can be done to help create a favorable environment for the RevCon. I believe that the best way to create such an environment is for all States Party to use the 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force to recognize the NPT for what it truly is: a set of shared benefits in the disarmament and peaceful uses realms, all enabled by its strong nonproliferation foundation.
To be sure, some describe the NPT as a “bargain,” by which non-nuclear-weapon States agree to remain so in return for nuclear-weapons states eliminating their nuclear weapons. But putting the Treaty in transactional terms vastly underestimates the Treaty and its many accomplishments. Let’s not forget: the NPT has enabled truly remarkable progress on disarmament, with the United States and Russia having reduced our arsenals by 88 percent since their Cold War peak.
Furthermore, the NPT has enabled progress on both nonproliferation and disarmament, independently of each other. For much of the 20 year period following the NPT’s entry into force, we made significant strides in nonproliferation, even as nuclear arsenals were rising to their Cold War highs. Since then, we’ve seen dramatic progress on disarmament, but no indication that this has affected the behavior of those states that continue to challenge nonproliferation norms.
The Treaty’s success in institutionalizing an effective nonproliferation regime has also been essential in enabling the spread of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as I described earlier. Would states transfer nuclear technology if they were concerned it would be misused? The United States absolutely would not.
Finally, the NPT represents a security “bargain” not so much between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States, but among the non-nuclear-weapon States themselves, who are more secure because of their mutual decision to forswear nuclear weapons.
How do we create a favorable environment for the RevCon? We focus on the NPT’s shared benefits and the nonproliferation regime that enables those benefits.
Promising Areas/Initiatives That Could Result in Progress
Now, although the nonproliferation regime is the key enabler of the NPT’s shared benefits in the realms of disarmament and peaceful uses, we should not lose sight of the promising initiatives that could enable further progress in each of those realms.
In the peaceful uses realm, the United States supports Argentina’s plan to highlight the peaceful uses of nuclear energy as a core benefit of the NPT. We are keenly interested in efforts to formulate a package of peaceful nuclear cooperation-related deliverables for the RevCon, and we welcome Argentina’s plans to involve non-traditional stakeholders in NPT consultations on peaceful uses, including regulators, technical agencies, industry, academia, and the research community.
Meanwhile, in the disarmament realm, the United States also strongly supports the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV). Now in its second phase, IPNDV continues to demonstrate that collaboration between States with and without nuclear weapons can lead to real, tangible progress in the field of nuclear disarmament verification. IPNDV is blue-collar diplomacy where experts roll up their sleeves and leave their talking points behind to address real, practical issues in the field of nuclear disarmament verification. IPNDV is an important tool that the international community can use to advance the NPT’s disarmament vision.
Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to highlight the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament initiative, or CEND, which is holding its highly anticipated second working group meeting next week at Wilton Park.
The CEND initiative focuses on identifying factors in the international security environment that continue to impede progress on nuclear disarmament and lead states to rely on nuclear deterrence for their security. Once identified, we must seek effective measures to address those factors such that further progress on nuclear disarmament is possible.
Does this mean we must solve every conflict before any further progress on disarmament can take place? Not at all. Progress on disarmament is an iterative process – as factors in the security environment improve, disarmament can move forward. And that can lead to further improvements in the security environment, and thus further progress on disarmament. And the important point is, all states can play a role in this process, hence the CEND initiative, which is off to a strong start.
The CEND Working Group (CEWG) kick-off plenary meeting drew 97 representatives from 42 countries, to Washington, DC, for the first official gathering of participants in the CEND initiative. The participants sought to identify ways to improve the international security environment in order to overcome obstacles to further progress on nuclear disarmament. The format of these discussions was purposely informal – designed to go beyond the prepared statements typical in other multilateral disarmament forums and to produce more in-depth and interactive exchanges. And these discussions indeed were honest, thoughtful, and very productive.
The aim of next week’s working group meeting is to adopt terms of reference to help guide the process forward. Following that, CEND participants will formulate programs of work to set the process in motion. By the time of the RevCon, we expect there to be a clear vision for deliverables for the months going forward, and we look forward to presenting them at that time. To the question of what further collaborative efforts can be undertaken in light of the RevCon, we look forward to the programs of work adopted by the CEND subgroups as indications of where key governments believe the potential for real progress lies.
The CEND initiative enjoys strong support across the U.S. government, but all participating countries will ultimately determine the CEND initiative’s outcomes. I especially want to highlight the important role that the Republic of Korea is playing as a co-chair of the CEND subgroup focusing on bolstering nonproliferation and disarmament efforts through multilateral and other types of institutions and processes.
The CEND initiative, along with IPNDV and the peaceful uses package, are among the most promising initiatives that could enable progress in light of the RevCon.
Finally, next year’s RevCon is an opportunity to recall how much we have accomplished together since the NPT came into force 50 years ago, rather than focusing narrowly on today’s anxieties. I am confident that the NPT will remain an effective foundation for all that we hope to achieve over the next 50 years.
Thank you and I look forward to our discussion.