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US Approach to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty

U.S Government Approach to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)

Ambassador Jackie Sanders, Head of the U.S. Delegation
Remarks during a United Nations First Committee Plenary Session of Debate
New York, New York
October 16, 2004

Mr. Chairman:

Fundamentally, the United States supports the negotiation in the CD of a ban--in the form of a legally binding FMCT--on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

As many of you know, I announced the results of the United States, FMCT review in a CD plenary speech on July 29. Our experts in Washington put a considerable amount of thought into this review. As a result of our review, the United States believes that an FMCT cannot be verified effectively.

The U.S. sent a team of verification experts to Geneva last month to brief on how we reached this conclusion.

The nature of an FMCT imposes significant practical limits on its verification. An FMCT would ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, while allowing production for other activities not subject to an FMCT.

Under the IAEA,s safeguards system, finding undeclared fissile material in a state under safeguards is sufficient to make a judgment of noncompliance. However, simply finding fissile material not declared under an FMCT would be insufficient to make a judgment of noncompliance--it would be only the starting point, really--given that both date of production and purpose of production then would have to be proven.

The United States has maintained a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes for more than 15 years. While other governments have announced their own suspension of production, the moratorium is far from universal.

The U.S. believes that fruitlessly negotiating verification procedures would delay unnecessarily the creation of a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices. It is imperative for an FMCT to be negotiated while it could still be relevant. The objective of an FMCT is not its verification, but the creation of an observed norm against the production of fissile material intended for weapons.

Faced with these issues, and other problems that our experts detailed in Geneva, we must rethink how to approach an FMCT in the CD.

In considering this year's First Committee FMCT resolution, we must all ask whether the overall result will promote prospects for getting an FMCT in place, or damage them.


Released on October 21, 2004

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