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Is Nuclear Non-Proliferation Still Attainable?

Is the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Still Attainable

Andrew K. Semmel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy and Negotiations
Remarks at the United Nations Foundation
Washington, DC
June 1, 2006


Good Afternoon. It's good to be here today. Let me begin by thanking the UN Association for organizing this conference and for addressing the timely and important question: "Is the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons still attainable?"

This question, as posed, seems to have inherent in it a basic assumption that the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which underpins this regime, are in jeopardy. It is clear that the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the NPT face serious challenges today challenges that are more complex and serious than those that the regime faced in the past. Indeed, the regime is at a crossroads. One road leads to crisis stemming from the noncompliance of States Parties; the other leads to strengthening the treaty regime to make it viable for the 21st century.

Challenges and Responses

During the 1990s, the noncompliance of Iraq and the D.P.R.K. seriously challenged the NPT and the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The international community effectively addressed the Iraqi issue then, but is still grappling with the D.P.R.K. challenge. It sought to reinforce the institutional basis of the treaty by agreeing to the indefinite extension of the NPT and by strengthening the IAEA Safeguards System.

Today, the principal challenges to the nuclear nonproliferation regime are three­fold: (1) the noncompliance of the D.P.R.K. and Iran, and the potential that others will follow their lead if we do not deal effectively with their noncompliance; (2) the attempt by terrorists and other non-state actors in acquire the capabilities to produce and employ nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction; and (3) the growing availability and interest by states in acquiring nuclear technology, including dual use technologies, that can be used to develop nuclear weapons. On this latter challenge, we must somehow find the right balance between the peaceful development of nuclear energy and the need to prevent further nuclear weapons proliferation.

Despite attempts by Iran and others to undermine the NPT, there is cause for optimism. Libya, in response to the will of the international community to hold it accountable for its past actions, decided to renounce terrorism and WMD proliferation. The United States responded by restoring full diplomatic relations and removing Libya from the list of designated state sponsors of terrorism. The NPT is stronger for the difficult and courageous actions undertaken by Libya. We encourage others to emulate this model.

The United States is using all the tools at its disposal -- at all levels -- to address these challenges, including consultations at the United Nations, the NPT review process, the IAEA Board of Governors, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), to cite major examples. Complementing these established multilateral channels are groups of like-minded states cooperating together to deal with nonproliferation threats; the most prominent example is the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI.

Our approach to Iranian noncompliance is a case in point. The United States has worked closely with our allies to persuade Iran to change course and abandon its nuclear weapons pursuits. To show strong U.S. leadership and to give diplomacy the best chance to succeed, Secretary Rice announced yesterday (May 31) that, if Iran fully and verifiably suspended enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, the United States would become a full party in the EU-3 (U.K., France, and Germany) negotiations with Iran.

Iran must make a choice. If Iran continues on its current course, it will face increasing isolation and further UNSC action. If Iran reacts constructively, it will lead to negotiations that can provide peaceful nuclear energy for the Iranian people. We want diplomacy to succeed, and we, together with our allies, want to show Iran that there can be benefits to cooperation. Iran should not believe that it can benefit from the possession of nuclear weapons. We urge Iran to suspend all enrichment related activities, to fully cooperate with the IAEA investigation, and to return to negotiations.

Strengthening the regime -- The President's Initiatives

Over two years ago, President Bush announced several new nonproliferation and counterproliferation initiatives. That speech marks the most ambitious recent attempt to create a strategy or game plan for coping with nuclear nonproliferation. These initiatives included efforts at the international level, such as the proposal for a United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) to criminalize WMD proliferation, efforts to strengthen the IAEA safeguards system through the creation of an IAEA Committee on Safeguards and Verification, a proposal to universalize the tougher Additional Protocol to augment existing NPT safeguards agreements, and to make implementation of the Protocol a condition that countries must meet to be eligible to receive nuclear supplies. President Bush also proposed a complete ban on the export of sensitive uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology to all countries not now having such full-scale facilities, while ensuring that those countries that forego these fuel cycle programs would have access to reliable nuclear fuel at prevailing market prices.

In April 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UNSCR 1540, establishing for the first time binding Chapter VII obligations on all UN member states to develop and enforce legal and national regulatory measures against the proliferation of WMD. If implemented successfully, each state's actions will significantly strengthen international standards related to the export of sensitive items, and limit access to sensitive technologies.

Yet, a clear gap persists between the global consensus about the threat of WMD proliferation and concrete action on the ground. Full implementation of UNSCR 1540 will help close this gap. We are pleased that the UNSC adopted in late April UNSCR 1673 which extends the 1540 mandate for two more years. We'll continue to work aggressively through the 1540 Committee and its panel of experts to achieve the nonproliferation objectives articulated in resolution 1540.

The United States is working on its own plan to provide assistance to other states to promote full implementation of UNSCR 1540. We are encouraging other governments in position to do so to offer assistance to countries not yet meeting the requirements of this resolution. We also encourage outreach to those governments that have not yet submitted reports to the UNSCR 1540 Committee to complete this important work. The regional seminars planned for later this year should be helpful in shaping next steps in implementation of the Resolution. Working together, we can ensure that all states fully implement this resolution and meet its aims to prevent VIN/ED proliferation.

As proposed by President Bush, the IAEA Board of Governors established a new committee last June to strengthen further the international safeguards system of the IAEA. This committee is charged with examining ways to strengthen the Agency's ability to ensure that nations comply with their international treaty obligations. The Committee has met three times since last November, and has begun to outline ways to strengthen the safeguards system.

We also have seen an increase in the number of NPT Parties with Additional Protocols. To date 107 NPT parties have signed Additional Protocols, and 75 are now in force. When in force, the AP permits the IAEA to inspect more facilities on shorter notice, and to seek more information about civil nuclear programs.

We are working within the G-8 and the NSG to establish effective controls on enrichment and reprocessing technology to inhibit states from pursuing nuclear weapons in the guise of peaceful nuclear energy. Complementing these efforts was U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Bodman's announcement of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). GNEP is a comprehensive strategy designed to promote the expansion of emissions-free nuclear energy worldwide by demonstrating and deploying new technologies to recycle nuclear fuel, minimize waste, and prevent the spread of nuclear technologies and materials.

Some have asserted that the outcome of the May 2005 NPT Review Conference signaled that the NPT is in crisis. While the NPT may indeed be under stress, it is not because the Conference failed to achieve consensus or an agreed outcome. The Conference convened at a time of serious challenge to the Treaty. It bogged down because of calculated procedural maneuverings by Iran and other governments, and was unable to reach consensus on any issue of substance. One needs to put this lack of consensus into perspective. Since 1975, only three of the six previous NPT Review Conferences were able to achieve consensus on substance. Although we might be disappointed, we should not be surprised that parties to a nearly universal Treaty were unable to reach consensus. We should keep in mind that the Conference discussed the challenges to the Treaty and aired new and innovative ways to address them. The Review Conference helped build momentum for progress on issues such as Iran, the Committee on Safeguards, broader support for nonproliferation and compliance standards, and the strengthening of protection of nuclear facilities and material under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Thus, real issues were discussed and real proposals negotiated. That not all nations were prepared to recognize the real problems in the regime did not lessen the value of the important work that many countries pursued at the Review Conference.

Others have asserted that the NPT is in crisis because the United States is not meeting fully its NPT obligations, citing in particular a supposed lack of progress on Article VI, the Treaty's provision on nuclear disarmament. We are proud of our strong record on Article VI. President Bush has pursued policies designed to reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence, and the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile continues to dwindle. Under the Moscow Treaty, we have agreed to reduce our operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 to 2,200, about a third of their 2002 levels, and less than a quarter of the level at the end of the Cold War. When this Treaty is fully implemented by 2012, the United States will have reduced the number of strategic nuclear warheads it had deployed in 1990 by about 80%. We also have reduced our non-strategic nuclear weapons by 90% since the end of the Cold War, dismantling over 3,000 such weapons pursuant to the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991 and 1992. Moreover, the United States introduced a new text for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty on May 18, and we hope that serious negotiations can begin soon in the Conference on Disarmament. States are free, of course, to ask whether further or faster progress could or should be made, but no one can question in good faith the significant advances the United States has made to nuclear disarmament during the last two decades.

Finally, some see the joint U.S.-Indian partnership, announced by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh in July 2005, as a threat to the NPT. Yet, under the July 2005 accord, India committed to a series of actions that it previously had avoided. In particular, India agreed to implement strong and effective export control legislation, and to exercise export restraint on enrichment and reprocessing technologies. It also agreed, unilaterally to adhere to the NSG and MTCR Guidelines on nuclear and ballistic missile transactions, and to separate its civil and military facilities and programs, placing all its civil facilities and activities under IAEA safeguards, and to sign and adhere to an Additional Protocol covering its civil facilities, and to maintain its nuclear testing moratorium. India also has promised to work for the conclusion of an FMCT. Each of these activities is significant. Together they constitute a substantial shift under which India will move into closer conformity with international nonproliferation standards and practices.

The successful implementation of all these measures will help strengthen the global nonproliferation regime - a regime that we continue to support and wish to see strengthened. The United States has no intention of seeking any change to the NPT. We do not, and will not, recognize India as a nuclear weapon State. We will abide by all our NPT commitments, and will in no way assist India's nuclear weapons program. We continue to support NPT universality and encourage all NPT non-parties to adhere to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapon States, although India has stated clearly that it has no intention to do so for the foreseeable future. At the same time, this initiative recognizes India's critical energy needs, which can be partly met through nuclear power, as well as the benefits of drawing India into closer harmony with the nonproliferation regime.


In conclusion, let me reference a comment that Senator Lugar, my former boss, made at the United Nations a few months ago when we concluded his remarks by saying "The non-proliferation precedents we set in the coming decade are likely to determine whether the world lives in anxious uncertainty from crisis to crisis or whether we are able to construct a global coalition dedicated to preventing catastrophes and to giving people the confidence and security to pursue fulfilling lives" It is the desire of the United States to work with its partners to construct a global coalition dedicated to preventing catastrophes from WMD proliferation. If the international community fails to counter the threat of WMD proliferation, the impact on future generations will be devastating, and be felt, not just here, but in every country of the world. Thank you very much.

Released on June 8, 2006

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