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The 23rd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues

The 23rd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues: "Urgent and United Action Toward a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World"

Ambassador Susan F. Burk
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation
Session II: Implementing the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan
Matsumoto, Japan
July 27, 2011


It is a pleasure to be here today and to participate in this important conference. Before I begin, let me offer congratulations to the extraordinary Japanese women’s soccer team that won the gold medal at the Women’s World Cup a week ago. Although I confess I was rooting for the “home team,” it was a fantastic game and I would like to add my voice to the many others who have congratulated Japan on this great achievement.

We are now a year removed from the 2010 RevCon, a year that has been productive for many of us. As we begin to lay the groundwork for the start of formal preparations for the 2015 NPT Review Conference this is a good opportunity to take stock of what we accomplished last year, as well as how we are doing, individually and collectively, in fulfilling the commitments we made at that time.

The Success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference

I do not need to dwell on the challenges faced by the NPT as we headed into the 2010 NPT RevCon. Noncompliance by certain NPT parties; concerns that nuclear disarmament was not proceeding quickly enough, even as the international community failed to deal adequately with emerging nuclear states; and the dramatic increase in the number of states interested in pursuing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for power generation, which raised the issue of how to expand the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in a way that does not increase the risk of nuclear proliferation. Cross-cutting these challenges to the three pillars was the Middle East issue and widespread interest in seeing steps taken to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Finally, coloring the perceptions of many participants and observers was the concern, misplaced or not, that the credibility of the Treaty and the larger nonproliferation regime could not withstand a repeat of the 2005 RevCon when Parties could not agree on an agenda, much less a consensus final outcome.

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Fortunately, NPT Parties roses to the challenge and defied the skeptics. They engaged constructively and worked across geographic and political lines to find common ground. The result was a comprehensive, balanced and forward-looking Action Plan to support the objectives of the NPT’s three pillars. The Parties’ willingness to translate their support for a “balanced” review into agreement on steps to advance each of the Treaty’s pillars was essential to the result. Also important to the success of the Conference was the decision to convene a conference to begin addressing the issues involved in establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

We worked together to make progress where we could, and accepted, albeit reluctantly at times, that on some issues progress was not yet possible. Our efforts demonstrated the contribution that responsible multilateral diplomacy can make to addressing international interests and concerns.

The Action Plan’s Significance

The NPT Action Plan’s 64 actions and its decision on the Middle East represent a set of follow-on actions whose implementation promises to strengthen the Treaty. It is a plan that reflects the balance between the NPT pillars that Parties’ agreed should be pursued, as well as broad acceptance of the principle of “mutual responsibility,” a principle that is critical to the continued vitality of the NPT regime.

The Plan’s nonproliferation goals include resolving all cases of noncompliance, promoting universality, concluding comprehensive safeguards agreements and Additional Protocols, adhering to export control guidelines, preventing illicit trafficking, and maintaining the highest standards of security and physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities.

On disarmament, all Parties committed to pursue policies necessary to establish conditions for a nuclear-weapon-free world and to apply the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency. They underlined the importance of achieving the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and maintaining testing moratoria pending that outcome. They called for the immediate start of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. Most groundbreaking among the Plan’s disarmament actions is the P-5 commitment to progress on specific steps leading to nuclear disarmament.

Of equal importance, the Action Plan recognizes that the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, recognized by the NPT, must be exercised consistent with nonproliferation obligations. Specifically, it acknowledges that the use of nuclear energy must be accompanied by safeguards, safety and security measures. It encourages further discussion of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, both front and back end, as well as further minimization of highly enriched uranium in civilian use, among other things. And it encourages states to contribute to the IAEA’s Peaceful Uses Initiative, announced at the Review Conference by Secretary of State Clinton and designed to raise $100 million over five years for projects in areas such as food security, water resources, human health, and nuclear power infrastructure.

The Action Plan’s Implementation

The real test of the RevCon’s success, however, will be how seriously all the Parties are implementing the recommendations they supported there.

The U.S. began to organize its efforts to implement the Action Plan soon after the Review Conference last year. We are engaged in an active program of work that reflects the benchmarks laid out in the NPT document.

On nonproliferation, in line with the Action Plan’s strong support for the IAEA safeguards system, the United States, other Member States, and the IAEA Secretariat are actively considering ways to strengthen the IAEA safeguards system. These include working with partners to help states meet their NPT comprehensive safeguards obligations, and to bring the Additional Protocol into force in their countries. We remain committed to ensuring the Agency has the resources and political support it needs to meet its growing responsibilities, not just in safeguards, safety and security, but also in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Therefore we are pleased with the modest budget increase that was approved in June. The Agency also needs political support to make effective use of its existing authorities in its on-going compliance-related investigations. This authority was bolstered by the decision at the most recent meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors which found Syria in noncompliance with its international safeguards obligations.

Also in line with the Action Plan, the Obama Administration has submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent, the protocols of the African and South Pacific nuclear-weapon free zones treaties. And we are in discussions with parties to the Southeast Asian and Central nuclear weapon free zones in an effort to reach agreement that would allow us to sign the Protocols to those Treaties, as well.

On disarmament, the New START Treaty has entered into force and implementation is well underway. The U.S. is committed to continuing a step-by-step process to reduce the overall numbers of nuclear weapons, which would include the pursuit of a future agreement with Russia for broad reductions in all nuclear weapons – strategic, non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed.

The P5 met in Paris 30 June- 1 July to work together in pursuit of their shared goal of nuclear disarmament, including engagement on the steps outlined in Action 5, as well as reporting and other efforts called for in the Action Plan. This was a continuation of discussions begun in London in 2009 on the issues of transparency and mutual confidence, including nuclear doctrine and capabilities, and of verification, recognizing such measures are important for establishing a firm foundation for further disarmament efforts. In order to ensure that these conferences evolve into a regular process of P5 dialogue, we agreed to hold a third conference in 2012.

The U.S. remains committed to securing ratification of the CTBT, and we are engaging the U.S. Senate and the American public on the merits of that treaty. We also are continuing to work with our partners to move forward on FMCT negotiations.

In support of the peaceful uses agenda, in December 2010 the IAEA Board of Governors approved a proposal authorizing the Agency’s Director General to establish an IAEA administered and controlled low-enriched uranium bank as a fuel assurance for Member States in the event of disruption of the fuel supply to their peaceful programs. The United States also has been working closely with the IAEA to implement the Peaceful Uses Initiative, towards which we will contribute $50 million before the 2015 NPT Review Conference. We already have funded more than $9 million in projects with involvement from more than 80 countries. We are delighted that Japan and South Korea have agreed to contribute to the Initiative and we are actively seeking other partners.

Finally, for months we have been meeting regularly with the other co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East and the UN to determine the best way to fulfill our responsibilities laid out in the decision on the Middle East in a way that will best ensure a successful conference. We are fully committed to this effort. A first step is naming a conference host state and facilitator, which we aim to do in the very near future. Together with the United Kingdom and Russia, the United States has held extensive consultations with states in the region on how we can ensure a successful conference in 2012. However, the success of the conference and similar efforts cannot be imposed from outside. It will depend on the willingness of the regional states to help build an atmosphere conducive to constructive dialogue on all relevant issues.


We are only one year out from the 2010 RevCon and already there is a good story to tell. But we are not complacent and understand that the success of our collective efforts last year will only be as good as our common, sustained commitment to live up to the agreement we reached at that time. The United States is committed to that agreement and to doing its part to sustain the momentum that was generated in getting to that outcome.

But as President Obama has said on several occasions, we cannot do it alone. The challenges to the NPT and to the global regime remain serious, but we have agreed on an agenda that can help us deal with these challenges. We must continue to nurture and sustain the working relationships we developed – engagement that transcended traditional political blocs and regional groups – for that is the only way we will be able to consolidate our achievements and pave the way for a future free from nuclear insecurity.

Thank you.


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