NPT Challenges and Opportunities

Reinforcing the NPT: Challenges and Opportunities

February 16, 2010, Vienna International Center

Panel Discussion: Preparations for the NPT Review Conference:
Issues at Stake

Remarks by Ambassador Glyn T. Davies

Thank you Madam Chair.   I would also like to thank Ambassador Enkhshaikhan for his initiative in organizing today’s timely event.   It’s a valuable chance to get in the mindset of the upcoming Review Conference and hear some of the arguments participants will make.  I am pleased to join so many distinguished colleagues on this panel.

The NPT Review Conference will be an important moment on the nonproliferation calendar.   It will take place against the backdrop of a dramatic shift in my own country’s nonproliferation and arms control policy — a shift that reinforces our efforts to encourage a successful, balanced review of the Treaty in New York in May.

Beginning with his April speech in Prague, President Obama has made nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.  Among the objectives my President set in Prague were a world free of nuclear weapons and strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty as the basis for international cooperation.

The United States seeks a 2010 NPT Review Conference that reaffirms the Parties’ commitment to the treaty and is ambitious in strengthening each of its three pillars — nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses.   These three pillars stand firmly on one common foundation: the principle that the world must stand together to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.   It is up to NPT Parties to ensure that foundation remains sound.   To this end,  the United States believes it is essential for all NPT Parties to work together to prevent proliferation, including by ensuring there are consequences for violating the Treaty and by taking action to discourage abuse of the withdrawal provision.

The United States is also committed to the goal of disarmament.  You are all well aware of President Obama’s ambitious disarmament agenda, first outlined in Prague, and the steps we have taken since.  I won’t go into detail here on disarmament efforts outside the Vienna context except to note the commitment to seek ratification of the CTBT.  Disarmament is not an illusory goal.  As my President said while chairing the UN Security Council Summit in September, “we harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world free of nuclear weapons.”  It is indeed a difficult task and one we can accomplish only in tandem with strengthening the nonproliferation regime.

The United States likewise fully supports the right of all NPT Parties to develop peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with the Treaty’s nonproliferation obligations.  This is a two-sided bargain:  along with rights to nuclear energy come obligations.  President Obama in his Prague speech called for building a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation while underlining the need for binding rules on nonproliferation.  The framework of rights and obligations applies to all NPT parties without exception.  Seeking compliance with NPT obligations in no way intimates denying rights.

The duality of rights to peaceful use and nonproliferation obligations is also reflected in the IAEA Statute, which predates the NPT:  to ensure the contribution of atomic energy to peace, it is necessary to assure non-diversion for military purposes and the absence of non-declared activity through the application of IAEA safeguards.  This is no accident.  The IAEA’s work underpins implementation of the NPT bargain.  The Agency’s safeguards system is the Treaty’s major tool for verifying compliance and detecting noncompliance with the NPT’s nonproliferation obligations.   In a speech to the U.S. Institute for Peace last October, Secretary of State Clinton highlighted the role of the IAEA:  “Enhancing the IAEA’s capabilities to verify whether states are engaging in illicit nuclear capabilities is essential to strengthening the nonproliferation regime,” she noted, including through universal application of the Additional Protocol.    The U.S. seeks to ensure that the IAEA has the full authorities and capabilities it needs to fulfill its verification mandate.

It is also essential that the Security Council use its authority and responsibility to respond to violations of the NPT as they pose a threat to international peace and security.  In that regard, the historic UN Security Council Summit, chaired by President Obama in September 2009 adopted UNSCR 1887, which reinforces the international commitment to both nonproliferation and disarmament.

The world has evolved since the conclusion of the NPT, a treaty which was directed at state-level actors.  We now live in a different world and face global challenges related to nuclear terrorism.  Another core objective President Obama outlined in Prague and highlighted at the Security Council Summit addresses non-state actors — to ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear device.  To that end, the President announced a new international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.  Here too, the IAEA has been playing a critical and growing role in the area of nuclear security to confront probably the most catastrophic threat that humanity faces today.  To lend high-level political support to this issue, the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington this April will bring together leaders of both developed and developing countries, all of whom recognize their stake in combating the threat of nuclear terrorism.

In addition to IAEA safeguards and nuclear security, the United States has always been heavily vested in the peaceful use of nuclear technology — as both a pillar of the NPT bargain and the IAEA Statute.  As the largest contributor to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Program, the U.S. supports projects all over the world using nuclear techniques for health, including disease control and cancer prevention, as well as food security and energy alternatives.

The new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, which as I noted earlier the President called for at Prague, including assurance of nuclear fuel supply, is intended to ensure that countries can develop nuclear power without increasing the risks of nuclear proliferation.   The need for a new framework is growing stronger as more and more countries express interest in civil nuclear power programs.  These “nuclear newcomers” face many challenges in establishing robust infrastructures for safe, secure and safeguarded nuclear power.  The United States is providing assistance to help newcomers meet these challenges and build their nuclear power and regulatory infrastructures.

At the same time, worldwide expansion of nuclear power must not be accompanied by a dramatically increased threat of nuclear proliferation. The elephant in the room whenever we discuss how to spread the positive benefits of nuclear technology is the proliferation of sensitive fuel cycle activities.  We believe that this issue must be approached inclusively, with an emphasis not on ideology, but on pragmatic solutions that are in the best economic, technological and security interests of all concerned.  As President Obama also noted in Prague, “No approach will succeed if it is based on the denial of rights to those that play by the rules.”

Now the foregoing was a broad outline of our approach toward the NPT Review Conference, particularly highlighting some of the issues which we can help advance here in Vienna.   I’d like to turn for a moment to the subject of this morning’s session on nuclear-weapons free zones (NWFZs).    The United States supports regional efforts to enhance peace and security.   We review NWFZ treaties on a case-by-case basis.  We have also, with specific reference to Mongolia, supported UN General Assembly resolutions and a P-5 statement with respect to Mongolia’s nuclear free status.

Also in the context of encouraging universal NPT adherence and strengthened IAEA safeguards, the United States has stated its support for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.  We fully support all the objectives of the Resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 NPT Review Conference and will continue to work with all states, within and outside the region, to implement the Resolution’s objectives at the earliest possible date.

We believe a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems is an achievable goal, but it will not happen overnight or without a concerted effort by the international community to make it a reality.  Indeed, we recognize that such goals are achievable only in the context of progress toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and evidence that Iran is fully implementing and upholding the international agreements to which it is a party.  The United States urges all states to take practical and concrete steps, in a constructive and collaborative manner, to remove the obstacles to achieving this goal.  We continue to urge all non-parties to join the Treaty and to accept full-scope Agency safeguards.  We recognize that in the real world this is not likely to happen soon.

In conclusion, let me just say that the United States is committed to high-level engagement with regional parties to ensure a successful outcome to the Review Conference.   We will also be engaged with other NPT states as we move forward on this difficult issue.   I have been asked to represent the United States at the NPT Review Conference in Main Committee II on regional issues and look forward to working with my colleagues here in Vienna, including Ambassador Yelchenko of Ukraine, who will Chair the Committee, to help make this Review Conference a success with respect to regional issues and all the other challenges and opportunities facing the NPT regime.