LiveAtState: Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
MODERATOR: Welcome to Live at State, the State Department’s interactive online video platform for engaging international media. I’m your moderator, David Benton. You’re joining this online discussion along with participants from around the world. Today our State Department officials are Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, and Ambassador Adam Scheinman, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation. They will be discussing the upcoming Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference taking place in the United Nations in New York next week. We will begin in a moment with the opening remarks of our two guests.
Before we proceed, please begin to submit your questions. You may enter your questions at the bottom of the window entitled: “Questions for State Department official.” If you have difficulty in submitting your questions, you may email them to Live@State.gov. We will do our best to answer everyone’s questions in the time we have. Now, let’s get started. Under Secretary Gottemoeller, your opening remarks, please.
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you. Good morning. I’m delighted to be here with everyone, and I wanted to stress that this is an incredibly important time for the Nonproliferation Treaty and its review process. Every five years the treaty has a review conference; this year is the 45th anniversary of the Nonproliferation Treaty. It’s been 45 years since the treaty entered into force in 1970. And quite honestly, it has over-fulfilled its promise in our view. When President Kennedy helped to launch the negotiation of the NPT after the Cuban missile crisis, at that point he said that there could be dozens of nuclear weapon states emerging if we didn’t get a handle on the problems of nuclear proliferation. And so we feel in the 45 years of its existence, the treaty has done a fantastic job in really preventing the emergence of nuclear weapon states around the world who would be very threatening to international peace and security and mutual stability.
So it’s an important year. We will have to look at the review process as an opportunity, I think, to continue to strengthen the treaty and launch it for a successful future. So we will really be looking at achieving a number of goals that will support that overwhelming priority.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Madam Under Secretary. Ambassador Scheinman, over to you.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, thank you, and thanks for having me here as well. We will come into this Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference with the idea that we can strengthen support for all three pillars of the Nonproliferation Treaty. They all stand together, and they deal with nuclear disarmament, with nonproliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
At this conference we hope to highlight the progress that we’ve made to reduce our nuclear weapons through arms control agreements and related actions. We will highlight support for the International Atomic Energy Agency and its nuclear safeguards system that provides verification around the world that countries are not pursuing military programs, and we’ll highlight the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which has benefited virtually all states around the world. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Okay, with that let’s get started with your questions. Our first question is from Setsuko Inaki from Nippon Television Network: “2015 is the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing. What can we expect from NPT ‘RevCon’ in such a memorable year? What may be the biggest obstacles to achieve that goal and to get final consensus?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you very much. I have to say that I remember with great feeling of concern and – well, a very serious overarching memory is my time at Hiroshima. Last year, just one year ago, when I really had the opportunity to spend some time there and go to the Peace Museum and visit with survivors of the Hiroshima disaster. So it really is quite an important year for both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, being the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombs being dropped on those two cities.
As far as the NPT Review Conference is concerned, I think it’s a very important year to bolster all three pillars of the Nonproliferation Treaty. First, the disarmament pillar – and we will be underscoring as one of the nuclear weapon states under the Nonproliferation Treaty our accomplishments in the disarmament field. In nonproliferation, all the work that we have been doing to control and constrain fissile material, nuclear material, and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists, as well as some other very specific goals. And on the peaceful uses side, I think that this is a year when the peaceful uses pillar of the NPT will truly shine because new resources are going into the Peaceful Uses Initiative and there are new opportunities to provide countries around the world the benefits of the peaceful atom.
I’d like to ask if Ambassador Scheinman would like to add anything on this question.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes, thank you. This is an important anniversary year, and in light of it the President has said the United States has a moral responsibility to take action, and we have sought to do so through the Nonproliferation Treaty and our commitment to it. We’d like to see the NPT Review Conference give encouragement to further steps on nuclear arms reduction. We’d like to see the conference give encouragement to agreements that had been on the agenda for many years but we have yet to see them come into being – the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). There are many agreements, and there is much work to be done. This is an unfinished agenda, and we think the review conference is the right time to highlight those priorities.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Our second question is from Ksenia Baygarova of Kommersant: “Russian senior diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov recently said that the so-called nuclear sharing principle in NATO, when non-nuclear members of NATO were involved in the planning of the use of nuclear weapons and our military personnel is participating in such training violates the Nonproliferation Treaty. How could you comment on this?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We do not accept at all this particular allegation that we have been hearing from the Russian Federation. The matter of nuclear weapons being shared with our NATO allies is simply not correct at all. We in fact have an extended deterrence policy that includes some nonstrategic nuclear weapons that are deployed in Europe. However, they are in no way shared with other countries. They are, in fact, under the command and control, the total operational control of the United States.
Furthermore, this issue, it’s puzzling to us why the Russian Federation is bringing it up now, because throughout the negotiation of the nonproliferation treaty back in the late ’60s, this issue was thoroughly aired at that time, thoroughly discussed. The record of the negotiation shows that it was thoroughly discussed. And furthermore, in the 45-year life of the Treaty, this issue has not been raised in this way as a violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty. So we are very concerned about this and we will certainly be stating very clearly our views on this matter during the review conference.
MODERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, you may enter your questions at the bottom of the window, entitled “Questions for State Department Official.” Okay. Our next question is from Hannah Kaviani: “My question is: How the participants evaluate the results of the 5+1 talks with Iran and its impact on the review conference?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Perhaps I’ll start on that matter. Honestly, it is very good, I think, that we have had the successful framework agreed at the end of March in the so-called P5+1 talks with Iran. The goal of these negotiations from the very outset was to see possibilities and opportunities for Iran to come back into compliance with is commitments as a non-nuclear weapon state under the Nonproliferation Treaty. So there’s a direct link between the Nonproliferation Treaty and the P5+1 negotiations. So we see the NPT review conference as a kind of welcome opportunity to reflect on success progress so far. Clearly, there is still the necessity of completing the technical aspects of those negotiations by the end of June, but I think that it is a very good thing that we have the framework so far. The negotiations have been proceeding in a businesslike and so far productive way, and the link the NPT as a whole is very clear and important in this regard.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yeah. I might add that I think the framework agreement – well, more work has to be done. The fact that we’ve come this far will be seen in a very, very positive light by all Nonproliferation Treaty states parties. This is an example that diplomacy succeeds and can be used to solve very serious challenges to the Treaty. And given that we’re operating in a fairly complex and difficult strategic environment currently, the fact that we have some good news to present I think will be seen as a – very much as a positive.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Setsuko Inaki, Nippon Television Network: “If member states cannot agree on the final document, what negative impact will it have on the NPT regime?”
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Sure. I’d be happy to start. Our goal heading into the conference is to achieve a consensus, an agreed outcome. But that will require that we search for ways to identify interests that we hold in common and set aside ideas, agendas, agreements that others might wish to see that are just simply impractical in the current environment. So if we all come to the conference with the idea that we can identify that – which we hold in common, I think we’ll be in good shape to reach an agreed outcome at the end of the review conference. It may be that we don’t, and I think we are all trying to be optimistic but realistic at the same time.
We’ve had review conferences in the past that have not achieved a consensus document, and we know that the NPT will continue the day after the review conference closes and will continue to be a force for nonproliferation.
MODERATOR: Very good. Next question is from Andrei Luca Popescu from Romania: “How are the recent steps taken by Russia to move nuclear weapons to Crimea affect the treaty? And what is the U.S. response to this? What concrete moves in regard to nuclear weapons has Russia really done in Crimea as far as the U.S. is aware? Is it more talk/rhetoric, than fact?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I’ll take that question. As a matter of fact, we have not seen any evidence that the Russian Federation has moved nuclear weapons into Crimea. We do not accept that the Crimea was seized by the Russian Federation and Russian claims that Crimea is now Russian Federation territory. We simply do not agree with that. It is Ukrainian territory and the fact that Ukraine is a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT arouses grave concern, the notion that the Russian Federation would introduce nuclear weapons into Crimea. It has indeed been a rhetorical point. Even some senior Russian officials have talked about the possibility.
Again, we haven’t seen evidence that it has actually happened, but it’s a grave concern for us because it flies in the face of international law in the way that it would actually move against the sovereignty of an independent country – Ukraine – and furthermore, it is, I think, a grave affront overall to the notion of stability and security in Europe. We need to be focused on ways to stabilize the overarching situation and achieve a peace in Ukraine, and that process has been laid out in the so-called Minsk accords. We have commitments for all sides, including the Russian Federation, to fulfill and they have nothing to do with nuclear weapons. So we hope this matter will be – will not be one that will be brought forward into implementation. Certainly, we will continue to be very strong in expressing our concern and our opposition to it.
MODERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, you may enter your questions at the bottom of the window entitled “Questions for State Department Official.” If you would like to continue engaging on this topic after today’s program, you may follow us on Twitter using the following handles: @Gottemoeller and @USNPT. You can also visit the State Department’s website at state.gov/npt.
Our next question. This is from Louis Charbonneau with Reuters: “Do you expect any meaningful outcome from the RevCon regarding the Middle East weapons of mass destruction free zone? What about the drive by some countries to outlaw nuclear arms? Will that initiative have any traction?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: First of all, let me underscore that we have been working well, in our view, over the past five years, since the 2010 review conference, to put in place the conditions under which a Middle East weapons of mass destruction free zone conference can take place. It involves the necessity for all of the states in the region – the Arab states, Israel, and Iran – to work together to establish an agenda, to work together to establish the procedure, the organizational details for such a conference. But we think we’ve made great progress in the past five years in really what has been an historic preparatory process to really get all the states around the table and come to a consensus conclusion in that regard.
So we see no reason why the NPT Review Conference can’t be a serious and important launching pad for final success in convening this Middle East conference, and that will be our goal in the NPT Review Conference. It will be hard work. There are different views out there. But we will certainly be pressing forward in that way.
Now, the other aspect that the questioner raised is with regard to the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use, and that is another concern and another issue that will be talked about quite a bit at the conference. It is a priority for a number of countries to pursue some goals in that regard. I wanted to underscore – I mentioned at the outset my concern and really my serious reflection since having visited Hiroshima a year ago – I wanted to say that as a matter of our national policy, we completely understand and we completely embrace the dire consequences of nuclear weapons use. That is why President Obama, through his Prague initiative, has really underscored the necessity of pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We must, as a matter of our national policy, push toward ridding the world of this dire threat.
So the United States, I would say, is very firm in its conviction that there are serious humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use, and we need to do everything in our national policy to de-emphasize nuclear weapons; to reduce, eliminate, and eventually to totally get rid of them. So that is our national goal and policy and it’s one we will be underscoring at the review conference.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: If I just might add on the Middle East question, the demand for pursuing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction has been on the NPT agenda for many, many years, and as Under Secretary Gottemoeller has said, we are trying to make progress to at least get a discussion on the zone started. But one of the most fundamental principles for such zones – and there are five nuclear weapon free zones in existence around the world – is that they must be based on the consent of the states and on the basis of voluntary arrangements. It cannot be imposed from the outside. So there needs to be a regional process by which the states of the Middle East will start the discussion about how one might establish a zone, and that’s very much what we’re interested in seeing come out of this NPT Review Conference.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question: “Has there been any tangible progress on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament since the last RevCon? Because the U.S. is often criticized about this.”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We will be talking a lot about this in New York over the next three weeks, and in fact, we will have an important event to really brief the whole NPT community toward the end of next week about what exactly have been the accomplishments over the past years. The United States has been making steady progress in the realm of nuclear disarmament. It not only has to do with the implementation of the New START Treaty. And indeed, we have been working together with the Russian Federation despite our very serious bilateral differences over Ukraine; we have been working steadily and positively to implement the New START Treaty. This is the Treaty that reduces strategic nuclear arms and must be implemented by 2018. So we’re steadily working on that goal.
But people forget that disarmament is also about actually getting rid of nuclear warheads that are held in storage. It’s about getting rid of fissile material. It’s about shrinking the size of the nuclear weapons complex, getting rid of facilities that are unneeded, that have been around too long, and are no longer supporting and needed to support a nuclear weapons complex. So we are doing a lot in all four of those areas – implementing New START; reducing and eliminating warheads; eliminating, disposing of fissile material; and also shrinking very radically the size of our nuclear weapons complex in order, frankly, to be able to support a smaller stockpile over time.
So I think it’s important, as we go into the NPT Review Conference, to focus on all of those aspects, the full spectrum of accomplishment in the realm of disarmament. And we will be definitely doing that throughout the Nonproliferation Treaty review.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Ms. Baygarova from Kommersant: “Will the United States raise the question of the observance of – by Russia of the Budapest Memorandum, which provides guarantees of Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for its renunciation of nuclear weapons? Do you consider, at least theoretically, the possibility that Ukraine could become a nuclear state?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: The whole goal of the Budapest Memorandum, which was negotiated in the early 1990s – in 1993 and 1994, and I was very much myself personally involved in the negotiation of the Budapest Memorandum – it was to establish the nuclear weapons states who are depositaries of the NPT, the Nonproliferation Treaty, give them some special responsibilities to assure Ukraine that its very positive decision to get rid of the nuclear weapons left on its territory at the breakup of the Soviet Union – that their security will continue to be assured. And so those three states, the depositary states, are the United States, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom. And all three of those states joined in signing the Budapest Memorandum. By the way, it was afterwards joined by France and China, as well giving assurances. So there has been a very wide-ranging commitment among the nuclear weapons states to assure that Ukraine’s heroic decision to give up nuclear weapons in the 1993-1994 time period really meant that it was not in any way losing out on its own security.
That’s why we have been so concerned that the Russian Federation has not been acknowledging its responsibilities under the Budapest Memorandum; in fact, has been ignoring them in this period since it violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I think it’s inevitable this issue is going to come up during the review conference. I think it clearly has been repeatedly raised by any number of states, including the United States. I expect we will hear from Ukraine about it at the NPT Review Conference. So I think it will definitely be a topic of discussion.
But if I may end, I wanted to really underscore and stress this point in conclusion, and that is that Ukraine made a very positive, heroic decision to become a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT. It has been, as a result, a real standard-bearer for the Nonproliferation Treaty regime and, in fact, I ascribe much of the success we have had in the disarmament arena over the past 20 years to the fact that not only Ukraine, but also Kazakhstan and Belarus made this heroic decision back in the early 1990s. The disarmament progress, such as the New START Treaty, I think are only due to the fact and they’re only been made possible – they have only been made possible by the fact that Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus did proceed with this important decision back in the early 1990s. So I consider Ukraine to be a real hero of the nonproliferation regime and the Nonproliferation Treaty.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Here’s our next question: “The third pillar of the NPT is on the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Can you tell us a little more about what the U.S. is doing to support that pillar?”
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yeah. No, I’m happy to address that question, because I think it’s very important. The NPT and the process around it tends to focus almost exclusively on issues relating to nuclear disarmament and perhaps regional nuclear weapon-free zones. And we don’t give enough attention, we feel, to the other pillar, which is promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy for states that abide by their nonproliferation obligations.
The United States has been the strongest supporter for peaceful uses around the world. We spend by far more money than anyone else in support of IAEA – this is the International Atomic Energy Agency – technical assistance programs. We fund at least a quarter of the world’s budget that goes toward these activities. This is a budget that over the last 20 years has – I think it’s been about $2 billion worth of assistance provided around the world for peaceful uses, not just for nuclear power as an energy source but for developmental assistance in the third world – the use of nuclear techniques to monitor disease, including the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. It provides cancer therapy treatment options. It provides for agricultural and food security support. So we think this is very important. Many, many NPT parties benefit from this set of activities and we’ll certainly make it a featured element at the review conference.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question: “Leaders from across the globe have worked to create regional nuclear weapons-free zones, including nuclear weapon-free zones in Latin America, the South Pacific, Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. What has the U.S. done to encourage these zones and what is the U.S. policy towards them?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I’ll begin on this question. We have been very impressed over the years at the ability of regional parties, regional countries to get together and to negotiate nuclear weapons-free zones. The most recent one was the Central Asian nuclear weapons-free zone which was just agreed last year, and now we are moving forward, all of the states who are involved as nuclear weapons states – that is UK, France, China, Russia, and the United States – we are all moving forward now with processes to ratify the protocol to such treaties, which shows our really unequivocal support for these important efforts.
We will continue to support them. I want to stress, however, that it is so important that it is the regional parties, the regional countries who get together and negotiate together to agree on these important treaties. So we support them as a matter of our national policy, but I have to say that it’s the regional countries who do the heavy lifting to put these treaties together.
Ambassador Scheinman might like to add something on this.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yeah. If I could just mention the treaties – there are five in existence around the world: the one in Latin America and four others. They provide protocols that are open to the nuclear weapon states, and those protocols say that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against regional zone parties that are in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations. And we think that these countries have a legitimate interest in securing such assurances, as long as they’re meeting their nonproliferation obligations. And that is why we have increased the level of attention and support given by the Obama Administration to these regional zones. We think they’re very important complements to the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but they’re equally important to the regions that live with these zone treaties.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question is from Dmitri Zlodorev from RIA Novosti: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today said that the U.S. violates NPT by locating tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Can you comment on that?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, I can comment on it, and I will comment on it. The Nonproliferation Treaty process has been in place now for years. Throughout the life of the Nonproliferation Treaty and including during the period when it was being negotiated in the late 1960s, this issue of the nuclear weapons that the United States deployed as part of our extended deterrence commitment to our NATO allies – that these would be a violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Never did the Soviet Union mention this as a matter of violation of the treaty, nor has the Russian Federation up to this moment. So we are rather puzzled as to why all of a sudden this issue has emerged.
Certainly, it was discussed during the negotiation of the Nonproliferation Treaty back in the late 1960s. The record clearly shows that the United States conveyed at the time that these weapons are not somehow shared with our NATO allies, but in fact, they remain under the operational control of the United States of America, the command and control of the United States. There is absolutely no violation of the non-nuclear weapon state commitments of the state’s parties of the territory on which such weapons are located.
So it’s a very puzzling issue, I have to say, that it has come up at this point, but we will be very clear and unequivocal in talking about both the record of the negotiations, the record of the treaty implementation itself, and our puzzlement as to why this issue is coming up at this time.
MODERATOR: Very good, thank you. Our next question is from Ariana King. She’s with Nikkei Shimbun: “On the third pillar – peaceful uses of nuclear technology – has the nuclear energy backlash following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster impacted the workings of this third committee?”
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: It’s a good question. I think the greatest impacts are perhaps within Japan as opposed to the global interest in pursuing nuclear energy as a power source or as a source for sustainable development. We see that there continues to be great interest around the world in pursuing peaceful nuclear energy, and it’s a pillar of the NPT that we firmly support – we support it through resources, financing, in-kind assistance, training. We’re building capacity all around the world to ensure that countries that have access to nuclear energy do so and use it in a safe and secure manner.
MODERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, you may enter your questions at the bottom of the window entitled “Questions for State Department Officials.”
Okay, onto our next question: “What are the current obstacles in moving beyond the last nuclear arms reduction treaty, the New START Treaty, and discussions with the Russians?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We completed the so-called New START Treaty in April of 2010. It was ratified by the U.S. President with the advice and consent of the Senate later that year, in December of 2010. The Russian Duma and Federation Council followed shortly thereafter, and the Treaty entered into force in February of 2011. The Treaty’s moving forward very well in its implementation despite, I would say, a black period in the U.S. and Russian relationship bilaterally over Ukraine. Nevertheless, in this important area of nuclear arms reduction, we continue to move forward smoothly and very well in our implementation.
But the Obama Administration was always very clear, and President Obama stated in Prague in April of 2009 that we need to continue moving forward to achieve further reductions; we need to move forward achieving, in the end, the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
So in June of 2013, the President put another arms reduction proposal on the table in a speech in Berlin, and he said that we should pursue further reductions in operationally deployed warheads below the levels to be achieved in New START. So in New START, in – by the time we get to full implementation in 2018, we will be down to the level of 1,550 deployed warheads. So if the President’s proposal is carried through, an up to one-third reduction would take us down close to around 1,000 deployed nuclear warheads. These are big reductions from where we started when the first START Treaty entered into force in 1994. At that time, the United States and the Russian Federation each deployed about 12,000 nuclear warheads. So it’s a big drop in that time and the President wants to continue to press forward with those goals.
At the current time, however, I’ve got to say we don’t have a willing partner. The Russian Federation has said it’s not willing to proceed with further reductions. We do think, however, that this deal is a good one for both the United States of America and the Russian Federation, in addition to being good international peace and security. So we do hope the Russians will be willing to pick up the Berlin proposal off the table and get on with negotiating it.
MODERATOR: Okay, very good. Our next question is from Chase Winter, Sputnik News: As the international community is making a deal with Iran and the Nonproliferation Treaty sets out the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East, it brings up the questions of Israel’s possessions of nuclear weapons. How does the U.S. explain opposition to nuclear weapons in the Middle East while U.S. ally Israel possess nuclear weapons? How would you explain what many view as hypocrisy? Is Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons an issue in negotiations with Iran?
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: I would say the negotiations with Iran deal with the Iran compliance challenge, and that is very much the focus of our efforts. Those efforts involve not just the United States but other major powers, including Russia. And we very much hope those negotiations succeed, because Iran has been in violation of its obligations and commitments for many, many years.
The question of the broader interest in pursuing a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction is one we would support. We have long supported such a zone coming into existence in the region, but that zone will come into existence not because the United States demands it or even that other NPT parties demand it; it will come into existence because states in the region open an honest and direct discussion about setting terms for its achievement, and that’s a process that we have encouraged in the NPT and will continue to.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Kelsey Davenport of Arms Control Today asks the following: In London in February, the PS countries expressed hope that the conference would reach agreement on language concerning the abuse of the right to withdraw under Article 10. What would the U.S. like to see covered in such an agreement? What are the prospects of reaching an agreement?
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Perhaps I’ll start with this question. I think, first of all, it’s the so-called P5 conference that took place in London in February. The P5 are the nuclear weapons states under the NPT, so that’s U.S., UK, France, Russia, and China. For the past five years, we have been getting together in an annual conference to discuss important issues to do with the Nonproliferation Treaty, but we’ve also been meeting in other formats between those conferences in order to make progress on important technical issues, like the verification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, for example. So there’s lots of important work going on among the P5 to advance the Nonproliferation Treaty and all of its goals.
I would say that with regard to the so-called report – so-called Article X issues, this is a very important area that not only the P5 has been concerned about, but also other countries in the NPT system. And so it will certainly be a very important article of discussion during the NPT Review Conference. It has been a matter of great concern since North Korea indicated its intent to withdraw from the treaty, now some 20 years ago. So it is a very, very concerning matter and we are definitely looking for ways to work further on this issue of withdrawal from the treaty.
Perhaps Ambassador Scheinman would like to add something.
AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes, if I could. It’s clear that under the NPT, all states have the right to withdraw. We wouldn’t want to try to amend that right or circumscribe it in some way. But states in the treaty should not be permitted to abuse that right by violating the treaty and then exercising this so-called right or leaving the treaty and then taking peaceful nuclear exports and putting them to military nuclear use. That would undermine the integrity of the NPT in the long term. So because of the North Korean violation and set of violations that we have at least 10 or more years of experience with, we think that it’s time for the NPT parties as a group to decide on recommendations on what the consequences should be in the event a country abuses that right of withdrawal. And we think that there is enough common ground that we should be able to reach agreed recommendations along those lines.
MODERATOR: Very good. Well, we have time for one more question. Here it is: “Since there has been little progress in the political track of disarmament, the U.S. has done some work on the technical aspects of arms control verification. But what does that mean and what is the U.S. actually doing that actually makes progress here?”
UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Actually, I’m going to take exception with the basic premise of that question, that there hasn’t been progress on the political track in disarmament. I think not only have we made progress in working with the Russian Federation throughout this very difficult period, following their invasion of Crimea and their aid to the opposition that’s in the eastern part of Ukraine. Nevertheless, we continue to make progress on implementing the New START Treaty. And furthermore, we’re making progress in reducing and eliminating fissile material around the world. Part of that work has taken place in the context of the so-called Nuclear Security Summit process that President Obama launched also in 2009. So there’s a lot of work going on among states on disarmament problems around the world, and we need to underscore that fact throughout the review conference of the NPT, I think.
But as we look to the future and what else needs to be done on the technical side, the United States is also very mindful of that. As we move forward with nuclear disarmament, we’re going to have to begin to account for and monitor and verify smaller and smaller units of account, especially very sensitive items such as nuclear warheads. And that is going to require some very delicate and sensitive methods and also technologies for verification. So a short time ago, the United States launched a new initiative. I, in fact, announced it in Prague last December – a new initiative on disarmament and nonproliferation verification. Countries around the world, both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states, are joining together to tackle this challenge of monitoring and verifying sensitive objects of very small size. And I think this will be very important as we work together to achieve the goal of zero nuclear weapons, because as we have fewer and fewer nuclear weapons in the world, monitoring and verifying every one of them will get to be more and more important.
So it’s a very, very worthy goal, and I’d like to say that the United States is tackling both the political aspects of the disarmament challenge and also the technical aspects of the disarmament challenge, but we’ve got some great partners around the world who are helping us to do so.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Well, that’s all the time we have for today. Under Secretary Gottemoeller, Ambassador Scheinman, thank you very much for your participation today. And thank you for being with us. We’ll be emailing you audio and video files, as well as a transcript of today’s program. Again, if you would like to continue engaging on this topic after today’s program, you may follow us on Twitter using the following handles: @Gottemoeller and @USNPT. Thank you for participating in the Live at State program today. Have a good day.