U.S. Contributions Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons ASEAN Regional Forum

Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Tokyo, Japan
July 8, 2014

Good morning and thank you, Madame Chair. I am pleased to be here in Tokyo at this forum to speak to you today. It is good to see a strong turnout of ASEAN Regional Forum participants at the third ARF meeting focused on the three pillars of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). I would like to thank Japan for co-chairing this meeting as well as Australia and the Philippines for hosting the two prior meetings.

Madame Chair, we are less than a year away from the NPT Review Conference, so I would like to begin taking stock of where we are. As Secretary Kerry noted at the last NPT Preparatory Committee:

“As we approach the 45th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s entry into force, let us take a moment to appreciate how remarkably well the Treaty has stood the test of time. The NPT remains the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime. Its three mutually reinforcing pillars constitute an essential legal barrier to the further spread of nuclear weapons, the foundation of efforts to further reduce existing nuclear arsenals, and the vehicle for promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology under appropriate safeguards.

The Secretary further stated: “[..] Let me assure you that the United States is more committed than ever to pursuing full implementation of the Treaty, as well as finding comprehensive solutions to the challenges it faces, to ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. There is much hard work to be done, and there are no shortcuts or easy ways out.”

Let me build on Secretary Kerry’s words to emphasize the United States is and continues to be ready to work on all fronts toward a world free of nuclear weapons, in a step-by-step manner, pursuing—and creating—opportunities to reduce nuclear arsenals, increase confidence and transparency, and cooperate on nonproliferation.

A step-by-step approach is not a series of predetermined steps, where failure to make progress on one step brings the entire process to a halt. On the contrary, we seek to take advantage of opportunities wherever and whenever we can. When and where such opportunities become available is in many respects a product of the broader security landscape that we also are working to improve across a broad spectrum of national, regional, and international efforts. And as history has demonstrated over previous decades, when such opportunities are within reach, we have been able to use the evolving tools of disarmament to lock in security gains at increasingly lower levels of nuclear arsenals. Each step helps create the conditions and build momentum for subsequent steps.

The United States is fully committed to strengthening all three pillars of the NPT – disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy – which are mutually reinforcing and benefit us all. In particular, we have been working hard to advance the Treaty’s disarmament objectives.” At the NPT PrepCom this past May, the United States announced that as of September 2013, the number of nuclear weapons in the active U.S. arsenal has fallen to 4,804. This newly declassified number represents an 85 percent reduction in the U.S. nuclear stockpile since 1967. It is indisputable that major progress toward the NPT’s disarmament goals has been made.

And our efforts continue. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – New START – with the Russian Federation is now in its fourth successful year of implementation. In 2018, when the central limits of the Treaty will take effect, deployed strategic nuclear weapons will be at levels not seen since the days of President Eisenhower and Premiere Khrushchev.

The Treaty’s verification mechanisms allow the United States and Russia to monitor and inspect one another’s strategic nuclear forces to ensure compliance with the Treaty. For both the United States and Russia, accurate and timely knowledge of each other’s nuclear forces helps to prevent the risks of misunderstandings, mistrust, and worst-case analysis and worst-case policymaking. Put another way, the New START Treaty’s verification regime is a vital tool in ensuring transparency and predictability between the world’s largest nuclear powers.

We are not finished. We have just passed the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s historic speech in Prague, where he announced the U.S. commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The President reiterated these goals in Berlin in June 2013. He stated that the United States can ensure its security and that of its allies while safely pursuing further nuclear reductions with Russia of up to one-third in the deployed strategic warhead level established in the New START Treaty. This offer remains on the table: the United States is open to negotiating further reductions with Russia in all categories of nuclear weapons – including strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed.

Despite the current challenges in the U.S – Russia relationship, no one should forget that even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union found it in our mutual interest to work together on reducing the nuclear threat.

In addition to bilateral efforts, the P5 concluded our fifth conference, hosted this past April by China in Beijing. I would like to compliment and thank our Chinese colleagues for hosting an excellent interchange. P5 engagement is a long-term investment designed to strengthen the NPT, build trust, and create a stronger foundation to pursue steps toward our goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Among other accomplishments, we achieved consensus on a P5 NPT Reporting Framework, which guided our national reporting to the 2014 PrepCom. In keeping with our Action Plan commitments, we released our report at the NPT PrepCom this past May and it is available on the UN/NPT and Department of State websites.

Turning to the broader multilateral context, the United States supports the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). A verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons is necessary if we are to create conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. All states can contribute to achieving this goal. We share the frustration of many that these negotiations have yet to commence. The United States is actively engaged in the informal discussions at the Conference on Disarmament, as well as the meeting of the FMCT UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), which can usefully complement efforts to promote negotiations of an FMCT in the CD.

The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty remains a top priority for the United States. We are working to educate the American public on the security benefits of the Treaty, as well as the dangerous health effects of explosive nuclear testing. Of course, there is no reason for the remaining Annex 2 states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification processes. We urge all States to provide adequate financial and political support for the completion of the CTBT verification regime and its provisional operations between now and the entry into force of the treaty because we all benefit from continuing to grow the regime’s capabilities.

Multilateral nonproliferation efforts are also moving ahead. The United States is working to support nuclear-weapon-free zones that advance regional security and bolster the global nonproliferation regime. We were pleased to join with our P5 counterparts last May in signing the protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, and we continue to work with ASEAN toward signature of the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty protocol.

We also remain committed to the goal of a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction and to convening a regional conference to discuss such a zone. The recent direct engagement among states in the region is an important step forward. We urge those states to take advantage of this opportunity and to reach consensus on arrangements so that a conference can take place soon.

Even with these successes, noncompliance by a few states presents a direct challenge both to regional security and to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. Countries that cheat on their commitments increase the risk of conflict and further proliferation, endangering people everywhere. It is in the interest of all parties to insist that violators return to compliance, and we are making every effort to resolve such challenges through peaceful, diplomatic means. This sentiment applies to all international security agreements and Treaties.

So as you can see, there is much more work to be done. We will not only have to work hard, but we will have to work in a step-by-step manner across many fora simultaneously to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.

The road ahead is and will continue to be rough – we will come across speed bumps, potholes, detours, and ditches. But by finding our common ground – our shared desire to eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons – we can help each other down that road and reach a safer world together. Thank you.