International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) Side Event
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Thank you all for joining us today for an update on the progress of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV).
In December of 2014, the United States announced the establishment of the IPNDV, to be implemented in collaboration with the non-governmental organization the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The Partnership’s purpose is to bring together expertise from states that possess nuclear weapons, and those that do not, to work together to better understand and overcome the technical challenges of verifying nuclear disarmament.
U.S. support for the Partnership is a reflection of our commitment to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons—a goal that President Obama first articulated in Prague in 2009. Through a practical approach to nuclear disarmament, we have made real progress toward this objective. The U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile has been slashed by more than 85% since its Cold War heights. For all of our progress, we hold no illusions that our work is done. That is why we are committed to working with all states that share this goal to promote dialogue and tackle the practical challenges that must be overcome.
The Partnership is a prime example of that practical approach. Effective verification has been a staple of every successful nuclear arms control agreement, and that will be even more the case in the future. Effective verification will become more challenging with future arms control treaties and agreements that are likely to include new items like warheads and certain types of facilities. The Partnership seeks to identify the challenges associated with nuclear disarmament verification and explore what tools and technologies will be required to address those challenges.
Effective verification measures help to develop and sustain the confidence that will allow for further nuclear weapons reductions and, ultimately, their elimination. Simply put, the military significance of a country cheating on its treaty obligations grows as others reduce their nuclear numbers. We know this is difficult work, and that is why we have assembled experts from over 25 countries to collectively tackle this challenge.
We also understand that there are different opinions on how best to approach disarmament. The Partnership is a practical effort founded on a belief that safe and effective nuclear disarmament requires verification, and that a world without nuclear weapons is achievable, but important technical work must be done to ensure it is verifiable.
Now in its second year, the Partnership continues to make significant progress, and has held three plenary meetings on three different continents. More than 25 countries have participated so far, bringing to bear a wide range of expertise working to create an effective foundation for nuclear disarmament verification. The Partnership’s three Working Groups are focused on developing a set of deliverables covering a range of topics regarding nuclear disarmament verification:
- Working Group 1 is considering objectives for different phases of weapons elimination, the types of information and criteria needed to determine whether those objectives are being met, and the specific areas of expertise and resources required to support future work.
- Working Group 2 is drawing lessons from existing on-site inspection regimes and assessing the applicability of fundamental on-site inspection principles to possible future verification efforts.
- Working Group 3 is identifying practical solutions to the technical challenges posed by nuclear warhead verification, including methods for nuclear warhead authentication, establishing and maintaining chain of custody, and authenticating necessary data and equipment.
These groups have each met multiple times, beginning with the Partnership’s second Plenary in Oslo last November, and continuing through dedicated Working Group meetings in Geneva earlier this year and the third Plenary in Tokyo this past June. The Tokyo Plenary was an outstanding event, so I want to credit and express my deepest gratitude to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the leadership of Director General Aikawa for making it possible.
In Tokyo, we received updates from each of the Working Groups on their progress since their initial meetings in Oslo, and their planned next steps toward completing the tasks laid out in their individual Terms of Reference. Each group developed a roadmap for completing their deliverables, which will be published upon the completion of the Partnership’s first phase of work, in November 2017.
Looking ahead, the 4th Plenary will be held in Abu Dhabi in early November this year where the Working Groups will discuss and continue to make progress on their deliverables. I am very pleased that the United Arab Emirates graciously volunteered to host this Plenary.
In conclusion, we understand that some are frustrated by the perceived slow pace of disarmament. But there should be no question of the U.S. commitment to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia continue to successfully implement the New START Treaty, and the United States has made clear its willingness to seek further reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons of up to one-third below New START Treaty levels. However, progress on further reductions requires a willing partner and a conducive strategic environment.
So progress is being made, and we remain committed to making more. As we work to resolve the diplomatic challenges and make progress on disarmament in a way that enhances global security, we are also focused on the technical challenges where we can make real and important progress. This is why I believe the work of the Partnership is so vital. The IPNDV can serve as a vehicle for countries serious about doing the hard work necessary to make further progress toward nuclear disarmament, which is the fundamental goal we all share. The Partnership may not grab headlines, but our hope is that diplomats in the years to come will view this technical initiative as indispensable to the future we collectively seek.
Thank you again for coming today.