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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2004

U.S. Proposals to the Conference on Disarmament

Jackie W. Sanders
Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and Special Representative of the President for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Remarks to Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, Switzerland
July 29, 2004

Mr. President, I am starting my third CD session today, and I want all of you to know what a pleasure it has been to work with you over these past seven months. We are here at a crucial time in history. The United States and its allies continue the global war on terror. We are proud to be part of international coalitions that are hard at work helping the now-free peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan build democratic societies.

On February 11th of this year, President Bush announced a series of new initiatives to counter the threat of weapons of mass destruction and stem the tide of proliferation of dangerous materials into the hands of terrorists and outlaw regimes. These proposals are prompted by the threats that we face in the post-9/11 world and are directed toward improving and modernizing non-proliferation laws, restricting the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies and equipment, closing loopholes in existing non-proliferation regimes, and expanding efforts to secure and destroy weapons and materials of mass destruction.

President Bush’s proposals come at a critical juncture in our efforts to combat the development and spread of weapons of mass destruction. While our relentless efforts have met with recent successes, including Libya’s renunciation of weapons of mass destruction programs and the exposure of A.Q. Khan’s international nuclear proliferation network, there remains much work to be done. The fact that both Libya’s nuclear program and the A.Q. Khan network were unknown to this body less than a year ago underscores that we probably still do not fully appreciate the scope of the WMD threats that we face. With greater reason therefore we must redouble our efforts here and across the board to combat those threats.

Multilateral efforts are an important part of our campaign to combat the proliferation of WMD. We are working with our allies to bring Iran back into the community of civilized nations and cease its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its ballistic missile program. We are working with the IAEA to convince Iran to honor its NPT and IAEA obligations and cease its covert nuclear weapons program. The United States is working through OPCW and the BWC to convince Iran to end its chemical and biological weapons efforts.

We are also working through the multilateral six-party talks process to convince North Korea to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The United States is very grateful very grateful to China for its leadership and diplomatic efforts to advance these talks. The bottom line for the United States on this issue is very clear. Pyongyang must cease all routes it is pursuing to make a nuclear bomb, both the plutonium route and the uranium-enrichment route, and must completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program.

A little over a year ago, Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker addressed the CD to lay our Government’s vision of effective multilateralism. As part of that vision we noted our desire to see the CD transform itself into a more effective multilateral instrument. Mr. President, the United States hopes we can collectively revive the CD by agreeing on meaningful steps that this body can undertake to combat the threats confronting us in the 21st century. I come before you today to make two proposals to advance toward that goal.

First of all, the United States is pursuing a multi-faceted approach involving a number of international bodies to address the international problem posed by the indiscriminate use of persistent landmines. International efforts to combat the harmful effects of anti-personnel landmines date back to the mid-1990s. Yet all of these efforts are incomplete as they fail to address the hazard common to mines that are threatening civilian populations worldwide, regardless of shape and size, and that issue is persistency.

The proposal I lay out today would concentrate on eliminating the threat posed by all persistent landmines which cause between 12,000-16,000 deaths per year and whose long life ensures that they remain dangerous to civilians for many decades after any legitimate military need has passed. The United States has chosen to replace its persistent mines with non-persistent, self-destructing, self-deactivating mines.

We believe that self-destructing, self-deactivating landmines can dramatically reduce the threat to innocent civilians from the lingering hazards generated by persistent landmines. Self-destructing, self-deactivating technologies are relatively inexpensive, particularly when compared to the cost of clearing a mine. Landmines with such technologies have been tested rigorously and have never failed to destroy themselves or become inert within a set time.

As the world’s primary forum for multilateral arms control negotiations, the Conference on Disarmament is well suited to address this vital issue. For this reason, I wish to announce that the United States has decided to pursue in the CD the negotiation of an international ban on the sale or export of persistent landmines. We will continue our efforts in the CCW to bring anti-vehicular landmines under international controls as well. I look forward to working with all of you on this proposal in the coming months.

Secondly, I would like to announce our position on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Fissile materials – plutonium and highly enriched uranium – are fundamental and essential building blocks of nuclear weapons. A ban on fissile material production for nuclear weapons or nuclear explosives would enhance global non-proliferation strictures against nuclear weapons.

As part of our effort to achieve that goal, the United States reaffirms our commitment to the negotiation in the CD of a legally binding treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or nuclear explosives. The United States has not produced fissile material for weapons purposes for over 15 years. Our production facilities have been shut down. Instead of making more fissile material, we are working today to dispose of it. We have removed roughly 200 tons of fissile material from our military stockpile. Much of this material has already been eliminated, placed under international safeguards, or both.

The United States also reaffirms its moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives and will call on all States to make comparable public pledges.

The U.S. policy review, however, raised serious concerns that realistic, effective verification of an FMCT is not achievable. We look forward to presenting our concerns in detail about verification in the CD. We believe an FMCT is ripe for negotiations and must have a clean mandate that is not linked to other unrelated proposals for CD Ad Hoc Committees.

After nearly 8 years of inactivity, the CD needs to focus its efforts on achievable goals that address the security issues of today. The United States believes that the two proposals that I have laid out in this speech – a ban on persistent landmines and an FMCT – constitute important achievable goals for this Conference.

My Government will have a team of technical experts visit here in the near future to brief delegations on our new position on FMCT, including a detailed explanation of our concerns about verification. The United States hopes that other Governments will be able to support the early negotiation of an FMCT, as well as our landmines proposal.

Released on August 4, 2004

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