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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2002

57th Session of the United Nations First Committee

Stephen G. Rademaker, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Arms Control
Remarks by the Representative of the U.S. to the 57th Session of the United Nations First Committee
New York, New York
October 3, 2002

(As delivered)

Mr. Chairman:

Allow me to congratulate you and the members of the Bureau on your election to your responsible posts. I am confident that your collective experience and skill will serve us well in our important work. I wish to assure you of the support of my delegation in the discharge of your responsibilities.

I note with great satisfaction the approach of the tenth anniversary of the UN Register of Conventional Arms. The participation of more than 160 countries in the Register process makes it truly a global confidence-building measure, and I look forward to it becoming a universal measure in the years to come.

It is a great pleasure for me to appear before this committee for the first time to discuss the approach of the United States to arms control and nonproliferation. Nowhere else in the world could as much arms control expertise and experience be found together in one room. I look forward to working with you, learning from you, and making progress in confronting the challenges we face.

We meet at a time of both great promise and great danger.

-- Promise, because the two states with by far the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons, recognizing that they are no longer adversaries, have decided to reduce their nuclear forces dramatically.

-- Danger, because the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is increasing and the terrorist attacks whose anniversaries we recently commemorated make abundantly clear the threats we will all face if terrorists gain access to such weapons.

In speaking to you today, I would like to highlight the continuing importance of arms control in light of both this promise and this danger. 

Bilateral agreements

The demise of Communism in the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War were among the most dramatic -- and most positive -- developments in international relations of the past half century. Not everyone appreciated the new opportunities presented by these developments, however, and many were reluctant to part with the familiar institutions of the Cold War. It was widely predicted, for example, that the ABM Treaty could not be ended without plunging the world into a new arms race.

We have proven over the past year, however, that these predictions were ill-founded. The ABM Treaty was amicably terminated, and the U.S. and Russia promptly agreed to implement the largest reduction ever in deployed nuclear forces.

The rapid negotiation of the U.S.-Russian Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, or "Moscow Treaty" for short, and the accompanying Joint Declaration on the New Strategic Relationship, was made possible by the new strategic framework President Bush constructed with Russia. As contrasted with strategic arms control during the Cold War, the negotiation of these agreements did not require years to work out complicated limits, sub-limits, and verification regimes -- regimes that both countries agreed were unnecessary in this Treaty. In a few short months, the United States and Russia were able to record in a formal, long-lasting treaty the decisions each had made on the reduction of its strategic nuclear warheads.

Thus the two parties put into legal form their respective commitments to each reduce by several thousands the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700 to 2,200 by the end of 2012. These reductions represent a cut of about two-thirds below current levels and far below the Cold War figures.

At the same time, the United States and Russia agreed on a Joint Declaration, which addresses broader aspects of the new strategic framework. It focuses on the closely linked threats of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and acknowledges the major improvements in the nature of the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship. It establishes a Consultative Group for Strategic Security, which held its first meeting two weeks ago in Washington. This body, which includes the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries, will permit us to continue discussions to explore additional ways to enhance transparency and predictability.

In concluding the Moscow Treaty, the United States has once again taken steps in accordance with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Regrettably, just as the world is turning away from the balance of terror between the superpowers, we find ourselves confronted with a dramatically increased threat of terrorism. We Americans have seen first hand the havoc terrorists could wreak when armed with knives. We shudder to imagine how much more death and destruction they would seek to inflict if they chose to use weapons of mass destruction.

This is nothing less than a fight between civilization and barbarism. There are roles in this fight for the law enforcement community, the military, public health workers, and others. What the arms control community can do is to strengthen the international framework to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists, or into the hands of states that support terrorism as a matter of national policy. The arms control community can also better enforce obligations undertaken in the existing frameworks. Obligations must be lived up to if they are to serve a useful purpose.

We believe every country in the world should belong to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention; that every country belonging to them should fully comply with their provisions; and that Parties must hold each other accountable and take appropriate steps to deter violations.

The universal adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol would give us greater assurance of compliance with the NPT. In this regard, I am pleased to report that earlier this year the President submitted to the United States Senate the U.S. Additional Protocol. Through IAEA safeguards and other means, the international community must sustain efforts to reduce the threat of diversion of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology.

The strong U.S. commitment to effective multilateral arms control is demonstrated by our actions over the past year with respect to the OPCW. When the United States and other parties to the CWC recognized that the OPCW was not being effectively administered, the politically expedient course would have been to remain silent while the CWC slowly atrophied. Indeed, many countries strongly counseled us to follow precisely such a course. We chose instead, however, to initiate efforts to revitalize the Organization. Now that the OPCW is under new leadership, we are confident that it can effectively enforce international norms with respect to chemical weapons, provided it receives sufficient support from the international community. Accordingly, the United States is making a voluntary contribution to the organization of some $2 million. In addition, we have decided to upgrade our diplomatic representation at the OPCW in The Hague. We urge other members to join us in making such voluntary contributions to the OPCW, and in taking other steps to underscore international support for Director General Pfirter as he begins to revitalize this important institution of multilateral arms control.

Treaty Compliance

Measures to assist in verification of compliance are key features of most traditional arms control regimes, which often include provisions for declarations, inspections, and even the establishment of implementation bodies. There are instances, such as biological weapons, where other approaches are more appropriate, but in general it is the policy of the United States to support fully the efforts of such organizations as the IAEA and the OPCW. The international community must use all means at its disposal to ensure not just that key multilateral arms control treaties are complied with, but also that we keep weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery out of the hands of terrorists and state sponsors of terrorists.

The United States will introduce a resolution in this session of the First Committee that reiterates the value the international community places on compliance with arms control and nonproliferation treaty regimes. In the past, similar resolutions have achieved unanimous support. In current circumstances, I hope we can count on no less.

Conference on Disarmament

Beyond the existing regimes, the United States has repeatedly expressed support for efforts to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We support negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament of an FMCT that would advance the security interests of the negotiating parties. The effort by some CD members to hold up progress on a matter which all agree is ripe for negotiation in an attempt to force negotiations in unrelated areas is a perversion of the consensus rule of the Conference. Persisting in these efforts most assuredly will not succeed in forcing the premature commencement of negotiations in other areas. The continued deadlock in the CD will serve only to further marginalize it in international security affairs, and lead more nations to question the continued utility of the forum.

Radiological Weapons

The terrorist threat has also forced us to focus renewed attention on radiological weapons. We must foreclose the possibility of terrorists obtaining possession of radiological material and constructing a radiation dispersion weapon or "dirty bomb." The IAEA and other bodies are working on ways of improving the physical control of such material.

I appreciate the hard work and commitment of First Committee delegates in bringing forward more than fifty resolutions every year. But the grave new threats we presently face demonstrate the urgent need for actions on the part of each member state. The number of resolutions we push through every year will be of little comfort if our efforts fail to reverse the spread of weapons of mass destruction and do not prevent such weapons from falling into the wrong hands. The overriding goal of the United States through our international arms control and nonproliferation efforts is to make the world safer and more secure. I know it is a goal that you share, and I look forward to working with you all in this critical endeavor.

Released on October 7, 2002

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