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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

Remarks to 59th UN General Assembly First Committee

Stephen G. Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control
New York City
October 8, 2004

Summary: AC Assistant Secretary Stephen Rademaker addressed the plenary session of the First Committee on Friday, October 8th, decrying the lack of progress in multilateral arms control and disarmament while lauding the support and contributions of many nations for the U.S. initiative to revitalize the First Committee and its methods of work. He stressed the contemporary challenges to the goals of nuclear non-proliferation as illustrated by the discovery of the Khan network and activities of the Governments of North Korea and Iran. In anticipation of the 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, he underscored the importance of making concrete progress in multilateral arms control such as offered by the conclusion of a Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty as quickly as possible. He said that such a treaty could not wait to provide for effective verification because of the enormous complexities meaningful verification would imply, delaying implementation of a treaty intended to undercut rogue interest in nuclear weapons. He promoted a U.S. proposal to ban the sale or export of persistent landmines as another concrete area in which the Conference on Disarmament could successfully engage, ending its eight-year stalemate. He highlighted the arms control successes achieved between Russia and the United States as an encouragement for nations to develop a resolve to achieve effective multilateral arms control. Iran exercised its Right of Reply through a brief, unexceptional statement. Text as delivered follows. End summary.

Mr. Chairman, when I addressed this body last year, I said that the international community stood at a crossroads that would determine whether multilateral arms control institutions could break away from Cold War-era thinking and address new and emerging threats. I also expressed the strong hope of my Government that, collectively, we would opt for effectiveness and relevance.

Not long afterward President Bush expressed similar sentiments in an address delivered at Whitehall Palace in London. He observed that, "international organizations must be equal to the challenges facing our world, from lifting up failing states to opposing proliferation." He further stated that, "the success of multilateralism is not measured by adherence to forms alone, the tidiness of the process, but by the results we achieve to keep our nations secure."

Two days later, on November 20, 2003, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a Joint Statement on Multilateralism The Joint Statement emphasized that, "Effective multilateralism, and neither unilateralism nor international paralysis will guide our approach."

Mr. Chairman, from the perspective of the United States, progress over the past year toward our goal of effective multilateralism in the area of arms control and disarmament has been mixed.

On the positive side, the United States was very pleased with the enthusiastic reaction to the resolution that we introduced last year on the revitalization of the First Committee. The interest shown in it by so many delegations and its adoption by consensus demonstrated that many UN Member States agree that this Committee needs to change its ways of doing business.

The United States also welcomes the valuable recommendations submitted by governments to the Secretary-General on practical ways to improve the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee. Our Delegation has tabled a draft resolution that will incorporate many of those suggestions. This is a joint effort, and we shall continue to rely on the active participation and support of all delegations in developing a consensus text.

Candor requires us to admit, Mr. Chairman, that we are dismayed by the current state of the multilateral arms control machinery. Surely, the United States is not alone in this feeling. Even though the CD tackled a broader range of issues this year, it remained deadlocked over its program of work and failed, for the eighth consecutive year, to make progress on its essential function -- the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements.

In an effort to break the logjam, the United States this year called for the initiation of two negotiations at the CD: the rapid conclusion of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, using a new approach, and a ban on the sale or export of persistent landmines.

Mr. Chairman, ending the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons would enhance global strictures against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At the same time, the United States has concluded that effective international verification of an FMCT is not realistically achievable.

Our CD proposal on landmines, Mr. Chairman, is intended to help end the humanitarian crisis created by persistent landmines. According to some estimates, persistent landmines cause 10,000 to 20,000 casualties every year. Because these mines can remain active for an indefinite period, they remain dangerous to civilians for many decades after any legitimate need has passed. This initiative in the CD will complement the ongoing effort in the context of the Convention on Conventional Weapons to bring anti-vehicle landmines under further international controls.

The United States believes that these two items would constitute a realistic work program for the CD, The truth of the matter is that the Conference could not realistically deal with many more issues after eight years of inactivity. In any event, as a number of delegations have stated in Geneva this year, the CD is unlikely in the future to reach a consensus that any other proposals are ripe for negotiation.

Mr. Chairman, the NPT review Conference next year is occurring at a time of unprecedented challenge to the Treaty's nonproliferation goals. Over the past decade, the international community has witnessed deliberate violations of Articles II and III of the Treaty and an announcement of withdrawal. Events of the past year have underscored the gravity of the threat.

One year ago, the international community knew nothing of the Libyan nuclear weapons program. The Libyan Government wisely chose to reveal and eliminate it, however, and with the U.S. and U.K. assistance, and IAEA verification, that now has been accomplished. The end of Libya's nuclear program also led to the public revelation of the clandestine AQ Khan Network, and the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other governments have shut it down. These developments made clear that additional measures are needed to strengthen the NPT and the larger nuclear nonproliferation regime. President Bush's proposals of last February were aimed at that objective and at preserving the security benefits of the Treaty.

In addition, we continue to confront an overt nuclear weapons program in North Korea. North Korea's further violations of its IAEA safeguards obligations in December 2002 led the IAEA Board of Governors to refer the case to the Security Council in February 2003. North Korea has declared its withdrawal from the NPT, and continually threatens the international community with its claims of a "nuclear deterrent." Iran's efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability have led to multiple violations of its IAEA safeguards agreement under the NPT. This case remains under investigation by the IAEA, and a decisive Board of Governors meeting is scheduled for November.

These events undermine the security of all nations. the NPT Review Conference must confront these developments as a matter of urgent priority. The United States urges all NPT parties to approach the Review Conference as an opportunity to endorse common approaches that will help to ensure the long-term benefits of the NPT. We urge support for measures that will promote compliance with the Treaty's nonproliferation undertakings and remedy existing violations. In that regard, vigorous efforts to achieve universal acceptance of the IAEA Additional Protocol are essential. The United States Senate unanimously voted its consent to the ratification of the Additional Protocol last March, and we are working on the steps necessary to achieve its implementation as a matter of priority.

While there are significant differences among NPT parties on aspects of the Treaty implementation, Mr. Chairman, we have in common the shared belief, as stated in the preamble of the Treaty, that "the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war." Let us work together to achieve an outcome of the Review Conference that reinforces the contribution of the NPT to global security.

The United States, Mr. Chairman is proud of its arms control accomplishments, including our arms control collaboration with the Russian Federation. Along with our Russian partners, we hope to table a draft resolution here in the near future to demonstrate to the international community the progress that we have made in compliance with Article VI. We hope that our draft resolution will command a consensus.

Mr. Chairman, my Government has made clear its support for the principle of "effective multilateralism." It certainly is the case that pursuing objectives in a multilateral setting takes longer and requires more effort. That, we think, is a reasonable price to pay for gaining widespread support in the international community for meaningful action on key questions. It would defy logic, however, to expect states to continue to rely on multilateral processes if doing so has the effect of preventing all action. Iraq is a controversial illustration of this principle; for reasons that others, perhaps, can best explain, Kosovo is a relatively non-controversial illustration of it.

President Bush emphasized in his speech at Whitehall Palace our strong desire to see multilateralism work. He stated: "America and Great Britain have done, and will do, all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations. It's not enough to meet the dangers of the world with resolutions; we must meet those dangers with resolve." Those in this chamber who genuinely wish to see multilateralism work need to develop that resolve and the political will to support effective action against threats like nuclear proliferation and genocide in Africa.

Mr. Chairman, the United States continues to believe in the potential of the First Committee to contribute in meaningful ways to the maintenance of international peace and security. While no delegation should be expected to support measures that run counter to the security interests of its nation, the United States of America stands ready to work in good faith with others in pursuit of measures that will enhance the security of us all. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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