January 26, 1999


Address to the Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, Switzerland

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

Before I begin my own remarks, it is a pleasure for me to be able to deliver to the Conference on Disarmament a message from the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. His message is as follows:

"As the Conference on Disarmament begins its work in the new year, I want to underline the strong commitment of the United States to prompt resumption of negotiations on the next key multilateral step in the nuclear disarmament process: a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Only your focussed and energetic efforts can cap, for all time, the material basis of nuclear weapons, thereby complementing your success in concluding the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, and moving another step closer to the eventual goal of nuclear disarmament. Let us devote our mutual and full support to advancing substantially the fissile material cutoff treaty negotiation this year and to completing it at the earliest possible time.

At the same time, the Conference should initiate negotiations on a ban on the transfer of anti-personnel landmines, an effort that will substantially broaden the web of constraints on these weapons. I pledge the full support of the United States to Ambassador Grey and our delegation, in particular in fulfilling their responsibilities as President of the Conference in the session's opening weeks."

Mr. President, as foreshadowed by President Clinton's message, my comments today will focus on the negotiations of a fissile material cutoff treaty (or FMCT). How the Conference handles this issue will affect its future role as well as the future of multilateral arms control. Successful conclusion of an FMCT would bring us a large step closer toward a world in which the risks and roles of nuclear weapons are further diminished - and toward our ultimate aim, the elimination of these weapons.

The CD is now poised to begin FMCT negotiations. We urge you not to delay. The sooner you re-establish the ad hoc committee and get down to work, the sooner we will realize this long-sought objective of the international community.

The unanimous support for the cutoff resolution by the UN First Committee last fall underscores the continued importance the international community places on these negotiations. As recognized in the 1995 Principles and Objectives document, the FMCT is the next practical step to be taken in multilateral arms control and will move the nuclear weapon states one step farther along the road toward nuclear disarmament, in accordance with their commitments under Article VI of the NPT.

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What would the FMCT accomplish? How does it promote our goals?

A cut-off Treaty would create a legal, verifiable ban on the further production of the fissile materials for nuclear weapons. By imposing a finite ceiling on the amount of material for nuclear weapons, we also help cement in place a ceiling on the world's nuclear arsenals.

Skeptics may argue that cutoff is too modest; the nuclear weapon states have more than enough fissile material, and have halted its production in any event. But this argument is based on the faulty assumption that the current state of affairs is locked into place. Who can say that the international political and strategic situation will not reverse itself, creating new incentives for the nuclear weapon states to re-embark on the production of nuclear material?

To ensure that wishful thinking becomes reality, we must act now, when all states are prepared to negotiate this treaty. The CD's strength and its value lies in the fact that you craft treaties and establish global norms that endure for the long-term.

Just as important, the FMCT will prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives by states not party to the NPT. This, too, would be a major achievement. It would also open to strict monitoring and verification the production facilities of all states not now subject to such monitoring, and it would be a stabilizing influence in otherwise unstable regions.

An FMCT would help produce a climate conducive to continued, long-term progress on reducing nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon material. Looking beyond START III negotiations, it seems clear to us that the prospects for negotiating deeper reductions would be enhanced if we have in place a dependable cap on fissile material for weapons, as well as confidence that the international community would detect illegal production.

An FMCT also would help make nuclear arms reductions irreversible. The United States and Russia currently are pursuing verifiable means to dispose of fissile material from nuclear weapons material stockpiles and dismantled warheads, and to put such material under safeguards. These efforts will have even greater impact if unmonitored production of fissile material is banned.

But let us be frank. Reaching agreement on the benefits of an FMCT is easy. The challenge before us is to reach agreement on the myriad of issues involved in this complex, multilateral treaty. Many issues are highly technical, many require excruciating attention to detail, and most importantly, many involve delicate political and national security concerns. The Conference on Disarmament has confronted comparable challenges in the past -- most recently in its negotiation of the CTBT -- and has demonstrated its ability to surmount them. The U.S. is optimistic that, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and constructive negotiations, the CD will again prove its value by concluding an FMCT. The first obviously indispensable step is to get started promptly.

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Mr. President, I would like to address two key Treaty elements -- scope and verification -- on which there will undoubtedly be a variety of positions. I will lay out U.S. views on these two issues and hope that other states do likewise so that we can proceed to work to narrow our differences.

Related to the scope of the Treaty, let me make clear at the outset that the United States understands and shares the widespread concerns about effectively managing and irreversibly reducing existing stocks. We are taking important steps in this regard on our own, bilaterally with Russia, and on a trilateral basis with the IAEA.

The United States and Russia have each declared hundreds of tons of fissile material in excess of defense needs. We are putting excess plutonium under international safeguards and the IAEA is verifying the down-blending of HEU. In cooperation with the IAEA, we and Russia are working to ensure that such stocks will never again be used in weapons. We also have agreements with Russia to blend down excess high-enriched uranium for use in civil power reactors, to convert old production reactors, to construct storage facilities for weapons material and to dispose of excess plutonium.

The cutoff will complement and enhance the prospects for success for each of these initiatives. But the cutoff itself cannot be a vehicle for addressing existing stocks. The U.S. position is well known -- we will not agree to any restrictions on existing stocks in a cutoff treaty.

The many initiatives just described provide the best means to deal with existing stocks issues. We also note that several other key states also strongly oppose the inclusion of existing stocks. To be sure, various proposals for addressing existing stocks have been suggested, but it is hard to see how any could command consensus. Where we can find common ground is on a treaty that targets future production.

It is unrealistic to hope that a multilateral, non-discriminatory treaty where all parties are to be treated equally can directly reduce perceived regional or bilateral disparities. The U.S. and Russian initiatives demonstrate that at this stage bilateral efforts is an effective way to address perceived imbalances.

I also note that including existing stocks could have consequences that most of us would find troublesome. To include existing stocks in any way, even if just declarations of existing military stockpiles could legally codify and recognize the right to have such stocks -- legitimizing the nuclear weapons programs of states outside the NPT that made such declarations.

Likewise, the United States firmly believes that the proposal to place all military stocks under comprehensive safeguards is also unrealistic and beyond the scope of the mandate.

As with any negotiations, we must be realistic and aim for what can be achieved. We have all agreed, in accepting the Shannon mandate, in last year's UNFC resolution, and in the mandate to establish the AHC last year, that the cutoff should ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. That's what we can achieve. That's what the market will bear. Let us negotiate expeditiously such a treaty. We believe it is in all of our interests to do so.

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In addition to establishing the basic scope of the treaty, we must consider how to verify that states are complying with the treaty's basic obligations. As the mandate directs, the treaty will have to be effectively verifiable. Different states likely will interpret those words differently.

It will be up to you to reach agreement on how much verification is required and where to strike a balance between verification intrusiveness and protection of sensitive information. CD precedent tells us that you will achieve this difficult task. But it will be a challenging one that merits considerable and sustained attention from the outset.

The mandate also says that the treaty should be non-discriminatory. The United States considers this a key provision and would not accept any arrangements that established new or special categories of countries. Also I have already emphasized, it should prohibit only the new production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices. Thus, the treaty's verification provisions should focus on material produced after the treaty's cutoff date.

From these principles of verification, let me turn to specifics.

In our view, the verification regime should consist of routine monitoring and inspections, using widely applied standards and procedures and, where appropriate, standards and procedures tailored to the objectives of the treaty and the kinds of facilities involved. The regime should routinely monitor all enrichment and reprocessing facilities, as well as all so-called downstream facilities -- that is, those that use, process or store newly produced material -- when such material is present. It should also cover all newly produced fissile material.

Following the example of other arms control agreements, an FMCT should also include non-routine inspections with detailed managed access provisions. Managed access and possibly other mechanisms for declared and undeclared facilities and other locations will need to ensure effective verification without compromising sensitive national security information or providing information that could assist potential proliferators.

We believe that the IAEA should have FMCT verification responsibilities. But lest this causes confusion, let me make clear that we believe an FMCT will complement, not replace or seek to replicate, the NPT. It could not replace a document that is, in a word, irreplaceable -- and vital to the security of all peoples.

The FMCT will comprise its own unique set of obligations involving some states that have produced unsafeguarded fissile material and may very well have such material on hand. Unlike the NPT, which imposes upon states an absolute prohibition against nuclear weapons for non-nuclear weapon states and a comprehensive safeguards regime appropriate for that objective, the FMCT seeks to ensure that there will be no further production of fissile material for explosive purposes.

The verification regime should be tailored to reflect the uniqueness of this treaty. We believe that the most efficient way to do that is to bring all enrichment and reprocessing facilities, as well as all newly produced fissile material, under international verification and monitoring for all time. Thus, any fissile material that is enriched or reprocessed after the cutoff date would be subject to the treaty. That will be the legacy of the FMCT and that is a legacy worth accomplishing.

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Mr. President, I am honored to have appeared before this Conference at what we all expect to be the launching of the next major multilateral negotiation on the road to the elimination of nuclear weapons. The road may be rough in places, but hard work, dedication and a willingness to find accommodation will bring us a valuable and effective treaty that will make the world a safer place. Let us get to work.