May 15, 1997

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
STATEMENT BEFORE THE CONFERENCE ON
DISARMAMENT, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Mr. President, it is an honor again to present to this body the views of the United States -- and to congratulate you for ably discharging your duties as its President. Our delegation pledges its support in the weeks to come.

I want to discuss the progress and future of arms control, and the role of this Conference -- which I believe will depend heavily on how it handles two key issues that are clearly ripe for resolution. The first, a fissile material cutoff treaty, would take an important step toward a world in which the risks and roles of nuclear weapons are further diminished -- and our ultimate aim, their elimination, is brought closer. The second seeks to free the world of anti-personnel landmines -- for as President Clinton stressed again in his message to this body in January, our children "deserve to walk the Earth in safety."

The Conference on Disarmament has the capacity to succeed in both these vital negotiations. The evidence is manifest in its remarkable recent body of fruitful work. The Conference reported the Chemical Weapons Convention to the UN General Assembly in September 1992. It has now entered into force -- with the United States, I'm more than happy to say, among its original parties.

Last year this Conference generated the text of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, extracting all the consensus that was available. The United Nations General Assembly was able to adopt it without change -- thus completing a quest long and ardently pursued by some of the international community's greatest leaders.

These treaties define the Conference on Disarmament. This is the body where arms control negotiations, not merely discussions, are conducted. This is where the world's substantive expertise on arms control, not just its polemical vehemence, resides. This is where every perspective -- every region, every alignment, every ideology, every interest -- is represented. And as a result, this is a place where treaties of true global standing are given life -- treaties like the NPT, now with 185 members; the CWC, with 165 signatories; the CTBT, already with 144 signatories, including 41 of the 44 countries needed for entry into force.

As President Clinton made clear in his message to you this January, the United States stands ready to help expand this body of achievement. But of course the Conference itself will decide whether it will solidify its tradition of success -- or perhaps commence a slide toward the periphery of international affairs.

In short, this is a year of decision for the Conference on Disarmament.

* * * *

Consider the practical benefits of success on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Mr. President, the objective of banning the production of fissile material for any nuclear explosive device is nearly as old as the nuclear age itself. The initiatives of such statesmen as Prime Minister Nehru in 1954 and Prime Minister Trudeau in 1978 confirm the historical breadth of support for a global treaty toward that end. Indeed, for many years it was championed by the non-aligned.

In 1993, President Clinton placed the United States squarely on that same side of the issue. Also in 1993, the United Nations adopted a consensus resolution calling for a global, verifiable treaty to cut off the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive devices.

But this body -- having agreed two springs ago to a negotiating mandate -- has found itself unable to proceed because a few delegations have chosen to block consensus even to initiate negotiations.

What, in practical terms, is at stake here? Two truths are dominant. First, fissile material is the modern chokepoint -- the critical-path necessity, far scarcer than bomb know-how -- in building or enhancing nuclear stockpiles. Without it arsenals can neither be established nor expanded. And second, new fissile material for weapons requires reprocessing or enrichment.

So the issue squarely before this body is whether these processes, in perpetuity, will be used only for reactor fuel, for peaceful research, for medical isotopes and other non-explosive purposes -- and never again for nuclear weapons. The issue is whether we can safeguard newly produced material to guarantee that the stocks available for use in weapons will not and cannot grow.

We would codify in a global, binding, verifiable treaty, what has only lately become a practice of the nuclear weapon states -- one that is eminently reversible, one that is predicated on the relatively benign geopolitical security environment that thankfully prevails at this moment.

Keep in mind that this is a constraint specifically on the nuclear weapon states. They will be subject to a universal upper bound on how much fissile material can ever be devoted to nuclear weapons. All their HEU and plutonium removed from nuclear weapons and disposed of could never be replaced. All reprocessing or enrichment would be declared and subject to international verification -- for nuclear weapon states and other states alike.

Moreover, this manifestly is arms control as well as nonproliferation. It is hard to imagine how nuclear arms reductions can proceed much further without a dependable limit on the nuclear materials, without confidence that any clandestine production of fissile material will be detected.

And this step is achievable now. For the treaty should be simple and straightforward. It could be accomplished relatively quickly. And it could even make use of an existing international organization, appropriately adapted, for implementation.

So the negotiating mandate for the fissile material cutoff presents this body with a clear choice. We can continue to talk about nuclear disarmament in the abstract -- or we can get on with it in practice. With every passing week that the Conference avoids this next achievable step so plainly before it, the world must wonder, on what basis would a few states have it declare an end-point for nuclear disarmament years in the future, when it cannot even begin work on cutting off the spigot for more nuclear weapons today?

What we need is simple: A "Yes" to prompt commencement of negotiations on the basis of the existing consensus mandate. By undertaking and completing this negotiation promptly, this body can make an immediate contribution to nuclear disarmament, and keep faith with the United Nations General Assembly and the 1995 NPT Review Conference, both of which assigned this work here.

* * * *

Mr. President, there is another constituency with whom we must keep faith. They live far from the diplomatic corridors of Geneva or New York. But we must heed their pain.

In the hour or so we spend together here, a senseless and avoidable tragedy will likely strike three or four innocent human beings. Somewhere in this time, a farmer in Latin America, a child in Asia, a mother in Africa, will accidentally pull a trip wire or press a firing-pin that will detonate an anti-personnel landmine and end their lives -- or blight them forever.

Mr. President, anti-personnel landmines, or APL, have catastrophic consequences for civilian populations. They are categorized as conventional weapons, in contrast to weapons of mass destruction that can wipe out whole cities at a time. But anti-personnel landmines are wiping out the equivalent of whole cities, a few people at a time.

We have it in our power to help end this.

A year ago this week, President Clinton announced U.S. support for banning anti-personnel landmines. In our view the Conference on Disarmament should promptly agree to commence negotiations, and complete a global ban at the earliest possible time.

Strikingly, no government represented here is on record opposed to starting such work. So why is this body only negotiating about negotiations -- when the world demands that we negotiate about mines?

Aside from the paralyzing obstacle of linkage to other causes -- which I will address later -- four main objections are interposed to an anti-personnel landmine negotiation.

First, an APL treaty is alleged to be a humanitarian measure unfit for this body, which negotiates arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements. But is not such a distinction almost entirely artificial? Disarmament measures almost invariably have humanitarian effects. For example, the Chemical Weapons Convention was propelled in considerable part by the recognition that poison gas is an especially cruel weapon that operates indiscriminately, against civilians as well as soldiers.

Moreover, the humanitarian aspects of the landmine issues are being addressed in other ways. Many countries, including the United States, are contributing to the dangerous work of removing leftover mines around the world. And last year's amendments to the Convention on Conventional Weapons did much to address the humanitarian problem of civilian casualties resulting from newly-emplaced APL. What is needed now is a bold disarmament step.

The second objection is that an APL ban may not accommodate the legitimate security concerns of some states. But the CD is a body whose procedures ensure that every serious concern is seriously considered. If a concern is real and garners more than isolated support, it will likely find expression in the Conference's product.

The third bar to negotiations relates to the mandate itself. Any mandate, if unduly specific, would contain something unacceptable to somebody. A draft mandate should remain flexible as to its particulars, so long as the ultimate destination is clear. Various routes to a comprehensive APL ban might work. Negotiations evolve. We need not be stymied today by uncertainty about how to handle every turn and bump that may appear in the road tomorrow.

The fourth objection is that APL negotiations here would be incompatible with the Ottawa process. But simultaneous negotiations in this body and in Ottawa are complementary, not competitive. Each makes a valuable contribution. One is quick, involving willing countries; the other is broad and deep, involving every country represented here. They both pursue the same ultimate goal. Neither process need interfere with the other. Each can augment the other.

Complementarity means that Geneva and Ottawa together can save more lives and limbs than either could save alone.

Of course, the Conference need not fear that it will be bound by any particular product or method of the Ottawa process, for this body inevitably will develop its own text in its own way.

Those participating in the Ottawa Process do so with our good wishes. So long as this Conference bends to our common task, Ottawa's momentum and success should only inspire and heighten our own.

* * * *

Both of these priorities -- the fissile cutoff and the APL ban -- are, of course, constrained by another obstacle: the proposition that the Conference on Disarmament should do nothing else until it starts negotiating the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

I detect an assumption on the part of some here -- perhaps even an expectation -- that eventually the United States will come around and agree to such negotiations, or at least preparations for them, if only so other important items can proceed. So I want to be very clear. The real obstacle to nuclear disarmament negotiations here is not the willingness of the parties, but the capacity of the forum. It will not work. It will set back disarmament. We cannot and should not agree to it. That is true today. It will be equally true next year, and five years in the future.

Does that mean nuclear disarmament is dead? On the contrary, it is striding ahead. START I implementation is underway. In Helsinki, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin brought START II nearer fruition. And they set a vision for the next phase, after START II comes into force, with cumulative total reductions of 80 percent from Cold War peaks in START III, and the first agreed limits not only on delivery systems, but on the warheads themselves.

Clearly, the way to extend nuclear disarmament today is through the same painstaking step-by-step process that has produced such dramatic results in recent years. In contrast, bringing nuclear disarmament to this Conference unquestionably means halting all progress for the sake of a long argument over the ultimate destination, and when we must arrive there. Indeed, does anyone think any of our recent progress, including Helsinki, could pass muster here? Of course it would be blocked, because someone would pronounce it insufficient.

But the strategy of linkage is even more pernicious than that. For it aims not only to bring disarmament here, and thus stall it, but would specifically deny the basis for arms control progress elsewhere.

Real gains in arms control and disarmament depend not on leverage or altruism, but on what is possible at a given moment as a matter of security. Recall that Article VI of the NPT specifically places nuclear disarmament in a larger disarmament context -- imposing this broader obligation on all states parties. It thus embodies the essential truth that nuclear disarmament cannot occur on demand or in a vacuum, but must be approached in tandem with broader improvements in the international security environment.

The permanent NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, are all just such improvements. The enhanced nuclear safeguards under review right now in Vienna are another, and will contribute immensely more to disarmament than every resolution ever written, and every pronouncement ever made, about how the nuclear weapon states ought to do more. And cumulatively, all such practical advances explain the progress at Helsinki -- and why further steps thought impossible just three years ago are becoming possible now.

A cutoff in production of fissile material for weapons would be another step in precisely the same direction. So countries that refuse FMCT negotiations here are not only blocking one specific goal; they are undermining the prospects for the very nuclear disarmament they profess so fervently to cherish. Indeed, such an embrace offers strangulation.

So who and what are harmed as paralysis settles in on this body?

The future innocent victims of anti-personnel landmines is one answer -- mainly in nonaligned countries.

The cause of disarmament is harmed, as tangible steps here, also fostering further progress elsewhere, are immobilized.

And I suggest that grave damage can be done to the Conference on Disarmament itself -- as its credibility, standing and effectiveness are sapped by months of inaction, foreshadowing an empty future. What an irony that would be for those states who have waited years to join the Conference on Disarmament -- to miss out on its glory, and only share in its decline, as the real business of arms control seeks out more promising venues.

* * * *

Of course we can escape such dismal prospects. But not without significant change from where we are today; not without restoration of the practical, methodical, problem-solving, step-by-step methods that have enabled this body's finest hours and greatest achievements.

Without further delay, let us return to work. Let us negotiate both treaties that are now ready for action -- and thus build the intertwined twin legacies of a strong Conference on Disarmament and a safer world.