Good evening. It's not often this many ambassadors are gathered in one room. That might be taken as a source of friction -- as in the saying that, to the diplomat, every other country represents a problem.
But I take it instead as a source of hope and possibility.
Together, all of us in this room have the opportunity to celebrate a great achievement of statesmanship twenty-five years ago -- and to influence the most fateful vote for national security and world peace of the remainder of this century and years to come by safeguarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Some claim that a permanent NPT will legitimize nuclear weapons for all time. The Treaty does just the opposite. While standing against the further spread of nuclear weapons, the Treaty also commits all nations to seek to rid the world of those that already exist.
I'd like briefly to summarize what has been achieved under Article VI of the NPT, and to convey a sense of how we view the future under a durable Treaty.
Article VI calls for an end to the nuclear arms race. With the NPT in force, we've reached that goal. Now the race is not to build weapons, but to take them down. Routinely, now, warheads and bombs are being dismantled; strategic bombers are being cut in pieces; missile launchers are being blown apart.
In recent years, the United States and the former Soviet Union have:
* decided unilaterally to withdraw and dismantle thousands more tactical nuclear arms; and
agreed in the START and START II agreements to take more than 17,000 nuclear weapons off missiles and bombers, including the most destabilizing and deadly weapons in the world today.
Today nuclear weapons play a smaller role in United States security strategy than at any rime since their inception. Accordingly, compared to 1988 levels, we have reduced our total active stockpile by almost 60 percent; our strategic warheads by nearly half; and our non-strategic nuclear warheads by a remarkable 90 percent.
We are dismantling nuclear weapons literally as fast as we can - in all, some 2,000 nuclear weapons a year.
The Russians are also deactivating their weapons years ahead of schedule. And during their last summit in Washington, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed, once START III is ratified, to immediately unload all affected nuclear warheads. They also instructed their experts to intensify their dialogue on the possibility, after START II ratification, of further reductions of nuclear forces. The two countries are working as well on ways to make these reductions safe, transparent, and irreversible.
So we are realizing the fundamental transformation the NPT decrees -- from nuclear arms control to nuclear disarmament. And it is being done on a massive scale.
Now, as well, there are two new multilateral efforts keeping faith with Article VI -- two issues the Treaty's architects had very much in mind.
First, President Clinton has instructed our delegation in Geneva to conclude a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "at the earliest possible time." To further propel that effort, and again demonstrate good faith, the President recently has revised the U.S. negotiating position, taking off the table a ten-year withdrawal proposal that some came to see as an impediment to a treaty.
Beyond that, the President has further extended the United States moratorium on nuclear tests, to overlap with the expected completion of the test ban negotiations.
Mark well the meaning of that decision. If the Conference on Disarmament does its job, we are prepared for the conclusion that the United States has already conducted its last nuclear test, several years ago. For us, the practical effect of the test ban has already arrived.
In the second new global effort, I'm gratified that late last month, the Conference on Disarmament adopted a mandate and established an Ad Hoc Committee for a global cutoff in production of fissile material for weapons -- our best hope of putting a cap on the potential nuclear programs of the nuclear threshold states that are outside the NPT.
These steps, as you know, are part of a comprehensive an-arms control effort in 1995 -what President Clinton described a few weeks ago as "the most ambitious agenda to dismantle and fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction since the atom was split."
So, you might ask, if we have made all this progress under the current situation, why not hold the NPT hostage, to extract even greater progress? That's a bit like saying, my horse runs fast when I feed it; why don't I stop feeding it and see if it runs faster. For the NPT not only inspires arms control and disarmament; it also makes them possible, by giving the United States and other countries a clear view of a secure world, in which these arms can safely be laid down.
So if the NPT's future is jeopardized, the prospects for further arms control will diminish. Simply put, further progress in arms control depends on a permanent NPT.
Anyone tempted to make the treaty a bargaining chip must also consider that it is also distinctly and deeply in the security interests of its non-nuclear member countries -protecting against the dangers and costs of regional arms races, and warding off the possibility that nuclear weapons might someday, somewhere be used, with consequences for every nation.
And also consider that in two weeks in New York we will take up a chance to make the Treaty permanent in a way -- by simple majority vote -- that will arise only once in its lifetime. To protect the cornerstone of all arms control and nonproliferation, this chance will not come again.
Now, especially, with nuclear arsenals falling and CTBT prospects rising -- with the largest nuclear weapons states finally able to deemphasize nuclear weapons in their defense planning -- this is no time to jeopardize the covenant that has enabled us to turn the arms race around.
No one can predict definitively the nature of a world without the NPT. But the Japanese have a saying: "The nail that stands out will be hammered down." All states have felt the NPT's hammering force against nuclear weapons. In a world without the Treaty, I fear, states would avoid standing out not by resisting pressures to have nuclear weapons, but by succumbing to them.
This fateful decision is about security, not barter. Therefore we all must elevate NPT extension above the din of international politics as usual -- in the knowledge that history will not treat us kindly if we miscalculate with our children's security.
If our seriousness of purpose reflects the true stakes, I know we will do the right thing -- and safeguard this indispensable agreement for all nations, for all people, for all time.