October 16, 1996

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
REMARKS AT THE UNITED NATIONS, FIRST
COMMITTEE, NEW YORK, NY

Mr. Chairman, the United States congratulates you on your assumption of the chair, and pledges its cooperation in the important deliberations that lie ahead.

As recent events in this very building have confirmed, this is a time of unprecedented progress for international peace and disarmament. The cornerstone of the world's nonproliferation architecture has been made permanent and strengthened. A global convention to outlaw poison gas is poised to enter into force. We have reversed the nuclear arms race and stepped back from the nuclear precipice. And now we have erected a mighty international barrier against the further development and proliferation of nuclear weapons, with an historic treaty that ends nuclear explosive testing.

But a vast agenda still lies before us. Its leading elements were outlined here at the United Nations by President Clinton on September 24 -- the Chemical Weapons Convention in force, a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, further controls on nuclear arms, a stronger Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards, a more enforceable Biological Weapons Convention, a worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines.

Today we must address that agenda with particular care. For our great progress in recent years brings not only rewards but responsibilities -- including a special responsibility now to seize all that is attainable in our quest for a safer world.

If every avenue ended at a brick wall, our descendants might forgive some measure of carelessness in deciding precisely how to beat our heads against it. But we are in an era of breakthroughs. That means we owe our best and most considered judgments on how to proceed, lest historic opportunities be lost.

So I would like to discuss here today what might seem a bureaucratic issue, but is in fact one that could decide whether disarmament will advance and accelerate, or stall in its tracks. The issue is, what venues -- which of our institutions and structures -- are best suited for advancing each element of the immense arms control agenda that remains?

The first item on the agenda is unfinished business -- to bring the Chemical Weapons Convention into force.

In this case the proper forum is in individual states and their ratification processes. Of the 65 states necessary to trigger the 180-day countdown toward entry into force, 64 have now deposited instruments of ratification. Regrettably, the United States is not among them. Last month the CWC was withdrawn from consideration in the U.S. Senate. But every nation here should know that our ratification effort will resume promptly in the next months, without political distractions.

The United States intends to be an original party to this Convention. As President Clinton said, "we will join the ranks of nations determined to prevent the spread of chemical weapons." Meanwhile, we are actively destroying U.S. chemical weapon stockpiles.

The next major achievable step in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation is a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. As with the test ban, this treaty deferred must not be a treaty denied.

The FMCT must become an urgent priority in the body now seized of it. Indeed, it is a perfect opportunity for the Conference on Disarmament to confirm once again its viability and effectiveness. That body's long experience, substantive expertise, and sound procedures should be put to use, not to pasture.

Indeed, to negotiate the FMCT now would build on the CD's achievements in 1992, in the CWC, and also in 1996, in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. For I submit that the CD did not fail, but succeeded, in the CTBT negotiations. It drew every ounce of consensus available from its 6l members. It brought together all five of the nuclear weapon states -- all the countries most immediately affected by the Treaty -- in agreement not only to the principle of a test ban, but on every word of a specific text, which all five have now signed.

The CD's achievement has been validated by the overwhelming vote in favor of the CTBT in the 50th UN General Assembly, and is being further consolidated by the 125 states that have already signed the Treaty, plus the one -- Fiji -- that has already deposited its instrument of ratification. The United States will spare no effort in seeking the CTBT's ratification and formal entry into force.

Lest any doubt linger about the CD's performance, its value can be reconfirmed and underscored by action on the FMCT.

A multilateral, effectively verifiable cutoff treaty will complement the CTBT's qualitative cap on nuclear weapons by capping, worldwide, the fissile material available for such weapons. It will cut off the life blood for arms races, old and new. International monitoring will extend to currently unsafeguarded production facilities.

Such a cutoff has long been on the global disarmament agenda. India's Prime Minister Nehru, for example, first called for it in 1954. And last year, of course, the NPT Conference called for "[t]he immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations."

To fulfill that assignment, the Conference on Disarmament must again break free of artificial linkages that in this case would hold even the beginning of formal FMCT negotiations hostage to other agendas, such as a preordained schedule for eliminating all nuclear weapons.

After our test ban experience, we should not have to belabor the argument that a strategy of linkage is a strategy of failure. Holding a useful, achievable step in abeyance to force pursuit of a far more sweeping and difficult objective is a good way to achieve neither.

The cause of international peace and disarmament -- and the Conference on Disarmament itself -- will both be stronger the sooner the CD turns effectively to the task of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

But to reject linkage is not to deny relevance. The world's nuclear arsenals must keep shrinking.

Again, the question is where, and how, to pursue that. For the foreseeable future, the best answer is in bilateral negotiations -- a judgment that finds support both in the record and in the nature of our institutions.

In recent years there has been dramatic progress in nuclear reductions. Cuts under the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are more than two years ahead of schedule. Both the U.S. and the Russian Federation have already reduced nuclear delivery vehicles below the limits set for December 1999.

And these are real arms reductions -- not pie in the sky, but weapons on the ground literally being sliced to pieces. Nuclear disarmament, thought utopian for so many years, now is being practiced in a major way, in the real world.

Progress is not confined to the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Acting unilaterally, France is in the process of eliminating its land based nuclear-armed missiles. By the end of 1998, the United Kingdom will have only one nuclear weapons system, and it will carry nearly 60 percent less explosive power than the UK had during the 1970s.

We are determined to see the elimination of nuclear weapons continue. President Clinton told the General Assembly last month that, "When Russia ratifies START II, President Yeltsin and I are ready to discuss the possibilities of further cuts -- as well as limiting and monitoring nuclear warheads and materials. This will help make deep reductions irreversible."

Yet some propose moving strategic arms control efforts to a global forum. One proposal is that the Conference on Disarmament should now undertake negotiations to abolish the arsenals of the nuclear weapon states.

Let me say, as a staunch friend of the CD, that this would be an inappropriate forum taking up an unamenable subject. For it is no act of friendship to elevate expectations for a forum far beyond its capacities. Climbing down from Cold War peaks of nuclear weapons has been an intricate process, involving careful bilateral trade-offs, specialized verification, and a constantly shifting menu of sensitive national security calculations. There is simply no realistic prospect that the CD could manage such an effort.

Last year's NPT conference itself recognized the practical realities. The program of action declares that the test ban and the fissile cutoff should be completed by the Conference on Disarmament. But it says efforts to reduce nuclear weapons should be pursued "by the nuclear weapon states." Those are the right assignments.

Is it wrong to be impatient? Absolutely not. For we are working to take down weapons of terrible power. They deserve no indulgence. Is this the business only of the nuclear weapon states? On the contrary, there is ample room for careful thought and constructive opinion about how disarmament should proceed -- and abundant opportunity for debate. Indeed, the five have made themselves specifically answerable for their progress in the NPT review conferences, and will surely be called to account elsewhere.

All I ask is that we take great care to nurture and grasp our opportunities as they arise -- that we not tie ourselves up in a forum that cannot work or a strategy that cannot succeed -- that we instead keep our eye on the prize, and keep advancing steadily toward it.

The next priority President Clinton identified was to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards.

Here there is no real dispute about the proper forum, for under the Treaty there are established bodies with the requisite competence and motivation.

Progress is being made in three vital areas. First, "Programme 93+2" presents a rare opportunity to apply the lessons of Iraq, amplify the lessons of North Korea, and give the IAEA, in President Clinton's words, "a stronger role and sharper tools for conducting worldwide inspections." We urge the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors to approve as soon as possible a protocol to give the Agency greater access to relevant information, sites, and technologies -- such as environmental sampling -- to reinforce its ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities in states under comprehensive safeguards.

Second, universal adherence to the NPT is drawing ever closer. There have been 46 new members since the end of the Cold War. Only seven countries still remain outside.

Third, NPT parties are already preparing for the 2000 NPT Review Conference process, which will begin with the first PrepCom meeting in 1997. The United States supports implementation of last year's NPT decisions. We are treating the PrepCom meetings as both substantive and procedural. And we will be working to ensure that both the PrepCom process and Treaty Review are balanced, and treat all aspects of the NPT with equal thoroughness.

The Biological Weapons Convention is also being strengthened by its parties, acting under the aegis of that treaty.

In September 1994, a Special Conference of States Parties to the Convention established an Ad Hoc Group, open to all parties, to address, through a legally binding protocol, the lack of specific compliance measures in the Convention itself. This protocol will enable the Convention to exploit arms control advances, such as short-notice inspections, that have emerged since the Convention was signed in 1972. And since the protocol is distinct from the Convention, the Convention's broad prohibitions will remain fully in force for all 139 states parties -- with no weakening of the international norm they represent.

After two years of discussion, the Ad Hoc Group has identified the basic framework for a compliance protocol, and has agreed to intensify its work over the next twelve months. Last month President Clinton called for completion by 1998, a goal shared by the European Union.

This effort will succeed if it remains resolutely focused on the task at hand: preventing deadly diseases from being used as instruments of terrorism or war. We must come to closure on measures to make clear that any would-be proliferator's actions will not go unnoticed or unanswered by the international community.

The international community will soon decide how to continue our ambitious strides to control and then eliminate the use of antipersonnel landmines.

We classify as "weapons of mass destruction" weapons that can destroy whole cities. Landmines routinely are destroying the equivalent of whole cities, one person at a time, day in and day out, as they lie in wait years after a conflict is over to kill and maim innocent civilians.

This past year saw a major step forward, with agreement on an amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons to ban non-detectable and unmarked long-lived antipersonnel landmines. It will avert thousands of deaths and disabilities every year. We urge all countries to adhere to amended Protocol II.

Now our task is to negotiate as soon as possible a global ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel landmines. We are looking at a number of possible paths to such a Treaty including, as Secretary Christopher has said, the Conference on Disarmament. There are other possible venues, and we are continuing to consult on this issue.

Whatever route is chosen, the United States is committed to a total ban on anti-personnel landmines. As we pursue it, we are also working hard to find alternatives for the circumstances where such mines remain a military necessity, so that we can end our reliance on them as soon as possible. That is a technical and economic challenge. But the human carnage wreaked by landmines every single day also makes it essential. As President Clinton said last month, "Our children deserve to walk the Earth in safety."

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, the United Nations has entered the second half-century of its work for disarmament, international security and peace. And it has become clear that our efforts in this half-century must be guided by the arc of our progress in the last.

For look at the remarkable strides we have taken.

A few short years ago, the growth of nuclear arsenals seemed inexorable. Today, arsenals in the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom are shrinking. In prior decades, we seemed powerless to oppose those who would use poison gas or deadly organisms in war or acts of terror. Now, we are closing in on entry into force of a treaty banning chemical weapons, and are giving teeth to the one that bans biological weapons. A world that witnessed more than 2000 nuclear explosions has brought an end to that era.

All this progress is far more than a prelude to the real work of disarmament. It is the real work of disarmament, as it takes down weapons and lifts our sights to the next step we can take. Each of these strides, and others, were made not by aiming for chasm-spanning leaps, but for concrete achievable steps, first to stem the tide, then to turn it.

It may be tempting to think that all this has resulted from leverage. But disarmament does not occur on demand. Security, not leverage, yields progress.

Recall that some were wary of extending the NPT indefinitely, because they thought the nuclear weapon states afterwards would lose interest in the test ban. Instead, we intensified our efforts.

That happened because in arms control each forward step creates a new security reality ... and so changes security thinking ... and so generates possibilities unimaginable before. The CWC, a permanent and stronger NPT, the INF and START reductions, the test ban, all combine to yield a clearer picture of a secure future, in which further steps can confidently be pursued. At each step up the security ladder we can see better and further, and so do more.

Last month, President Clinton declared at the General Assembly that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "points us toward a century in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced, and ultimately eliminated."

Now we will decide, through the fateful choices we make on how to proceed, whether we will sustain our momentum, or squander it.

If we choose badly, we risk not only tomorrow's progress, but today's. As historian Edward Gibbon said, "All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance."

But if we choose wisely and well, our next half-century of progress can be even greater than the last -- and future generations will celebrate towering victories in the cause of security, disarmament and peace.