October 14, 1998

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ARMS CONTROL AND
INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS AND DIRECTOR,
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY

Statement to the United Nations
First Committee General Debate
New York, NY

Mr. Chairman, the First Committee meets this year at a time of serious challenges to world security.

This decade has brought remarkable achievements in arms control and non- proliferation. They need no elaboration, for the members of this Committee have contributed greatly to their realization. Continued deep reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces; the signing of our longest-sought, hardest-fought goal, the CTBT; the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; entry into force of the CWC; the considerable strengthening of the Nuclear Suppliers Group including full scope safeguards as a supply condition; the decisions by South Africa and several states of the Former Soviet Union to abandon and forswear nuclear weapons, and of several others to rule out the possibility -- all of these represent major progress toward a new era in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons are further reduced and ultimately abolished.

But there are glaring exceptions to this positive trend. It is a fair assessment that just as the world's resistance to weapons of mass destruction has stiffened, the hardest cases all have grown worse. Indeed, if past First Committee sessions have reflected the hope borne of mighty achievements, this one ought to reflect the sobering reality that our common endeavors have lost ground to make up. This First Committee, I suggest, needs to concentrate especially hard on the real work at hand.

Against the advances of the past decade, the nuclear weapon tests conducted last May by India and Pakistan are all the more deplorable and disheartening.

These tests not only pose a serious challenge to the international nonproliferation regime, but present profound dangers on the ground. The world learned painfully along with the United States and the Soviet Union how high the risk of war becomes when ballistic missile velocities reduce attack warning to a matter of minutes. But that was for intercontinental ranges. If nuclear-capable missiles are deployed, India and Pakistan will have no minutes. Flight times will be less than reaction times, and there will be a hair trigger on nuclear war.

This year has also brought intensified concern about nuclear weapon potential in North Korea and, most recently, the provocative launch by North Korea, which passed directly over Japanese territory, raising serious concerns in Japan, shared by its close friends and allies, including the United States.

In another tense region -- the Gulf -- proliferation of mass destruction weapons also concerns the international community. Iraq's continuing resistance to UNSCOM and IAEA inspections and Iran's development of longer-range missiles diminish international security.

It is up to all of us to find the silver lining in these figurative mushroom clouds in South Asia and other ominous developments. By sharpening the world's focus on the dangers of proliferation, the events of this year may show the way forward, and the international response to these problems gives us some cause for hope.

Within a few days of the nuclear weapon tests that so shocked the world, many key institutions and groups of nations had condemned the tests and laid out measures India and Pakistan would have to take to regain standing within the international community. The G-8, the permanent members of the Security Council, the Rio Group, the Security Council in Resolution 1172, and 47 members of the Conference on Disarmament, all delivered a clear, firm and consistent message: India and Pakistan must take concrete steps to bring their actions in line with global nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament norms.

Among the most urgent measures or benchmarks established by the international community are:

  • an end to nuclear testing and prompt signature and ratification of the CTBT without conditions;

  • an end to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and to that end, engagement in productive negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty;

  • restraint in the deployment of nuclear capable missiles; and

  • controls on the export of sensitive materials.

The international community has also called on India and Pakistan to continue discussions to alleviate tensions between them, including those arising in Kashmir.

In our bilateral efforts with both India and Pakistan, the United States has urged the same steps. The steadfastness and unity of the world community have yielded some progress. We regard positively the announcements by both nations' prime ministers to the General Assembly that their countries are prepared to adhere to the CTBT. We also welcome their agreement to engage in fissile material cutoff negotiations, which began last August in the Conference on Disarmament. And leaders of the two countries agreed to resume a review of outstanding disputes.

Clearly, tangible progress on the international community's benchmarks will take more time. It will also take a steadfast international community. For our part, until more progress is achieved, lifting sanctions and strengthening cooperation with India and Pakistan will be difficult. At the same time we remain committed to continuing our discussions at both the senior and expert levels.

* * * *

Events in South Asia underscore the tremendous importance of efforts to enhance our common security through international agreements and norms.

Some say the inadequate progress toward complete nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states justifies or explains Indian and Pakistani actions. With all respect, that is nonsense. I identify with the yearning for more progress -- and with disappointment that the process can be difficult and slow. But can anyone honestly believe that nuclear weapon tests in South Asia are good for the cause of disarmament? Are more nuclear explosions and prolifera-tion really the route to fewer nuclear weapons?

Other skeptics say South Asian testing shows that the CTBT and the NPT are worthless. In fact, it confirms that they are essential. The problem is not the NPT or the CTBT. The problem is that, unlike most of the rest of the world, India and Pakistan have not joined. Now, in response to international appeals, both states have told the UNGA they will indeed join the CTBT, rather than pursue continued saber-rattling with more tests. In time, the international community has made clear its expectation that they will also adhere to the NPT, as non-nuclear weapon states.

We must seize this moment of heightened attention to global security to strengthen the international regime.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone. Brazil's recent accession brings the NPT closer to universality and clearly illustrates its continued significance to ensuring global security. The 2000 NPT Review Conference promises to provide further opportunities to strengthen this vital nonproliferation instrument.

Since 1992 the International Atomic Energy Agency has adopted a series of new measures to strengthen its safeguards system, most notably a Model Protocol that gives the IAEA new tools to assist in tracking the use and location of nuclear materials around the world. The United States has already signed a Protocol that includes all of the measures in the Model Protocol. We hope all countries will adopt such protocols to their IAEA agreements.

Even before it has entered into force, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty has created a nearly universal expectation that countries will not conduct nuclear test explosions. This norm helped create the climate for widespread condemnation of Indian and Pakistani testing. President Clinton is committed to securing the U.S. Senate's advice and consent to ratification, and we encourage such action by all other states that have yet to do so, in order to bring the CTBT into force at the earliest possible time. This will cement the prohibition against nuclear tests and provide a robust verification regime to help the international community detect and deter them.

The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty is the next logical multilateral step in advancing our shared nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. We should be encouraged that in the wake of events in South Asia, all 61 members of the CD agreed to begin these negotiations, which we strongly hope will resume quickly in January. The treaty would cap the amount of fissile material available for nuclear weapons globally; extend verification measures to all enrichment and reprocessing facilities; and prohibit those countries that have recently halted fissile material production for weapons, including the United States, from resuming it. It will also foster the creation of a climate conducive to continued, long-term progress on reducing nuclear-weapon stockpiles and promote stability in regions where the risks of escalating arms races are greatest.

Of course getting negotiations underway is the easy part. Important national interests are at stake. Complex technical issues will not easily be solved. We urge all states to negotiate in good faith with an eye toward completing these negotiations in a timely manner. We believe that can be done.

* * * *

Nuclear weapons occupy the bulk of our attention. But we also have vitally important work ahead on other weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery and on especially destructive conventional arms.

We must devote ourselves to fully implementing prohibitions on biological and chemical weapons. That means completing next year the work of the BWC Ad Hoc Group on a compliance protocol. It also means destroying existing stocks of chemical weapons under the CWC's regime. We must do all we can to ensure that these weapons, which humanity rightly considers particularly repulsive, do not proliferate further and are not available for terrorist use.

All states should cooperate with export control regimes to prevent proliferation of mass destruction weapons and their delivery systems. States that adhere to the international nonproliferation and disarmament norms have nothing to fear from such controls. At the same time, states that possess high technology have a responsibility to prevent the proliferation of that technology to states or non-state actors that would use it to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction.

With the Ottawa Convention entering into force next March, we applaud efforts by the Convention's supporters to eliminate anti-personnel landmines and the humanitarian crisis they cause. We share that goal. Although U.S. security concerns have prevented us from signing the Convention, we will do so by 2006 if we succeed in identifying and fielding suitable alternatives to our APL and anti-tank systems.

Meanwhile, the U.S. believes it is important for the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate an APL transfer ban, to help dry up the supply of APL from states not party to the Ottawa Convention.

A serious challenge to all nations -- and one of growing international interest, and rightly so -- is to restrict and regulate the flow of small arms. Secretary of State Albright has recently underscored U.S. support for a number of initiatives to address this problem. She stressed the importance of responsible arms transfer practices that are effective worldwide, to be negotiated under UN auspices based on the pathbreaking convention against illicit trafficking negotiated by the Organization of American States. We should set the year 2000 as a target date to conclude those talks, as well as to restrict the export of shoulder-fired missiles. And Secretary Albright also called for an international center to collect and share information on arms transfers.

* * * *

Especially this year, as we take up these many challenges, we should reject efforts to "change the subject." It may be natural to want to focus on the weapons and policies of the other guy. And doubtless it is natural to want to place the main burden on the biggest guys. The nuclear weapon states' work toward nuclear disarmament is, of course, a critical piece of the picture. But it is far from the entire canvas, and it must not be used to excuse inaction or justify wholly unacceptable action by others. The challenge to strengthen global security is put before us all.

Let me assure you the United States remains committed to nuclear disarmament pursuant to NPT Article VI.

Over the past decade the United States has eliminated more than 10,000 nuclear weapons from its military arsenal, along with more than 1,700 missile launchers and bombers under the INF and START I treaties. We have not conducted a nuclear weapon test explosion since 1992, ceased the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons many years ago, and have removed more than 200 tons of fissile material from our military stockpile.

The United States and the Russian Federation together have deactivated or eliminated more than 18,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. At last year's Helsinki Summit, President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed that the next step in strategic arms control will take us to a cumulative 80 percent reduction from Cold War peaks of deployed weapons. And we are working jointly to remove and make unsuitable for weapons use large quantities of fissile material. At the recent Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed on principles for the disposition, by each country, of approximately 50 metric tons of plutonium released from defense programs. We are both already blending down HEU from our defense programs for use as power reactor fuel.

Although not participants in formal negotiations on the reduction of nuclear arms, the United Kingdom and France have unilaterally eliminated entire classes of nuclear weapons and substantially reduced the overall levels of their nuclear forces.

What is most significant is what these reductions say about the lessened role of nuclear weapons arms in world affairs. Who can now believe that the great powers of the future will be defined as those possessing nuclear weapons?

  • Surely not the courageous leaders of South Africa, who abandoned a nuclear weapons program in the recognition that their country would be more secure by supporting and adhering to global nonproliferation norms.

  • Surely not Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which chose the status of non-nuclear weapon states and returned all nuclear weapons not destroyed on their soil to Russia.

  • Surely not Germany and Japan, the two economic giants and leading candidates for permanent membership in the Security Council, which decided it was not in their interest to use their technical capabilities to develop nuclear weapons and joined the NPT in the 1970's.

  • Surely not the 182 non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT, which decided that they could maintain their security -- and prestige, for that matter -- far better by agreeing to forswear nuclear weapons than by engaging in a costly and dangerous effort to acquire nuclear weapons.

The reduced role of nuclear weapons can also be seen in the expansion of nuclear weapon free zones, which now cover about 100 countries. If South Asia became a nuclear weapon free zone, India and Pakistan could seek the same legally binding assurances nuclear weapon states now extend to Latin American and the Caribbean and shortly will provide to the states of the South Pacific and the African continent.

The choice is clear to all of us. We can continue on the road toward further strengthening the global nonproliferation regime and reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, or we can turn away and invite the perils of nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race. The vast majority of the international community has chosen the first course. The United States will make its contribution to sustaining the world's momentum in that same direction; we have a responsibility to do so. We hope countries that took a different path are rethinking their decisions.

With a new awareness of the stakes, let us renew our determination, redouble our efforts, and move all nations toward the destination of a safer world.

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