October 18, 1994

STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM
DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
TO THE FIRST COMMITTEE OF THE 49TH SESSION OF
THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
IN GENERAL DEBATE

Mr. Chairman, the United States congratulates you on your election and pledges its cooperation in the important work that lies ahead.

Congratulations are also due to the UN itself for its success in clearing away much of the divisive ideological and political underbrush that occupied so much time, to so little effect, during the era of maximum East-West and North-South confrontation. So when we celebrate the UN's 50th anniversary next year, we will be celebrating a maturation of international statesmanship as well.

A testament to that transition would be prompt, favorable action on the forthcoming U.S. initiative on anti-personnel landmines, which was highlighted by President Clinton in his address to the General Assembly three weeks ago. These indiscriminate weapons kill and maim innocent civilians every day. This year, the United States will introduce a resolution calling for their eventual elimination. We also intend to support other initiatives in this field in the First Committee, and look forward to working on this grave and urgent problem.

Of course, the UN's lead is not always followed -- even when it is soundly conceived and executed. One example is last year's consensus resolution recommending negotiation of a fissile material cutoff in the most appropriate international forum. We urge all states here to reaffirm last year's consensus and we urge adoption of a simple negotiating mandate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The CD needs to move decisively this time around.

Transparency in armaments is another area where the UN has a productive role to play. The United States strongly supports the international trend toward greater transparency in armaments, and urges all nations to support a resolution encouraging submissions to the UN Register, universal participation, and a continuation of the CD's valuable work in this area.

Mr. Chairman, it has become customary for those in my position to conduct a tour d'horizon of arms control efforts from the United States perspective. But today I will shatter that custom, to address a single issue of surpassing importance: the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The world community should have no higher arms control priority in the months to come than the indefinite and unconditional extension of the NPT. The decision awaiting us next April is the most historic one that most of us will ever face.

The NPT serves two mutually reinforcing aims -- nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament -- by balancing positive and negative rights and obligations. As you know, it is at once an agreement to forego nuclear weapons; an agreement to put peaceful nuclear facilities under international safeguards; an undertaking to end the arms race and pursue nuclear disarmament; and an agreement promoting access to technical cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

THE TREATY'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND IMPORTANCE

Mr. Chairman, let me summarize at the outset why we hold the Treaty so dear. Its entry into force in 1970 transformed becoming a nuclear weapon state from an act of national pride to a violation of international law. And the law is prevailing.

During the 1960s, when the NPT was negotiated, many predicted that there would be 20-30 avowed nuclear weapon states today. Reputable estimates place the number of states now having the required technical and economic resources at over 40.

But there are still only five nuclear weapons states -- the same as when the NPT was brought into force -- and three other "threshold" states.

The NPT system has broadened tangibly in recent years -- with the accessions of China, France, South Africa, the Baltics and nearly all of the newly independent states, including Belarus and Kazakhstan; the announced intentions of Argentina and Algeria; and the non-nuclear decisions of Chile and Brazil. With nearly 170 parties to date, the NPT enjoys the widest adherence of any arms control agreement in history.

The NPT also provides essential support for peaceful uses of nuclear energy under effective international safeguards. Without it, much of the cooperation in which we now engage so routinely could become impossible.

Because it has global reach, the NPT sets the fundamental legal standard and political framework for all the cases of greatest concern to the international community.

But the true value of the NPT is reflected in the group of states that is almost entirely ignored in NPT discussions: all the others -- all the states for whom nuclear arms are not an issue, because they have made and kept nuclear nonproliferation commitments. The NPT's greatest achievements are invisible, consisting of bad things not happening, nuclear material not diverted, weapons not made.

Without the NPT, one must assume that over time many of those bad things would begin to happen -- and dozens of states could seek to hedge their nuclear bets against an uncertain future.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST INDEFINITE EXTENSION

Mr. Chairman, let me address the principal arguments against indefinite and unconditional extension.

Some complain that the NPT is "discriminatory," because it accepts five nuclear powers and freezes out all others. But the Treaty did not create nuclear weapon "haves" and "have-nots." It only reflected that inherited reality -- and helped stop a deadly trend in its tracks -- while at the same time committing all parties, including the nuclear weapon states, to pursue nuclear disarmament.

The measure of arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements lies not in their egalitarianism, but in their contributions to international security.

The fact is, if the world were to insist today on a reflexive nuclear equality, the likely result would be a levelling up, not a levelling down: not a world freed of nuclear weapons, but a world filled with nuclear weapon states.

Another argument one hears is that indefinite extension would legitimate nuclear weapons for all time. In fact, the opposite is true.

In recent years -- with the NPT in place -- we and the former Soviet Union have:

The NPT's call for an end to the arms race has been met. The race now is to bring down force levels as quickly, safely, and securely as possible.

The Nuclear Posture Review has recently confirmed that nuclear weapons now play a smaller role in our security strategy than at any time since their inception. Since 1988, we have reduced our total active stockpile by 59%; our strategic warheads by 47%; and our non-strategic nuclear force warheads by a remarkable 90%. The United States is dismantling around 2000 nuclear weapons a year, the highest rate that technical limitations will permit.

During last month's summit in Washington, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin instructed their experts to intensify their dialogue on developing concrete steps to adapt nuclear forces and practices on both sides to the changed international security situation, including the possibility, after START II ratification, of further reductions of nuclear forces. They also agreed to step up the pace of START entry into force, and once START II is ratified, to deactivate all strategic nuclear delivery systems to be reduced under START.

The United States and Russia are deeply engaged in a host of other meaningful steps. These include cooperation to prevent nuclear smuggling and strengthen controls over nuclear materials, to build a storage facility in Russia for fissile materials from dismantled nuclear weapons, and to improve -- by March 1995 -- the safety, transparency, and irreversibility of nuclear weapons reductions.

So the world can see its two leading nuclear powers move from limiting delivery vehicles and weapons systems toward openly and irreversibly reducing the number of nuclear warheads. And as President Clinton affirmed recently in his joint communique with Indian Prime Minister Rao, we envision, ultimately, a world free of nuclear arms.

Of course, the international community's enormous strides toward disarmament also include our efforts to control missile technology and conventional arms, and our encouraging progress toward the complete elimination of biological and chemical weapons.

And now, the ledger in fulfillment of NPT Article VI includes two additional multilateral efforts -- to conclude the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) negotiations already underway and to negotiate a world-wide fissile material cutoff treaty.

Achieving a CTBT is an imperative for the United States -- a fact underscored on two occasions this year when I delivered personal messages from President Clinton to the CD in Geneva. The President's first message said that of all the items on the Conference's agenda, "none is more important" than negotiating a CTBT "at the earliest possible time." The second stressed that "earliest possible time" means exactly what it says. We are doing everything in our power to make the first half-century of nuclear explosions be the last. Indeed, as I told the CD this past summer, we are prepared for the conclusion that the United States has already conducted its last nuclear weapons test.

The testing moratorium observed by all but one of the nuclear weapons powers has helped the test-ban negotiations. I urge all countries to join in calling on China to reconsider its position and refrain from further testing. In a world transformed, there is simply no need to keep running in a race that every other nuclear weapon power has abandoned.

A cutoff treaty would cap the amount of material available for nuclear explosives. It could bring the unsafeguarded nuclear programs of certain non-NPT states under some measure of international restraint for the first time. And it would prevent any further production of separated plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for weapons in the five declared nuclear-weapon states.

Mr. Chairman, I began working on arms control issues in the late 1960s as an aide to Senator George McGovern, and now have the mission of advocating arms control within the U.S. government, and negotiating it with others. The NPT inspires this work, to be sure, through Article VI, but more importantly, the NPT makes these efforts possible, by giving the United States, as well as other countries, a clear view of a secure world, in which these arms can safely be laid down.

It is a fact that if the NPT's future is jeopardized, the prospects for further arms control will diminish; if the NPT's future is secured, the steep trend in reductions can continue, with the ultimate aim of banishing nuclear weapons forever. Indefinite extension of the NPT will bring that goal closer; anything less will push it further away. Simply put, further progress in arms control depends on a permanent NPT.

Well, it is then argued, why not hold up the NPT -- or just extend it for a short time -- as a way to force even greater progress on the nuclear weapon states? Some, for example, suggest that we should hold NPT extension hostage to conclusion of a CTBT,then make it permanent.

But those who think the NPT is a bargaining chip ignore a cardinal rule: don't gamble with something you can't afford to lose.

For reasons that include geography, the states most immediately put at risk by nuclear proliferators are their immediate and regional neighbors -- not the United States. We support the NPT in our own interests, to be sure. But it is even more strongly in the interests of those states located in regions of tension.

The NPT gives all member countries the security of knowing that their neighbors and regional rivals will not be able effectively to pursue nuclear-weapons ambitions -- not only because they have agreed not to, but also because there is a global system to verify that they haven't. It provides the fiscal savings and physical safety that come from avoidance of regional nuclear arms races.

We are also keenly aware of the importance attached by many parties to the issue of security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The P-5 have been engaged in serious and constructive discussions on this issue. We noted the proposal on it by President Yeltsin in his address to the General Assembly. The United States will continue to seek progress toward the goal of further enhancing the security of non-nuclear-weapon state parties to the NPT.

For all those whose votes will decide its fate, the NPT is a source not of leverage, but of security. It has the same true value for every country: not as a lever, for moving the nuclear states, but as a shield, to ward off regional arms races and nuclear dangers.

Many states have testified to this truth with their deeds. In Latin America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa, nations have adopted or are moving toward nuclear-weapon-free zones that do not contain analogues to the NPT's Article VI. This confirms that it is not principally Article VI that draws states to a commitment against acquiring nuclear weapons, but rather, a recognition that their own security is enhanced when they codify the norm of nuclear nonproliferation in their own backyards.

Mr. Chairman, the related proposition that indefinite extension can be put off is particularly dangerous, because it is so seductively plausible -- and so wrong.

The Treaty spells out three and only three extension options: indefinite extension, extension for a fixed period, or extension for fixed periods. Any but the first risks crippling the Treaty -- either by involving the legal uncertainty of a series of piecemeal extensions, or by requiring the practical impossibility of immediate or eventual amendment.

Those who invent scenarios to avoid this basic truth have failed to carry their burden of proving that permanent extension can be deferred without the grave risk that it will be denied.

Make no mistake: the only way to ensure that the NPT will endure is by indefinite extension next year.

Another frequent criticism of the NPT is that certain states have not joined.

Let there be no doubt that the U.S. strongly supports universal adherence. But enlarging the prospect that the NPT may lapse at some point makes it less likely -- not more likely -- that states like Israel, India and Pakistan ultimately will join. The best chance for their ultimate adherence lies in a strong Treaty that is a permanent part of the international security system.

The same principle holds in every region: it is the NPT that provides the essential world-wide framework for addressing diverse proliferation problems and promoting stability.

Mr. Chairman, the real question is not whether the NPT is self-executing or can solve every problem itself, but whether the world is better off with it than without it.

No one can predict definitively the nature of a world without the NPT. But each of us must think concretely about the massive proliferation pressures that could be tragically unloosed if the Treaty ever expires -- and how such pressures could affect our own states.

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 proliferation. But in a world without the Treaty, states might avoid standing out not by resisting pressures to have nuclear weapons, but by succumbing to them.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Chairman, distinguished Delegates: In June of 1946, when the United Nations and the nuclear age were both in their infancy, Bernard Baruch addressed the UN with the portentous words, "We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead." The road then taken led to a nuclear arms race that lasted for almost five decades.

In the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union scaled the nuclear heights -- in the process expending staggering resources and talent, risking human health and the environment, and making the perils of nuclear catastrophe a daily companion.

Now, at last, we are climbing down from the precipice. And we implore you -- with urgency and from our own experience: do not start up that mountain. Its crevasses are treacherous; avalanches are a constant risk; the trip will drain your time and your treasury. The two states that have spent the most time at the highest altitudes are returning to earth with alacrity and relief.

The Clinton Administration is committed to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. We will achieve a CTBT -- the only question is when, and "sooner" is a much better answer than "later."

And 1995 is our only realistic chance to make the NPT permanent. Now especially, with superpower nuclear arsenals falling and CTBT prospects rising -- with the largest nuclear weapons powers finally able to deemphasize nuclear weapons in their defense planning -- is no time to abandon the covenant that enables us to turn the arms race around.

The decision we face today is as fundamental as that of 1946. But to choose wisely between the living and the dead, we must be wide awake. We need to elevate NPT extension to the higher plane where it belongs -- above the din of international politics as usual, above the usual jockeying and horse-trading. History will not treat us kindly if we miscalculate with our children's security.

We must acknowledge that just six months from now, we will be taking, together, the most fateful single vote for world peace of the remainder of this century and years to come.

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.