Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Non-proliferation

Andrea Thompson
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
U.S. Department of State
New York City
April 2, 2019


Thank you Foreign Minister Maas for convening this crucial meeting today on supporting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT. I’d also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Nakamitsu and Director General Amano for their briefings today.

Mr. President, the Security Council tackles some of the greatest challenges to international peace and security. But perhaps no challenge is more potent or more relevant to all of us than the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We’re approaching the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the NPT. Over nearly five decades the NPT has grown even more critical to the maintenance of international peace and security. It has made us all more secure by constraining the spread of nuclear weapons, and has also thereby enabled the global peaceful use of nuclear energy and helped create conditions for progress on nuclear disarmament.

Fifty years ago, few would have dared to predict that we would be here today celebrating the success of the NPT.

Before the NPT, U.S. Government National Intelligence Estimates, the NIEs, expressed dire concern about a possible snowball effect of cascading proliferation, which would increase the world’s nuclear stockpile and undermine confidence in the ability of nonproliferation policies to prevent such an action.

Yet in a demonstration of remarkable diplomatic resolve, the international community joined together against this collective threat, reflecting rare consensus during a time of Cold War polarization. Diplomatic efforts culminated in the negotiation and entry into force of the NPT.

There’s been unwavering international consensus about the indispensable role of the Treaty to collective peace and security.

The NPT has succeeded for half a century because it serves the fundamental and widely-recognized common interest of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We have also seen enormous disarmament progress, in part because the NPT helped curtail the emergence of new nuclear powers. With the easing of Cold War tensions and the success of the NPT-based nonproliferation regime in impeding proliferation, it’s been possible to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Russia to levels not seen since the 1950s. The U.S. stockpile today has been reduced to approximately 12 percent of its Cold War peak.

We must also recognize that advancing towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons must take into account the global security environment. We cannot overlook the fact that the actions of those states that are expanding and modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, threatening their neighbors, and violating their arms control obligations have contributed to a deterioration in global security conditions.

My esteemed colleagues, the United States is in the process of developing implementation plans for a path breaking new initiative, “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” or CEND. This initiative is aimed at bringing countries together in a constructive dialogue exploring ways in which it might be possible to ameliorate conditions in the global security environment so as to make possible the more conducive and further progress towards — and indeed, ultimately to achieve — nuclear disarmament.

In this respect, as well as its emphasis upon dialogue and diplomatic engagement with all relevant parties, the CEND initiative stands in stark contrast to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or the Ban Treaty. The Ban Treaty fails to address the security challenges that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary, and it seeks to stigmatize, rather than engage with, countries that rely upon nuclear deterrence for their national security.

As we turn towards the 2020 Review Conference or RevCon, the United States seeks a positive outcome from that meeting that reflects consensus on as broad a basis as possible. We believe consensus is possible if NPT Parties focus on the big picture, emphasizing their common interests and avoiding using divisive issues, such as the Ban Treaty and a Middle East WMD-free zone, to hold the RevCon hostage.

To strengthen the NPT and the nonproliferation regime, states must support universalization of the IAEA Additional Protocol or AP, which has become the de facto nuclear safeguards standard, and makes the AP a condition of nuclear supply.

States must also be united in demanding the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. They must also continue to hold that a secure and peaceful and bright future is possible for North Korea if it fulfills its commitments. And we must remain united in our determination that Iran must never acquire a pathway to nuclear weapons.

The 2020 NPT Review Conference will also be an opportunity to highlight how the NPT and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime have made possible thriving international cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, science, and technology. We aim to build on that success.

We’re optimistic that the NPT will endure, yet this outcome is far from guaranteed. We now must continue to preserve and strengthen the NPT so that, 50 years from now, our successors may mark the hundredth anniversary of the Treaty and an enduring accomplishment that continues to promote international security and prosperity.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.