Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 26, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, and I want to join other colleagues in thanking Germany for calling this meeting today in crucial support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your briefing.

The Security Council tackles some of the greatest challenges to international peace and security, and among them is the prevention of further proliferation of nuclear weapons. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the NPT, we look forward to celebrating this historic occasion together here at the UN on March 5th. Over nearly five decades, the NPT has proven to be critical to the maintenance of international peace and security. It has made us all the more secure by constraining the spread of nuclear weapons. And it has thereby both enabled global peaceful use of nuclear energy and helped to create conditions conducive to progress on nuclear disarmament.

Fifty years ago, few would have dared to predict that we would be here today, celebrating the success of this Treaty. Prior to the NPT, the United States expressed dire concerns over a possible “snowball effect” of cascading proliferation, which would increase the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles and undermine confidence in the ability of nonproliferation policies to prevent such a dangerous sequence. Yet in a demonstration of remarkable diplomatic resolve, the international community joined together against this collective threat, reflecting a rare consensus during a time of Cold War polarization. Our efforts culminated in the successful negotiation of this vital treaty, and its subsequent entry into force.

There has been unwavering international consensus about the indispensable role of the Treaty to collective peace and security. The NPT has succeeded for half a century precisely because it serves the fundamental and widely recognized common interest of curbing the proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons. We have also seen enormous disarmament progress, in part because the NPT helped curtail the emergence of new nuclear powers. Thanks to the easing of the Cold War tensions, and the success of the NPT-based proliferation regime in impeding the spread of nuclear weapons, it has 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 less than one eighth of its Cold War peak.

We must also recognize that advancing toward the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons must take into account the global security environment. We cannot overlook the actions of those states that are expanding and modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, as well as developing exotic delivery systems, threatening their neighbors, and violating their arms control obligations. These states have caused a deterioration in global security conditions. To address the security challenges that impede disarmament progress, the United States, with more than 40 international partners, have launched a pathbreaking new initiative called, “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament,” or CEND. The CEND Working Group has met twice already and will meet again in April. The Working Group seeks to foster constructive dialogue on identifying these disarmament challenges, and on exploring ways to ameliorate underlying conditions in the global security environment, so as to pursue further progress toward – and indeed, ultimately – the achievement of nuclear disarmament. In this respect, as well as its emphasis on 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 Ban Treaty. The Ban Treaty deliberately ignores the security challenges that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary, and will not eliminate a single nuclear warhead, nor make any nation more secure. In fact, when reviewing the text of the Ban Treaty, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that its drafters sought to give greater legal weight to their document at the expense of the NPT. This is unfortunate.

As we turn toward the 2020 NPT Review Conference, 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 the NPT Parties focus on the big picture, emphasize our common interests, and avoid insisting on divisive positions that cannot command consensus. To strengthen the NPT and the nonproliferation regime, states must support the universalization of the IAEA Additional Protocol, an important tool that gives the IAEA the ability to verify the peaceful use of all nuclear material in states with IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements. These agreements, in combination with the Additional Protocol, have become the de facto international standard in nuclear safeguards. Moreover, nuclear supplier states should make the adoption of the Additional Protocol by recipient states a requirement for nuclear exports.

States must also be united in the goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. We must remain committed to a secure, peaceful, and bright future for North Korea if it fulfills its obligations. And we must remain united in our determination that Iran never acquire a path to nuclear weapons. The 2020 NPT Review Conference will provide us 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, and we aim to build on that success. We are optimistic that the NPT will remain at the vital center of international security, yet this outcome is far from guaranteed. We must continue to preserve and strengthen the NPT so that, 50 years from now, our successors may mark the hundredth anniversary of the Treaty as an enduring accomplishment that continues to promote international security and prosperity.

Thank you, Mr. President.