October 12th, 2007 04:44 EST
Nuclear Threat, Armed Conflict Reduction Highest U.S. Priority
Washington -- The United States has been a leader in promoting gradual nuclear disarmament and garnering broad support for international efforts to destroy dangerous stockpiles of small arms and light artillery.
On the nuclear side, the United States long has supported multilateral solutions to the challenges posed by Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons development. At the same time, U.S. officials have emphasized their commitment to working with international partners to find diplomatic solutions to these twin challenges.
During a recent speech to United Nations delegates in New York, U.S. Ambassador Christina Rocca pointed to sustained engagement in developing policies and systems seeking "to reduce the risk of proliferation or to stop proliferation when it is happening."
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540, which calls for collective action to stem the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is at the forefront of U.S. multilateral support. Full implementation offers many benefits from the U.S. perspective. "Not only is international security enhanced," according to Rocca, "but capacities applicable to other national priorities are built [ranging] from augmenting trade and export controls through demonstrated "good practices` and improving the capacity to mitigate threats to public health and security."
Implementation of the resolution offers opportunities for open actions and regional cooperation. It is also relevant for multilateral forums -- such as the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria and the Netherlands-based Organization Prohibiting Chemical Weapons -- dealing with the challenges of these weapons.
Within the context of the Swiss-based Conference on Disarmament where Rocca represents her government, the United States has worked hard to promote a ban on the production of fissile materials needed to produce nuclear weapons and related explosive devices. She addressed this issue during the general debate of the U.N. First Committee on Disarmament October 9.
"The United States calls upon all nations to halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devises, as the United States has done," Rocca said, adding that it is irresponsible to delay negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty given the international community`s expressed desire for one. (See related article.)
The United States has sought negotiations for a treaty that is not linked to any other security issue. It will continue making its case in the coming year and advocating that it is in the national security interests of conference members to renounce the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. "Rather than bemoan the false issue of political will," Rocca said, "we should redouble our efforts to convince all members of the Conference that no state`s security would be harmed by such a production ban."
The United States also has provided leadership and support to two successful multilateral initiatives -- the 2006 Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)-- to prevent terrorists from gaining access to nuclear materials or weapons of mass destruction. The first effort now encompasses 60 participating nations, while the second one now has almost 90 supporting nations. (See PSI text (PDF, 275 KB))
The United States has a solid record of achievement on nuclear disarmament as evidenced by a shrinking nuclear stockpile. By 2012, its stockpile will have been reduced to nearly a quarter of the size it was at the end of the Cold War. Additionally, operationally deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads will decline to about one third of 2001 levels.
Other important statistics include the U.S. elimination of more than 1,000 strategic missiles and bomber aircraft and 450 strategic missile silos under the terms of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiative also has been fulfilled with the destruction of the last of 3,000 U.S. tactical nuclear warheads.
In the past year, the United States and Russia have been engaged in an effort to devise a relevant arms control framework that will be in place before START expires in 2009. U.S. negotiators are looking for ways to carry forward useful pre-existing START concepts while developing new ones that Rocca described as "more in tune with our new strategic relationship."
The United States posits that complete disarmament, as called for in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), cannot be carried out without regard to the existing international security environment. Rocca summed it up this way:
"Nuclear weapons continue to have relevance in today`s world, and that relevance is clearly not incompatible with the NPT. Indeed, until the countries of the world can create the environment necessary for nuclear weapons to be entirely eliminated ... we submit that the protection which the United States extends to its allies has actually slowed nuclear proliferation and helped make it less likely that new nuclear arms races will emerge."
The full text of Rocca`s October 9 speech in New York is available on the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva Web site.
The full texts of the 2006 Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and other material related to nuclear disarmament are available on the State Department Web site.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
USINFO Staff Writer