Copy of John Isaacs Speaks in Malaysia
John Isaacs will be speaking in Malaysia on Wednesday, 2 June 2010. A copy of his prepared remarks is below:
New Directions under the Obama Administration
Speech by John Isaacs
Executive Director, Council for a Livable World &
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Panel 2: The Nuclear Threat and Proliferation Issues in Asian Security: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I am delighted to be invited to your country – which I did once visit about 40 years ago.
In my long career working on nuclear weapons issues, it is clear to me that some of the most gifted minds in the world have made life saving discoveries as well as more efficient killing machines.
Albert Einstein was one of the most brilliant and wisest men who ever lived.
After the invention of the atomic bomb, Einstein sagely said:
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking. And we thus drift toward unparalled catastrophes.”
Einstein’s statement was relevant in the 1940’s and remains revevant today. However, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Einstein’s statement might be updated to read:
“The end of the Cold War, combined with the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking. And we thus continue to drift toward unparalled catastrophes.”
That is, United States and world nuclear policy is all too similar to that during the height of the Cold War.
The world has been fortunate to avoid that fate forecast by Einstein, but that luck may not hold.
I have devoted most of my life to stopping the terrible nuclear arms race that raged at the time between the United States and the Soviet Union and to avoid nuclear war.
But 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the threat to the planet remains.
For it is important to remember that while the world is concerned over the impact of global warming, starvation in too many countries, worldwide pandemics and the threats of terrorists or biological weapons attacks, only nuclear weapons have the capacity to obliterate entire cities with one bomb and entire countries in massive nuclear exchanges and perhaps destroy most life on this earth.
To repeat, only nuclear weapons have the capacity to obliterate entire cities with one bomb and entire countries in massive nuclear exchanges and perhaps destroy most life on this earth.
For decades, the problem appeared to be a United States-Soviet Union dilemma. But in reality, the challenge today is for the entire world, including Asia, including Malaysia [including Brunei]. The threat of terrorist strike with a nuclear weapon is not an American problem, but a Russian problem, an Indonesian problem, an Indian problem, a Pakistani problem, a Malaysian problem. The illicit traffic in materials and parts that can be used to construct a nuclear bombs is also a worldwide problem.
And the solution to the problem is found not just in the United States and Russia but in countries across the globe.
A New Beginning in Washington, D.C.
But we have entered an era of great change on nuclear weapons issues.
The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has provided an opportunity for unprecedented progress on nuclear weapons issues.
However you feel about the role of the United States in initiating the atomic age, whatever you think of the long American and Soviet arms race, it is my firm belief that the United States must provide leadership to end the nuclear arms race – and move towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
But other countries must play an important role as well – including Malaysia and other countries in this region. More on that later in this talk.
On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered one of the most significant speeches of the nuclear age.
At that time, he said:
“I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
He pointed out:
“As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”
President Obama’s forthrightness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need to take immediate action to avoid a nuclear holocaust constitute the most significant remarks by an American President on nuclear disarmament in the last half century.
And he followed two American Presidents who were disappointments on nuclear issues:
►President Bill Clinton, who failed to reduce significantly nuclear weapons despite the historic opportunity presented by the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union.
►President George W. Bush, who promoted a policy that made nuclear weapons a central tenet of American national security and acted not only to preserve thousands of nuclear warheads, but would have built a new generation of nuclear weapons. Fortunately, Congress denied funding for this.
The problem that President Obama is addressing is serious.
Sixty five years after the dawn of the atomic age and despite many international negotiations to deal with the problem of nuclear weapons, there remain an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons held by nine nuclear powers.
To repeat, 23,000 atomic bombs, most much larger than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945.
Over ninety percent of those weapons are in the hands of the United States and Russia.
Plus, there is sufficient nuclear material across the globe that could be fashioned into tens of thousands of additional nuclear weapons.
These weapons present the risk of catastrophic accidents, errors or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
We have been fortunate not to have had nuclear bombs explode in populated areas since 1945, but this luck may not last forever.
North Korea has twice tested nuclear bombs in this neighborhood and Iran threatens to develop their own in the volatile Middle East.
The risk is not so much that these countries are likely to launch nuclear attacks on their neighbors but rather they may launch a nuclear arms race in Asia or the Middle East.
As former United States Secretary of State George Schultz once said, “Proliferation begets proliferation.”
These problems accentuate the challenges to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime enshrined in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty signed in 1968 to which 189 countries now belong.
This regime threatens to unravel:
1. Because the nuclear weapons states such as the United States and Russia have taken insufficient steps to fulfill their part of the deal of bringing into force a treaty barring nuclear weapons testing and eliminating nuclear weapons, and
2. Because the world community has been unable to stem the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran – or the nuclear weapons programs of Israel, India and Pakistan.
President Obama understands these challenges.
In his Prague speech last year, President Obama pointed out:
Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.
President Obama has also sought international support for his nuclear agenda.
As I indicated before, this campaign cannot only be a United States effort.
On September 24, President Obama secured unanimous United Nations Security Council approval for the objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.
That meant the agenda won the support of China, Russia, Japan, Vietnam and 10 other countries.
Soon afterwards came the unexpected awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, an award given in part due to “Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
More recently, the President has helped initiate a flurry of activities related to nuclear weapons issues. More on those later.
This vision expressed at President Obama’s Prague speech and at the United Nations is vitally important.
However, as all students of politics and government understand, there has to be follow-through to realize this vision.
Fortunately, there have been many important steps in the last few months to realize the President’s vision.
Interim steps to realize the President’s nuclear weapons vision
To his credit, the President has proposed a series of steps to implement his vision and move in the direction of a world free of nuclear weapons.
New nuclear reductions treaty
On April 8, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the most significant nuclear reductions treaty in decades between the United States and Russia. The signing ceremony took place in Prague, Czech Republic, the location of President Obama’s April 2009 historic speech on nuclear weapons.
The new treaty limits the U.S. and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles. The treaty also includes a streamlined and updated system of verification provisions to ensure each side that the other is complying with the treaty’s limits.
This limit is 74% lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
The Treaty has a verification regime that combines the appropriate elements of the 1991 START Treaty with new elements tailored to the limitations of the Treaty. Measures under the Treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. To increase confidence and transparency, the Treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry data from missile launches
New START verifiably reduces deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and helps ensures a stable and predictable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship. It will help strengthen cooperative efforts to reduce the risk that U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons or materials could be stolen and used in a nuclear terrorist attack and reinforces global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. It is also an important means to improve U.S.-Russian relations and sets the stage for discussion on deep reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals in the future.
It is certainly true that at the end of the treaty’s 10-year duration, there will still be hugely excessive numbers of nuclear weapons, down not too much from the 23,000 figure cited earlier. Nuclear weapons will not disappear the day after tomorrow. But this treaty provides a resumption of the process of nuclear weapons reductions.
This is a first step. President Obama has pledged to engage in negotiations towards deeper cuts in the nuclear arsenal. When the next round of negotiations begin is not clear, and there are major hurdles ahead – including the proposed United States plans for missile defense and the Russian stockpile of tactical or shorter range nuclear weapons.
There is widespread support for this treaty in the United States, and I anticipate it will be approved and enter into force by the end of the year.
However, procedures in the United States Constitution require 67 Senators out of the 100 to approve that treaty. Those who have followed events in Washington know that the country and the United States Congress are badly polarized on many issues and that those divisions could delay or possibly kill the treaty.There are many in Washington whose views have changed little since the Cold War.
Nonetheless, I expect that treaty to be approved despite some scattered opposition among a few hardliners and a lot of difficult debates ahead.
April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit
On April 12 – 13, 2010, President Obama convened leaders of 47 countries at a Nuclear Security Summit to agree on steps needed to secure and safeguard vulnerable nuclear materials and to cope with the worldwide terrorist threat.
The summit included 38 heads of state plus the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the President of the European Union. That list included the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Never in history has there been such a gathering of high-level officials to focus on the threat of terrorists with nuclear weapons.
And such high level attention is important to initiate rapid action to deal with the threat.
There is widespread agreement among national security experts that the greatest threat to the United States – and to many cities around the world, including in Asia – are nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.
The nuclear summit meeting focused international attention on the need for global cooperation to deal with the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. For while there has been a general concern among world leaders, the specific follow-up steps have been lacking.
This threat is real, but it’s also preventable.
The United States has suffered from terrorist attacks, but so have many countries across the globe. A sampling of these attacks includes:
2001 – United States – 2,974 deaths 2008 – Mumbai, India attacks – 209 deaths 2002 – Bali, Indonesia bombings - 202 deaths 2004 – Madrid train bombings – 191 deaths 2005 - Sharm el-Sheikh attacks in Egypt - 90 deaths 2005 – London bombings – 52 deaths 2010 – Moscow, Russia metro bombings - 40 deaths 2001 – Angola train attack - 252 deaths
And of course there have been many terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
These attacks have caused casualties, with deaths numbering in the hundreds or thousands. But if one of the terrorist groups had managed to explode a nuclear bomb, the casualties could easily have reached the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.
Clearly groups like al-Qaeda have grand ambitions to acquire and use a nuclear bomb and cause mass casualties.
If those Pakistanis who attacked Mumbai had a nuclear weapon, think of the death and destruction.
If those who bombed places in Bali had a weapon of mass destruction, the death toll of 202 would have climbed much higher.
The summit issued a communiqué which highlighted the global importance of preventing nuclear terrorism and endorsed President Obama’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material in four years.
Additionally, the final statement highlighted the importance of maintaining effective security over all nuclear materials in each country; encouraged the conversion of reactors that use highly-enriched uranium (HEU), a weapon useable nuclear material to low-enriched uranium (LEU). Finally, the communiqué emphasized the need for international cooperation on this agenda including the importance of responding to requests for assistance in order to secure these materials worldwide.
Twenty-nine countries attending the summit made specific commitments for improving security at home: Malaysia enacted new export controls, Chile, Ukraine and Canada announced the elimination of all of their highly enriched uranium, Russia announced the closure of its last plutonium production facility and Mexico agreed to convert its research reactor to use low enriched uranium.
The work plan accompanying the communiqué focused on improving and universalizing existing nuclear security agreements and programs. It recognized the importance of the International Atomic Energy Agency on this issue. It underscored the need for robust and independent nuclear regulatory capabilities in all countries, the requirement for the prevention of nuclear trafficking, and the improvement in nuclear detection and forensics. In addition, the work plan recommended the consolidation of national sites where nuclear material is stored, the removal and disposal of nuclear materials no longer needed for operational activities, and the conversion of Highly Enriched Uranium-fueled reactors to Low Enriched Uranium fuels.
What follows the summit will be at least as important as the summit itself. The communiqué and work plan that came out of the gathering are only first steps, and it will be necessary to ensure that these commitments are acted upon in the months and years ahead.
By setting another meeting in the Republic of Korea for 2012, the summit has built in a forcing mechanism that will encourage the countries to fulfill their commitments. Nuclear terrorism and nuclear security are complex transnational issues. The key to success is a collective and unified action on this agenda in the aftermath of the summit.
Steps by Malaysia
Again, nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is a global problem, not just in the United States. And dealing with this threat requires global efforts, including by Malaysia.
I was asked recently by a Malaysian journalist why Malaysia should care about this issue. Isn’t the nuclear threat a problem for the United States and not here?
Whether or not this country is targeted, a nuclear explosion elsewhere could cause problems in Malaysia and around the world.
As Harvard University’s nuclear expert Graham Allison pointed out:
“The effect of a nuclear terrorist attack would reverberate beyond U.S. shores. After a nuclear detonation, the immediate reaction would be to block all entry points to prevent another bomb from reaching its target. Vital markets for international products would disappear, and closely linked financial markets would crash. Researchers at RAND, a U.S. government-funded think tank, estimated that a nuclear explosion at the Port of Los Angeles would cause immediate costs worldwide of more than $1 trillion and that shutting down U.S. ports would cut world trade by 7.5 percent.
Former United States Senator Sam Nunn discussed additional consequences:
“If you were trying to draw a circle to mark the overall impact of the blast – in social, economic, and security terms -- the circle would be the equator itself. No part of the planet would escape the impact. People everywhere would fear another blast. Travel, international trade, capital flows, commerce would initially stop, and many freedoms we come to take for granted would quickly be eroded in the name of security.The confidence of America and the world would be shaken to the core.”
In short, the global consequences include economic disruptions, social disturbances and the erosion of liberties.
In recent weeks, we have seen how a volcanic eruption in Iceland and an economic crisis in Greece can affect countries far beyond their borders.
The world is truly interdependent – whether on nuclear weapons issues, economic crisis and natural disasters.
The Malaysian government understands this challenge. On April 5, 2010, in advance of the Nuclear Secufrity Summit, Malaysia adopted a national export control law aimed at blocking illicit nuclear trade by countries such as Iran, Pakistan andNorth Korea.
For decades, countries seeking to build nuclear wepons have covertly used the world’s supply routes for illicit nuclear trade. Particularly egregious have been the efforts of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan and the proliferating policies of North Korea.
In 2003 and 2004, Malaysian authorities intercepted a large shipment of gas centrifuge parts useful in nuclear bomb making that the A.Q. Khan network shipped to Libya. The shipping containers bore the label of a Malaysian company. There have been other media reports of smugglers using Malaysia as a transshipment point – although I want to make it clear that there is no evidence that the government of Malaysia was involved.
The new Malaysian legislation includes provisions on the control of exports and transiting of strategic good, including materials that could be used for the design, development of weapons of mass destruction. It mandates prison sentences of at least five years and severe finds for those caught violating the law.
As Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the Nuclear Security Summit, “Malaysia is committed towards ensuring that nuclear materials and technologties do not fall into the wrong hands.”
Nuclear Posture Review
In early April, the United States completed a year-long review of United States nuclear weapons policy, usually called the Nuclear Posture Review, launched by the Obama Administration.
On the positive side, the Nuclear Posture Review places preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism atop the U.S. nuclear agenda. It also significantly reduces the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security by stating that the “fundamental” role of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the U.S. and its allies and limiting the circumstances under which the U.S. would contemplate using nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, the Review reaffirms that the U.S. will not conduct nuclear explosive tests and rejects the development of new nuclear weapons. The Review also supports further discussions with Moscow on even deeper bilateral reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals – including non-deployed and non-strategic (i.e. tactical nuclear weapons) – beyond those called for in the New START agreement.
However, the new policy does not go as far as it should to break from Cold War thinking and reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy.
Though the positives significantly outweigh the negatives, the report stops short of saying that the “sole” purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the U.S. and its allies nor does it call for the U.S. to adopt a “no first use” policy. The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons for any other purpose but deterrence. A “sole purpose” and “no first use” declaration would have further strengthened the credibility of the U.S. conventional deterrent and reduced the incentives that other states might have to acquire nuclear weapons to protect themselves from a U.S. first strike. The Review also does not recommend that the U.S. abandon its current launch on warning or launch under attack posture. Maintaining such a posture increases the chances of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch.
However, the new policy is a significant step forward.
May 2010 Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty Review Conference
An international conference has just concluded in New York City to review the status of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan, the President of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, listed three major goals of the conference:
1. The crafting of a disarmament plan that is both aggressive and doable, which goes beyond merely managing the status quo and lays down a firm foundation for negotiations leading to the total abolition of nuclear weapons;
2. The development of a mechanism to carry out to its logical conclusion the objectives of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East [for a nuclear free region]; and
3. A strengthening of the NPT regime to deal effectively with questions of compliance, withdrawal and implementation.
The conference is held every five years, but is particularly timely this year.
As President Obama stated in his April speech in Prague about the Non-Proliferation Treaty:
The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.
However, there is a real fear that the Non-Proliferation Treaty will unravel.
As I pointed out earlier, the nuclear weapon states such as the United States and Russia have taken insufficient steps to fulfill their part of the bargain of eliminating nuclear weapons and the world community has been unable to stem the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.
The 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference ended in stalement. Previous conferences in 1995 and 2000 resulted in agreements, but these agreements were largely disregarded or repudiated in subsequent years.
Egypt, for example, is one of the countries that had been critical of the nuclear powers. Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Maged Abdelaziz was quoted in April being quite negative about the positions taken by the nuclear powers.
"There is mistrust . . . the Egyptian envoy said the five major nuclear powers are seeking to impose new demands on non-nuclear powers while failing to fully live up to their own disarmament obligations, and permitting a special group of nations -- India, Israel, and Pakistan -- a free pass to produce nuclear weapons, without having to abide by the obligations of signatories to the NPT. "States outside the treaty are reaping the benefits of the treaty," he said.
He went on to oppose:
“A series of Western-backed initiatives, including a proposal to punish countries that withdraw from the NPT and a plan to establish a U.N. fuel bank to supply nuclear non-nuclear states. In addition, he said NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] had "serious concerns" about U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887, promoted last September by Obama, which strengthens the 15-nation body's authority to confront states that fail to comply with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations. "We are not as non-nuclear states going to accept that each time there is progress in disarmament that we have to take more obligations on our side," said Abdelaziz.”
The nuclear weapons states agreed to many steps, including further reductions in the number of nuclear weapons and the test ban treaty, as part of key promises made to non-nuclear weapon states in 1995 (and reiterated in 2000) in exchange for their support for indefinitely extending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This time, as opposed to the 2005 Conference, the United States has played a constructive role. There was substantial evidence in the statements and actions of other countries that President Obama’s negotiation of New START, the new nuclear posture statement that lessened the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy and commitment to work for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty have helped with international support for U.S. efforts to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
At this writing, it appears as though there will be substantial agreement on the three goals at the conference, even if a consensus of all 189 countries participating is very unlikely.
There may be momentum toward agreeing to a plan of action for the next few years for re-invigorating the Treaty.
President Obama promised other steps:
1. Fissile materials treaty
The President pledged to reinvigorate international negotiations to end the production of fissile materials for military purposes that can be used in nuclear weapons.
A fissile material cutoff treaty would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes. Fissile materials, principally highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, are the indispensable ingredients for building nuclear weapons and powering nuclear reactors. The effective control and elimination of fissile materials is an essential step toward nuclear disarmament.
In mid-2008, the global stockpile of HEU was approximately 1,670 tons. Approximately 99 percent of the global stockpile of HEU is located in the Nuclear Weapon States: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China. The global stockpile of separated plutonium is about 500 tons. According to the IAEA, 8 kilograms of plutonium is necessary to make a first-generation implosion bomb of the Nagasaki-type. The United States estimates that as little as 4 kilograms of plutonium would be enough to make a weapon.
In May 2009, the U.N. Conference on Disarmanent, based in Geneva, Switzerland, broke an 11-year impasse by approving a program for action.
The agreement appeared to open the door to the negotiation of a treaty.
However, that consensus among the 65 countries in the Conference on Disarmament has broken down, particularly hindered by Pakistani objections. The Pakistanis are worried that India has much greater supplies of nuclear-weapons materials, and a treaty would lock in Pakistan’s inferiority.
But Pakistan is also concerned about the consequences of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal and the emerging strategic relationship between the two countries. It addition, it appears to desire to move from larger, heavier nuclear weapons based on Highly Enriched Uranium to lighter, more compact plutonium-based weapons. There is also an interest of nuclear production complex managers in Pakistan in taking advantage of their investment over the past decade in a large expansion of fissile material production facilities.
At the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, several Scandanavian countries suggested organizing negotiations for this treaty outside the framework of the United Nations. There are ample precedents for such a move, as with the Landmine Ban Treaty.
2. Securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.
President Obama pledged a major campaign to secure all vulnerable nuclear material across the globe within four years.
At the end of the Cold War, it became apparent that many nuclear weapons and supplies of nuclear materials have been left in insufficiently guarded facilities subject to theft or sale.
This was particularly true in the former Soviet Union, but in many other countries as well.
With the threat of terrorism spreading to so many countries, it is important to choke off supplies of weapons or materials that could be fashioned into weapons.
Here too, the follow-through has been slow. The latest United States federal budget presented in February 2010 will hopefully speed up the process as the President launches a vigorous effort to fulfill that pledge.
3. Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
The Obama Administration has vowed to seek a new United States Senate vote on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty – a treaty signed in 1996 but defeated by the United States Senate in 1999.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions, on the surface of the earth, underground, in the atmosphere and underwater. If the treaty enters into effect, it would help guard against the renewal of the nuclear arms race, the ban on nuclear explosions would severely impede the development of new, sophisticated nuclear weapons by the existing nuclear powers. While countries could build advanced, new types of nuclear weapons designs without nuclear explosive testing, they will lack the high confidence that the weapons will work as designed.
It would also help curb nuclear weapons proliferation. While a country could develop nuclear weapons for the first time without conducting nuclear explosions, the bomb design would be far from optimal in size and weight and its nuclear explosive power would remain uncertain.
Finally, it would strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the non-nuclear countries have demanded that the United States and other countries fulfill their obligations.
182 countries have signed the treaty and 150 have ratified.
However, nine major countries which must ratify the treaty have not, including the United States, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, Egypt, Indonesia and Iran.
It is expected that if the United States ratifies, China, Indonesia and Israel will follow suit, leaving only five states that need to ratify.
In fact, earlier this month the Indonesian foreign minister announced that his country is begun steps to ratify the test ban treaty. This announcement may give further impetus to worldwide ratification efforts.
There is a chance that there will be a new vote in the United States Senate in 2011, but there continues to be opposition within the major U.S. minority party, the Republican Party, and it is not clear what will happen.
Currently, the Administration needs eight Republican votes to get consent to ratification.
It will take skillful work by the Obama administration to win approval of the test ban treaty – and then for the treaty to enter into force after approval by the other hold out countries.
The problems of North Korea and Iran
Clearly major barriers to progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons are the distressing problems of North Korea and Iran.
One country has now conducted two nuclear explosive tests and launched ballistic missiles over Japan and the other appears determined to move towards building nuclear weapons.
North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Iran has done much to hide its supposedly civilian nuclear program.
There is always the possibility that Japan and South Korea will decide that their own security interests will require them to launch nuclear weapons programs, or countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
I wish that I had a good or easy solution to these problems.
But I don’t.
I believe the world community has to be patient with bilateral United States – North Korea and multilateral six party talks that include Japan, Russia, China and South Korea.
Similarly, a number of countries are negotiating with Iran, with disappointing results thus far.
There have been recent developments. On May 16, Turkey and Brazil negotiated a nuclear fuel swap with Iran in a tentative compromise designed to end an international standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Two days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an agreement with Russia and China for a new round of international sanctions on Iran.
Negotiations over these two developments and further actions are likely to continue to be frustratingly slow and filled with setbacks.
However, such talks and effective engagement are the only viable option to eliminate North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear weapons – which should remain the essential goal.
To paraphrase what Great Britain’s Winston Churchill once said about democracy, negotiation is not a great option but all the other options are worse.
I thank you very much for this invitation to speak to you about these critical and timely issues.
The subject that I just discussed is a topic in many capitals around the world. While there is a new vision put forward by a new American President, there is an important and historic role to play for so many other countries.
Preventing nuclear threats required broad international cooperation. Securing nuclear materials around the world so that terrorist groups cannot buy or steal them is an international effort, not a U.S. and Russian agreement. Persuading all countries eventually to eliminate nuclear weapons requires cooperation of all nine nuclear powers as well as their neighbors. Providing incentives for countries to live up to the norms contained in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and establishing real and significant consequences for countries that violate the rules has to be a worldwide effort.
There has been some substantial progress in the last few months. The U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions agreement, the new U.S. nuclear weapons policy, the Nuclear Summit, the indivual country agreements to secure nuclear materials and the other steps have helped to create a momentum that is helpful to international security. Each step reinforces the others and helps to reduce the role that nuclear weapons play in security policy. A world less focused and dependent on nuclear weapons is a safer world.l
But ultimately, we will have to make a judgment about the success or failure of the President’s policies over the next four years.
The President has presented ambitious goals, and there has been remarkable progress in reecent months, but we will not know for a while how successful he will be in reaching these goals.
If President Obama’s proposals do not succeed in making the world more secure, we will see elevated risks of a nuclear explosion in a world city and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries.
I will be happy to accept your questions.