Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation

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March 18, 2024

Thank you, Madam President. Let me start by welcoming you here to the Council today and thank Japan for convening this important meeting. Thank you, Secretary-General, for your statement. And I’d like to thank the two briefers for their briefings, and as well for your recommendations.

Around 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited American University in Washington, D.C. He was on campus to deliver a commencement address, titled “A Strategy of Peace.” And in it, he outlined not only a plan to curb nuclear arms, but a hopeful path to world peace, despite escalating nuclear armament. Ultimately, he explained, “Our most common basic link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Today, six decades after Kennedy’s landmark address, and five and a half since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force, these links remain – as does the United States’ commitment to strengthening and upholding the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime, with the NPT at its center.

And yet, the global framework that has curbed nuclear armament for years is under increasing strain.

Iran has continued expanding segments of its nuclear program without any credible civilian justification, and for over five years, has failed to cooperate with the IAEA.

Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has irresponsibly invoked dangerous nuclear rhetoric, and walked away from several of its arms control obligations.

All the while, China has rapidly and opaquely built up and diversified its nuclear weapons stores. And Russia and China have remained unwilling to engage in substantive discussions around arms control or risk reduction.

What’s more, both countries have defended and even enabled dangerous proliferators.

That brings me to the DPRK, which continues its unlawful development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions. Just this weekend – you’ve heard in fact – we saw multiple DPRK ballistic missile launches testing delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

We urge everyone in this Council to support the 1718 Committee’s Panel of Experts by extending its mandate later this week. Silencing independent and objective experts will not change the reality of the DPRK’s efforts. It will only make it more difficult for us to address this threat.

Colleagues, it is not just these individual actors putting a strain on the global nonproliferation regime. Today, our existing regime faces new and evolving challenges: Like artificial intelligence, which can be hacked or malfunction, be misinterpreted or provide misinformation.

My hope is that today, we can take stock of the challenges posed by these new technologies, and more importantly, commit to addressing them.

In order to do that, it is critical that every member of this Council reaffirm their commitment to an objective I believe we all want to see: A world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.

So, how do we get there?

At a basic level, we must comply with existing nuclear arms control obligations, and engage constructively on potential new ones.

The United States is willing to engage in bilateral arms control discussions with Russia and China right now, without preconditions. All they have to do is say yes and come to the table in good faith.

States with nuclear weapons must also maintain a moratorium on explosive nuclear testing and support the monitoring capabilities outlined by Dr. Floyd today.

In addition, to forestall a potential arms race, we need to see an end to the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons, and continue pursuing negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Today, we announce that we are officially among Japan’s Friends of the FMCT Coalition, a group dedicated to seeing this treaty adopted.

Colleagues, there is more we must do to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons states must provide transparency into their programs and engage with one another to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict. The United States has modeled this transparency and cooperation, and will continue to press for both.

We must empower all those with the potential to leverage technology for good, and minimize its harmful effects, including women, who are frequently left out of the conversation around nonproliferation.

We must hold would-be proliferators to account, and fully implement relevant Security Council resolutions, including by supporting subsidiary bodies like the 1718 and 1540 Committees, the latter of which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

We must identify and implement measures around new technologies, like those outlined in the U.S.-proposed Political Declaration on the Responsible Military Use of AI and Autonomy, which already has over 50 cosponsors.

And then there is the issue of outer space, and the treaty governing it. Let me be clear: Any placement of nuclear weapons into orbit around the earth would be unprecedented, dangerous, and unacceptable. States parties must commit to upholding our obligations under Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty. And we must urge all Member States who are not yet party to it to accede to it without delay.

And today, I can announce that, together with Japan, the United States put forward a Security Council resolution, reaffirming the fundamental obligations that parties have under this Treaty, and further calling on Member States to not develop any nuclear weapons, or other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, that are specifically designed to be placed in orbit around earth. We look forward to engaging with this Council to forge consensus around this text.

And outside of the Council, we are interested in engaging with States Parties to the Outer Space Treaty to explore ways to increase confidence in compliance with Article IV. The United States has already begun considering approaches to help ensure that countries cannot deploy nuclear weapons in orbit undetected, and we intend to engage with other States Parties as our ideas evolve.

Colleagues, 60 years ago, the world faced a choice: Escalation towards nuclear war, or cooperation and non-proliferation. Today, as we face that same choice, we must not allow our differences to prevent us from taking action on this critical matter of international security.

In the words of President Kennedy, “Confident and unafraid, we labor on, not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.” The United States will continue to lead by example, in good-faith, and with all Council members and Member States in that pursuit.

Thank you, Madam President.

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