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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty Statement, 1999

Statement from the American Delegation

It is with great disappointment and regret that I speak about the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). Disappointment, that once again we have convened, and are still no closer to meeting a fundamental objective we set for ourselves at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, namely, to negotiate a ban for all time on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. My government is concerned that the opportunity we now have to negotiate this critical agreement, one that will so clearly advance our shared non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament objectives, may be slipping away. Frankly, the United States cannot understand how implementing an objective agreed by all the parties to the NPT has been held in abeyance, apparently hostage to other agreements. Nonetheless, I continue to be hopeful that the

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international community will consider carefully the potential costs of further delay, and promptly get down to the important work of negotiating this treaty.

We all know what has happened -- or has not happened -- since 1993, when we decided unanimously in the United Nations General Assembly to support negotiations on a fissile material production cutoff treaty. Soon afterward, in 1995, an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate a cutoff was established in the Conference on Disarmament, and that body, united and without equivocation, called for the early commencement and rapid conclusion of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Yet here we are today, soon to confront the new millennium, and we are not celebrating the conclusion, or even the near conclusion, of these negotiations. We are not celebrating a universal cap on the amount of fissile material available worldwide for nuclear weapons, nor are we taking pride in a robust verification regime, carefully crafted and negotiated, that will provide confidence that the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons has ended.

Sadly, the opposite is the case. Where we should be congratulating ourselves for a job well done, we are again bemoaning lost opportunities. And instead of taking pride in nailing down this critical item on the international nuclear disarmament agenda, some states are continuing to press for unrealistic priorities that prevent progress on what can be practically accomplished.

The United States understands the desire of some states to see more rapid progress on nuclear disarmament -- a goal we share. We acknowledge the calls by some for the CD to take a more active role in advancing international nuclear disarmament priorities. But to us, there is something missing in the logic. Repeatedly, the members of the international community -- the countries represented in this room, right now, as well as countries outside of these halls -- have called for cutoff treaty negotiations. We did so in 1995, in 1997, during the first NPT PrepCom meeting, and again at last year's PrepCom. We did so again last year in the CD and at the UN General Assembly by consensus. We began these negotiations in 1998 an Ad Hoc Committee established under Agenda Item One, nuclear disarmament, of the CD's agenda -- a clear reflection of the priorities of so many CD states. And most important, that Committee met under the able leadership of Canadian CD Ambassador Moher, and began actual deliberations. If we cannot simply pick up where we left off; if we cannot simply agree to get substantive negotiations underway, let alone concluded, how in the world are we going to agree to any further steps on the multilateral nuclear disarmament agenda? Can calls for greater, more ambitious steps be taken seriously, when we cannot get our collective acts together and negotiate this step, which will be difficult enough?

The U.S. takes pride in the numerous steps it has taken -- and continues to take -- to further widely shared nuclear disarmament objectives, and we will continue to build on our record, for that is the right thing to do. And we will continue to promote our record, for we support greater openness and discussion on these weighty issues. We will continue to seek to work with our CD colleagues to find a way out of the current logjam. But efforts to find mutually acceptable solutions can only succeed in a constructive and cooperative environment.

So how should the international community proceed? At the start of my remarks, I said that I came before you with disappointment and regret, coupled with some hope. And yes, the U.S. remains hopeful that the international community can, and will demonstrate its responsibility in seeking to fulfill its obligations and get these negotiations underway as soon as possible. We do not need more nuclear tests in South Asia or anywhere else to galvanize our collective will. Rather, we need only to remind ourselves that the potential benefits of an FMCT are too great to allow this opportunity to slip away. It is the best -- and perhaps only -- means available to cap globally the amount of fissile material for weapons, bind legally and subject to international verification those countries that have halted fissile material production for nuclear weapons, including those with production facilities not currently under safeguards; and thereby extend to the nuclear weapon states and other states many of the constraints that NPT nonnuclear weapon states have already accepted.

A cutoff treaty would further improve the climate conducive to progress on reducing nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon material stockpiles. It appears clear to the United States that the prospects for negotiating deeper reductions in nuclear weapons could be significantly enhanced, if parties to the negotiations are confident that their counterparts are no longer producing fissile materials for weapons.

A cutoff, in short, is the foundation for further steps in the multilateral nuclear disarmament process. If eventual nuclear disarmament is our objective, a cutoff in the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices is a step that should be taken. We should not let this opportunity slip away. I do not want to come back here next year, with greater disappointment, more regret, and little or no hope.

Thank you.