New York, New York
Mr. President, distinguished delegates: It is a great privilege, as foreign minister of the host country, to welcome you to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. Let me congratulate you, Ambassador Dhanapala, on your election as President of this historic Conference. My colleagues from around the world and I have high confidence in your capable leadership.
It is fitting that we should meet at the United Nations to deliberate the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Few agreements have better embodied the principles that have guided this institution since its creation. Indeed, the collective force of the NPT has been a shining example of what nations can do, in the words of the UN Charter, "to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security."
We should recall the world in which the NPT came into force a quarter-century ago. The Cold War struggle had created a nuclear standoff that threatened the survival not only of the United States, the Soviet Union and their allies--but that of every nation. That struggle also contributed to a costly and dangerous global nuclear arms race. The prospect of ten or more new nuclear powers seemed just over the horizon. It was a world in which fear outpaced hope.
Today, we live in a safer, freer and better world. The Cold War is over: the strategic forces of the superpowers are standing down while their nuclear arsenals are shrinking dramatically. The international community has done its part to reduce the nuclear danger for the entire world. The heart of this effort has been the NPT. Simply put, the NPT has worked.
I believe that the NPT is truly one of the most important treaties of all time. Many of the NPT's achievements cannot be quantified--the weapons not built, the nuclear materials not diverted, and the wars not started. But the results are nonetheless impressive. Since coming into force, the NPT has kept the number of nuclear powers far lower than initially forecast. It has given the parties confidence in the nuclear intentions of other nations. It has reduced the risk of nuclear conflict. It has advanced nuclear disarmament. It has bolstered regional security. It has promoted the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy. And it has undergirded the international community's efforts to halt the spread of all weapons of mass destruction.
By its purpose and its strength, this treaty has earned the widest adherence of any international arms control agreement. The nations assembled here have supported the NPT because it has benefitted all of us. It has protected the security of the nuclear and the non-nuclear, the strong and the less powerful, the land-locked and the coastal states. As President Kennedy said before the UN in 1961, "a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike."
Fortunately, the disaster of which President Kennedy warned has not come to pass. The international community has taken important steps to diminish the nuclear threat. The number and reach of nuclear-weapons free zones is growing. The nuclear arsenals of the two former Cold War adversaries are being reduced by almost two-thirds. Negotiations are advancing on a comprehensive test ban treaty and a cutoff on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The purpose of the NPT is to preserve the security of all, not the nuclear weapons monopoly of a few. The nuclear weapons states have committed themselves to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament, which remains our ultimate goal. The Treaty is the basis for assurances to non-nuclear treaty partners that their security interests continue to be served by their wise and far-sighted choice.
The security that the NPT helps provide must be constantly reinforced. Even in a world in which hope is now outpacing fear, we know that the future is by no means free from danger. While the prospect of global nuclear war recedes, the prospect of the spread of nuclear weapons remains. Together we share the responsibility to meet that common threat.
In the next four weeks, the nations assembled here will reach a decision with the most fateful consequences for their national security and for world peace. For all nations and all peoples, the future of the NPT will be even more important than its past.
Thank you very much.