U.S. Urges Disarmament Conference to Launch Fissile Material Talk

Statement by Ambassador Robert T. Grey Jr.
United States Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, February 15, 2001

Mr. President,

Two years ago today, I was seated where you are sitting now, serving
this Conference as its rotational President. But I can assure you that
it is a far greater pleasure to sit here alongside other Member States
and congratulate you as you complete four weeks of energetic and
intense endeavor as presiding officer of the Conference on
Disarmament. I know exactly how you feel.

In that same spirit, the efforts of my entire delegation are available
to assist you and your immediate successor, Ambassador Vega of Chile,
as you and he seek to promote agreement on the basis of the work
program proposal advanced last August 24 by Ambassador Amorim of

Ambassador Amorim's proposal remains a sound basis for reaching
consensus in the Conference. It did not descend from heaven and was
not engraved on stone, but I believe your soundings among a wide range
of Member States have convinced you there is little room for tinkering
with it. After all, Ambassador Amorim's proposal took full advantage
of significant advances he inherited from his own distinguished
predecessors, including Ambassadors Dembri of Algeria and Lint of
Belgium. Further, Ambassador Amorim's proposal genuinely reflects the
broad convictions of our colleagues and our strong belief that the
Conference should get down to substantive work that will enhance
international peace and security.

A few weeks after Ambassador Amorim tabled his proposal, Mr.
Abdelkader Bensmail, the CD's former Deputy Secretary-General,
delivered farewell remarks to the Conference (September 21, 2000). In
doing so, Mr. Bensmail drew on over twenty years of experience, during
which he acquired considerable insight into the whys and wherefores of
multilateral diplomacy. I would like to commend and call attention to
the following key paragraph:

"Preparing the ground for future negotiations through discussions and
technical work is a prerequisite for the start of genuine
negotiations. All major negotiations have been preceded by a
pre-negotiations stage, in which some shared understanding is reached
that a security problem exists and that it must be addressed
multilaterally. This process may be arduous and time-consuming, but it
provides the guarantee that the end-product, that is to say, treaty
making, is based on solid foundations which take into account the
security concerns of all and therefore ensures the universality and
effectiveness of the agreements reached. What is required is a common
willingness of all the membership of the Conference, making full use
of its built-in flexibility and recognized expertise, to develop a
workable and balanced program of work which takes into account the
priorities and concerns of all."

In effect, Mr. Bensmail was describing the proposal that Ambassador
Amorim put forward at the end of the preceding month. And by
implication he was also commenting on efforts and plans of the
Conference for handling the three topics that have been at the center
of ongoing controversy: negotiations to conclude a Fissile Material
Cutoff Treaty, and deliberations of the Conference on issues related
to nuclear disarmament and outer space.

Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

Above all, Mr. President, the Conference needs to start negotiations
on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). In this case, "the
pre-negotiations stage" was concluded long ago, after "arduous and
time-consuming" endeavors which guarantee that treaty making will be
based on solid foundations. These extended preparations included the
following key events:

-- On July 14, 1992, U.S. President Bush announced a unilateral
moratorium on the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons
or other explosive devices, and he encouraged others to make similar
statements. This announcement codified circumstances that dated from
1988, when the U.S. stopped producing plutonium for use in nuclear
weapons. Almost a quarter-century before that, the U.S. ceased to
produce highly enriched uranium for this purpose (1964).

-- On December 16, 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution
which called for the negotiation of "a non-discriminatory,
multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty
banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or
other nuclear explosive devices" (resolution 48/75 L, adopted without
a vote).

-- On January 14, 1994, the CD approved the appointment of Canadian
Ambassador Gerald Shannon as a special coordinator responsible for
conducting consultations and developing a broadly acceptable mandate
for negotiations to conclude an FMCT.

-- On October 4, 1994, U.S. Secretary of State Christopher and Chinese
Foreign Minister Qian issued a joint statement in which they promoted
the "earliest possible achievement" of a treaty prohibiting the
production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

-- In December 1994, the Russian Federation announced that as of the
previous October 1, it had stopped producing plutonium for use in
nuclear weapons. This complemented an official announcement made on
April 7, 1989 that the former USSR would cease the production of
highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons later that year.

-- On March 23, 1995, Canadian Ambassador Shannon reported to the CD
on the consultations he conducted in 1994 and 1995 (PV.703). In part,
he stated that Member States had reached agreement on a negotiating
mandate based on General Assembly resolution 48/75 L, and that various
views had been expressed in regard to issues that would arise during
the negotiations. On the next day, his report was issued as a CD
document (CD/1299).

-- During later stages of the same CD plenary (March 23, 1995), the
Conference decided to adopt Ambassador Shannon's report and to
establish an ad hoc committee to conduct negotiations. Unfortunately,
however, the Conference did not reach agreement on the appointment of
a chairman, and the FMCT ad hoc committee did not meet that year.

-- On April 18, 1995, UK Foreign Secretary Hurd announced that the
United Kingdom had stopped producing fissile material for explosive

-- On May 11, 1995, the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation
of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ended their review and extension conference
in New York by adopting a principles and objectives document that
called for the "immediate commencement and early conclusion" of FMCT

-- On February 22, 1996, French President Chirac announced that France
no longer produces fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

-- On October 29, 1997, U.S. President Clinton and Chinese President
Jiang Zemin called for "the earliest start of formal negotiations on
the Prohibition of Production of Fissile Material Used in Nuclear
Weapons and Other Nuclear Explosive Devices."

-- On May 11, 1998, after conducting a series of nuclear tests, India
announced that it would "participate in the negotiations for the
conclusion of a fissile material cutoff treaty in the Geneva-based
Conference on Disarmament."

-- On June 4, 1998, after meeting here in Geneva - and, in fact, in
this very same room - the Secretary of State of the United States and
the Foreign Ministers of China, France, the Russian Federation, and
the United Kingdom issued a communiqué calling for negotiations "in
the Conference on Disarmament for a Fissile Material Cutoff Convention
with a view to reaching early agreement."

-- On July 30, 1998, Ambassador Munir Akram, the distinguished
representative of Pakistan, delivered a plenary statement in which he
declared, "Pakistan has consistently believed that a ban on the
production of fissile materials should be promoted through a universal
and non-discriminatory treaty negotiated in the CD and not through
unilateral measures." To this end, he said, Pakistan would join in
promoting a decision for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to
conduct negotiations.

-- On August 11, 1998, the CD once again decided to establish an ad
hoc committee to conduct negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff
Treaty. Nine days later (August 20), the Conference decided to appoint
Canadian Ambassador Mark Moher as the Chairman. During the ensuing two
weeks, the committee met twice.

-- On December 4, 1998, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution,
which called for the CD to reestablish its ad hoc committee at the
beginning of the 1999 session (resolution 53/77 I, adopted without a

-- On May 20, 2000, the Parties to the NPT ended their review
conference in New York by adopting a final document that called for
immediate commencement of FMCT negotiations with a view to their
conclusion within five years.

-- On November 20, 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution
which called for the CD to agree on a program of work for the year
2001 that includes the immediate commencement of FMCT negotiations
(resolution 55/33 Y, adopted without a vote).

Mr. President, after all the announcements made and promises exchanged
over quite a number of years, it is time for us to demonstrate our
commitment to FMCT negotiations. The concept of a Fissile Material
Cutoff Treaty is fully mature, and the plan for negotiations has
repeatedly been endorsed by the international community. Given all the
ample preparations that I have just cited, the Conference will have
shown it is no longer capable of doing anything of consequence if we
cannot even begin to negotiate on this issue. And I know that you, Mr.
President, as a worthy successor to the commitment and dedication of
your distinguished predecessors Gerald Shannon and Mark Moher, will
continue to do your utmost for the cause they championed.

I recently read the transcript of a statement that the official
spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
made in Moscow on January 29. In part, the Ministry's spokesman
advocated "the earliest possible achievement of progress in Conference
activity, including - on parallel tracks - the start of the work
within its framework of the Ad Hoc Committees on weapons grade fissile
materials and on talks to prevent an arms race in outer space." The
spokesman then went on to state that Russia considers it "of
fundamental importance that both committees have a mandate to

To the best of my understanding of this unofficial translation from
the Russian original, the net implication is that Russia is linking
the two issues, specifying under what conditions it is prepared to
undertake work on either. I therefore find it puzzling that earlier in
the same paragraph, the Ministry's spokesman declared, "we condemn the
path of interlinkages at the CD, of converting one issue into the
hostage of another." If the Russian Federation really does condemn
linkages, this implies that Russia would be willing to support an
immediate stand-alone decision to start FMCT negotiations. Perhaps the
Russian delegation would be willing to enlighten us on that.

Last September 14, Ambassador Hu Xiaodi, the distinguished
representative of China, declared, "the issues of outer space and FMCT
cannot but be closely linked." In part, this stemmed from his view
that "serious doubt has been cast on the nature and purpose of FMCT
negotiations." I wonder, Mr. President, whether this means that China
is planning to produce more fissile material for use in nuclear
weapons, or just wants to keep that option open. These comments were
Delphic on that issue, to say the least. But one point is exceedingly
clear: China has made an explicit linkage between FMCT negotiations
and negotiations on a new outer space treaty.

Let me shine a spotlight on the views of my own country. The United
States does not link the start of FMCT negotiations to anything else.
We would be quite willing to join in a decision to launch FMCT
negotiations right now, as a step standing by itself and fully
justified on its own merits.

We understand, however, that such a proposal would not command
consensus in the Conference. As a compromise, the United States has
accepted the basic approach that Ambassador Amorim advanced on August
24: a comprehensive program of work that would include negotiations on
a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and organized discussions on issues
related to nuclear disarmament and outer space. The overwhelming
majority of Member States have said they can accept that, whereas a
small number have not yet agreed to do so.

Let me make the net situation quite clear and emphatic. The United
States is prepared to agree to a CD work program that calls for the
establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament and an ad
hoc committee on outer space, in the context of active and ongoing
negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

Outer Space

When we consider outer space on its own merits, seeking to appraise
its suitability as a focus for concrete and specific work, the
contrast with FMCT negotiations is immediate and striking. As many
U.S. representatives have repeatedly emphasized, there is no arms race
in outer space, nor any prospect of an arms race for as far down the
road as any one can see. We fully support the 1967 Outer Space Treaty
and judge that it, along with a number of other inter-national
agreements, is entirely equal to the task of preventing an arms race
in outer space. The United States is therefore not persuaded that
there is a realistic and current need for further measures aimed at
enhancing international peace and security in outer space. To put it
quite simply, outer space issues are not ripe for negotiations in the

We realize that others have different convictions. What we do not
understand is why those who do not share our views are unwisely and
unrealistically insisting on immediate negotiations on a new outer
space treaty, a diplomatic tactic which has the net effect of blocking
discussion of the very issues they say they care about. What are these
Member States afraid of? Is the current paralysis in the Conference
their actual goal, what they really are seeking to achieve? Thanks to
these Member States, the Conference has not yet started the
"pre-negotiations stage" that Mr. Bensmail mentioned in his farewell
remarks - the "arduous and time-consuming" work of exploring whether
there may be "a shared understanding ... that a security problem
exists and that it must be addressed multi-laterally."

According to the draft mandate that Ambassador Amorim tabled, Members
of the Conference would establish an ad hoc committee on outer space
to "examine and identify specific topics or proposals." The draft
states that such substantive proposals could relate to
confidence-building or transparency measures, general principles,
treaty commitments, or certain other aspects. For its part, the United
States is willing to participate in an organized discussion aimed at
examining those issues - in the context of active and ongoing
negotiations on an FMCT.

Outer space is now the home of a wide range of satellites that provide
crucial services on economic and commercial levels. In addition, many
countries have satellites that provide various types of data for
military purposes to ships, aircraft, and ground forces worldwide.
These realities will have to be taken into account in any organized
discussion of outer space issues. As Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov
stated on February 1, "Some medicines are more dangerous than diseases

Nuclear Disarmament

The United States takes very seriously our obligation stated in
Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:
"to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating
to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under
strict and effective international control." Since the nuclear arms
race ceased quite some time ago, one key benchmark has already been

Thus far the United States and the Russian Federation have made
significant reductions in their nuclear arsenals as the result of
negotiated agreements and unilateral initiatives. The substantial
reductions called for in START I will be achieved on schedule before
the end of the year. When reductions to START II levels have been
completed, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal will be only one-third
as large as it was at the height of the Cold War.

The United States remains committed to even further reductions in
nuclear arms. President Bush has said the U.S. should take the lead
toward a safer world when it comes to nuclear weaponry. I look forward
to reporting on developments in this field as we pursue that goal.

It is exceedingly difficult to believe that the physical security and
ultimate fate of hundreds of millions of human beings must forever be
held hostage to the prospect of instant annihilation. This intense
irony, this profound paradox was at the core of Cold War theories that
seem well overdue for an upgrade. Although the new Administration will
review these issues over the coming weeks, it would not be premature
to point out that missile defense can enhance strategic stability and
further reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used.

Given the progress achieved thus far and the other factors I have
mentioned, what can the Member States of the Conference actually do to
facilitate the long-term process of nuclear disarmament? The single
most important step is for Member States to decide to launch
negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. This, after all, is
the only multilateral undertaking related to nuclear disarmament that
can actually be negotiated now. Prohibiting the production of fissile
material for use in nuclear weapons is a necessary step on the
long-term path toward complete elimination. And by becoming parties to
an FMCT, the nuclear weapons states would accept inspection,
monitoring, and reporting requirements that are likely to be far more
intrusive than any which apply to them now.

On the other hand, what can Member States of the Conference expect to
achieve in a separate ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament? We
really do not know, and these chronic doubts were closely associated
with the longstanding reluctance of the United States to agree to the
establishment of such a committee.

On March 7, 2000, Mr. Frank Miller, then serving as Principal Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction, gave
an extended briefing in this chamber on achievements thus far and U.S.
plans for further reductions in nuclear arms. It was thoroughly rooted
in current realities, and it seemed to be well received by those who

After considering this event and its net outcome, the U.S. Government
decided that as a major step aimed at bringing about agreement on a
work program that includes active and ongoing negotiations on an FMCT,
the United States can agree to the establishment of an ad hoc
committee in which Member States will discuss issues related to
nuclear disarmament.

In comparison, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said on February 1 that
Russia supports the idea of establishing "a subsidiary body entrusted
with an explore Tory mandate for broad discussions on the problem area
of nuclear disarmament." Would that be an ad hoc committee along the
lines proposed by Ambassador Amorim, or is the Russian Federation
advocating something else? Perhaps the Russian delegation would also
be willing to enlighten us on this.

As I have already stated, the U.S. has made yet another adjustment to
our strong initial views on the overall work program of the
Conference. In other words, the United States has agreed with great
reluctance to the establishment of an ad hoc committee in which Member
States will discuss issues related to outer space. And having taken
these two important and difficult steps, we have gone as far as we can

Mr. President, I believe that Member States are as close as we can
ever expect to be to agreement on an overall program of work. We have
been wrestling with this for several years, and it would be
exceedingly unwise to let the moment slip away. After all, the
proposals we are actively considering owe much to the wisdom and
discernment of many prior Presidents of eminent stature, including two
highly distinguished diplomats who previously served as Foreign
Ministers of their respective countries - Ambassador Mohamed-Salah
Dembri of Algeria and Ambassador Celso L. N. Amorim of Brazil. My
delegation takes their contributions very seriously. Their efforts
have clearly identified the kind of a work program that should command

It is therefore deeply disappointing that the Conference is becoming
more and more like England's Long Parliament of the 17th century, an
irrelevant and anachronistic irritant that clearly became a major part
of the problem, not part of the solution. Certain delegations accept
proposals on the premise that others will reject them and relieve
these delegations of the need to do so on their own. Then, when a
consensus seems to be emerging, they scuttle back and forth,
disavowing what they previously claimed to support while trying to
raise the stakes in their favor. Tactical intrigue becomes an end in
itself, and the notion of a collective responsibility to make a
positive contribution to multilateral arms control is rapidly becoming
a distant and fading memory.

It is important to understand that unused attributes and traits may
atrophy or even become extinct, and that institutions which do not
perform according to just and reasonable expectations may end up
extinguishing themselves. If this Conference takes yet another
opportunity to miss an opportunity, that is precisely the risk it will
be running.

Thank you, Mr. President.