Ambassador Susan F. Burk
Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation
New York City
April 30, 2010

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am honored to have the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of the United States at this second meeting of the signatories and parties to nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. The United States is here today in the capacity of an observer, but we also are a supporter of well-crafted nuclear-weapon-free zones and the important role that they have to play in the broader regime of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Next week the Review Conference for the cornerstone of that regime, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the NPT, will begin. It will give us an opportunity both to reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty and to discuss elements for an agenda for future work to strengthen its three pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Review Conference will also take stock of the progress that Parties have made in each area and consider steps that all Parties can take to realize its objectives.

The United States agrees with many delegations present here today that we need to carry out a balanced review of the three pillars, and that recent events and challenges, both positive and negative, must be considered as we do that. The discussion here today on nuclear-weapon-free zones is an important part of that review.

The United States believes that nuclear-weapon-free zones can be important regional complements to the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned, and in accordance with the 1999 United Nations Disarmament Commission guidelines, enhances global and regional peace and security, strengthens the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and contributes to realizing the objectives of nuclear disarmament.

Some of the provisions of these zone treaties regionally complement obligations under the global NPT, but other provisions provide concrete nonproliferation and disarmament benefits that go beyond the requirements of the NPT. In particular, the zone treaties generally prohibit the stationing of weapons within the zones, reducing the potential role of nuclear weapons within these parts of the world. The zone treaties also prohibit the testing of weapons within the zones, an important barrier to proliferation as we work to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force. There are provisions in the zone treaties that offer other concrete benefits, such as: prohibiting the dumping of radioactive wastes; in one case requiring parties to adopt the Additional Protocol; restricting nuclear material transfers unless the recipient state maintains full-scope safeguards; and requiring the highest standards of security and physical protection of nuclear material. These kinds of measures concretely advance our nonproliferation and disarmament goals, further strengthening the NPT regime.

The United States recognizes the important role that we and other NPT nuclear weapon states can play by ratifying the relevant treaty protocols requiring that we respect such zones and offering their States Parties legally binding negative security assurances. Our decision to ratify the protocols to these treaties is made on a case-by-case basis and in consideration of the relevant nonproliferation and security factors in relation to the region in question.

After such consideration, we signed and ratified the relevant protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1981, thus underlining our support for the Treaty's goals. We continue to firmly support the important role this Treaty plays in the security of the Western Hemisphere. We also have signed protocols to the Treaties of Pelindaba and Rarotonga. We look forward to future consultation with the States party to the Treaties of Semipalatinsk and Bangkok to address concerns that we have with the protocols to those treaties. The United States is currently reviewing its policy with respect to all nuclear-weapon-free zones, consistent with President Obama's commitment to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime.

We also believe that Mongolia's status as a nuclear-weapon-free state represents a concrete step in support of nuclear nonproliferation, and we will continue to coordinate with Mongolia regarding its efforts to institutionalize this status.

Mr. Chairman, the United States supports the efforts of this conference to encourage cooperation among nuclear-weapon-free zones. We are committed to work with the governments represented here and with other NPT partners to strengthen the NPT and the global nonproliferation regime, which includes these important initiatives to promote treaty-based nuclear weapon free zones.

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this conference today as an observer and look forward to working with all of you in the coming weeks.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.