Ambassador Scheinman Delivers Remarks on the  Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
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Ambassador Scheinman Delivers Remarks on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

March 8, 2020

MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to the
Foreign Press Center. We are pleased to welcome Special Representative for the NPT Adam Scheinman
to brief you this morning. After his remarks we’ll have a session for Q&As. I would request
that you speak into the mike when it is presented to you, and state your name and media affiliation.
Thank you very much. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, thank you and
good morning. I’ll just make a few comments at the top here before we open it for questions.
I think as everyone here knows, the NPT Review Conference opens up on Monday. It’s a month-long
even based in the United Nations and it’s a conference that’s held every five years
per the terms of the treaty, principally to review the performance of the treaty and perhaps
think about recommendations that could be taken to strengthen it. It is very much a U.S. view that this treaty
is a success. It is nearly universal and has done well to prevent the spread of nuclear
weapons to many additional states and to avoid the risks of nuclear war that would come with
that. We think all NPT parties benefit from it both in terms of security and even developmental
assistance. This treaty is the only legal framework we
have in which the five states that are acknowledged in the treaty as having nuclear weapons are
committed to nuclear disarmament. It is a common international basis for dealing with
compliance challenges as we have in Iran and North Korea, and for ensuring that the peaceful
uses of nuclear energy are made available to states around the world. The treaty faces challenges but it’s proven
durable and is at the center of nearly every global effort to reduce nuclear dangers, and
we think it’s important. The Review Conference – as we head into it, the United States
will have a number of goals. Most significantly, we seek to broaden international support for
all three of the treaties pillars – its disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful
uses pillars – and we’ll do that by reinforcing the President’s commitment to seek the peace
and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We’ve made significant progress to reduce
nuclear weapons and negotiate cuts with Russia. The President has said that we’re prepared
to go farther and negotiate additional cuts with Russia to reduce strategic nuclear weapons,
and we very much hope and continue to encourage Russia to take up that offer. We’ll seek progress on a fissile material
cutoff treaty that would end the further buildup of nuclear stockpiles for use in nuclear weapons,
and we are prepared to and we’ve in fact started a new partnership that would look
at technology needed for future arms control agreements. And we’ll be talking about that
at this Review Conference. We’ll encourage strong support for the nuclear
safeguards system that is run by the International Atomic Energy Agency and highlight remaining
noncompliance challenges to the treaty. As the President has said, rules must be respected
and enforced. We will highlight U.S. support for peaceful
uses of nuclear energy and encourage others to do so. We’re very proud of U.S. efforts
in this regard. We’ve contributed resources, including $50 million to a new IAEA Peaceful
Uses Initiative that was launched in 2010. This is a program that is providing use of
nuclear techniques to deal with very serious problems in the third world, whether that
is addressing cancer and disease, monitoring disease, ensuring security for food supplies
around the world, and it’s very important that these continue. They’re very much part
of the NPT bargain. We understand and recognize that this Review
Conference, like any review conference, will be difficult. There are frustrations over
the pace of disarmament. There is the unfortunate example set by Russia in its aggression against
Ukraine, and there are certainly increasing and continuing interests in pursuing a Middle
East zone free of weapons of all mass destruction. These are tough issues. They’ve been on
the NPT agenda for a number of years. They’ll remain there and we look forward to discussing
them in New York. So I will stop there and take questions. QUESTION: Hi there. Thanks so much for the
briefing. James Reinl from Al Jazeera. The question is on the subject that you got on
to at the very end there, the nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East. The outcome of the
previous conference in 2010 was to have a special meeting on that. It was one of the
commitments, and that hasn’t happened. Can you talk about that a little, and possibly
respond to suggestions that through U.S. tacit support for Israel’s nuclear program and
also the Iran deal that you guys are negotiating, you’re in some ways pushing concerned Arab
states towards nuclearization? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes, thank you. The
question of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction – there was an agreement
in 2010 that we would work to hold an initial conference that should involve all states
in the region and it should be focused on the establishment of a zone free of weapons
of mass destruction and systems for their delivery. Over the last two years or so, the United
States has made a very serious effort working with other partners – we call them conveners;
this would be the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United Nations – and a facilitator
who was named for this process, Ambassador Jaakko Laajava from Finland. We have made
major efforts to bring the parties together so that this conference could take place,
and we’ve had some progress. There have been a number of regional consultations that
have involved Arab states as well as Israel, which is not a party to the Nonproliferation
Treaty. I think the process that has occurred has
been a useful one in helping the various states of the region understand the perspectives
that each would bring to achievement of a zone, but we’ve yet to have the regional
states reach agreement on the terms for the conference. But we’ll continue to do that.
Conversations will continue over the course of the Review Conference, and our hope is
that there can be agreement to hold this conference soon. But that would require that the states
of the region, the states of the Middle East, have agreement on the terms for the conference.
This isn’t something that we can impose from the outside. These arrangements only
work if they’re based on voluntary participation. We have the example of regional nuclear weapon-free
zones around the world; they’re all based on the fundamental concept that these are
arrangements that are voluntary and freely arrived at by the regional states. So our
goal is to find a way to encourage the regional states of the Middle East to reach agreement
on the terms for the conference, and that very much remains our goal. However you’d like to. QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ken Okasaka from
Japan’s Kyodo News. Thank you for this briefing. There is, as you are aware, growing concern
and frustration that the pace of the disarmament, nuclear disarmament is too slow and the nuclear
powers are spending a vast amount of money on the modernizing of nuclear weapons. How
do you respond to these voices from the – especially from the non-nuclear powers? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, we would like
to see more progress on nuclear disarmament. This is very much a U.S. policy and interest.
We negotiated one round of nuclear reductions with Russia, the New START Treaty that was
completed several years ago. And implementation of that treaty has continued even though we’re
in the midst of a difficult patch of relations with Russia. We think we can go farther, and the President
had offered to pursue another one-third reduction of strategic nuclear weapons with Russia.
We think this is the most logical next step, in part because the United States and Russia
still hold 90 percent of the nuclear weapons around the world, and we encourage Russia
to take up this offer. They have yet to do so. But there is more that could be done, and
we’d like to see this Review Conference give encouragement to starting negotiations
on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which has been on the NPT and international agenda
for many years but it’s been difficult to get the negotiations started in Geneva at
the Conference on Disarmament, but we think it’s time to get going on that. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
should be brought into force globally. That still remains an interest of the United States
and a priority of the U.S. Administration to – for the United States to eventually
ratify this treaty. We have supported the protocols to nuclear weapon-free zones which
provide the protocol that’s open to the nuclear weapon states, and it says that they
will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against regional states. This is something
that we would like to pursue and we have. We are – we have signed four of the regional
treaty protocols and we’re trying to be in position to sign the fifth, which is a
treaty in Southeast Asia, the Bangkok Treaty. And we’re continuing to discuss with the
Southeast Asian countries how we might get to a position of being able to sign. QUESTION: Are you expecting to have a bilateral
meeting with Russia on disarmament? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: We talk to Russia very
frequently, all the time on nuclear issues relating to the NPT. And I can assure you
that will continue at this Review Conference. MODERATOR: Before we go to D.C., we’ll take
one more from here. QUESTION: Thank you very much. It’s Pamela
Falk from CBS News. One quick follow-up, which is that, Ambassador, you – when President
Obama first came into office, at the Security Council, as President, he got a nonproliferation
resolution passed. Do you expect to go back at any point to the Security Council? So that’s
the follow-up. I know you don’t deal specifically with
the Iran negotiations. Nonetheless, can you can just address the question of how much
coordination there has been between the U.S. and the IAEA since there are many, many pieces
of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that ask the IAEA to be involved? Thank you. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: With respect to the
UN Security Council, there was a resolution – 1887 – that was passed early in the
Administration, in 2009, supported, of course, by the full UN Security Council and all of
the permanent members. We don’t have plans to return to seek an additional resolution
at this time. We think it sets a good template for progress on all of the issues in front
of the Nonproliferation Treaty, whether that deals with arms control or disarmament or
even peaceful uses. And I’m sure all of those issues will be subject to discussion
and consideration for possible recommendations coming out of this Review Conference. In terms of the Iran discussions, the IAEA,
of course, is an important partner. That was made clear in the parameters that the United
States released following the discussions in Switzerland, and I expect that will continue. MODERATOR: Go ahead, Washington. Please ask
your question, Washington. QUESTION: Hi. Can you hear me? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yeah. QUESTION: Good. My name is Wada. I’m with
Japan’s Mainichi newspaper. Ambassador, thank you very much for doing this. Let me
first ask you about the U.S. effort to modernize its nuclear forces. Some people – it’s
true that the United States is reducing the number and importance of nuclear weapons,
but at the same time you are trying to modernize all three pillars of nuclear forces, and some
people criticize it as running counter to the spirit of the announcement by President
Obama that he is seeking a world without nuclear weapons. How would you counter to that kind
of criticism? And also about CTBT, how are you going to
persuade the Senate to make any movement on this issue? Also about Russia: You accused the country
of violating INF Treaty. Is there any movement on that front, on the negotiation with the
Russians over this issue? Thank you. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Thank you. All good
questions, and I’m glad you mentioned the modernization point, because I failed to return
to that – to an earlier question. With respect to the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the President
in 2010 endorsed the Nuclear Posture Review, which contained a number of elements that
support our broad policy of reducing nuclear dangers and making progress toward a world
without nuclear weapons, recognizing that’s a very long-term goal. The President made
clear that we will maintain nuclear weapons as long as they exist, but we would work very
aggressively to reduce the numbers and the role of nuclear weapons in our military strategy.
And if you go back to the Nuclear Posture Review, you’ll see that that’s in evidence
in a number of areas. We made clear, for example, that the fundamental role of nuclear weapons
is to deter nuclear attacks from others. So we’re trying to minimize the potential use
of nuclear weapons as part of our military strategy. The President also said that we will not pursue
new nuclear warheads or new military capabilities for our nuclear weapons. So the so-called
modernization activities that you note are principally focused on maintaining the existing
arsenal or servicing the existing arsenal, and not pursuing new nuclear warheads or new
advanced types of nuclear weapons. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would constrain such developments
and make that a legal requirement for any state that is a party to the CTBT, and I can
tell you that the CTBT is not an issue that has been sort of well understood in the American
system for a number of years. It had been off the agenda. So our goal currently is to
try to educate constituencies about the national security and international security value
of the CTBT so that eventually the Senate might take this up and provide its advice
and consent to ratification. With respect to Russia and the INF Treaty,
we continue to pursue discussion with Russia. We’ve made very clear that we believe Russia
is in violation of the treaty. The opportunity for discussions remains open to Russia to
take should it wish to. But I don’t know that this issue will become a major one at
this particular Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. QUESTION: Joelle Metcalfe, Asahi Shimbun.
I was just wondering: What does the United States want to see done with Article 10? There
seems to be a lot of talk about it, especially among the non states. And so I was just wondering
if you could relay your position on if you wanted to see something done on a consensus
agreement on Article 10, what would it be? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes, thanks for the
question. So Article 10 of the NPT provides the right of states to withdraw from the treaty
under certain circumstances. It’s a very standard clause that’s built into all international
agreements – certainly in the arms control arena. We don’t wish to change that right.
It’s important to the United States that we have that right, and for any state that
comes into the NPT that it have that right should circumstances require withdrawal. What we would like to do is to see the NPT
membership talk about the consequences that might follow if a state abuses that right,
as North Korea did at least 10 years ago. North Korea announced its intent to leave
the treaty, but only after it had violated the treaty. That’s one potential abuse of
the withdrawal right. Another one might be if a country leaves the treaty and then takes
peaceful nuclear supplies that it had received from exporters and uses that to fashion a
nuclear program of some sort. So we as a community of NPT states, I think,
ought to think hard about what potential consequences might follow if a state does abuse that right.
And we’ll be talking about various aspects of that throughout the review conference.
I think it’s been an issue that has very much been on the table since North Korea announced
it was departing in 2003, and we think there is space for consensus on this point. QUESTION: Joseph Klein, Canada Free Press.
I just wanted to follow up on an earlier question relating to Iran in particular, and whether
there’s any concern that in the event that a final agreement is reached along the parameters
set forth in the fact sheet, that after a certain period of time, even under those parameters,
Iran could at least theoretically move forward to develop nuclear arms with the enrichment
program that they’ll have in place, and what the impact of that would be on surrounding
countries who have said that they very well may then develop their own nuclear weapons.
That would run counter to nonproliferation. And related to that, could you comment: If
Iran subscribes to the protocol to the treaty, what in the view of the U.S. constitutes robust,
unfettered inspection by the IAEA? Thank you. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, we are at a very
delicate point in the discussions between the P5+1 states and Iran, and we wish to see
those negotiations succeed. I will not comment on any aspect of those negotiations while
they’re underway. The work is being pursued in Vienna and I can assure you there will
be a very intensive effort to reach an agreed conclusion to those negotiations at the end
of June. We very much hope they succeed because the path that Iran currently had been on,
which was to maintain a capability to build nuclear weapons, perhaps quickly, can be avoided
through this agreement. So we think this agreement is very much – if the agreement is realized
through the final negotiations, it would very much support the Nonproliferation Treaty’s
goals and perhaps address one of its most serious crises and challenges to the future
and to the integrity of the NPT, one that we’ve been dealing with for now a number
of years. So I think the agreement and the prospect
for an agreement will certainly be one that is discussed at this review conference. I
can imagine that NPT parties will wish to give this process encouragement because it’s
our best hope for a diplomatic resolution to a very serious challenge. QUESTION: Thank you. Olga Denisova from RIA
Novosti, Russian news agency. Ambassador, just a follow-up of the Iranian talks: Are
you expecting something, some consultations and – between P5+1 or bilateral talks on
the sidelines of this NPT conference that starts in a couple of days? Thank you. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes. Well, discussions
have started and they’re underway in Vienna, and I expect that process to continue wherever
the parties find the opportunity to continue their discussions. QUESTION: Thank you. Is this on? George Baumgarten,
correspondent for Jewish Newspapers of North America. With reference to your proposed nuclear-free
zone in the Middle East, you have two countries there – Israel, which is a assumed or supposed
nuclear power; and Iran, which is by any stretch of the imagination a threshold nuclear power,
shall we say. What are you doing in any of your delegates’ or representatives’ statements
or assertions to emphasize the distinction between a state that threatens to wipe out
another neighbor state and a state that makes no such statements? And secondarily, what are you doing to encourage
and support the IAEA to see to it that they have the opportunity and the inclination to
engage in absolutely robust inspections? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, on the first question,
you referenced it as “our” proposed zone. The proposal emanates from the region. This
has been an idea that Egypt in particular has championed over the years, and Egypt in
particular that sought agreement to hold this initial conference as an outcome from the
last NPT Review Conference. We’d like to encourage and find ways to bring this Egyptian
idea to bear, at least by starting a discussion that involves all states in the Middle East.
And that’s what we have been trying to do over the last couple of years and we’ll
continue to do it, because we think it is an important first step along a very long
path toward achieving a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction and systems
for their delivery. I would suggest that there are differences
between Iran and Israel, and I wouldn’t want to draw an easy comparison. Iran has
violated commitments that it undertook in the NPT to not pursue nuclear weapons and
we continue to find ways to address that through the P5+1 process. That is what it’s aiming
toward: to bring Iran back into compliance with commitments that it violated. Israel
has never signed the NPT; it’s not in violation of any agreement. But we do support as a long-term
matter a Nonproliferation Treaty that has – that enjoys the participation of all states
in the world. And the means for getting there in the Middle East over time will be through
a regional process that all states in the region buy into and work hard to make a success.
This is a path, as I say, that will likely be quite long, but we need to make a start
somewhere, and that is why we have offered our services to support the convening of an
initial conference of states in the region. QUESTION: Thank you. Greg Beck from Tokyo
Broadcasting System. You mentioned earlier about Article 10, North Korea. Were you hoping
through the NPT conference to seek some further penalties or some actual action toward North
Korea, and is this at all in relation to the recent news that China has updated the U.S.
that North Korea may have doubled their nuclear potential? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, with respect to
North Korea and what we might expect from this Review Conference, I would like to see
an outcome in which NPT parties urge North Korea to return to compliance with its commitments,
including commitments made in the Six-Party Talk process, and to discourage North Korea
from taking additional provocative steps, whether that might be a nuclear test or further
ballistic missile tests. We think that’s a reasonable approach for a Review Conference
to take. In terms of particular measures or penalties,
I think that is best addressed through the UN Security Council process. But what we will
encourage and would like to see is a return to the diplomatic process under the Six-Party
Talk framework which would lead North Korea to meet its commitment to abandon all of its
nuclear programs. That was the commitment it made to the world and it should keep. MODERATOR: In the back. QUESTION: Hi. My name is Kazuhiko Kusano from
Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers. I have two questions, and it’s kind of some follow-up
on his question – can we expect some joint P5 new initiative or announcement to meet
the frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states? And one more question is: I think
at the last – at the beginning of the last review conference, Secretary Clinton announced
that the number of the stockpile of nuclear warhead the first time. So do you – are
the U.S. Government – can we expect new announcement or surprise from the U.S. Government? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Thank you. With respect
to the P5 and steps we may take, I can tell you that the P5 as a group have been meeting
almost continuously since the 2010 Review Conference. We have started a process of annual
conferences that have been hosted in a rotating capital of the P5 states, most recently in
London in 2015, and the next conference will be hosted by France soon. So we use this process
to attempt to discuss and think of opportunities to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty.
We use it as a process to discuss our various approaches to nuclear weapons and to arms
control and to verification. And we think it’s a useful process that I am sure will
continue. The process has yielded a glossary of terms
that will be released at this Review Conference which China, in fact, had led the development
of. They led the P5 working group to assess this – I’m sorry, not to assess, but to
draft this set of terms and to circulate it and develop it with all the other P5 states.
And what the glossary can help do is build a more common framework for discussion of
concepts and terms that are important to future arms-control measures as well as to implementation
of the NPT. So we will continue that process. And Secretary Kerry will deliver the U.S.
speech at the opening debate on Monday, and we’ll see what’s in it. QUESTION: Hi. This is Arul Louis from Indo-Asian
News Service. The U.S. has supported India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,
which some see as a dilution of the NPT. How are – if you see this issue coming up at
the NPT review, and is it likely to be one of the issues raised there? Thanks. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: I don’t know that
it will be an issue that is raised at the review conference. If it is, we’re certainly
prepared to address it. The Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative with India is not one
that the United States owns. There was agreement among the Nuclear Suppliers Group several
years ago to permit nuclear trade with India, and that’s a group of almost 50 countries.
So the idea behind it is that India is a state with a very advanced nuclear energy program
and serious energy needs. It is a state that has a good track record on nonproliferation
– it has not proliferated nuclear weapons or nuclear technologies to other states – and
that we would use the agreement and this initiative as a way to further strengthen India’s nonproliferation
record and to bring it into the mainstream of nations. QUESTION: My name is Mushfiqul Fazal; I’m
from Bangladesh. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese nuclear experts have warned that
North Korea may already have 20 nuclear warheads and the capability to produce enough weapons-grade
uranium to double its arsenal by next year. So how you will address these issues in the
summit? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Well, I will not comment
on intelligence matters, and I don’t think that’s the most pertinent issue in any case.
The question is whether we can re-launch a process – a diplomatic process – that
brings North Korea into discussions on ways to meet the commitments that North Korea itself
made, which was to abandon all of its nuclear programs. The United States has been clear
that we’re prepared to resume such discussions, provided they are authentic, they get at the
entirety of the North Korean nuclear program, and they will lead to the complete, irreversible,
and verified elimination of nuclear programs in North Korea. MODERATOR: If there are no further questions,
that concludes our briefing for – we have one more question. QUESTION: Thank you. Could you a little bit
touch on the issue of inhumanity – U.S. – of the nuclear weapons? U.S. participated
in the conference late last year for the first time, and do you think this issue will bring
about a positive influence on the negotiations, or will it deepen the divide – division
between the nuclear states and non-nuclear powers when not all of the nuclear-weapons
states participated? AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Yes, thank you. The
question of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons is one that has gained significant
attention through a series of conferences that were held in the last two or three years.
The United States does not dispute the notion that nuclear weapons, if ever used, would
have devastating consequences. These are hugely destructive weapons, and it’s that fact
that underpins the entire U.S. effort to reduce nuclear danger, whether through strengthened
measures in the Nonproliferation Treaty, reduction of nuclear weapons around the world, securing
nuclear material and facilities so that terrorists can’t get access to these materials. So
it really is the basis for everything that we do and stand for with respect to nonproliferation
and disarmament. The question is how one gets to the end point,
and I think it’s an end point – a world without nuclear weapons – that we all share.
The United States takes the view that progress toward the goal will have to come along a
step-by-step pathway, with each step building on the last and perhaps creating additional
opportunities for new steps that could be taken. The next step that we believe would
be logical to take would be another round of nuclear reductions negotiated between the
United States and Russia and to pursue the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty – bringing that, the Test Ban Treaty into force – as foundational
agreements to make further progress, because it’s inconceivable that the world will move
to many, many fewer numbers of nuclear weapons unless there is a legal and verified cap on
production of fissile material for weapons or for nuclear testing. MODERATOR: All right. Thank you for attending
today’s briefing. AMBASSADOR SCHEINMAN: Thank you.

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