Secretary of State John Kerry told the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference at the United Nations in New York on Monday that as the U.S. negotiates with Iran to rein in its nuclear program, the administration is stepping up dismantlement of the nuclear arsenal at home.
“We have and we will continue to scale down our arsenal, and to continue to move, step by step, toward nuclear disarmament. And I would say to you that our progress is indisputable. As of September 2014, the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile has fallen to 4,717, or 85 percent below the Cold War peak. And yes, still way too many. Over the last 20 years alone, we have dismantled 10,251 warheads, with another approximately 2,500 warheads retired and in the queue for elimination. Now, this is complex and costly work, but we are committed to reducing this backlog,” Kerry said. “And I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has decided that the United States will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent.”
The White House today released a joint statement with Japan, during the visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reaffirming “our commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
“In this 70th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are reminded of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use… We further emphasize the importance of applying the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency in the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”
Kerry told the NPT conference that the administration’s “commitment to disarmament is clear in other areas as well.”
“We have pledged not to pursue new nuclear warheads or support new military missions or military capabilities for the weapons that we do have, and we haven’t tested a nuclear weapon in 23 years. We have clearly demonstrated our commitment to abide by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We have reduced the role that nuclear weapons play in our national security strategy. And the primary purpose today is simply to deter nuclear threats from others. We have reduced the alert status of our nuclear arsenal, and we have taken every reasonable step to ensure its safety, security, and strict control,” he continued.
Kerry said implementation of the New START Treaty with Russia is “going well,” and lauded his Senate role in getting it past. Republicans who agreed to ratification did so on the administration promise of modernizing the nuclear arsenal, something that’s never happened.
“We know that we can cut back even further, and President Obama has made clear our willingness, readiness, now, to engage and negotiate further reductions of deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third below the level set by New START,” he said. “Let me underscore: That offer remains on the table, and we urge the Russians to take us up on it.”
He acknowledge that Russia’s “clear violation of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”
“We are urging Russia to return to compliance. For decades, that treaty has contributed to the peace and the security in Europe and Asia. And there is no reason — no reason — to create new dangers by undermining it now,” Kerry added.
“…We also remain firmly committed to holding the proposed conference on a regional zone in the Middle East, free of all weapons of mass destruction. And this zone is a hugely ambitious goal and fraught with challenges, but ambitious goals are always the ones worth pursuing. We support the regional efforts underway to reach agreement on terms for a conference, and those terms must be shared by all — there is no prospect for engagement or agreement absent the consent of the states involved. And this principle needs to be observed and respected if a process is really to start. And if that’s the case, I guarantee you the effort will have the full support of the United States.”