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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Press Availability at the United Nations

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The United Nations
New York City
May 3, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. I just finished speaking to the 2010 NPT Review Conference. This is the eighth time that parties to the treaty have come together like this over the last 40 years since the NPT came into force. Nearly 190 nations are represented here and almost every one of them has met its nonproliferation obligations and comes to New York with constructive ideas for strengthening the treaty. This conference will provide strong impetus for a reinvigorated nonproliferation regime and the United States is doing its part.

In the past several months, we have taken a number of important steps to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and to make the world safer for us all. Under President Obama’s leadership, we signed a new START treaty with Russia that limits our deployed strategic nuclear weapons to levels not seen since the 1950s. We completed a Nuclear Posture Review that rules out the development of new nuclear weapons and states clearly that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapons state that is party to the NPT and in compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations while maintaining a safe, effective, and credible deterrent for as long as nuclear weapons exist. We committed to ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to starting multilateral negotiations on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty.

This afternoon, I made some additional announcements that we think will strengthen the three pillars of the NPT. I announced, beginning today, we will make public the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and the number dismantled since 1991. I announced $50 million in support for a new IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative that will spread the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy. I announced we will seek U.S. Senate ratification for our participation in existing nuclear-weapons-free-zone agreements among the nations of Africa and the South Pacific, and I reaffirmed our longstanding policy to support efforts to realize a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East in accordance with the 1995 Middle East Resolution.

Now, given the lack of a comprehensive regional peace and concerns about some countries’ compliance with NPT safeguards, the conditions for such a zone do not yet exist. But we are prepared to support practical measures for moving toward that objective.

Together, these measures represent our commitment to ensuring that the NPT is stronger when our work is done than it is today. And in both public appearances and private conversations, many others have made the same commitment.

But we’ve also heard some destructive rhetoric, rhetoric meant to divide and obstruct us. And we cannot let that rhetoric stand. Iran is the only country represented here found to be currently in violation of its obligations under the NPT. As the IAEA Board of Governors has stated clearly and publicly, the Iranian Government has repeatedly rejected the injunctions of the UN Security Council and refused to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation of its activities. It appears that Iran’s president came here today with no intention of improving the NPT. He came to distract attention from his own government’s failure to live up to its international obligations, to evade accountability for defying the international community, and to undermine our shared commitment to strengthening the treaty.

But he will not succeed. Time and again, the Iranian Government has tried to make its own failures to abide by its duties into an issue between Iran and the United States. But this conference itself underscores that the issue at stake is much larger. It is about the responsibility of all nations, including Iran, to comply with their international obligations and to advance rather than undermine regional and global security. For all the bluster of its words, the Iranian Government cannot defend its own actions, and that is why it is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international community.

Among other things, Iran’s president today claimed that Iran had accepted the IAEA’s proposal to refuel the Tehran research reactor. Iran has a history of making confusing, contradictory, and inaccurate statements designed to convey the impression that it has adopted a flexible attitude toward the proposal. But we have seen no indication that Iran is willing to accept the IAEA’s October proposal or any variant of that proposal that would achieve the confidence-building goals that were intended. If Iran has truly changed its position, it should provide a clear indication of that to the IAEA.

Additionally, we repeat our call, on humanitarian grounds, for Iran to release the three young hikers who have been detained without charge or trial for more than nine months.

In the meantime, it is up to the rest of the countries represented here to show that our shared commitment is greater than any effort to undermine it. We must use this conference to send potential violators a strong message that they will pay a high price for breaking the rules. Only if Iran hears that message clearly will it accept our standing offer to engage in good-faith negotiations, to live up to its obligations, and join with the rest of us here in making the world safer.

I’m hopeful we will make progress during this conference, but the real progress will come from a sustained, long-term commitment to strengthening the NPT this month and for many months ahead. If we fail, we face the prospect of a new wave of proliferation. But if we build on our common vision, recognizing there is much more that unites us than divides us, we have an opportunity to set a new course, a new course for global nonproliferation efforts. And it is a course that the United States has embraced, and we are eager to move forward with the international community.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary --

MR. CROWLEY: We have time for a few of your questions. We’ll start with Jill Dougherty of CNN.

QUESTION: Is there a microphone or we just – Secretary Clinton, thank you very much. It looks, though, as if you have a dilemma, because how are you going to balance the push for sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program with this desire to induce Iran to sign on to the final document of this NPT, and especially knowing that five years from now, they will be the head of the Non-Aligned Group here at the NPT?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, I think that both of these efforts are actually part of the same commitment. We believe that strengthening the NPT requires nations to stand up and clearly be counted on behalf of stronger rules and regulations coming out of the IAEA, greater accountability and transparency, more tools going to the IAEA to be able to enforce the obligations of the NPT. And that is exactly what we are working to achieve with our partners in the Security Council with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.

As I said in the hall and as I said again here, Iran is the only nation that is attending this conference that has violated consistently the treaty obligations it signed up to follow, that has defied the international community, that has acted with impunity when held to account by the IAEA and the Security Council.

And we think there will be a very significant – a supermajority of countries that will want to move forward with a reaffirmation of the NPT, all three pillars. And if Iran wants to be further isolated, it will stand outside that consensus. But I hope that we can reach consensus. I hope that we can reach agreement in the Security Council on tough new sanctions, because I believe that is the only way to get the attention of Iran’s leadership and to move toward a thorough and careful assessment of its nuclear program, and to make clear that the international community will not stand idly by while countries violate their obligations.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary – excuse me – Madam Secretary, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, at the beginning, he laid out reasons why he felt Iran was threatened or they felt threatened by the United States and its allies. Do you think Iran has any legitimate reasons to feel threatened by the United States? And if so, is that driving them further towards noncompliance?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot possibly speak for Iran or for their president.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know what their perception is. The United States has been very clear. President Obama came into office with a very open hand toward Iran. He talked about it in his inaugural address. It was that important to him. He has reached out personally to the Iranian leadership. We have reached out in many different ways. We have held the meetings of the P-5+1 as a full participant in this work. We have come forward with Russia and France with the Tehran research reactor proposal. Time and time again, I think we have demonstrated our commitment to the two-track process – the track of engagement and of moving forward together and then the track of pressure. Well, we are on the pressure track, but it is within the United Nations that we are seeking that pressure.

So I can’t, in any way, assess what the president means or doesn’t mean or what he says for effect or what he says that he – out of sincerity. But I can tell you that he knows the address of the IAEA, he knows what it is expected of him; he can respond at any time and we would still welcome a good-faith, legitimate, genuine response. But we are, as you know, waiting.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary --

QUESTION: Sorry, excuse me, Madam Secretary. I’m wondering if you can enlighten us a little bit more about the decision to release the numbers and the figures in the nuclear arsenal. We understand that there were people inside the government who were not in favor of this. What was the calculus of the Administration in deciding that making them public was more important than the national security concerns that people who disagreed with your point of view had?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, we think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States. We think that builds confidence. We think it brings more people to an understanding of what President Obama and this Administration is trying to do, everything from the Prague speech to the new START treaty to the Nuclear Security Summit, to our position and the announcements that I made today here at the NPT Review Conference. And we don’t believe that revealing the number of nuclear weapons we have in our arsenals, which most experts know already, but sharing it with the public is in any way in opposition to our nuclear security.

And at the end of the day, as with many vigorous debates, there was a general agreement that that was certainly the case, so that you’ll hear later today from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy releasing those numbers. Look, the United States and Russia, together we have more than 95 percent of all the nuclear weapons in the world. We have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over. We are attempting to rein that in. We are attempting to make progress toward a world without nuclear weapons in a clear-eyed, practical, realistic way consistent with our security, and we think releasing this information furthers that goal.

(Multiple questions being asked simultaneously.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Go ahead, go ahead, real quickly.

QUESTION: Okay. There are three countries which are friends to the United States which are not signatory to NPT – India, Pakistan, and Israel. What – and you have had a conversation with India, Pakistan, just now in Washington. What are the new proposals that you have in order to bring these countries into the fold, in order to be signatory to NPT, which is very essential for the goals that you are setting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we want to see every country be a signatory to the NPT. We want universal adherence. And we continue to urge all states, every single one of them outside the NPT, to join the treaty, accept the full-scope safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency, as required under the treaty.

We believe strongly in this. That’s why we are taking steps which have never been taken by any administration before. And we would like to see every nation become a signatory and we want to see every nation that is a signatory live up to their obligations. And it is important that the United States take the steps we are taking to build confidence, to demonstrate our commitment. But we continue to hope that we will see all nations eventually agree that being a signatory to the NPT is in their interest and the interests of global security and safety.

Thank you very much.

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