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Arms Control and International Security: Remarks on the IPNDV Following the Third Plenary Meeting

Thank you all for joining us today for an update on the progress of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV). My thanks also to Ambassador Sano for his remarks and for Japan’s strong support for IPNDV, particularly for hosting the Partnership’s Third Plenary this past June.

I want to start by giving you some brief background on the Partnership, as it may be an unfamiliar subject to some of you. Next, I will report on the latest meetings and developments, and close with some thoughts on where the Partnership fits in the broader nuclear disarmament effort.

In December of 2014, Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller announced the establishment of the IPNDV, to be implemented in collaboration with the non-governmental organization the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The Partnership’s purpose is to bring together expertise from states that possess nuclear weapons, and states that do not, to work together to better understand and overcome the technical challenges of verifying nuclear disarmament.

U.S. support for the Partnership is a reflection of our commitment to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons—a goal that President Obama outlined in Prague in 2009. Through a practical approach to nuclear disarmament, we have made real progress toward this objective. The U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile has been slashed more than 85% since its Cold War heights. For all of our progress, we hold no illusions that our work is done. That is why we are committed to working with all states that share this goal to promote dialogue and tackle the practical challenges that must be overcome.

Now in its second year, the Partnership has made significant progress. More than 25 countries have participated so far, bringing to bear a wide range of expertise working to create an effective foundation for nuclear disarmament verification. The main engine of the Partnership is its three Working Groups:

  • Working Group 1 is considering objectives for different phases of weapons elimination, the types of information and criteria needed to determine whether those objectives are being met, and the specific areas of expertise and resources required to support future work.
  • Working Group 2 is drawing lessons from existing on-site inspection regimes and assessing the applicability of fundamental on-site inspection principles to possible future verification efforts.
  • Working Group 3 is identifying practical solutions to the technical challenges posed by nuclear warhead verification, including methods for nuclear warhead authentication, establishing and maintaining chain of custody, and authenticating necessary data and equipment.

These groups have now each met multiple times, beginning with the Partnership’s second Plenary in Oslo last November, and continuing through dedicated Working Group meetings in Geneva earlier this year, and the third IPNDV Plenary in Tokyo two months ago. The Tokyo Plenary held in June was an outstanding event, so I want to credit and express my deepest gratitude to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the leadership of Director General Aikawa for making it possible. As part of the program, we were treated to a presentation by the IAEA on the Agency’s experience implementing safeguards, with emphasis on the protection of information and managed access procedures, as well as on measures to maintain continuity of knowledge in the verification process. Especially given the IAEA’s demanding global responsibilities, we’re grateful to the Agency for providing its expertise to the proceedings.

Also in Tokyo we received updates from each of the Working Groups on their progress since their initial meetings in Oslo and their planned next steps toward completing the tasks laid out in their individual Terms of Reference. Having chosen a hypothetical dismantlement scenario at the Geneva meetings to focus the work of all three Working Groups on a singular event, in Tokyo each group developed a roadmap for completing their deliverables, which will be published upon the completion of the Partnership’s first phase of work, in November 2017.

Looking ahead, the 4th IPNDV Plenary, to be held in Abu Dhabi later this year, will be here before we know it. I want to express how pleased I am that the United Arab Emirates very graciously volunteered to host this Plenary. I work a lot with UAE officials in both nuclear and non-nuclear areas, and I know they will put on a great event and program. At that meeting, we hope to continue down the path we laid out in Tokyo, with the primary focus again on giving the Working Groups time to hold productive discussions and continue work on their deliverables.

I will now shift to put this effort into the broader context of our efforts on nuclear disarmament. Effective verification has been a staple of every successful nuclear arms control agreement, and that will be even more the case in the future. Effective verification will become both more challenging and more important to sustaining the necessary confidence that will allow for further nuclear weapons reductions and, ultimately, their elimination. Simply put, the military significance of a country cheating on its treaty obligations grows as nuclear numbers fall. So finding verification solutions will be technically difficult work, yet critical to achieving the end goal.

We understand that there are different approaches too disarmament. The Partnership is a practical effort and is founded on a belief that a world without nuclear weapons is achievable but must be verifiable.

We understand that some are frustrated by the perceived slow pace of disarmament. But there should be no question of the U.S. commitment to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia continue to steadily implement the New START Treaty, and the United States has made clear its willingness to seek further reductions in deployed strategic warheads of up to one-third below New START Treaty levels.

So progress is being made, and we remain committed to making more. As we work to resolve the diplomatic challenges and make progress on disarmament in a way that enhances global security, we are also focused on the technical challenges where we can make real and important progress. This is why I believe the work of the Partnership is so important. The IPNDV can be that vehicle for countries serious about doing the hard work necessary to make further progress toward nuclear disarmament, the goal we all share.

Thank you again for coming today.

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