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Arms Control and International Security: Remarks at United Nations Security Council Meeting on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty

SECRETARY KERRY: Mr. President, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for convening this meeting. To all my colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen, 20 years ago President Bill Clinton entered the General Assembly with a pen in hand, the pen that he had used to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty, the same pen used by President John F. Kennedy decades earlier to bring the Limited Test Ban Treaty into life. At the time, President Clinton declared the treaty would be yet another essential step towards a century in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced and ultimately eliminated.

Today, our countries have the opportunity to vote once again to sign onto, to reaffirm the CTBT’s promise of a safer, more secure, and more peaceful planet. And the resolution that we have an opportunity to adopt this morning is a strong and necessary statement of our principles and promises as a global community. It reaffirms the de facto norm – I emphasize, a norm – in the world today against nuclear testing. It acknowledges the legitimate interests of states that fully and faithfully renounce nuclear weapons to receive assurances against the use of the threat of the use of nuclear weapons, and that those assurances will be upheld. It reinforces the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its disarmament goals, and it builds support for the international efforts to strengthen verification and monitoring systems. And it encourages nations to make the necessary preparations for the day when this treaty enters into force.

I want to emphasize, the resolution does not impose a legal prohibition on testing, nor does it compel any government to adopt new reporting requirements. But it does reinforce the core purposes and objectives of the CTBT itself: to diminish our reliance on nuclear devices, to reduce competition among nuclear powers, and to promote responsible disarmament.

Now, let me just add for a moment, next month in Reykjavik, the 30th anniversary of the Gorbachev-Reagan meeting will be celebrated, remembered. And I want everybody to think about where we were. I grew up in a world of hiding under my desk in school and being told to take cover and train for the possibility of a nuclear war, none of which would have done any good, we know. And I can remember years in the Senate when I wanted to be on the Arms Control Observer Group, with luminaries such as Pat Moynihan and Ted Kennedy and John Warner and Sam Nunn, people who worked a lifetime to move towards responsible efforts here.

And through the years, we watched as the United States and the Soviet Union, the former Soviet Union, engaged in this arms race – tit for tat, each doing something that led the other to feel they had to respond, until we had 50,000 warheads facing at each other, until that moment of Reykjavik, when the two presidents came out and said this is insanity; we have to move in a different direction.

And ever since then, that’s exactly what the world has been doing. We’ve moved in a different direction – from 50,000 warheads, we’re now down to about 1,550. And we have proposed to move even further down. And you have brilliant people who spent a lifetime looking at this – a former Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, Sam Nunn – people that you wouldn’t expect talking about the possibility of a world without nuclear weapons. And most recently, the United States and Iran spent two long years negotiating what everybody thought was the improbable – a nation that hadn’t talked to – well, two nations that hadn’t talked to each other since 1979 began a conversation in the room right in back of this chamber, the first time I came here for UNGA, and we turned that into a nation actually giving up a nuclear program and making it clear to the world it was willing to move away from the path of a nuclear weapon in order to make the world safer.

So two decades after this process began, there may be some who question the value of pursuing this treaty or investing in its adoption, because the world has changed dramatically. Almost every member of the United Nations has now renounced the option of testing and responsible governments everywhere are committed to reducing the dangers that are posed by nuclear materials and nuclear weapons.

Yet we have been reminded in recent weeks of the absolute necessity of supporting the CTBT. North Korea’s latest nuclear test is a challenge to this council’s leadership. It is a challenge to the norm that I just articulated. It is a challenge and a direct threat to international stability and peace. It is a dangerous and reckless act of provocation which we have to summon a determined and effective answer to.

Today, this morning, is an affirmation of our willingness to make that clear, to give that answer, to take a step that says we will not lose our commitment, we will remain committed to moving in the direction of ending the threat of nuclear war. Today is also a reminder of the value of the CTBT. The DPRK’s actions and our response demonstrate the effectiveness of the International Monitoring system, of the International Data Center, of the broader verification and detection regime. And this entire episode has offered a stark reminder of why the infrastructure of this treaty is so vital and why adopting this resolution is so important.

My friends, our affirmative vote here is a sign of our unwavering commitment to a safer world in which nuclear technology is used solely for peaceful purposes and the risk of nuclear conflict is no more. I can tell you that we are engaged right now in a process in the United States Government with the Senate, where we have many new members who have not been part of this debate, where we’re beginning a process of literally explaining and educating what the advances in technology do for us. In today’s modern world of virtual capacity and of computerization and artificial intelligence, we don’t need to blow up weapons to know what we can do.

We have the ability to do this, and I simply say to all that I can think of few greater gifts that we and our generation could give to the next than an affirmation that we will continue to move away from the possibilities of nuclear weaponry. Our action today can give people everywhere that a world without nuclear weapons might actually be possible and that we’re going to do everything responsible in our capacity to be able to make that day a reality.

I thank you.

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