It’s easy to advocate a go-it-alone approach that ignores the cooperation needed to address universal challenges. But we have seen the failed results of this approach. The more difficult, but more productive path is to engage our allies and partners around the world in that hard work of diplomacy. Because as President Obama has said, we must pursue a path that is grounded in the rights and responsibilities of all nations. We must continue to strengthen each of the three mutually reinforcing pillars of global nonproliferation — preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting disarmament, and facilitating the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And to those three pillars, we should add a fourth: preventing nuclear terrorism. Stopping terrorists from acquiring the ultimate weapon was not a central preoccupation when the NPT was negotiated, but today, it is, and it must remain at the top of our national security priorities.
As we advance this agenda, we can reduce the size and scope of the proliferation threat to our nation, our children, and future generations. The U.S.-led diplomatic campaign began with countering immediate proliferation threats, and will seek over time to improve verification, stiffen penalties, disrupt illicit proliferation networks, reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism, and allow nations to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear power, while deploying safeguards against proliferation.
Thwarting the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran is critical to shoring up the nonproliferation regime. Within the framework of the six-party talks, we are prepared to meet bilaterally with North Korea, but North Korea’s return to the negotiating table is not enough. Current sanctions will not be relaxed until Pyongyang takes verifiable, irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization. Its leaders should be under no illusion that the United States will ever have normal, sanctions-free relations with a nuclear armed North Korea.
Together with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the United States is pursuing a dual-track approach toward Iran. If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community’s deep concerns about its nuclear program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long. The door is open to a better future for Iran, but the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking.
As President Obama noted after the October 1st meeting in Geneva, we appear to have made a constructive beginning, but that needs to be followed up by constructive actions. In particular, prompt action is needed on implementing the plan to use Iran’s own low-enriched uranium to refuel the Tehran research reactor, which is used to produce medical isotopes.
Enhancing the IAEA’s capabilities to verify whether states are engaging in illicit nuclear activity is essential to strengthening the nonproliferation regime. The IAEA’s additional protocol, which allows for more aggressive, short-notice inspections should be made universal, through concerted efforts to persuade key holdout states to join.
Our experience with Iraq’s nuclear program before the 1991 Gulf War showed that the IAEA’s rights and resources needed upgrading. The additional protocol is the embodiment of those lessons. A failure to make this protocol the global standard means the world will have failed to heed the lessons of history at our collective peril. The IAEA should make full use of existing verification authorities, including special inspections. But it should also be given new authorities, including the ability to investigate suspected nuclear weapons-related activities even when no nuclear materials are present. And if we expect the IAEA to be a bulwark of the nonproliferation regime, we must give it the resources necessary to do the job.