Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of the United States Delegation, I congratulate you on Sri Lanka’s election as Chair of the 77th UN General Assembly First Committee. We also congratulate the other members of the Bureau and commit to working with each of you toward a successful session.
Mr. Chairman, there is no sense in mincing words – we meet this month under extraordinary circumstances. The rules-based international order that is at the core of the U.N. Charter is under attack. The structures we created to maintain security and stability are under attack.
There are many contributing factors, including the People’s Republic of China continuing its rapid nuclear weapons buildup and the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear and missile development, but the strain on the international machinery has been undeniably exacerbated by the Russian Federation. Whether through its illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the forceful seizing control of peaceful Ukrainian nuclear facilities, its reckless nuclear saber-rattling and rampant disinformation on chemical and biological weapons use, or by single-handedly blocking consensus on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference final document, Moscow has acted without regard for international law, the principle of sovereign equality, or the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction. Moscow again flouted international law in an attempted land grab last week, holding sham referenda in Ukraine at the barrel of Russian guns. The UN Charter is clear: Any annexation of a state or territory by another state resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law.” The United States does not, and will never, recognize the legitimacy or outcome of these sham referenda, and will never recognize any territory Russia attempts to seize or allegedly annex as anything other than part of Ukraine.
Russia has also done what it can to block any progress in multilateral disarmament bodies. Its obstructionist behavior has delayed work in the open ended working group on responsible behaviors in outer space. It made a mockery of the Conference on Disarmament and the efforts made by so many delegations to contribute to the Subsidiary Body reports this year. Russia is not only attempting to destroy Ukraine but destroy the rules-based order that the United States and most if not all other countries, deeply value. If you have any doubts on this, just review Russia’s track record in multilateral disarmament bodies since we meet last year.
It is clear that Russia has deliberately chosen the path of war and destruction, in contravention of its stated intentions. On January 3 of this year, the People’s Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States affirmed the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
The United States stands by that principle. We will continue to seek bilateral and multilateral diplomatic approaches to avoid military conflict, strengthen strategic stability, increase mutual understanding and confidence, and prevent an arms race that would benefit none and endanger all. That is what will guide our work here at the First Committee.
On April 18, 2022, in response to the clear and pressing threats to space security and sustainability, Vice President Harris announced a U.S. commitment not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests. Such tests are dangerous, undermine international peace and security, jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space, increase risk to astronauts, and imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations. Responsible nations do not engage in this behavior.
In order to encourage restraint and develop a norm against such tests, the United States will submit a resolution calling upon all countries to commit not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests.
This resolution is an important step towards reducing the risk to international peace and security created by this type of testing, keeping “the province of all mankind” free from the dangerous space debris that such tests generate, and preserving all countries’ ability to operate in, and benefit from, outer space. We ask for your support.
The United States will also continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for our common security and shared interest in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and averting nuclear war.
Some might see the lack of a consensus final document at the Tenth NPT RevCon as a sign of failure. We do not share that view. Every State Party present – nearly 150 — was prepared to endorse the final document save one – Russia. This was not a failure of the treaty or even its political process – it was the action of one state. The fact that so many parties rallied around the NPT is remarkable – and a sign that, despite our differences, there remains more that unites us than divides us. We look forward to NPT Preparatory Committee discussion in 2023 and will actively and pragmatically participate in shaping the 11th NPT Review Conference.
The United States will continue to emphasize the need for strategic stability, seek to avoid costly arms races, and facilitate risk reduction and arms control arrangements wherever possible, while maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent and strong and credible extended deterrent commitments.
We will also continue to strongly support the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, while supporting disarmament initiatives like the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) and Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND), which we are glad are returning to in-person engagements. We will use our chairmanship of the P5 Process to ensure a nuclear risk reduction dialogue among nuclear-weapon States, not in spite of this difficult security environment, but because of it. There is also urgent work to be done to reduce nuclear risks at a time when communication between nuclear-weapon States is more important than ever.
We will also continue to curtail the threats posed by anti-personnel landmines. In June of this year, we announced important changes to the U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine Policy (APL). These changes align our policy outside of the context of the Korean Peninsula with the key provisions of the Ottawa Convention. They reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s belief in the need to reduce the use of anti-personnel landmines worldwide, and complements longstanding U.S. leadership in the clearance of landmines and explosive remnants of war. The policy also stands in stark contrast with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which have littered that country with landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and improvised explosive devices. The United States is supporting Ukraine’s humanitarian demining efforts and will provide more than $90 million over the coming year to accelerate Ukraine’s UXO recovery.
Mr. Chairman, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the entry-into-force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Unfortunately, the threat and use of chemical weapons remains a grave concern to the global community. For almost a decade now, we have witnessed egregious violations of the CWC, including the use of chemical weapons against unarmed civilians – actions that are both abhorrent and unacceptable. The United States, like many nations, condemns Syria and Russia and repudiates their attempts to sow disinformation and obfuscate their actions.
The world must remain resolute and united in our resolve to end the use of these horrific weapons and to hold accountable the perpetrators.
Additionally, we must work to ensure the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) can effectively address present and future challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our shared vulnerability to the potentially catastrophic consequences of novel pathogens and other biological threats. The upcoming 9th Review Conference is our best opportunity to ensure the BWC is able to address the biological threats that may lie ahead.
We cannot allow meaningful progress to elude us yet again. Together, we must chart a new course for the BWC which adapts to the significantly changed landscape of the 21st century, builds confidence in compliance, and strengthens implementation of the Convention, including international cooperation and assistance. This is why the United States supports establishing an experts working group to make progress on these issues.
There are clear challenges to doing so; not just two decades of deadlock, but new efforts to use the BWC as a platform for disinformation and politically motivated attacks. But now is the time to get this done and to come together as States Parties to address the evolving threat of biological weapons and revitalize the BWC – in the words of the Convention, “for the sake of all mankind.”
As we manage these challenges, we must also continue our efforts to diversity, inclusivity and equity in this and other fora focused on international security. I was honored to participate with the High Representative for Disarmament Nakamitsu, and others, on a special panel addressing these issues on the margins of the recent NPT Review Conference. We will continue these talks at the BWC and beyond, as the lack of presence of impacted communities has directly and negatively impacted the sustainability of our policies. The United States looks forward to working with sponsors for another meaningful resolution on “Women, Disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.”
Mr. Chairman, we are living in a perilous time, but it is also a time for persistence, for determination, and for courage. It is time here in the First Committee for the kind of cooperation that brought us to consensus on a final document, but for one State, at the NPT Review Conference. That kind of cooperation will help us stand against the tide of obstruction, disinformation, and aggression.
Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to working with you and with all nations interested in reducing strategic risks and enhancing global security. We know our future depends on it.