Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a United Nations conference on nuclear nonproliferation Monday that the US will disclose details of its nuclear arsenal – such as how many bombs it has and how many it has destroyed – as part of President Obama’s quest for a nuclear-weapons-free world.
Secretary Clinton spoke from the same podium where hours earlier Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had condemned the US as a power-hungry nuclear power. When it was her turn, Clinton told the conference of 189 signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NTP) that it was adherence to the 40-year-old treaty that would make the eventual goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world possible.
The “transparency” the US is demonstrating through disclosure of the details of its nuclear arsenal should encourage other countries to commit to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, she said.
On the other hand, Clinton said, it is a country like Iran – repeatedly found by UN agencies and the Security Council to be in noncompliance with its obligations under the NPT – that threatens to send the world on a path of reduced international security.
Quoting from Mr. Obama’s statement to the NPT review conference, Clinton said the world has a “choice” between “a 21st century of more nuclear weapons, or a world without them.”
The last NPT review conference five years ago was widely judged a failure because of a lack of consensus for even a minimal final declaration. Also, the Bush administration eschewed action on disarmament in favor of a focus on treaty violators like Iran.
This year, the Obama team is carefully emphasizing both the treaty’s rights – peaceful nuclear uses for all – and its dual responsibilities of disarmament and nonproliferation.
As part of such responsibilities, Clinton said, the US Departments of Defense and Energy would begin Monday disclosing information on the US nuclear arsenal that has been a jealously guarded secret for more than half a century.
"Beginning today, the United States will make public the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and the number of weapons we have dismantled since 1991," she said. "So for those who doubt that the United States will do its part on disarmament, this is our record, these are our commitments, and they send a clear, unmistakable signal.”
In remarks to reporters shortly after her UN speech, Clinton said that disclosing the information should reinforce an atmosphere of transparency that will be necessary for disarmament to proceed. Administration officials had a heated debate on the decision, she acknowledged, but details are well known by outside experts anyway, she added.
Earlier, during her speech, Clinton deplored the NPT’s lack of universality: Three US partners – India, Israel, and Pakistan – are nonsignatory countries. But she saved her harshest words for Iran. She accused Mr. Ahmadinejad of “wild accusations” against the US “and others,” but she predicted that “Iran will not succeed in its efforts to divide” NPT countries.
“Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has been found by the IAEA [the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency] ... to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear-safeguard obligations,” she said.
Taking a small step down the road toward a nuclear-weapons-free world, Clinton also announced that the US will seek to join itself to regional nuclear-free zones in Africa and the South Pacific. The US would agree not to test atomic weapons in those zones and would commit to never using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against countries in those zones that are abiding by their treaty commitments.
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