UNITED NATIONS -- In Prague on April 5, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined his vision for addressing the threat presented by the proliferation of nuclear arms and how the United States could contribute to the ultimate goal of reducing the number of these weapons to zero.
Assistant U.S. Secretary Rose Gottemoeller is the lead U.S. negotiator and the head of the U.S. delegation to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting taking place from May 4-15 at UN headquarters in New York.
Speaking to reporters on May 5, Gottemoeller said that the Obama administration is strongly committed to the reduction of nuclear arms. But according to Gottemoeller, phasing out the production of nuclear weapons cannot be done overnight.
"But [it should be done] in a very balanced way that ensures the effective, safe, secure, and reliable U.S. stockpile as long as nuclear weapons exist," Gottemoeller said.
The United States is keen on fulfilling certain aspects of the disarmament regime worldwide, Gottemoeller said, such as moving aggressively to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and pursuing negotiations on the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty, which intends to ban the production of fissile materials.
India's Special Case
India is one of the hot topics at the current meetings on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) taking place at UN headquarters this week, because India enjoys a special nuclear agreement with the United States without being at the same time a signatory to the NPT.
Asked whether such deals would be viewed by some countries as an incentive to stay outside of the NPT -- a sort of reward for something that they should actually be punished for --Gottemoeller said that Washington has always insisted on universality and inclusiveness.
"We've never made any secret of our support and I've mentioned the strong U.S. support for universality, for encouraging the membership of India, as well as Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea to come back into the [NPT] treaty regime," she said.
Despite India's reluctance to join the NPT, Gottemoeller said, Delhi has indicated a willingness to cooperate, including on the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and on improving controls on its nuclear-materials exports.
Referring to Iran, one of the nearly 190 signatories of the NPT, Gottemoeller said all signatories must follow the rules.
"Once they have signed up to a treaty and have become signatories of that treaty, they become responsible for following its rules," she noted. "So, there was a very clear message there [in Obama's Prague speech] about the necessity of compliance with the obligations under a treaty and of course that applies to all the treaty signatories including Iran."
Iran has been since 2003 under scrutiny regarding its nuclear program, which Tehran claims is peaceful but has led to concern by the United States and others that it could be used to cover a nuclear-weapons program.