February 2, 1988

The Conference on Disarmament plays an important role in international endeavors to create a more stable and peaceful world. You resume your work in a year that holds promise for realizing concrete steps toward this universal objective. I am pleased to be able to report to you that we are making discernible progress on all aspects of my administration's comprehensive agenda: reductions in nuclear arms, peaceful settlement of regional conflicts, development of confidence-building measures, and advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The signing of the INF treaty was an historic event. For the first time, the United States and the Soviet Union will begin reducing nuclear arms. We hope that this beginning will be followed by reaching agreement on our proposal for a 50-percent reduction in U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals. In the field of nuclear testing, the United States and U.S.S.R. have begun full-scale, step-by-step negotiations with agreement on the needed verification improvements to existing treaties as the first step. Both sides have also agreed that progress toward banning nuclear tests must be part of an effective disarmament process. In Vienna, we are working out the terms of reference for negotiations on conventional stability in Europe. In addition, we are continuing the process, which was successfully initiated in Stockholm, in the area of confidence-building measures.

The Conference on Disarmament has an impressive agenda. Of special importance is your effort on a convention banning chemical weapons. Progress has been made in narrowing differences of principle; you now face the arduous task of working out the details and finding solutions on issues which affect vital security interests of all our countries. General Secretary Gorbachev and I have reaffirmed our commitment to negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, which would result in a truly effective, verifiable, and global ban on these terrible weapons. Under the capable leadership of Ambassador Max Friedersdorf, the United States delegation will continue to work with you in resolving this and other difficult issues which engage this forum. I wish you Godspeed.

Note: Ambassador Max L. Friedersdorf read the President's statement at the opening session of the conference.