Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons


July 1, 1988


Twenty years ago today, 61 nations, including the United States, signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This treaty serves as a cornerstone of international efforts to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons, which is one of the most direct and serious threats to regional and global stability. Nations from around the globe have committed themselves to the treaty and its objectives. Indeed, with 136 parties, the Non-Proliferation Treaty has the widest adherence of any arms control treaty in history. The important role of the treaty has been repeatedly reaffirmed.


The participants at the third Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 1985 concluded that universal adherence to the treaty is the best way to strengthen the barriers against proliferation. They urged all states not party to the treaty to accede to it. The nuclear-weapon states which are parties to the treaty have agreed not to assist non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire nuclear explosives. The non-nuclear-weapon states, in turn, pledge not to acquire nuclear explosives. These mutual pledges acknowledge that the technology of nuclear weapons and nuclear explosives cannot be distinguished and that their further spread threatens the security of all nations.


The Non-Proliferation Treaty also calls for parties to cooperate in the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, especially in non-nuclear-weapon states which are parties to the treaty. The peaceful uses of nuclear energy are important to the social and economic well-being of many peoples, and the United States has long been in the forefront of countries providing technical assistance and other cooperation in the nuclear field. We are committed to continuing such cooperation under effective international safeguards. The comprehensive safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency under the treaty provide essential assurance of the peaceful intent of the nuclear activities of the states involved, thus benefiting all mankind.


The United States has taken the initiative in negotiations to substantially reduce nuclear arsenals as called for in article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The conclusion by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. of the treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter range missiles (INF), which entered into force on June 1, is clear evidence of our deep commitment to nuclear arms reductions. This treaty, which contains the most stringent verification measures of any arms control agreement, will eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles.


The United States also continues its negotiations with the U.S.S.R. to complete a treaty to reduce U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive arms by 50 percent. We are, in addition, committed to seeking effective and verifiable agreements with the Soviet Union on nuclear testing limitations that could strengthen security for all nations. When discussions of two existing treaties are completed and they are ratified, we are prepared to pursue negotiations on a step-by-step parallel program to limit and ultimately end nuclear testing, in association with a program to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons.


In 1981 the President outlined U.S. policy to prevent the proliferation of nuclear explosives and declared that this issue was critical to international peace as well as regional and global stability. If we are to succeed in halting the spread of nuclear weapons, however, the nations of the world must work together. Each state has a responsibility to refrain from seeking nuclear weapons and to take all steps necessary to avoid contributing to the spread of nuclear weapons through the export of nuclear equipment and technology.


As the President has stated on a number of occasions, he believes that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. In order to eliminate the threat of nuclear war, we have sought to achieve deep reductions in the level of nuclear weapons worldwide. The INF agreement is a concrete example of our success. However, in order to completely rid the world of the risk of nuclear war, particularly at the time when the United States and the U.S.S.R. have agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, it is equally vital to prevent any further spread of nuclear weapons. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is clearly the most important means we have for accomplishing this goal.


The United States played a major role in the negotiation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and over its lifetime, all U.S. Presidents have strongly supported it. On this, the 20th anniversary of the opening for a signature of the treaty, the President calls upon all countries that have not yet adhered to it to do so in order to demonstrate their commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and to reducing the risk of nuclear war. Further, he urges all parties to the treaty to rededicate themselves to achieving its objectives and to ensuring its continued vitality. This is both our shared responsibility and our contribution to peace for this and future generations.