“Can we really create a future in which nuclear weapons exist only within the pages of history books?” Secretary of State John Kerry asked at the start of the Ninth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), taking place in New York.

“The answer is yes.”

Now in its 45th year, the NPT is vital to global security. The treaty’s 190 signatory countries meet every five years to review progress and discuss ways to address future challenges.

The NPT rests on three interrelated pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Secretary Kerry reaffirmed in New York the U.S. commitment to strengthening each pillar.

  • On nonproliferation: “Verification is at the heart of the NPT, and one of the most important things that we can do … is to strengthen the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards. … That’s why the United States is working to bring the Additional Protocol into force globally.”
  • On disarmament: “I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has decided that the United States will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent.” Kerry also reported that the U.S. nuclear stockpile stands at its lowest level since the Cold War — down to 4,717 active and inactive warheads as of September 30, 2014, with a total of 10,251 warheads dismantled between 1994 and 2014. Some 2,500 warheads await dismantlement.
  • On peaceful uses of nuclear energy: “I’m happy to announce another $50 million contribution to the [IAEA] Peaceful Uses Initiative. These resources will further expand global access to the peaceful atom, putting it to use for sustainable economic development.”

Progress around the world

Kerry underscored efforts by the United States and other countries to advance global nonproliferation goals.

He highlighted the progress made in talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran, saying the international community is “closer than ever” to a comprehensive nuclear deal.

Secretary Kerry speaks at the NPT Review Conference in New York. (© AP Images)

Kerry announced, as well, that President Obama has submitted the Protocol to the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

The United States also encourages nations in the Middle East to discuss establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, Kerry said.

“We support the regional efforts underway to reach agreement on terms for a conference, and those terms must be shared by all. … If that’s the case, I guarantee you the effort will have the full support of the United States.”