The Cable

Clinton's overshadowed nonproliferation speech

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave what was touted as a "major speech" on nonproliferation issues today at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. And while Clinton has been somewhat overshadowed in today's headlines by the clutch diplomacy of Senator John Kerry in Afghanistan and Vice President Joseph Biden's meetings with European leaders, her speech on a range of strategic issues had several interesting morsels. Here are the key sections:

On North Korea:

Within the framework of the six-party talks, we are prepared to meet bilaterally with North Korea. But North Korea's return to the negotiating table is not enough.

Current sanctions will not be relaxed until Pyongyang takes verifiable, irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization. Its leaders should be under no illusion that the United States will ever have normal, sanctions-free relations with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

On Iran:

If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community's deep concerns about its nuclear program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long.

The door is open to a better future for Iran. But the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking. As President Obama noted after the October 1st meeting in Geneva, we appear to have made a constructive beginning. But that needs to be followed up by constructive actions.

In particular, prompt action is needed on implementing the plan to use Iran's own low-enriched uranium to refuel the Tehran research reactor, which is used to produce medical isotopes.

On the International Atomic Energy Agency:

Enhancing the IAEA's capabilities to verify whether states are engaging in illicit nuclear activity is essential to strengthening the nonproliferation regime. The IAEA's additional protocol, which allows for more aggressive, short-notice inspections, should be made universal through concerted efforts to persuade key holdout states to join.

The IAEA should make full use of existing verification authorities, including special inspections. But it should also be given new authorities, including the ability to investigate suspected nuclear-weapons-related activities, even when no nuclear materials are present. And if we expect the IAEA to be a bulwark of the nonproliferation regime, we must give it the resources necessary to do the job.

On nuclear negotiations with Russia:

The United States is interested in a new START agreement because it will bolster our national security. We and Russia deploy far more nuclear weapons than we need or could ever potentially use without destroying our ways of life.

Clinging to nuclear weapons in excess of our security needs does not make the United States safer. And the nuclear status quo is neither desirable nor sustainable. It gives other countries the motivation or the excuse to pursue their own nuclear options.

We are under no illusions that this START agreement will persuade Iran and North Korea to end their illicit nuclear activities; but it will demonstrate that the United States is living up to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament. In doing so, it will help convince the rest of the international community to strengthen nonproliferation controls and tighten the screws on states that flout their nonproliferation commitments.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

A test-ban treaty that has entered into force will allow the United States and others to challenge states engaged in suspicious testing activities, including the option of calling on-site inspections to be sure that no testing occurs anywhere.

CTBT ratification would also encourage the international community to move forward with other essential nonproliferation steps. And make no mistake. Other states rightly or wrongly view American ratification of the CTBT as a sign of our commitment to the nonproliferation consensus.

We are well aware that we have our work cut out for us. The CTBT was rejected 10 years ago, and it has not been brought up since then. So we do have a lot of outreach and very intensive consultations to engage in with the Senate. I think that -- having been honored to serve in the Senate, I think every senator has a right to ask whatever questions and raise whatever concerns he or she might have.

But the fact is, we've essentially had a moratorium on testing. It's been bipartisan through these four administrations over these last 20 years. And we recognize the legitimate questions that some in the Senate have posed about how we take steps to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile without testing. We believe we have technical answers to that and that we will be discussing those in greater depth.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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