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US would maintain its nuclear arsenal: Clinton

October 22, 2009 01:24 IST
Even as the Obama administration has started pushing for the ambitious goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons, United States' Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said the US would maintain its nuclear deterrence.

In her major foreign policy speech on nuclear non-proliferation, Clinton said the administration believes that the US must maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defence of its allies and partners, while it pursues such a vision of elimination of nuclear weapons.

"As the president has acknowledged, we might not achieve the ambition of a world without nuclear weapons, in our lifetime or successive life times. But we believe that pursuing this vision will enhance our national security and international stability," Clinton said in her speech at the US Institute of Peace.

All countries, she said, have an obligation, to help address the challenges posed by nuclear weapons, beginning with the nuclear weapons states. "As the permanent members of the security council and the only nuclear weapons states recognised by the Non Proliferation Treaty, we all have a responsibility to stop the erosion of the non- proliferation regime and to address the current crisis of compliance in which some countries apparently feel they can violate their obligations and defy the United Nations Security Council with impunity," Clinton said.

Clinton said the non-nuclear-weapons states also have a responsibility to work to prevent further proliferation. "That responsibility does not end with their decision to forgo their own weapons ambitions and accept safeguards to demonstrate the sincerity of that decision," she said.

It must continue with active participation and resolute efforts to impede additional countries from crossing the nuclear threshold, because their own security and well-being are profoundly affected by the outcome of such efforts. All states with nuclear materials or technology have a responsibility to protect them against theft or illicit transfer, she said.

"If all countries step up to these responsibilities as we are doing, we can revitalise the non-proliferation regime for decades to come," Clinton said.

"The cornerstone of that regime, the NPT, remains sound and need not be altered. But, as we have done for 40 years, we must build on that essential foundation by supplementing the treaty and updating the overall regime with measures designed to confront emerging challenges," she said.

Clinton said the administration's blueprint for its efforts is based on the hard day-to-day work of active diplomacy; confronting proliferates; strengthening the capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency and ensuring that all nations abide by the rights and obligations of the nonproliferation regime.

Negotiating a new treaty with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenal, seeking ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty and prompt negotiation of a fissile-material cutoff treaty are other priorities.

Undertaking a review of the role of nuclear weapons in the United States's defense strategy, and supporting budgetary priorities that guarantee the safety and effectiveness of its deterrent are also the administration's priorities.

Well aware of the difficult road ahead to uphold the NPT, restore the international non-proliferation consensus and reinvigorate the global non-proliferation regime, Clinton said progress will not be easy.

"At times, our achievements may seem incomplete and unsatisfying. But we are committed to seeing this through. And we believe the world is depending on our success," she said.

"The reality is that the nuclear threat cannot be checked by US acting alone. Whether we seek to prevent the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials, establish a new international framework for civil nuclear energy cooperation, increase the IAEA's budget or persuade governments with nuclear weapons' ambitions to abandon their quest, we can only achieve our goals through cooperation with others," she said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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