Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Release of the United States' Nuclear Posture Review

Joint media release - Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senator John Faulkner, Minister for Defence

7 April 2010

Australia welcomes the release overnight of the United States' Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

The NPR is a clear signal of President Obama's strong commitment to work towards the goal of a nuclear weapons free world.

This is a commitment that Australia shares with the United States, as an ally and friend, and as a fellow member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPR comes a year after President Obama's landmark speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, when he outlined an ambitious agenda of concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. Australia strongly welcomed and supported his speech at that time.

The President then undertook to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy, and to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons, while maintaining a safe, secure and effective arsenal as a deterrent for both the United States and its allies.

One of the concrete steps foreshadowed by President Obama was the negotiation of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. The new START agreement will be signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Prague tomorrow (8 April).

The Australian Government warmly welcomes the signature of this new agreement, which provides for substantial reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile launchers deployed by the United States and Russia.

Another concrete step announced then by President Obama was a new international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.

Next week in Washington, President Obama will convene the Nuclear Security Summit, where the focus will be on addressing the challenge of securing vulnerable nuclear materials, in particular from terrorist threats.

Australia has played an active and constructive role in preparations for the Summit and looks forward to taking part in the Summit next week.

Australia's own strong commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is clear and longstanding.

Australia strongly supports a reduced role for nuclear forces in national security strategies.

Australia wants to see deep and irreversible reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons held by all nuclear-armed states.

Australia encourages strengthened security assurances from nuclear-weapon to non-nuclear weapon states, with fewer caveats than the current negative security assurances.

As well, Australia is working hard to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

We are also working for the negotiation of an effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and, pending that, a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.

We are active in efforts to implement strengthened non-proliferation measures, such as support for the IAEA's Additional Protocol and effective export controls.

We are working with others in the international community to reinforce the vital importance of full compliance with the NPT's non-proliferation obligations, in particular by Iran and North Korea.

We are an active participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to prevent illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials.

Together with Japan, we established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. The Commission's independent report, launched in Tokyo last December, has been seen as a major contribution to global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

While the Commission was not set up, or its report written, to reflect Australian Government policy, much of its analysis, action agenda and recommendations are in step with the Government's own nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament policies and priorities.

Also, again together with Japan, we have submitted a joint Package of Practical Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Measures for the NPT Review Conference, which will be held in New York in May.

While strongly committed to a world free from nuclear weapons, Australia acknowledges that nuclear disarmament is a long-term process.

It relies for its success on a balance of firm and verifiable commitments among the nuclear armed states, and on the firm and unequivocal commitment of all states to the NPT's nuclear nonproliferation objectives.

For the time being, Australia accepts that nuclear weapons are part of the strategic environment.

Australian defence policy acknowledges the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the US Alliance.

Under this, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we can rely on US nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia.

In this context, Australia welcomes the NPR as President Obama taking another very substantial step towards a world without nuclear weapons, while maintaining an effective deterrent both for the United States, and for its Allies, including Australia.

The NPR is a comprehensive, forward looking and pragmatic approach to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, tailored to meet the challenges and threats of the 21st century.

The NPR puts nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation at the top of the US nuclear agenda.

It emphasises the central importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australia shares the conviction that the NPT - founded on the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy - remains a critical instrument for international peace and security.

The NPR marks an historical shift in US declaratory policy.

It declares that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Furthermore, it declares that the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its Allies and partners.

The United States will continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its Allies and partners the sole purpose of US nuclear weapons.

The Australian Government welcomes this change in declaratory policy as a significant reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy.

The United States knows that Australia would be comfortable if the United States were to reach its objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack the sole purpose of its nuclear weapons, although the NPR notes that significant work is required to establish the conditions to do so safely.

Australia also supports the commitment in the NPR to pursue post-New START arms control with Russia that addresses not only strategic weapons, but also non-strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons aimed at achieving substantial further nuclear force reductions.

Australia endorses the commitment to engage over time other nuclear weapons states, in a multilateral effort to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Australia is also pleased that the NPR rejects the development of new nuclear weapons or the pursuit of new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons, while taking measures to sustain a safe, secure and effective arsenal.

Australia welcomes the NPR's reaffirmation of President Obama's pledge in Prague that the United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In the lead up to the NPT Review Conference in May, the NPR reaffirms the revitalised leadership role of the United States in pursuing a more secure world through strengthened nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Australia encourages a positive response by the other nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapon states to the far-reaching agenda outlined in the NPR.

Australia is committed to working with the United States and all other NPT parties to ensure a successful Review Conference, which strongly reaffirms the NPT's core principles and achieves balanced outcomes under the three treaty pillars.

Australia's long-standing and strong non-proliferation and disarmament credentials will see us play a constructive role in the Review Conference.

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