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Washington P5 Conference on Implementing the NPT

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On June 27-29, the State Department welcomed the other members of the P5 -- China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom -- to discuss the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Senior policy and defense officials and technical staff from these four countries and the United States continued the dialogue that the permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the P5 -- are having to advance their nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament commitments under the 2010 NPT Review Conference's Action Plan.

The Action Plan reflects the understanding that efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty must be balanced among the three pillars of the NPT: countries with nuclear weapons will move toward nuclear disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all members in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations can have access to peaceful nuclear energy. All NPT Parties, nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states alike, have rights and responsibilities under the Treaty.

Under the Obama Administration, the United States has worked with our P5 partners to advance a regular dialogue on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, confidence-building measures, and verification and monitoring. The Washington meeting was the third conference held by the P5 and follows similar meetings in London in 2009 and in Paris in 2011.

The unique dynamic that is being developed among the five nuclear-weapon states under the NPT is important for establishing a firm foundation to build a broader multilateral approach. It complements the long-standing U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament interaction and may one day pave the way for further disarmament efforts.

At the Washington Conference, the P5 reaffirmed their unconditional support for the NPT and the NPT Review Conference's Action Plan, reaffirmed the commitments to promote and ensure the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its universalization, discouraged abuse of the NPT withdrawal provision (Article X), stressed the need to strengthen International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and promote universalization of the Additional Protocol, and worked to pursue their shared goal of nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. The P5 continued their discussion of how to report on their relevant activities, and considered proposals for a standard reporting form. The P5 also discussed ways to kick start negotiations on a verified treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons that has stalled in the Conference on Disarmament.

China will lead a P5 working group to develop a glossary of definitions for key nuclear terms, which will increase P5 mutual understanding and facilitate further P5 discussions on nuclear matters. Developing more mutual cooperation of this kind is a positive step that can lead to deeper engagement on nuclear weapons issues and greater mutual confidence.

The United States has an excellent record in transparency across-the-board-- publicly declaring our nuclear stockpile numbers; participating in voluntary and treaty-based inspections measures; working with other nations on military-to-military, scientific, and lab exchanges, sponsoring site visits; and frequently briefing others on our nuclear programs and disarmament efforts.

In this spirit, the United States briefed participants at the P5 conference on U.S. activities at the Nevada National Security Site to encourage discussion on additional approaches to transparency. And in a tour of the U.S. Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, which is located at the State Department, P5 representatives observed how the United States maintains a communications center capable of simultaneously implementing notification regimes under a number of arms control treaties and agreements.

As a further measure of U.S. leadership on transparency the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced at the conference that it had released an updated report, titled The United States Plutonium Balance, which details the U.S. plutonium inventory through September 2009.

This year's conference was a success, as were its predecessors. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States agreed to continue to meet at all appropriate levels on nuclear issues to further promote dialogue, predictability, and mutual confidence. We plan to hold a fourth P5 conference in the context of the next NPT Preparatory Committee in 2013.

You can read the entire P5 Joint Statement, as agreed in Washington, D.C., here.

For photos, go here.

Rose Gottemoeller is the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.