The United States has presented a draft treaty aimed at cutting off production of fissile material, the plutonium and uranium used in making nuclear weapons. A U.S. disarmament official outlined details of the proposal to the 65-member United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
The treaty proposed by the United States would ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Stephen Rademaker is acting assistant U.S. secretary in the State Department's bureau of international security and non-proliferation. He says the treaty would not include a verification or inspection regime. He explains such a scheme would not be effective.
"Our experts in verification matters have reached the judgment that virtually any scheme of verification that could conceivably be agreed here at the conference that would be acceptable to the key players here, would not give a reasonable level of assurance that cheating could be detected by the international mechanism created here at the conference," he said.
Rademaker says the primary responsibility for verification would shift to sovereign countries to make sure nations uphold the treaty. If a country is suspected of making fissile materials, he says, that country could be referred to the U.N. Security Council for further action.
The U.N. Conference on Disarmament has been deadlocked over a treaty for the past nine years. Efforts to achieve an agreement have intensified recently because of growing fears over Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.
Rademaker says, now that the United States has decided to leave out verification measures, it should be easier to negotiate what he calls a fissile material cutoff treaty, an FMCT.
"The point of the FMCT is to stop fissile material production as soon as possible," he explained. "And if years are expended negotiating verification provisions, those are years during which additional fissile material production is going to occur. One of the purposes served by putting forward our draft treaty today was to underscore how simple the negotiating task is on an FMCT, if we set aside the issue of verification."
A number of developing countries have linked a ban on fissile material to other nuclear issues. Some countries are calling for total nuclear disarmament. China is demanding parallel negotiations to prevent an arms race in outer space. The United States opposes both suggestions.