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Countering Nuclear Proliferation


United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

“Ultimately,” said Secretary Tillerson, “we each have a sovereign responsibility to ensure that we keep the world safe from nuclear warfare, the aftermath of which will transgress all borders.”

Regimes that seek nuclear weapons in the name of enhanced security and prestige are dangerously misguided, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a recent UN Security Council meeting on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. What the pursuit of nuclear weapons in fact represents, he emphasized, “is a path to isolation and intense security scrutiny from the global community.”

A better, proven way to enhance a nation’s security and prosperity is to deepen integration with the rest of the world and adhere to international standards and agreements.

Secretary Tillerson pointed to the Korean peninsula as a stark example of these differing paths:

“While North Korea has shunned the international community and let its people starve while it relentlessly pursues nuclear weapons, South Korea has opted not to pursue nuclear weapons and is fully engaged with the international community. As a result, South Korea has grown into one of the world’s great economic powers, with a GDP over 100 times that of its neighbor to the north.”

In contrast, North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is leading “to greater isolation, ignominy and deprivation,” Secretary Tillerson declared. Continued threats against the United States and the global community will not create safety for the regime but will rather “stiffen [the global community’s] resolve and...commitment to deterring North Korean aggression.”

Mr. Tillerson said, “There are also lessons here for Iran, which was on its own pathway to develop nuclear weapons – in violation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty and nuclear safeguards obligations and multiple, legally binding UN Security Council resolutions”:

“Iran seems keen to preserve for itself the option to resume such work in the future, even while sponsoring international terrorism, developing missile systems capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons, and destabilizing its neighbors in a dangerous quest of regional hegemony.”

“The collective responsibilities of meeting such proliferation challenges will require more from all of us,” Secretary Tillerson said, beginning with upholding nonproliferation norms, including the full enforcement of relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But, he added, treaties and resolutions are not enough: “Stopping nuclear proliferation also entails exercising other levers of power, whether diplomatic, economic, digital, moral, or if necessary, military.”

“Ultimately,” said Secretary Tillerson, “we each have a sovereign responsibility to ensure that we keep the world safe from nuclear warfare, the aftermath of which will transgress all borders.”

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