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Clinton on Nonproliferation

Barely an hour after word came from Vienna that an Iranian negotiating team has accepted a draft version of a deal to ship nuclear fuel out of the country for enrichment, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech this morning at Washington’s tony Mayflower hotel on nuclear nonproliferation, a core Obama administration priority. Clinton didn’t focus on Iran, instead offering an overview of administration policy. But she said that “we will continue to engage multilaterally and bilaterally,” and reiterating that the U.S. commitment to diplomacy with Iran “is not open-ended.” On the actual negotiations in Vienna, she briefly urged “prompt action” on the plan to move low-enriched uranium out of Iran. Addressing the Iranians as well as the audience gathered by the U.S. Institute of Peace, she said “the door is open to a better future.” But that was all Clinton said on the issue.

Beyond Iran and the other urgent nuclear threat the United States is confronting in North Korea, Clinton said the U.S. would take a variety of multilateral steps to shore up the global nonproliferation regime. In addition to existing administration desires to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Clinton declared the administration prepared to offer states additional access to nuclear-power technology, and proposed initiatives like “international fuel banks” and global “spent fuel repositories” that allow states to “pursue legitimate civilian nuclear” activities.

On the harsher side of the equation, the secretary of state also urged increasing both legal authorities and resources to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, particularly to inspect “suspect nuclear activities … even when no nuclear materials are present.” Similarly, while Clinton pledged a comprehensive look at the United States’ own nuclear posture and to negotiate a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia, she said the U.S. would maintain its own nuclear stockpile for deterrent purposes and the Obama administration would support a “new stockpile management program” to be “confident in the capabilities we have.”

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