The White House
Office of the Vice President
Remarks by The Vice President before a Lunch Meeting with Foreign Leaders and Dignitaries
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Before we begin, I would like to ask for a moment of silence for the passing of our colleague, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who with other members of the Polish government perished this week. Thank you.
Once again, I welcome all of you to Washington and welcome you to our home. This week, in my view and the President’s view, represents a historic gathering of leaders working toward a historic task of creating a better and a safer world for all our peoples.
The President and I are honored that you’ve all agreed to be here this week. We value deeply the ability to bring so many important voices together, so many diverse opinions, in search of a common goal.
The goals of the non-aligned movement and my country on the important issues of nuclear security, non-proliferation, as well as other issues have never been closer than they are today, in our view. Our nuclear posture review that we’ve just completed has made it clear that the United States is committed to reducing the number of nuclear weapons in our arsenal and reducing their role in our defense.
Along with the START treaty signed with Russia last week, we’ve made clear that the reductions that are going to take place between our countries are going to be real, transparent, and legally binding.
And the President of the United States has committed our country to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We believe that is ultimately an achievable goal, and that is our goal.
We know that some of the countries here and elsewhere believe that we have not been moving fast enough or that we can do more. Well, there is room to disagree on the exact approach of reducing nuclear weapons, but make no mistake about it this administration is intent on reducing and continuing to reduce our nuclear weapons.
The one thing we can all agree on, I hope, is that adding more nuclear weapons or more nuclear-weapon states is the exact wrong approach at this moment in the world’s history, one that endangers the entire community of nations were we allow it to happen.
We can also agree, I hope, that controlling all nuclear materials that can produce a bomb is in the interest of every one of us gathered around this table and everyone in the world. As world leaders, we all know that there are extremist groups and non-state actors seeking that capability right now, seeking to gain access to nuclear materials to make a nuclear bomb.
There are hundreds of tons of nuclear material scattered over 40 countries, including the United States of America and many in the countries here. And just 50 pounds of high purity uranium smaller than a soccer ball could destroy the downtown of all our capital cities and kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals. So it’s very much in our interest to gain control.
This is the horrific threat that we all face together, and one that we are determined we will defeat together. This week is testament to the common ground we all share. But just as we all agree on the need to prevent a nuclear disaster, we also agree on the benefits of nuclear technology and peaceful nuclear power, what it can do to bring the world -- if properly managed and protected -- to a better place.
The United States of America stands fully committed to supporting the promotion of peaceful benefits of nuclear power, in the context though -- in the context of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But, again, here we can all agree that those who have developed nuclear technology should do so -- are going to develop a peaceful nuclear technology must do so wisely, with a proper attention to security, good governance, and as safely as it can possibly be done.
As countries seeking to develop your nuclear sectors, we stand ready to support you, to share our experience with you.
And we recognize that it is not a problem for governments alone to control this fissile material, it requires good regulations and public-private partnerships to get it right.
More than half the world’s dangerous nuclear materials are owned not by governments but by industry. And we will work with them, as we will work with you, to address our common concerns.
Later this week, I’ll be hosting a roundtable for companies from the world’s leading nuclear industries to see how we can further enhance a partnership and guarantee their safety and security.
So, again, let me thank each and every one of you for coming today this afternoon to our home. And I ask that this week we help each other seize this historic opportunity that is in front of us to make the world we share together a safer and a more harmonious place.
I thank you all for coming, and I thank the press for being here. And now we’ll have some lunch, and have a discussion. Thank you.