Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on “U.S. Priorities in the UN First Committee”

Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on “U.S. Priorities in the UN First Committee”

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MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome to everyone in the room, to those
of you in D.C. who are joining the Foreign Press Center via digital video conference,
and those watching via livestream. We’re very pleased to have Ambassador Robert
Wood with us today. He is the U.S. permanent representative to
the Conference on Disarmament, and the U.S. special representative for biological and
toxin weapons convention issues. I’ll turn the program over to him in just
one moment. Just a few housekeeping items: Please take
a moment to silence your cell phones. At the conclusions of his remarks, we’ll
open the floor to questions. Please state your name and your media affiliation
before asking your question. And with that, the floor is yours, ambassador. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Again, my apologies for being late. A lot going on this morning. I wanted to start off first by talking to
you about this UN First Committee, which frankly is at a turning point. What we have now is – unlike before – we’ve
got two great powers, meaning Russia and China, that are now trying to manipulate the UN system
to their own authoritarian advantages. This is a major concern – it should be a
major concern for all countries in the world. They are trying to, as I said, change the
international system in a way that suits their own very narrow interests. One of the things that we will be doing – and
this will be my primary objective here – is to push back on various initiatives that the
Russians and the Chinese are putting forward. Chinese and the Russians, as you know, have
been very active with regard to outer space, in the cyber realm, and certainly in the nuclear
realm. And over the last 10 years, the United States
has tried to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons, particularly in our national security
strategies, while Russia and China have gone in the opposite direction. And this is a great concern not only for the
United States and our allies, but for a number of countries around the world. As I said, we will be pushing back against
them. We will also be pushing back against other
malign actors, such as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and – because they are now joining
forces with these two powers that frankly, as I said, are trying to undermine the post-World
War II international system that the United States and some others have helped to put
in place. And so this will be a very, very challenging
First Committee for us. One of the things that we will also be looking
at – and this will be another priority – and this is promoting what we call a new era of
arms control. And by this, I mean – taking you back to
my previous example about how over the last 10 years Russia and China have been going
in the opposite direction in terms of developing their strategic and nuclear stockpiles, and
the threats they pose, not only in their various regions but around the world. And one of our objectives is to try to bring
China into a trilateral arms control discussion. China has benefitted from not being in the
arms control architecture, and for a great – a great example of this is the INF Treaty. China was not bound by the INF Treaty. It was – they were not party to it, and
so they’ve gone ahead and have developed systems that are not covered under any kind
of arms control treaty. So we feel it’s important to bring both
Russia and China to the table, and we will be pursuing that. We will also be pursuing an initiative we
started in the last year or so called “Creating [the] Environment for Nuclear Disarmament.” And this was in response – frankly, this
initiative is in response to growing concerns about the state of the international security
environment, and I’ve just mentioned two countries that have been key driving forces
behind creating this very, very difficult international security environment. So what we’re trying to do through this
initiative is to sit down with interested countries and talk about the things we can
– the steps we can take to promote a much more – create a much more appropriate environment
for moving forward on nuclear disarmament. And so we had the first meeting of the CEND
back in July, and it got I think very, very good response from participating countries,
and we are going to have sub-group meetings of the CEND taking place in November. And we hope that this initiative will lead
us in a very positive direction as we move toward the 2020 NPT Review Conference that
will take place here in New York. So we think that this CEND initiative can
actually serve as an essential building block for having a successful outcome at the NPT
2020 Review Conference. So as you can tell, we’ve got a very busy
agenda – the U.S. here in New York at the First Committee, and we will, as I said, be
pursuing vigorously our opposition to Russia and China’s initiatives that we think pose
real, serious threats to the international system as we know it. So I’ll stop there, and I look forward to
taking your questions. QUESTION: Thank you very much. I am MariTi Lovell with Kyodo News. I just have a couple of questions. The first one is on the CEND initiative. I actually wanted to know if you could elaborate
on that, because I know it seems a bit vague, a lot of what’s been read about it is just
let’s talk, but we don’t know where the talks are going to go. And I also wanted to know a bit more about
what’s going on with the First Committee and how you guys plan on moving forward with
that, because it’s been postponed now for a while and the issue has been with Russia
and the visas, which isn’t anything new. This has been going on since 2004, so I just
wanted to know what are the next steps for that. Thank you. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Well, thank you for your
questions. The CEND initiative, to be a little bit more
specific, was designed to bring together nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states
and to have discussions about how we can improve the overall strategic security environment
so that steps can be taken further in – with regard to nuclear disarmament. So many of these are regional issues that
need to be dealt with. Many of them are thematic issues. And what we’re trying to do is to line up
– to create some sub-working groups that can tackle some of these specific issues that
are impediments to moving forward on nuclear disarmament. Dealing with the issue of trust, because trust
is a big factor, you have to create an environment of trust where countries feel that they can
take the steps necessary to move forward on nuclear disarmament but feel secure at the
same time. So there’s a lot of work that will be ongoing. The initiative is new. And again, we had a plenary, as I said, back
in July, and it was a good opportunity to listen to countries and to see what their
priorities were, to listen to suggestions for how we can address some common concerns
that we have and then some regional-specific concerns. So there isn’t a lot more I can tell you
about it until we get into the real substance of it, and that will happen in November when
the sub-groups meet and start taking on some of these challenges that, by the way, will
have to be agreed by all of the parties. So I think that the feeling coming out of
the July meeting was that there was a – this was a good step. Countries certainly want to see much more
substance to it. But I think the first – the discussions
we had in July were a really good stepping-stone to making some progress on some of the other
issues that are outstanding. With regard the UN First Committee session,
Russia has been trying to, in essence, hold up the convening of the First Committee on
matters of substance because of this visa issue. And we have made very clear that the host
country committee is the mechanism for dealing with all sorts of visa matters. And you’re right; these issues have cropped
up from time to time over the years, and – but this time Russia, I think unfortunately, is
bringing this into the multilateral context. And we saw what happened at the UN Disarmament
Commission, and we hope that we will be able to move forward on convening the substance
of the First Committee, but we’ll have to see. I know the chair is trying to work this with
Russia, so we’re hopeful that we can come to some kind of resolution of this so that
we can go forward and deal with the agenda that we have, and it’s a very fulsome agenda
at First Committee. QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Wood. My name is Alex Hassanein with Tokyo Shimbun. Just a couple questions on First Committee
and a broader question in general. Upon the establishment of SpaceCom, President
Trump referred to space as “the next war-fighting domain.” Can we expect any new, exciting developments
or disagreements in the outer space portion of the First Committee? Secondly, the DPRK talks in Sweden seem to
have ended on a bit of a sour note. Can we expect a return to the right-of-reply
exchanges between DPRK of the years past? And lastly, on a broader note, is the existing
arms control architecture having any effect on stopping an arms race? Thank you. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Thank you. What was your first question? I just — QUESTION: It was: Upon the establishment of
SpaceCom, President Trump referred to space as, quote, “the next war-fighting domain.” Can we expect any new, exciting developments
or disagreements in the outer space portion of the First Committee? AMBASSADOR WOOD: Yeah, I think – thank you
– the outer space portion of First Committee has always been very contentious, and this
is because Russia and China have been pursuing initiatives, frankly, that undercut the existing
consensus-based efforts that have been made at First Committee. They have, as you know, been putting forward
what’s called the “no first placement of weapons in outer space” as a sort of
a political initiative, and they’ve also been putting forward – they put forward
a draft treaty called “The Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” otherwise
known as PPWT. And we’ve said to them that, first and foremost
on the “no first placement,” that there’s no means for being able to ensure that a country
is actually not attempting to put weapons in outer space. So there’s no definition for what a space
weapon is. And so we’ve said to the Russians and Chinese,
let’s focus on those areas where we can build consensus. And where we’ve managed to in the past support
– jointly support initiatives was in the area of technical confidence-building measures. And at this year’s First Committee, the
United States will be putting forward a resolution on TCBMs that we think captures where the
international community is with regard to these space issues, because they’re very
contentious, and countries look at them very, very differently. But we think trying to push initiatives, frankly,
that are not verifiable – not effectively verifiable – and that undermine efforts
to try to reach a consensus across the broad disarmament community on how to go forward
in space and preserve space for future endeavors. So this undoubtedly will be a challenging
First Committee in that regard. But we do want to work together with Russia
and China and others, and we hope Russia and China will support our TCBM resolution so
that we can actually take this issue out of the hostile realm and move into a much more
cooperative realm. With regard to – your question on DPRK,
Saturday’s talks in Stockholm I think were good discussions, and frankly we are prepared
to join talks in two weeks’ time. The Swedish Government, that hosted the talks,
in essence invited the United States and the DPRK to resume the talks in two weeks’ time. And we’re prepared to do that. We came to the table with some creative ideas
for how to address some of these issues, and I think there’s a possibility to make some
real progress. But we’ll have to see what happens. So the last question was — QUESTION: Yes, if the existing arms control
architecture is having any effect on stopping an arms race. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Well, the existing arms control
architecture actually does work. It’s not really the architecture that’s
the problem. It really is in many ways political will of
the countries, for example, who belong to the Conference on Disarmament. The problem that we’re having is that within
the disarmament community at large, there are very deep divisions about how to go forward
on nuclear disarmament. And the so-called treaty to ban nuclear weapons
has exacerbated those divisions and tensions. And so what we have to do is we have to try
to find a way to find consensus in areas where there is consensus to move forward. And that’s why our CEND initiative we think
is a good step in trying to move in that direction. The ban treaty proponents unfortunately are
going down what I believe to be a dead end, because having a treaty where you don’t
have any of the nuclear weapon states or nuclear weapons-possessing states on board, that does
not auger well for having any kind of nuclear disarmament. It won’t reduce stockpiles by one single
weapon. So what we want to do, as I said, is to try
to look for ways and areas where we can find consensus. And I think – again, the meeting that we
had in July in Washington of the CEND was a good starting point. And I think we have the – we have the possibility
of making much more progress in that, through that mechanism, than we do through a nuclear
weapons ban treaty. MODERATOR: We’re going to take another question
in New York, and then we’re going to go to D.C. QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador,
for this briefing. My name is Sato from Japan TV NHK. Follow-up question, follow-up to the DPRK. Recently DPRK once again launched a missile,
ballistic missile even though – inside the East Sea of Japan. As a special representative of the U.S. Government, what do you see the current development
of the DPRK’s nuclear and missile development? AMBASSADOR WOOD: Well, of course – thank
you for your question. We are obviously concerned about these types
of activities, and that’s why we’ve wanted to sit down with the DPRK and follow through
on the commitments that were made by both President Trump and Chairman Kim in – at
their summit in Singapore in 2018. I think the talks that were just held in Stockholm
were important, and we’re hopeful that the DPRK will want to continue in that way. Again, there was a commitment from Chairman
Kim in 2018 to – the denuclearization of North Korea, and we want to take steps, working
with North Korea, to fulfill that obligation. So you’re going to have ups and downs as
these discussions go forward, but the United States is committed wholeheartedly to the
final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. So our hope is that over the coming weeks,
the North will make some decisions about how and whether it wants to proceed. The future is bright for the DPRK if it’s
willing to live up to its commitments, and President Trump has made that clear. We’re not going into discussions with North
Korea with closed eyes. We realize the challenges ahead. But we do believe the dialogue that we’ve
begun, that the President has begun with Chairman Kim, is the right way to go. And again, we just – you’re going to have,
as I said, these rough patches, but the important thing is that we – both sides sit at the
table and work out how we can get to that final and fully verified denuclearization
of North Korea. So stay tuned. We’ll see how things go, but we certainly
are prepared to, as I said earlier, to return to Stockholm to continue the talks. MODERATOR: I believe we have a question in
Washington, D.C. QUESTION: Hi, Robert. This is Dmitry Kirsanov with TASS. Long time. Good to see you again. Listen, I wanted to come back to the first
question about visas not granted to the Russian delegates. As you probably know, one-third of the – of
Russian delegates to this UN First Committee session did not receive U.S. visas. Now, I’m willing to give you a benefit of
a doubt and ask you what exactly went wrong here, although on the surface it does look
like a clear violation of the UNHQ Agreement. And as you probably know, the Russians are
now saying that since things like that are taking place, we should probably start thinking
about moving sessions like that to Geneva or Vienna in 2020. Do you have a comment on that? AMBASSADOR WOOD: Thank you for your question. I don’t have a comment on what the Russian
Government is proposing. We’ve said very clearly, we take our obligations
with regard to the host country very, very seriously in this regard. And visas are dealt with on a case-by-case
basis within the context of U.S. laws and regulations, so this is an issue that, as
I said earlier, that needs to be addressed in the host country committee. That is the mechanism that’s been established
to deal with these visa cases. So my hope is that Russia will use that mechanism,
and that we don’t let this issue impact the important work that we have to do at First
Committee. And it’s unfortunate that the chairman was
not able to move forward today and that the session had to be suspended until tomorrow. We have a lot of very important work to do
at First Committee, and we should not let this issue get in the way of that. As I said, we have a mechanism for addressing
it. The Russians are fully aware of that mechanism
and have used it. So that’s where I’d like to leave it on
that question. QUESTION: Ambassador, you mentioned a lot
of other countries — MODERATOR: State your name and affiliation,
please. QUESTION: Oh, this is Behnam Nateghi from
Voice of America Persian Service. You mentioned a lot of other countries that
are not part of the treaty, and you – as an example, you gave China. But what about the other countries who are
trying to enter this realm, like Iran, for example? You mentioned North Korea, but has Iran anything
to do with – in the discussions at the First Committee and other — AMBASSADOR WOOD: Yeah. I understand. QUESTION: — efforts for the non-nuclear
– denuclearization? AMBASSADOR WOOD: Well, first of all, we think
it’s important that Iran fulfill its commitments to the IAEA. That is essential. Iran is probably one of the biggest challenges
the international community faces. Iran has bankrolled terrorism for a number
of years. It’s the world’s leading state sponsor
of terrorism. It’s the world’s leading state sponsor
of hostage-taking. We’ve seen what Iran has been doing in the
Gulf region attacking oil tankers. It attacked the Saudi oil facility. The international community needs to be very,
very concerned about this malign behavior, and we will be calling out that malign behavior
during First Committee. Its – Iran’s production of ballistic missiles,
its export of those missiles around the region – this is of great concern. Not just the United States but other countries
are very, very concerned about what Iran is doing. It is fomenting unrest all around the region. And so through our sanctions and our maximum
pressure campaign, we are going to make it extremely expensive going forward for Iran
to continue this malign behavior. We’ve said we are prepared to sit at the
table with Iran. Iran is clearly not ready to do that. But we believe that our maximum pressure has
been reaping benefits, and we will continue to put that pressure on Iran along with our
– with other partners. And hopefully, Iran will be willing to come
to the table. But yes, Iran is going to be a central focus
at this year’s First Committee. QUESTION: Thank you. I am Lucentini of Affari Esteri magazine in
Rome. I would like to know if there is any voice
of a new start of work on the disarmament plan that – between Israeli and Palestinians
that President Trump had entrusted to his son-in-law. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Thank you for your question. The President has – and his son-in-law,
Jared Kushner, have been working on a proposal to put forward to Israelis and Palestinians. They will obviously put that down at a time
they think is appropriate, because the President is committed to trying to help resolve these
longstanding tensions between Israel – the Israelis and Palestinians. So I don’t know when he will do that, but
it will obviously be in consultation with other officials at the U.S. Government and, of course, in consultation
with countries in the region. So we’ll have to see how that goes. But we are very committed to trying to bring
an end to this decades-long problem between Israel and the Palestinians. So if I answered your question there or not. QUESTION: Thank you. MODERATOR: Do we have any last questions? QUESTION: My name is Yong Park working for
South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo, and I’d like to ask some follow-up question about
North Korea. And I heard there is – the United Nations
Security Council meeting called up on tomorrow and then they’re going to discuss about
the North Korean missile launching, recent missile launching. And what is the U.S. position about that? In this stages, the international community
has condemned the launching or put another sanction on that? Do you – yeah, that’s my question. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Well, thank you for your
question. Look, I don’t want to get ahead of the discussion
at the Security Council when that does take place. But look, we are aware of the concerns that
have been raised. We have a lot of concerns about the behavior
of the DPRK. But again, that is why we wanted to, again,
have these conversations with the DPRK. This is what President Trump wanted to do
from the beginning, was to try to put the – try to somehow frame this – a future
relationship in a positive way and to give incentives to the North to return to the table. But we realize this is going – this process
is not going to be easy, as I said earlier. We’re going to have these bumps in the road,
as it were. But it’s going to be very important for
the DPRK to realize all the benefits that could come to the DPRK if it goes along the
path toward denuclearization and that the country fulfills those commitments that it
made in Singapore to President Trump. So there’s a lot of work to do on this issue. We want to get to work and start to make some
progress on this. But I really don’t want to get ahead of
the Security Council discussion, if indeed it does take place tomorrow. MODERATOR: Well, I want to thank you very
much for coming; Ambassador Wood, for your time today. Today’s briefing was on the record, and
we’ll share the transcript as soon as it’s available. Thank you very much. AMBASSADOR WOOD: Thank you all very much.

13 thoughts on “Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on “U.S. Priorities in the UN First Committee”

  1. im being overkill abused. you are all far to selfish in your greed, you are losing your right to life. its you that is your worst enemies.

  2. This is profoundly Embarrassing. Is cuba a danger to the USA? Venezuela? Why are we manipulating their elections and people? The word hipocracy has no meaning anymore.

    P.s. nukes are the only defence from the USA. NO ONE is ridding themselves of them to only to get ghadafied in the end.

  3. https://youtu.be/e_5_ZJvrtLE

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    Isaiah 59:19-So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun;

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    The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.

    God wants me to tell you that you do not need to fight your own battles and defend yourself. GOD ALMIGHTY IS YOUR DEFENDER! He sees what is happening behind closed doors.

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    Prophetess Dawn O’brien

    Servant of the Lord

    Trump calls for Pelosi, Schiff impeachment over whistleblower actions

    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-calls-for-pelosi-schiff-impeachment-over-whistleblower-actions

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    https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/miranda-devine-donald-trumps-lesson-for-mitt-romney

    Now they are going after his tax records. Anything to kick him out of office! Like it is any of their business? Did they go after previous president’s tax reports?

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    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/07/trump-loses-new-york-court-fight-to-keep-his-tax-returns-secret.html

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  4. We will never be able to trust islamic countries nor the asian ones and frankly germany and russia and china will always be something to keep a skeptical eye on…America..at least under President Trump is the only country that would not willfully start a nuclear war…that would change in a heartbeat if the leftist took the white house..they would instigate war to affect their globalist goals..

  5. My question, Mr. Ambassador: "How do you think we can defeat Russsia/China coalition in case of WW3? And if you think we cannot, why do we continue to engage in Mideast? Is it time to pull out our troops?!

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