Nonproliferation Treaty Official
by Devon Chaffee*, April 10, 2003
On January 10th 2003 North Korea announced its
intent to become the first country ever to withdraw from the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty. Though North Korean officials argued
that its withdrawal was official immediately, according to Article
X of the treaty the withdrawal was not official until today, three
months after the notification was issued. This unfortunate event
highlights the severe implications of the Bush administration’s
refusal to engage North Korea diplomatically. It also draws attention
to concerns about the uncertain future of the NPT regime.
Under the NPT North Korea and other countries not
possessing nuclear weapons at the time agreed not to develop or
obtain nuclear weapons and the nuclear powers agreed to disarm
and not to spread nuclear weapons to other states. Now that North
Korea is officially not a party to the NPT, there are few legal
obstacles preventing it from developing nuclear weapons and selling
such weapons, technology and materials to other countries.
North Korea had announced its intent to withdraw
from the NPT regime once before in 1993. At that time the United
States engaged in bilateral negotiations leading the DPRK to retract
its withdrawal days before it officially went into effect.
When North Korea again announced its withdrawal
in January its statement of intent clearly called for further
negotiation initiatives with the United States. These requests
did not, however, result in the skillful diplomatic maneuvering
that was employed during the 1993 crisis. Instead, the Bush administration
has refused all requests for bilateral talks, urging a multilateral
approach that has, thus far, proved entirely unfruitful.
North Korea now joins India, Pakistan, Israel,
as the only countries not currently within the NPT regime. Few
of these countries have faced serious consequences for such remaining
outside of the regime.
Although some sanctions were originally imposed
on India and Pakistan after they conducted nuclear tests in 1998,
these sanctions have been largely abandoned. The nuclear status
of India and Pakistan is increasingly accepted by the world’s
major powers. They have been allowed to enter into certain international
nuclear research institutions, from which they were previously
excluded, and the U.S. is investigating ways to aid these countries
in securing their nuclear arsenals.
It currently appears unlikely that the U.N. Security
Council will take any punitive action in response to North Korea’s
NPT withdrawal. This seeming complacency of the international
community in regards to nuclear proliferation begs the question:
what is preventing other nuclear aspiring nations, such as Iran,
from following North Korea’s lead and withdrawing from the
As the United States continues to wage a pre-emptive
attack on Iraq, in part due to Iraq’s alleged weapons of
mass destruction programs, increasing alarm is voiced by other
nations accused of such proliferation. It is likely that nations
such as Iran will accelerate their nuclear weapons programs due
to fears of such U.S. aggression. This is particularly so as the
Bush administration continues to increase its emphasis on its
own nuclear weapons technology, ignoring its disarmament obligations
under Article XI of the NPT. Though these issues will likely be
discussed at the upcoming preparatory meeting for the NPT Review
Conference this May, the Bush administration is increasingly distancing
itself from arenas pushing to find diplomatic solutions to the
threat of weapons of mass of destruction.
* Devon Chaffee is the
research and advocacy coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.