Originally Published on OneWorld US

As country representatives enter the second week of discussions on a treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear arms around the world, peace groups are urging them to oppose a possible United States policy shift that could mean a new role for nuclear weapons as part of the “war against terrorism.”

International delegates, who are currently meeting in New York to prepare the ground for a 2005 review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are under pressure from lobby groups to take a stand against controversial U.S. nuclear defense proposals which have been publicized in recent months.

David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which has a representative at the NPT meeting, says the U.S. is in danger of violating international law if it goes ahead with proposals to make nuclear weapons a legitimate part of the country’s portfolio of defense options.

“That the U.S. is making contingency plans and preparations to use nuclear weapons is revealed in its secret Nuclear Posture Review,” said Krieger, referring to a confidential policy report, partially declassified in January, which outlined the case for the weapons in the post-September 11 security climate.

“Just as planning and preparation for aggressive war was held to be a crime at Nuremberg, U.S. planning and preparation to use nuclear weapons constitutes…a crime under international law,” said Krieger, noting a 1996 International Court of Justice ruling that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be illegal.

Leaks to the media last month revealed that the Posture Review named seven states–Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea (news – web sites), Russia, and China–against which nuclear weapons could be used. Of those states, only Russia and China are known to possess nuclear weapons.

Since the second bomb was dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, nuclear weapons have not been used. However, the Review raises the prospect of the development of smaller and more functional nuclear weapons that could be more easily deployed, according to media reports.

Jan Øberg, director of the Sweden-based Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, believes that the new U.S. posture signals a change in how nuclear weapons will be perceived in the future.

“Morally and politically nuclear weapons are not something you just throw around, but now there is the prospect they could be used against a government we don’t like, and in particular, a list of countries that don’t have the capacity to invade or who don’t have nuclear weapons at all,” Øberg explained.

The posture is consistent with the lack of enthusiasm demonstrated by the administration of George W. Bush for multilateral efforts to controls arms, said John Isaacs, head of Council for a Livable World, pointing to the U.S. government’s reluctance to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

“We hope the rest of world does not do the same thing because the more the U.S. goes against world opinion, the more likely it will weaken treaties, leading other countries to withdraw and to begin to develop nuclear capabilities,” said Isaacs.

The preparatory committee session, which began Monday, is scheduled to end April 19. The NPT itself, which includes 187 member states, has led international initiatives on non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and other nuclear treaties, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, since 1970.