On 9 March, reports surfaced in major US media that the US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released on 9 January contains contingency plans for using nuclear weapons against seven states: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Russia and China. It also reportedly contains plans to develop and deploy new “earth-penetrating” nuclear weapons and to accelerate the time it would take to resume full-scale nuclear testing. Using nuclear weapons against other states or developing new nuclear weapons would directly violate US obligations to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons under Article VI of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the US, along with the other state parties to the treaty, committed themselves to an “unequivocal undertaking” to eliminate nuclear weapons and to a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies. Even if the US does not pursue the plans outlined in the NPR, as Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top military and government officials are claiming, the provocative rhetoric could unravel the non-proliferation regime.

“The fact that the US is developing contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states will certainly be viewed as a sign of bad faith by most of the world and will do serious damage to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.”

Weapons of mass destruction and missile proliferation do pose a legitimate threat not only to US security, but also to international security. However, unilateral US threats to use nuclear weapons, in conjunction with developing and deploying missile defenses, as a means of countering these threats is likely to provoke rather than prevent proliferation. A much better option would be for the US to take the lead on negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has issued an international appeal that has now been signed by over 100 prominent individuals, including 38 Nobel Laureates. The Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity and All Life calls upon the US and other nuclear weapons states to take the following practical steps as a means to preserve the non-proliferation regime and achieve the complete elimination of nuclear weapons:

* De-alert all nuclear weapons and de-couple all nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles.

* Reaffirm commitments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

* Commence good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.

* Declare policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons against other nuclear weapons states and policies of No Use against non-nuclear weapons states.

* Reallocate resources from the tens of billions of dollars currently being spent for maintaining nuclear arsenals to improving human health, education and welfare throughout the world.