The global nuclear weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty is in jeopardy due to the continued failure of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their obligations under the Treaty.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed on July 1, 1968 and remains the foundation of the post-World War II global nuclear nonproliferation. 187 nations signed the treaty; four did not — Cuba, Israel, India and Pakistan. The signers agreed to convene a special conference in 25 years to decide on whether or not to continue the treaty. And in 1997 at the UN headquarters in New York, 174 nations agreed to strengthen the treaty’s review process, i.e., to continue to hold more review conferences in the years to come.
The latest treaty review conference — the year 2000 NPT Review Conference — will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from April 24 to May 19, 2000. The central issue for that conference is if this treaty will continue to be the centerpiece for global efforts to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or if the Treaty will begin to unravel.
The upcoming Review Conference has crucial implications not only for NPT member states, but also for non-member states, especially India, Pakistan and Israel. The upcoming conference presents a tremendous opportunity to make substantive progress towards nuclear disarmament. Crucial to the outcome of this Review Conference will be the extent to which the nuclear weapon states are able to demonstrate any progress made toward fulfilling obligations under Article VI of the NPT, which states:
“Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
In its 1996 Advisory Opinion, the International Court of Justice concluded unanimously that:
“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.’
While the number of nuclear weapons possessed by the nuclear weapon states has decreased, the status of Article VI obligations is in a state of impasse. Parties of the NPT must take nuclear responsibility and avoid further attempts to weaken non-proliferation efforts.
Challenges to the NPT
The following developments represent the growing peril that challenges international and human security:
Though the Cold War ended more than ten years ago, more than 30,000 nuclear weapons remain worldwide.
Since the 1995 NPT review and extension conference, two additional countries, India and Pakistan, have tested nuclear weapons.
US and Russian nuclear arsenals remain in permanent, 24 hour, “launch on warning” status in spite of recommendations to de-alert nuclear weapons made by the Canberra Commission (1996), two resolutions passed by massive majorities in the UN General Assembly in 1998, another two in 1999, and a unanimous resolution of the European Parliament (1999).
The US Senate has failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in spite of nearly unanimous endorsement of the treaty by the international community and massive US public support for nuclear disarmament. In addition, the US and Russia, continue to conduct “subcritical” nuclear tests, undermining the spirit and purpose of the CTBT. The clear aim of the CTBT is to restrain weapons development, yet the US, Russia, and other weapons states proceed to develop new nuclear weapons in computer-simulated “virtual reality”, with the aid of subcritical underground nuclear testing.
NATO has jeopardized the NPT by declaring in April 1999 that nuclear weapons are “essential” to its security.
US efforts to deploy a National Missile Defense (NMD) system and circumvent the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, have increased tensions with Russia and China and threaten a new arms race.
The irresponsibility of the nuclear weapons states to pursue good faith negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons is unacceptable. Failure to make progress on Article VI obligations provides incentive for non-nuclear states to acquire nuclear weapons, thereby increasing the nuclear danger.
Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have undermined the international norm of nonproliferation established by the treaty.
medium range missile tests in India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea have undermined the NPT
Iraq’s defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions requiring it to complete its disclosure of efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction have threatened the stability of the NPT
Nuclear weapons states are not strongly supporting the treaty’s review process. For example, the US Senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999 sending a message to the world that nuclear nonproliferation was not a critical issue according to the US Senate.
Sharing peaceful uses of nuclear energy has become a contentious issue
“Additional threats to the regime’s [NPT’s] stability came in 1999 from the erosion of American relations with both China and Russia resulting from NATO’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia — with additional harm to relations with China resulting from US accusations of Chinese nuclear espionage and Taiwan’s announcement that it was a state separate from China despite its earlier acceptance of a US-Chinese ‘one China’ agreement. Major threats to the regime also came from the continued stalemate on arms control treaties in the Russian Duma and the US Senate, from a change in US policy to favor building a national missile defense against missile attack and from a Russian decision to develop a new generation of small nuclear weapons for defense against conventional attack.” Ambassador George Bunn, former US Ambassador to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and a negotiator of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT)