NPT PrepCom Fault Lines

VIENNA, 3 May 2017: Clear divisions are emerging among the 120 countries meeting here as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)Preparatory Committee moved into its second day.
The meeting at the Vienna International Centre, Austria, is in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the NPT regular five yearly review in 2020. The NPT opened for signature in 1968; it is the most widely adhered to multilaterally negotiated arms control treaty with 193 member States – only India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and South Sudan remain outside the treaty.
The Preparatory Committee concluded its General Debate with the opening statements of States and also heard the views of civil society organizations (CSOs).
France expressed concern regarding the emergence of initiatives that were dividing States parties to the NPT. It said that the “instrumentalisation” of the “humanitarian” approach to nuclear disarmament with the objective of prohibiting nuclear weapons did not take into account the present international security context. France stated that such an approach was “inconsistent with the step-by-step approach” that it claimed was laid out in Article VI of the NPT on nuclear disarmament. It noted that unlike these initiatives, France reaffirmed its support for the “gradual and pragmatic approach” to nuclear disarmament that in its view was in line with Article VI of the NPT. And, it stated achieving progress in nuclear disarmament required that everyone should make the necessary efforts to reinforce regional and international stability, taking into account the “principle of undiminished security for all”.
Given the statement made by France, it is useful to cite the full NPT Article VI: “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.” It makes no reference to a step-by-step, gradual or pragmatic approach.
In contrast to France, Kazakhstan stated that on a global scale, nuclear disarmament still remained an aspiration rather than action as thousands of nuclear arsenals still remained. As such, Kazakhstan called upon the nuclear-weapon States that had already pledged to make sincere efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, in accordance with Article VI of the NPT, to take practical measures in this regard. Kazakhstan expressed its conviction that a nuclear-weapon-free world could be achieved if there was enough political will from all States, and that it stood ready to add to strengthening the NPT, which provided the firm basis for the total elimination of nuclear arsenals and prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
In its statement, Brazil said that on the nuclear disarmament front, progress had been “especially dismal”. It called upon the nuclear-weapon States to remove the reservations and unilateral interpretations to their security assurances as these weaken the effectiveness of nuclear weapon free zone treaties. The nuclear-weapon States are required by nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) treaties to provide legally binding assurances not to attack or threaten to attack with nuclear weapons States that are parties to NWFZ treaties. The entire southern hemisphere is covered by NWFZ treaties – Tlatelolco (Latin America and the Caribbean), Rarotonga (South Pacific), Bangkok (Southeast Asia) and Pelindaba (Africa); the five Central Asian countries also have a NWFZ treaty, and Mongolia has declared itself to be nuclear-weapon-free. In all nearly 120 countries are covered by NWFZ treaties.
Brazil said that the world now was at a “new tipping point in the history of the nuclear arms race”. It added that the NPT had proven to be successful in preventing non-nuclear-weapon States from developing nuclear arms. Brazil noted that the NPT had not, however, been effective in curbing the modernization of existing nuclear arsenals. It said that the world order had not become safer, nor more predictable because of nuclear weapons but to the contrary. Brazil noted that while suggesting the possible use of nuclear weapons pre-emptively or in response to political tensions in certain situations, nuclear-armed countries and their military allies wished to “dictate to non-nuclear-weapon States the pace of progress on nuclear disarmament”.
Among CSO statements, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) pointed out that all of the nuclear-armed States—including those that were parties to the NPT—were investing in the expansion, development, or so-called “modernisation” of their nuclear arsenals. WILPF said that these programmes were not just about “increasing the safety and security” of nuclear weapon systems, as claimed by the nuclear-armed states claimed, but that the “upgrades” in many cases provided new nuclear-weapon systems and also extended their operational lives beyond the middle of this century, “ensuring that the [nuclear] arms race would continue indefinitely”.
(Tariq Rauf, a director of Atomic Reporters, was alternate head of the IAEA NPT Delegation 2002-2010 – all views expressed are his own)
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