MORE THAN 120 COUNTRIES PREPARE FOR 2020 NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY REVIEW CONFERENCE
By TARIQ RAUF
VIENNA, 2 May 2017: More than 120 countries have gathered at the Vienna International Centre in Austria, for the first of three Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings ahead of the 50th anniversary review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 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.
With Russia and the United States engaged in mutual acrimony over compliance with nuclear arms control treaties, progressing nuclear and missile programmes in North Korea, as well as India and Pakistan, the Vienna conference will focus on nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and verification, and peaceful applications of nuclear energy in electricity generation, cancer therapy and water purification among other uses.
Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, kicked off the meeting by recalling that the NPT is the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He criticized North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and called upon Pyongyang to renounce these weapons
. Kishida paid tribute to the efforts of the survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ‘the Hibakushas’, who have been calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Ambassador Alexander Marschik, Austria’s Vice-Minister for Political Affairs, recalled the Humanitarian Initiative which underscored the devastating effects of a nuclear weapons explosion with new evidence at the conference held at the Hofburg in December 2015. He asserted that the humanitarian imperative remains Austria’s guiding principle in efforts related to nuclear weapons and reminded delegates of the Joint Statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, delivered by the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on behalf of 159 States on the occasion of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, that aimed to make everyone safer, non-nuclear weapon States and nuclear weapon States alike.
Marschik acknowledged that some States have expressed concerns that a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, under negotiation in New York, would undermine the NPT. He reassured that the prohibition treaty would not only be fully compatible with the NPT, but would build on the NPT and contribute to its implementation. He said that a recent study by the International Law and Policy Institute on the relation between the future prohibition treaty and the NPT had confirmed their full compatibility.
Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organization in Vienna, said that a multilateral, effectively verifiable, and credibly enforceable nuclear test ban has been a key objective of the international community from the very early years of the nuclear age
. The achievement of such a goal was, in fact, sought out well before the origins of the NPT were first unveiled at the United Nations General Assembly in 1959 upon the initiative of Ireland. And that after more than six decades of efforts to put a halt to nuclear testing, this long-sought objective still remains elusive.
Zerbo informed that the international community now had at its disposal the most far-reaching and sophisticated global nuclear monitoring system ever built. The CTBTO International Monitoring System was nearly complete and was operating to detect and deter nuclear explosive tests globally. There were 302 detection facilities already in place, out of 337 envisaged by the treaty, in over 90 countries. The state-of-the-art International Data Centre could pinpoint a suspected nuclear test location, magnitude and time. The CTBTO’s detection capability had been demonstrated during each of the five nuclear tests carried out by North Korea and in every case; the CTBTO was able to provide timely and accurate data on the nuclear explosions
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, noted that presently there were 449 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries. And, another 60 reactors were under construction, with around two thirds of the new reactors being built in Asia
. And that, nuclear power was once seen as the preserve of developed countries, but today many developing countries were interested in it. He affirmed that nuclear power was one of the lowest-carbon technologies for generating electricity and can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Amano noted that the IAEA had been verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in July 2015.He said that the JCPOA represented a significant gain for nuclear verification and that Iran now was subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.
Ecuador speaking on behalf of the Member States of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) said that CELAC was committed with the beginning of a multilateral diplomatic process for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons in a transparent, irreversible and verifiable manner, within a temporal time frame agreed multilaterally
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. He noted that such an instrument was a necessary measure on nuclear disarmament and would fulfill the obligation of States Parties to the NPT as stated in Article VI of the Treaty.
The first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference is chaired by Ambassador Henk Co van der Kwast (Netherlands) will continue until 12 May when it will conclude with agreed action items if the participating States can reach consensus. Taking part are diplomats, civil society organizations and students – but only the diplomats will be involved in the negotiation of meeting’s final report.
(Tariq Rauf, a director of Atomic Reporters, was alternate head of the IAEA NPT Delegation 2002-2010 – all views expressed are his own)