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Daryl Kimball

Global NGOs Urge Nonproliferation Treaty States to Comply with Obligations



For Immediate Release: May 11, 2020

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext.107; Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext 110

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—More than 80 national and international peace and nuclear disarmament nongovernmental organizations delivered a joint statement Monday to key government leaders urging them to fulfill unmet obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), particularly on nuclear disarmament, and to realize their agreed commitment to the goal of the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The joint statement marks the 25th anniversary of the package of decisions that led to the indefinite extension of the NPT and urges world leaders to act with greater urgency and cooperation to reduce nuclear risks and advance progress on disarmament per their commitment under the treaty.

“We’re not only at a pivotal point in the struggle against the fast-moving coronavirus; we are also at a tipping point in the long-running effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons,” the joint statement from more than 80 organizations from around the globe, including the Arms Control Association, warns.

“Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade nuclear weapons; and key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy.”

“This environment,” the organizations write, “demands bolder action from all states to reduce nuclear risks by eliminating nuclear weapons; action that is rooted in ‘deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.’”

The NPT entered into force in 1970 and now has 191 states parties. It is considered the foundation of global efforts to address the risks posed by nuclear weapons. The NPT is not simply a nonproliferation treaty. It is also a treaty that requires action on disarmament.

“For the long-term viability of the NPT, all countries must fully implement their obligations. The body of previous NPT Review Conference commitments and action steps still apply. This includes the benchmarks agreed to at the historic 1995 Review and Extension Conference and further commitments made at the 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences. These remain largely unfulfilled, and some are at risk of being reversed or lost entirely.”

Implementing past action plans must be the floor and not the ceiling for taking forward the NPT’s provisions,” they write in the statement, which has been delivered to diplomats from most of the 191 states parties of the NPT.

The postponement of the 2020 NPT Review Conference offers an unprecedented opportunity to change the current course,” they argue.

“The current situation requires new and bolder leadership from responsible states to work together to build majority support for a plan of action to advance NPT Article VI [disarmament] goals and create much needed momentum for further progress on disarmament, and to save humanity from the scourge of nuclear war,” they write.

The full statement and the list of endorsing organizations are available online via Reaching Critical Will.

Fulfilling the Promise of the NPT

May 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

As global leaders appropriately focus on the steps necessary to deal with the deadly effects of the coronavirus pandemic, they cannot afford to lose sight of the actions necessary to address the ongoing threat of nuclear proliferation and catastrophic nuclear war—the ultimate pandemic.

The sculpture “Good Defeats Evil” on the grounds of the United Nations headquarters depicts St. George slaying the dragon. (UN photo by Rick Bajornas)Twenty-five years ago, the world came together to extend and strengthen the bedrock agreement to reduce nuclear dangers: the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Now, tensions among the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade the already bloated arsenals of the world’s nine possessors of nuclear weapons; and key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy.

The resurgence of the nuclear weapons threat is due, in large part, to the failure of national leaders to seize earlier opportunities to significantly reduce the nuclear threat and to pursue a more intensive dialogue on measures to move toward the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

On May 11, 1995, NPT states parties committed to the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons.” Additional specific commitments were made at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences to advance implementation and compliance with the treaty.

These commitments represent a collective determination of how to fulfill the objectives of the NPT, including the disarmament obligations under Article VI. With few exceptions, these remain relevant, but they have largely been unfulfilled, such as the failure by the United States and China to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Some are at risk of being reversed or lost entirely, such as the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

U.S. leadership has been key to the success of the NPT in the past. Today, the United States is, on balance, part of the problem not the solution. Senior Trump administration officials claim that the body of previous review conference commitments no longer applies. They downplay the urgency of today’s nuclear risks and argue unconvincingly that the “environment” is not right for progress on disarmament. They dismiss the CTBT without explanation and dither on whether to extend New START, arguing that China must somehow be involved in nuclear arms control before any further steps are taken.

Such excuses and blame-shifting by officials from the United States, and from other states, are unconstructive and irresponsible. Rejecting previous NPT commitments demeans the NPT process and casts doubt on the value of any new commitments.

The postponement of the 10th NPT review conference until 2021 offers an opportunity to shift course and to move further back from the nuclear precipice. Notwithstanding the different positions on Article VI, it is important that as many states as possible get behind the following measures in the run up to the 10th review conference, perhaps through a common statement:

  • an immediate decision to extend New START by five years, a U.S.-Russian commitment to follow-on negotiations to achieve further cuts in all types of nuclear weapons, combined with a pledge by the other nuclear-armed states to freeze the size of their nuclear arsenals, and the start of a process for multilateral disarmament talks;
  • reaffirmation by all nuclear-armed states of their de facto nuclear testing moratoria and action by the eight remaining CTBT holdout states to ratify the treaty;
  • halting the introduction of new types of nuclear weapons, particularly “more usable” lower-yield warheads and starting negotiations on legally binding negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states;
  • a phaseout to Cold War-era “launch under attack” postures, which increase the risk of accidental nuclear war;
  • recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war and the value of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in reinforcing the norm against nuclear use and the NPT; and
  • a joint declaration that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

In the absence of coherent and constructive nonproliferation leadership from the Trump administration, responsible states need to fill the void. Even if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected and becomes president in January, there may be very little time to craft a more enlightened U.S. approach ahead of the review conference.

Either way, now is the time to work together to build majority support for renewed action on concrete measures that advance disarmament and nuclear risk reduction goals. Sweden, and Germany and other states have made some strides toward a common framework on the next steps on nuclear disarmament. Leaders of the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and key members of the Non-Aligned Movement also have role to play.

The world has been lucky that 75 years have passed since nuclear weapons were detonated in a conflict. If we are to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent the possible third use of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to squander the opportunity to act while we still can.

As global leaders appropriately focus on the steps necessary to deal with the deadly effects of the coronavirus pandemic, they cannot afford to lose sight of the actions necessary to address the ongoing threat of nuclear proliferation and catastrophic nuclear war—the ultimate pandemic.

U.S. Makes Noncompliance Charges

May 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

The United States cited a number of concerns about other states’ compliance with major nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons agreements in a summary of the State Department’s annual compliance report, which was issued April 15. The report, “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” assesses activities during 2019 and was prepared by the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance with input from the intelligence community.

On April 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China remains committed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)The report says that, in 2019, “the United States continued to be in compliance with all of its obligations under arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements.” Other states, including China, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Russia, and Syria, are not meeting all of their obligations, the report says.

The most significant charge relates to earlier U.S. claims that Russia and China have engaged in activities that are inconsistent with the “zero-yield” standard regarding nuclear testing, established through the negotiations on the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear test explosions regardless of yield.

The report says that the United States “assesses that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons-related experiments that have created nuclear yield,” but appears to walk back earlier claims.

May 2019, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency claimed that Russia had violated the zero-yield standard at its former nuclear test site in Novaya Zemlya. The State Department had earlier made this charge in its compliance report on 2018 activities. That report stated that, “during the 1995–2018 timeframe, Russia probably conducted nuclear weapons-related tests” at Novaya Zemlya. Further information was not provided, however, and many experts cast doubt on the allegation.

The latest State Department compliance report asserts that some Russian activities since 1996 “have demonstrated a failure to adhere to the U.S. ‘zero-yield’ standard, which would prohibit supercritical tests.” The report added the caveat that “the United States does not know how many, if any, supercritical or self-sustaining nuclear experiments Russia conducted in 2019.”

Russia, like the United States, signed the CTBT in 1996. Russia ratified the CTBT in 2000. The United States has not ratified the treaty.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov responded to the report on April 16, asserting that Russia “did not take any steps that would include elements of deviation from our obligations stemming from our unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and from our ratification” of the CTBT. He countered by alleging that the United States “may well be bringing their test site in Nevada on high alert.”

The State Department report notes that Russia is still adhering to its commitments under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire in February 2021. The Trump administration has not yet decided whether to take up Russia’s offer to extend the treaty by another five years.

The report also claims that certain activities at China’s former nuclear testing grounds at Lop Nur “raise concerns” that Beijing might not be complying with the zero-yield nuclear weapons testing. It mentions China’s “use of explosive containment chambers and extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur.” It also accuses China of “blocking the flow of data from the monitoring stations” set up in China by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to verify compliance with the CTBT.

But these interruptions were part of the normal process of certifying the stations. According to The Wall Street Journal, a CTBT spokeswoman said that “[d]ata transmission from all certified stations was interrupted in 2018 after the testing and evaluation and certification process was completed.” She said that, “[i]n August 2019, ongoing negotiations on post-certification activity contracts with Chinese station operators were concluded and data transmission resumed for all five certified stations.”

These stations are part of the global network of more than 300 test ban monitoring stations worldwide. If and when the CTBT formally enters into force, states-parties can also request short-notice, on-site inspections to resolve compliance concerns. A number of experts have also suggested that former nuclear testing states, including China, Russia, and the United States, could agree to confidence-building measures to resolve questions about test site activities.

On April 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian replied to questions about the U.S. charges. “China was among the first group of signatories to the CTBT. It supports the purpose and objective of the treaty, stays committed to the nuclear testing moratorium, and has made important contribution[s] to the work of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization,” he said.

“In recent years, the U.S. has stated explicitly in the Nuclear Posture Review report that it will not push for the ratification of the treaty and will even resume underground nuclear explosive testing if called upon to do so,” he added. “The international community should stay on high alert to this dangerous tendency and urge the U.S. to change course.”

Regarding Iran, the State Department report notes that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in November 2019 that agency inspectors detected particles of chemically processed uranium at an undeclared site and that as of March 2020, the matter is still unresolved.

The report says that “Iran’s intentional failure to declare nuclear material subject to IAEA safeguards would constitute a clear violation of Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement required by the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)] and would constitute a violation of Article III of the NPT itself.” (See ACT, April 2020.)

Concerning the Open Skies Treaty, the report repeats earlier charges that Russia was not in compliance in 2019 for imposing a sublimit of 500 kilometers over the Kaliningrad Oblast for treaty flights, for refusing access to observation flights along Russia’s border with the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and for denying planned U.S.-Canadian flights over a Russian military exercise in September 2019.

U.S. officials have indicated the United States may unilaterally withdraw from the treaty over these issues.

But the report fails to note that Russia recently approved and allowed a joint U.S.-Estonian-Latvian treaty flight over Kaliningrad this year. In addition, on March 2, Jim Gilmore, U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said Russia will no longer raise an “objection” for the United States and its allies to “fly over one of their major exercises.” (See ACT, April 2020.)

The State Department renews concerns that China and Russia may have conducted prohibited nuclear testing activities.

Russian ASAT Test Sparks War of Words

May 2020

The U.S. military reported on April 15 that it tracked a Russian test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile (ASAT). The test did not involve the destruction of a satellite, which can produce space debris.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov (right) speaks with Russian Ambassador Grigory Berdennikov at a 2017 meeting. Ryabkov said in April that Russia would not be the first nation to place weapons in space. (Photo: National Nuclear Research University (MEPhI)/CTBTO)The Pentagon pointed to Russia’s test as evidence of Russia’s malign intentions. The “test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” said Gen. John W. Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force.

Raymond added that the “test is further proof of Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals designed to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs.”

TASS reported April 16 that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Moscow remains committed to not being the first to place weapons in space and criticized the United States for refusing to engage with Russia on the subject.

For more than a decade, Russia and China have proposed talks on a treaty that would ban the placement of any type of weapon in orbit or on celestial bodies and obligate states-parties “not to resort to the threat or use of force against outer space objects.”

“If the United States rejects [the Russian] proposal, the natural conclusion that we draw is that they are headed for the creation of attack systems for deployment in outer space,” Ryabkov told TASS on April 16.

In an April 6 briefing, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford called the Russian-Chinese proposal a “terrible” idea in part because “it would by careful design fail to address in any meaningful fashion the terrestrially–based ASAT systems.”

U.S. and Russian diplomats have held inconclusive on-and-off talks on limiting or banning ASAT systems for decades but have not taken up the question in many years.

Instead, Ford said “U.S. diplomats are looking ... to work constructively with their counterparts in other spacefaring nations to develop approaches to outer space norms that will help improve predictability and collective ‘best practices’ in the space domain.”

In 2007, China used a ballistic missile to destroy one of its aging weather satellites, which produced a large amount of harmful debris in orbit. The 2008, the United States used a modified SM-3 missile to intercept and destroy one of its aging weather satellites. In April 2019, India successfully test-fired an interceptor missile that shot down an orbiting satellite.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Russian ASAT Test Sparks War of Words

Possible Chinese Nuclear Testing Stirs U.S. Concern

News Source / Outlet: 
Wall Street Journal, The
News Date: 
April 15, 2020 -04:00


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