"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Interview With Brazilian Ambassador and NPT Review Conference President Sérgio de Queiroz Duarte



The nearly 190 states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will gather next May for four weeks to take stock of the landmark accord that lies at the heart of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The diplomat charged with leading this important meeting is Brazilian Ambassador Sérgio de Queiroz Duarte, who spoke Nov. 4 with Arms Control Today Editor Miles A. Pomper and Arms Control Association Research Director Wade Boese about the challenges facing the treaty and his responsibilities as president of next year's NPT Review Conference.

ACT: What are your objectives as president of the forthcoming nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May, and what would be an ideal outcome of the Review Conference?

Duarte: The president has no objectives besides ensuring that the discussions take place in the best possible mood and the results, as much as possible, are consensual and reflect the will of the parties. The parties may have objectives, but I do not, besides having the conference agree on something that will be useful, forward looking, and advance the aims of the treaty. This is the only objective that I can have as president.

ACT: Are you speaking of getting a consensus document as was done at the last Review Conference?

Duarte: There have been six [Review] Conferences. Three of them had final documents, but three of them did not. Some parties are saying, "Well, if we don't achieve a final document this time, it will not be something that did not happen before. It may not be such a disaster."

I do not look so much at the form as the result. The results should be recorded. There should be a trace of what the results are, even if we do not have agreement. We may have a hybrid document, something more succinct than the previous final documents. We may even have some decisions or recommendations. It's pretty much up in the air what the results and the format of those results could be. I have been asking parties what they think the format should be. I will continue to ask that question and hope that whatever answers I get will guide me.

ACT: It sounds like you are getting answers all over the place about whether there will be a final document.

Duarte: It's still early, but I am putting that question to the parties. I am receiving answers and will continue to receive answers until the end of the conference.

ACT: Whom have you consulted?

Duarte: I started at the end of August. I have visited the capitals of the five nuclear countries.1 I have also gone to Geneva, Vienna, and New York. I held many bilateral consultations with many of the parties. I will continue to do that next year. I will travel again, not only to the five, but also to the capitals of other players in the Nonaligned Movement2 and other parts of the world. By the time of the conference, I hope to have consulted with the majority of the parties individually or in groups. It's very hard to consult individually with some 180 parties.3

ACT: Are you making progress toward having an agenda prior to the start of the conference?

Duarte: So far, I do not know. What I am telling parties is that it would be very, very difficult to start the conference without an agenda. The responses that I am getting are usually agreeing with that view. I hope that the parties realize the agenda is only a tool, a commencement, an instrument. You are not going to solve substantive differences in the agenda. I hope the parties help me between now and the start of the conference in putting together an agenda.

ACT: Are there some countries suggesting that an agenda is not that important to have before the conference begins?

Duarte: No. Everyone realizes the importance of the agenda. That is why it gets a little tinted with the substance.

ACT: What are the consequences if the conference begins without an agenda?

Duarte: The mood will be bad. The sentiment that things are not starting on the right note will be present. It will also be more difficult for me to organize a program of work without an agenda. The procedural steps that should be as smooth as possible at the start will probably be difficult to take. So, I hope that, by the time we meet, we have an agenda.

ACT: Is there some deadline for the agenda? Presumably you would have to circulate a draft agenda before other governments sign off on it.

Duarte: A draft agenda exists already. It was presented at the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom).4 The provisional agenda is the 2000 [Review Conference] agenda brought up to date. This is the document that exists. The only problem [at the latest PrepCom] was with point 16, which is basically how to review the treaty. Some parties wanted to take into account what happened in 1995; others wanted both 1995 and 2000; and others wanted events between 2000 and now. This could not be agreed upon at the last day of the PrepCom. So, this is the material that we have to work on.

ACT: As you know, the NPT is comprised of three main elements: preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries, providing countries the "right" to peaceful uses of nuclear technology, and a commitment by all countries to work toward disarmament. Are all of these elements equal in importance? Should one be given more weight than others? And how interdependent are they?

Duarte: They are very much interdependent. The treaty was conceived in a way in which these elements were meant to be interdependent. Many of the parties start from the view that they are interdependent. Some parties place more emphasis on some of these elements rather than on others and therein lies part of the disagreements that we have. To have a successful conference, the result will have to be balanced between these elements. It is obvious that they are different in nature. The way in which you implement those obligations, the pace at which you fulfill obligations in the three elements is different. We have to be careful to understand these differences in what we wish the parties to do. But I do not think that we can be selective or give exclusive weight to one of the elements to the detriment of the others.

ACT: Some commentators and states-parties are arguing that the NPT and the nuclear nonproliferation regime are under greater duress today than in many years past. What would you judge is the most significant challenge or threat facing the NPT today, and do you agree that this is a time of greater duress than in times past?

Duarte: I have been involved with these matters for a large part of my professional life. I attended a number of Review Conferences even before Brazil became a member [to the treaty].5 I was at the 18-nation Disarmament Committee when the treaty was presented.6 So, I have seen this treaty off and on in my professional life several times. There have been other moments of duress and difficulty for the treaty.

Perhaps the emergence of the possibility of nuclear terrorism has added an element of more strain to the situation. It is not something that the treaty is specifically addressed to, but it has bearing on the things that the treaty is supposed to control. In that sense, there is more drama involved in the present situation.

You have instances of noncompliance or at least accusations of noncompliance.7 You have one party [North Korea] that withdrew from the treaty, which is something that never happened before. You have a sentiment that the nuclear-weapon powers have been less than forthcoming in the fulfillment of their own commitments.8 I am not saying that this did not happen, but that there is this sentiment on the part of several parties. Then again, on the part of the main powers, there is the sentiment that their efforts have not been correctly understood. So, all of these things add to the difficulties and emotions involved in the treaty. It's very hard to weigh this situation against similar situations in the past. It's complicated enough this time.

ACT: You mentioned accusations of noncompliance. Is it likely that the Review Conference might debate new or innovative enforcement measures or mechanisms to encourage treaty compliance or deter or punish treaty withdrawals?

Duarte: I am sure there will be suggestions or proposals to that effect. You asked me before what are the main difficulties. Perhaps the main difficulty that we will face is how to balance a perceived need for greater controls or more effective instruments of safeguards and controls with treaty provisions that ensure the right to peaceful applications of nuclear technology. How to promote the use of nuclear technology and at the same time how to constrain that use-it's a difficult conundrum that we must address and somehow solve.

ACT: If the Review Conference does not solve that problem, what is the timeline within which it must be solved? Is there a date by which things spiral too far out of control?

Duarte: I trust that most of the parties to the NPT are responsible and serious in their commitments and in the way they develop their programs. But if we do not have action on certain parts of the treaty, then we probably will not have action on other parts. Eventually, the situation may be one in which the treaty ceases to be seen as effective in all its aspects by different groups of parties. So, there is this danger of the unraveling of the whole system. But I do not think anyone could put a time frame on that.

ACT: Do you think the treaty is still effective today?

Duarte: I think it is. You have over 36 years of the treaty's existence. Three countries have not acceded.9 So, instead of the original five [nuclear-weapon states] that the treaty recognizes, you have three additional de facto [nuclear-weapon states], but no more than three. You also have one country that has withdrawn and another that is suspected of breaches, and then you have some 180 countries that have fulfilled and abided by their obligations. Statistically, at least, the treaty has been fairly successful and deserves more credit.

ACT: How would you respond to those who argue that there has been a spate or plague of noncompliance recently, involving not only North Korea and Iran but also Libya and Iraq?

Duarte: Well, both the Libyan and the Iraqi situations have been resolved by different means rather than by the treaty, so I do not think those situations have to be seen in the light of the treaty.

ACT: Brazil is a member of the New Agenda Coalition,10 which contends there has not been meaningful action by the nuclear-weapon states toward fulfilling their disarmament obligations under Article VI. How can the nuclear-weapon states live up to these commitments, and how important is it that they are perceived as doing so?

Duarte: It is very important that they are perceived to be living up to their commitments. I think it's a question of confidence, a question of transparency and of improving the climate of mistrust that exists [between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states]. If the measures the nuclear-weapon parties took for nuclear disarmament were perhaps better understood by the remainder of the countries and were accompanied by very clear gestures of a continued commitment to arrive at that end-a reaffirmation which could be done at the Review Conference-it would help a lot to allay some of the mistrust that exists. It is something that each of the nuclear-weapon states-parties must do on its own. I do not have any reason to doubt the seriousness of any of the parties, nuclear or non-nuclear. If they are seriously committed to some steps, they should continue to be committed and fulfill their obligations, but they must do it in a way that will convince the rest of the parties that they are really complying. It is a difficult thing to do.

ACT: How can the nuclear-weapon states do that in a convincing way to the other states-parties?

Duarte: By being as transparent as possible. Transparency is difficult because it involves many responsibilities that a state has regarding its own security, but a little more transparency would go a long way to increase confidence.

ACT: Are you talking in terms of reports or perhaps maybe opening up their stockpiles to inspections?

Duarte: That would be difficult to ask of them. We have to understand that it's not easy to ask that because it involves security. Lately, they have shown and tried to report more. In the past two years or so, they started reporting and telling the steps they have taken. They should continue to do so and present as many details of not only what they did, but what they intend to do in the future regarding disarmament. It would be very helpful if they did that.

ACT: Should there be a regular reporting requirement as part of the review process?

Duarte: That would be useful. It's not easy to agree on the elements of that reporting, but it would be useful.

ACT: Several countries spoke out strongly at the last PrepCom that any exploration of new nuclear weapons by the nuclear-weapon states violates the spirit of the NPT and is at odds with the 13 steps on disarmament.11 The treaty contains no prohibition against the research or development of new nuclear weapons by the nuclear-weapon states, and in fact they built thousands of additional nuclear weapons following the NPT's conclusion in 1968. Why should the nuclear-weapon states refrain now from any research or development into new nuclear weapons when most of their arsenals are steadily decreasing?

Duarte: Research is one thing, but production is another. The fact that there is research adds to a climate of less-than-complete confidence among the parties. It would be useful if the nuclear-weapon states refrained from doing anything that would be perceived as continued reliance on nuclear weapons. Then again, [research] is not prohibited by the treaty, so we cannot say they are violating the treaty. One can argue that it may be against the spirit of the treaty, but it's very hard to pinpoint a specific violation.

ACT: At the last PrepCom, the United States contended that the 13 steps were essentially past commitments that were no longer relevant. Yet, most NPT states-parties appear to believe otherwise. Can these two positions be reconciled?

Duarte: I hope they can. What the United States said exactly was that it no longer supported some of the 13 steps. We know from their actions, for instance, that they no longer support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). I do not know what else they no longer support. Words are very important in this business. You can not support something and still not be in violation of something.

The CTBT continues to exist as such. It has not entered into force, but parties to the treaty continue to do their best to see to it that [the CTBT] will enter into force as soon as possible. Regardless of the fact that the United States-there are others, of course-does not seem willing to ratify it at this time, this should not be seen with too much despondency. It took a long time for the CTBT to exist. We should continue working on [bringing it into force]. It's not something that we should look at as if no chance exists for further progress. We must keep the treaty alive, waiting for the exact moment.

ACT: It is one thing to not signal support for ratification of the CTBT, but it's another for a possible resumption of nuclear testing, which is something that has been talked about. What impact would a nuclear test have on the nonproliferation regime?

Duarte: If any of the nuclear-weapon countries, which have all been observing a voluntary testing moratorium, resumes testing, it would be a very hard blow to the whole system of nonproliferation, as much as if any non-nuclear-weapon country would be shown to be developing nuclear weapons. Although the nuclear-weapon countries are not bound by any obligation not to test, the blow would be the same.

ACT: One of the other 13 steps was negotiation of a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).12 There was discussion this past summer about resuming such negotiations after a long delay in the Conference on Disarmament. How big of a boost might the convening of those negotiations give the Review Conference?

Duarte: It would give a boost. At the UN First Committee today, a resolution was put forward asking for the establishment of a negotiating mandate for such a treaty with certain characteristics, including verification and irreversibility. But one important nuclear-weapon power [the United States] voted against it. There were 174 votes in favor and two abstentions (see page XX).

ACT: What is the sense among the other NPT states-parties about an FMCT without a verification regime because that is clearly what the United States is espousing?

Duarte: During the 1970s and 1980s, verification was very much a tool that was said to be indispensable to any arms control or disarmament treaty. But suddenly, it seems that it is no longer feasible. The discussion of [verification] has been put on a tactical vein.

I do not know anything about fissile material. I am not a physicist. I do not know whether [a treaty without a verification regime] is feasible. But if you have a treaty of importance on arms control and disarmament that contains no verification provisions, many would perhaps see it as a very weak instrument. Some contend that it would be useful to have even if you do not have verification provisions. The Biological Weapons Convention, for instance, has no verification provisions.13 It has existed for decades without verification provisions.

ACT: How might the NPT state-parties better involve India, Israel, and Pakistan in adhering to global nuclear nonproliferation standards established by the NPT and other agreements?

Duarte: There is deep division in the NPT membership on that. There are those who would wish to have some sort of association of those countries to the NPT that would recognize them somehow as having nuclear [weapons]. You cannot bring them into the treaty unless you amend it. To amend the treaty would raise many other difficulties. I do not think any of the parties is prepared to open the treaty to amendment for the purpose of bringing in those three countries because then you open it to other amendments and the treaty could then be in very grave danger. I do not know of any proposal by governments aimed at bringing those countries into the treaty. If there would be any such proposal at the Review Conference, then the conference will have to examine it. Some countries say that the three should adhere to the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon countries. They, of course, reject that. So, we are at an impasse on that question.

ACT: Does their continued existence outside the treaty have a negative pull on the treaty, or is that something that is more accepted by the states-parties today?

Duarte: Facts are facts. But the fact that nuclear-weapon countries exist-be they parties or nonparties to the treaty-is in itself a matter of concern for the rest of the world.

ACT: Terrorism and the exposure of the A. Q. Khan network14 reveal the great dangers posed to the nonproliferation treaty by nonstate actors. Is the NPT structured sufficiently to guard against this threat? Does the treaty need to be amended or altered in some way to better address the problem of nonstate actors?

Duarte: The treaty addresses states. It does not address any other entities. You do not have to amend the treaty because of the threat that nuclear weapons might get into the wrong hands. There are some structures for that. There is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the purveyance of materials.15 There are some arrangements of a smaller membership to prevent the easier circulation of materials. There are also several things that are in the making because it's a new situation. The international community takes some time to put together its instruments in the face of such a grave possibility. But the treaty is not the main instrument to deal with that question. By improving the system of safeguards, you can reduce the possibility that fissile material may find its way outside the control of the individual states-parties to the treaty. But there must be complementary mechanisms to deal with that. The treaty cannot be seen as the main instrument in the fight against nuclear terrorism. It is certainly something that helps. Other instruments that are multilateral, nondiscriminatory, and agreeable to the whole international community must be found rather than ad hoc solutions.

ACT: Speaking to the issue of export controls, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has spoken of the need to formalize the export control regime because now there are only political or voluntary commitments by a small group of states. Is there some way that the NPT might put in place a more formalized structure of export controls?

Duarte: You have the NSG for that, and it is a formal structure. You could formalize it further. But again, I do not think that the NPT should be the main instrument to deal with [export controls].

ACT: You mentioned earlier that the toughest challenge you will face is the question of reconciling peaceful uses of nuclear technology with ensuring that nuclear materials are not diverted for weapons purposes. There are a growing number of proposals that are meant to limit national possession of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, and ElBaradei has convened an experts group on the subject. Is there any emerging consensus around a specific proposal for restricting these types of nuclear technologies or capabilities?

Duarte: I am not familiar enough with the experts group dealings to know whether there is an emerging consensus.

ACT: But more broadly, as you look forward to the Review Conference, is this issue dependent on what happens in the experts group or is there any discussion beyond that?

Duarte: I simply do not know. There is a concern from several countries that this issue is urgent and should be examined and that effective solutions and measures be taken. The outcome of the current discussion must be nondiscriminatory, and it must be agreeable to all international membership. The difficulty again is how to conciliate that. How do you restrict because you feel a clear threat and at the same time how do you uphold what many see as their legitimate right to a certain technology to improve their condition in terms of development?

ACT: Would requiring that certain technologies be under multilateral control be perhaps one nondiscriminatory approach to dealing with this problem?

Duarte: The question there is whether that control will really be nondiscriminatory. It [depends on] the modalities in which you exercise that control. It is interesting that only when developing countries start to master certain technologies that such technologies suddenly seem to be very dangerous and very necessary to be curbed. There are certainly many other countries in the world that possess this technology, and it did not seem to be such a danger.

ACT: It is widely expected that discussions about the Middle East will dominate a significant amount of time at the Review Conference. How do you expect the states-parties to address this issue, and what might be some possible substantive measures that can be agreed to regarding this topic, such as the possibility for a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone?

Duarte: It has always been an important part of Review Conference deliberations. The next one will be no exception. It has always been a tough question, and it will not be different this time. The nuclear-weapon-free-zone issue will not be solved at the Review Conference. If all the parties involved have an attitude of avoiding too much confrontation and hostility in the deliberations, we may have a chance to preserve what has been achieved and hopefully to progress a little bit. But it is a difficult question, and we have to understand the difficulties that lie in the past. I am not overanxious about achieving final results at the Review Conference because whatever happens is a consequence of other things that the conference cannot control or change.

ACT: Is it possible for the Review Conference to even adequately deal with the Middle East since Israel is obviously not part of those deliberations? How do you account for that?

Duarte: Israel can always come in and become a party to the NPT. It is not barred from coming in. It would be very useful if Israel came in.

ACT: What is North Korea's NPT status, and how might states-parties address this unique situation at the Review Conference?

Duarte: Well, they have addressed [North Korea's] status at previous PrepComs by using a procedural device meant to give a chance to the consultations that are taking place outside of the NPT.16 It was agreed that the best course would be to let the six parties17 continue to talk without taking a stance on the substance of the matter in the NPT. There have been a couple of things that have happened recently that have stalled the six-party talks. The hope is that they will resume soon. If the six parties continue to hold their consultations, it's possible that the Review Conference will once again resort to the same procedural device in order to give the six-party talks a better chance of succeeding. But we do not know what will happen between now and May, so it's only a hypothesis. Parties will have to think about what they want to do.

ACT: A book titled The Nuclear Tipping Point was recently published. The thesis is that, if an additional country were to get nuclear weapons, other countries might rush to get them. Do you think North Korea poses that threat? If it were to declare itself a nuclear-weapon state or show or demonstrate that it has such weapons, would that compel others to move out of the treaty?

Duarte: It certainly is one possibility that might happen. It is very hard to reason with hypotheses; what would others do if such-and-such a thing would happen? The whole effort has been to prevent that situation from arising. The countries in that region that would feel affected by North Korea becoming a real nuclear-weapon power have so far shown admirable restraint and responsibility. All we can say is that the rest of the international community expects that non-nuclear countries will not resort to becoming nuclear because of security considerations, prestige, or whatever, but also that other countries will react in a constructive way to prevent that from happening. But you can only have this with a sentiment of enhanced regional security and responsible country behavior. In the NPT, at least, the immense majority of countries have behaved responsibly, so we have every reason to believe that they will continue to do so.

ACT: Brazil is currently engaged in a public dispute with the IAEA about how much access it should provide IAEA inspectors to its nuclear facilities. Why is Brazil refusing to provide the requested access?

Duarte: First of all, Brazil is not engaged in a dispute. Brazil is negotiating with the IAEA on the application of safeguards18 to a facility that was declared several years ago when Brazil started to build it. It has always been an open and transparent question. The fact that newspapers make dramas about it does not make it dramatic in itself. We have every reason to believe that we will achieve a satisfactory solution. It's not a dispute. It's not a refusal, despite the terms that have been used several times by newspapers. I do not know which interests have fueled those press reports, but the negotiations are continuing in a normal way. If you have a new facility to which safeguards have to be applied, because Brazil abides by the treaties it has signed, you have to discuss with the IAEA the modalities of the safeguards. I am convinced that we will arrive at a solution that will satisfy both parties.

ACT: So, the suggestion that Brazil is trying to prevent inspectors from seeing certain aspects of the facility is not an accurate description?

Duarte: Again, I am not a physicist. The technicians in Brazil say that the technology of the centrifuge is a novel and proprietary technology. It is something they have developed, and they do not want it to be copied. The only thing that I see in the situation objectively is the need to preserve an industrial secret without refusing to have the facility inspected in a way that will completely satisfy the IAEA and the international community as to the objectives of the enrichment. It's a certain grade for Brazil's reactors and not for any other purpose. So, it's a question of protecting the industrial technology and at the same time giving satisfaction as to the complete, peaceful use of the facility.

ACT: There have been suggestions by some American analysts that it's not simply proprietary technology, but technology that may have been used by the Khan network. Is there any basis to those accusations?

Duarte: I do not know. I am not a physicist. I do not know anything about the technology. I only know that it turns and that by turning it transforms something into something else. The important thing is to know for sure that this something else is used for the proper objectives.

ACT: How might this issue complicate your efforts as president of the Review Conference?

Duarte: I do not think the issue complicates it. It's one instance in which you have that basic question: What are the limits of the right to develop and use this technology, and what are the limits of intrusion to ascertain that the right is being used in a way that is compatible with the treaty? It's a difficult thing to solve.

Again, it's interesting that only when a developing country comes up with a technology there is drama. When you have thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons and countries that say they rely on such weapons for their defense, it does not seem so dramatic. But when a developing country tries to make a system that will, in some way, improve its position in the market for fuel, then it becomes a danger for humanity.

ACT: Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like to add about your forthcoming presidency?

Duarte: Not specifically. As president, I hope that all the parties to the treaty come to the conference with a spirit of compromise to deal with the real questions that are troubling the parties, especially the questions that have to do with improving the mechanisms to prevent proliferation and making progress toward nuclear disarmament, which are two of the basic objectives of the treaty. If the result of the conference is balanced between those two considerations, I think we could claim success.

ACT: Would it be a failure if a balanced product was not reached?

Duarte: I do not know if it would be a failure. It would be a pity and a missed opportunity.

Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Wade Boese

Avoiding the Tipping Point

The Nuclear Tipping Point: Why States Reconsider Their Nuclear Choices. Edited by Kurt M. Campbell, Robert J. Einhorn, and Mitchell B. Reiss, Brookings Institution Press, July 2004, 285 pp.

Thomas Graham Jr.

In 1958, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made clear the reason the United Kingdom acquired nuclear weapons. Referring to the British nuclear-weapon program, Macmillan said in a television interview that “the independent contribution [i.e., British nuclear weapons]...puts us where we ought to be, in the position of a great power.”

Likewise, in a November 1961 speech, French President Charles de Gaulle said that “a great state” that does not have nuclear weapons when others do “does not command its own destiny.” After the May 1998 Indian nuclear test, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced with pride, “We have a big bomb now, India is a nuclear-weapon state.” Although it is a historical accident, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are the five nuclear-weapon states sanctioned by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The belief held by many of the 182 NPT non-nuclear-weapon states that some nuclear-weapon states cling to nuclear weapons as their political claim to great-power status is not without foundation.

Indeed, in the early 1960s, there were predictions that there could be as many as 25-30 nuclear-weapon states within a couple of decades. President John F. Kennedy feared that nuclear weapons would sweep all over the world. If this had happened, there would be a large number of nuclear-weapon states in the world today: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in September that “40 countries or more now have the know-how to produce nuclear weapons.” If they had all chosen to exploit this capability, it would be impossible to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorist organizations and rogue states.

Yet, there has been very little actual nuclear weapons proliferation since the entry into force of the NPT in 1970, far from what Kennedy feared. Beyond the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, Israel and India were already far along in their programs in 1970. The only additional states truly to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons since that time are Pakistan and probably North Korea.

Reversing years of nuclear abstention would be long and difficult. Nevertheless, if a perception that the NPT regime has collapsed beyond repair takes hold, other countries could decide that they must join the nuclear bandwagon.

Many books have been written on the nuclear policies of the states that never subscribed to the NPT—India, Pakistan, and Israel—as well as those countries that have threatened the NPT from within—Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Yet, there has not been the same attention to the nuclear policies of states that have been stalwart in their observance of the provisions and principles of the NPT and who are central to the continued viability of the regime. This makes The Nuclear Tipping Point a most timely and valuable publication. This important volume edited by Kurt Campbell, Robert Einhorn, and Mitchell Reiss—all highly prominent and respected nonproliferation experts who also contribute to the book—examines in detail the cases of Egypt, Syria, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

These countries together have provided a cornerstone of the NPT regime: an assurance to the pact’s many non-nuclear-weapon states that their regional neighbors will not acquire nuclear weapons. When the NPT was negotiated in the late 1960s, some of the negotiating parties were worried that this implicit pledge would not hold and so supported limiting the NPT initially to 25 years rather than granting it permanent status. By 1995 the NPT’s success had been demonstrated to the point that states-parties agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely.

A crucial underpinning for these actions has been provided by the United States: the nuclear “umbrella” it used to shelter its allies in Europe (most importantly, Germany) and Asia (Japan and South Korea). During the Cold War, U.S. allies could enjoy the protection of nuclear deterrence without building nuclear arsenals and without creating a nuclear weapons infrastructure that would be politically difficult to dismantle. Giving up nuclear weapons, or any other means of strength and security, is not a natural action for states, but it is far easier to forswear them than to eliminate them once an arsenal is in place.

Even more important has been the international norm against nuclear-weapon proliferation established by the NPT. In 1960, after the first French nuclear-weapon test, there were banner newspaper headlines, “Vive La France.” Yet, by the time of the first Indian nuclear explosion in 1974, the test was done surreptitiously, India received worldwide condemnation and New Delhi hastened to explain that this had been a “peaceful” test. What had intervened was the NPT. It converted the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a state from an act of national pride in 1960 to an act contrary to international law in 1974.

The NPT is based on a central bargain: the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the NPT nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals. To use the words of a former Indian foreign minster, the NPT was not designed to establish “nuclear apartheid,” permanently authorizing great-power status and nuclear weapons to a small group of states and assigning the rest of the world to permanent second-class status. Maintaining both ends of this central bargain is vitally important to the long-term viability of the NPT.

In the view of many of the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states, however, the NPT nuclear-weapon states have not lived up to their disarmament commitments. Most importantly, the nuclear “have-nots” point to the failure by the nuclear “haves,” principally the United States, to put a permanent ban on nuclear-weapon testing in place—the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was finally opened for signature in 1996, but it is unlikely to come into force in the foreseeable future—and the political value of nuclear weapons remains as high as it was during the Cold War. The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review of 2001 explicitly contemplated the use of nuclear weapons not only against Russia and China, but also against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Libya—at the time, all NPT non-nuclear-weapon states. If the possession of a nuclear arsenal retains its high political value to NPT nuclear-weapon states, particularly the United States, the ability to persuade states not to acquire these weapons may diminish.

Add to that the withdrawal of North Korea from the NPT in 2003 and its likely acquisition of at least several nuclear weapons; the increasingly suspect Iranian nuclear program; and the disclosure of an illegal secret network of nuclear technology supply headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of the Pakistani program; and many are saying that the NPT is broken and must be fixed or, worse, is irrelevant. Heightening these concerns about the NPT is the threat of international terrorism and the possibility that terrorists may somehow come into possession of a nuclear weapon and actually use it against a large city somewhere. The NPT regime appears fragile, and many fear for its long-term viability.

The news from the states whose nuclear policies are analyzed in The Nuclear Tipping Point is essentially good as long as the NPT regime remains reasonably healthy. The book’s editors conclude that the NPT regime remains much stronger than some believe it is and that reversing years of nuclear abstention would be long and difficult. Germany, for example, is deeply committed to remaining a non-nuclear-weapon state, according to Jenifer Mackby and Walter Slocombe.

Nevertheless, if a perception that the NPT regime has collapsed beyond repair takes hold, other countries, such as Japan, could decide that they must join the nuclear bandwagon.

As Kurt Campbell and Tsuyoshi Sunohara point out in their essay, many experts already consider Japan a “virtual” nuclear-weapon state because of its technological capability and the large amount of plutonium it possesses. Some of Tokyo’s senior diplomats complain that they have been treated like a second-class nation in the international arena because Japan does not have nuclear weapons. Further, Japanese officials have grown increasingly concerned by what they view as a deterioration in the NPT regime, including the recent U.S. moves and, most disturbingly, the way North Korea has been able to pursue nuclear weapons from within the NPT and the nuclear threat Pyongyang poses.

In some ways, the most timely and foreboding essay is written about South Korea by Jonathan Pollack and Mitchell Reiss, now the Department of State’s policy planning director. A few weeks ago, news reports claimed that South Korea had conducted uranium-enrichment experiments as recently as a year ago, thereby indicating that its nuclear infrastructure is alive and well. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Polack and Reiss point out that China is increasingly the principal economic and political partner for South Korea and under no conceivable circumstance would South Korea ever countenance force by the United States against North Korea to eliminate its nuclear-weapon program. They posit the question in conclusion whether, after the ultimate disappearance of the regime in the North and an eventual successful reunification of the Korean peninsula, Korea would wish to remain a non-nuclear-weapon state or rather might the Korean people decide to retain the nuclear weapons they inherit from the North and emboldened by the end of a century of humiliation and division conclude that nuclear weapons are essential to security in a still dangerous world.

To prevent slippage in the nonproliferation regime, the editors offer a number of policy recommendations: stop Iran and North Korea (if this remains possible) from becoming nuclear-weapon states; alleviate security concerns by strengthening alliances; raise barriers to nuclear acquisition by discouraging independent fuel-cycle capabilities and securing fissile material in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere; strengthen verification and intelligence, in part by wider adherence to the IAEA Additional Protocol for verification; and follow a long-term strategy to devalue the role of nuclear weapons in the international system. As it is with many things, the NPT regime is affected by politics as much as security. The possession of a nuclear arsenal still significantly affects the status of a state. For the NPT regime to succeed long-term, this high political value of nuclear weapons must recede into the past. For this to happen, the United States must lead by example. No example would be stronger than U.S. ratification of the CTBT.

Strong U.S. leadership, the editors say, is needed to harness partners and institutions and to keep countries away from the nuclear tipping point where proliferation becomes inevitable and uncontrollable. They assert we are not near the tipping point now, nor are we necessarily destined to reach it, but they note that, once the tipping process becomes identifiable in the NPT regime, it may be very difficult to stop.

Thomas Graham Jr. is a former Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, Disarmament. In this and other senior capacities he participated in every major arms control/nonproliferation negotiation in which the United States took part from 1970 to 1997. Ambassador Graham is the author of Disarmament Sketches (University of Washington Press, 2002), Cornerstones of Security with Damien LaVera (University of Washington Press, 2003), and Common Sense on Weapons of Mass Destruction (University of British Columbia Press, 2004).


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A Review of The Nuclear Tipping Point: Why States Reconsider Their Nuclear Choices edited by Kurt M. Campbell, Robert J. Einhorn, and Mitchell B. Reiss

NPT Meeting Marked by Discord

Wade Boese

An important meeting of states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in dissension May 7, significantly dimming hopes that a key conference on the treaty next year will generate an international consensus on the accord’s future.

Attempting to set the stage for a formal Review Conference of the NPT next year, more than 120 states-parties met in New York April 26-May 7 to hash out plans. The two-week gathering marked the third and final Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting before a regular treaty review, which takes place every five years.

Participating delegations were charged with devising consensus recommendations and an agenda for the upcoming conference, but failed to do so because of clashes over whether priority should be given to eliminating existing nuclear weapons, stopping the further spread of nuclear arms, or ensuring access to nuclear technologies and materials for peaceful purposes.

The debate proved so divisive that the delegations only agreed on the bare minimum to enable the Review Conference to take place. They approved a budget-sharing plan; set the conference date for May 2-27, 2005; and named Brazilian Ambassador Sérgio de Queiroz Duarte as conference president.

In the interim, Duarte will be responsible for consulting with capitals to craft an acceptable agenda for the conference. If he is unsuccessful, states-parties will need to work out the meeting’s agenda at the conference itself before they can even begin substantive discussions on assessing and implementing the treaty.

Duarte’s main challenge will be bridging the gulf between the treaty’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), such as Indonesia, Iran, and Malaysia. Somewhere in between these poles are most European states, which strongly share the nuclear-weapon states’ aim of preventing the nuclear ranks from growing but also sympathize with the NAM perspective that nuclear-armed states should be doing more to reduce their arsenals.

Tensions between the nuclear-weapon states and the NAM states are nothing new. Still, they were exacerbated at this year’s PrepCom by a dispute over Iran’s secret nuclear activities.

U.S. officials used the meeting to highlight and condemn what they view as Iran’s clandestine attempts to acquire nuclear bombs. Although U.S. officials also noted the treaty-breaking nuclear weapons programs of North Korea, Libya, and Iraq, they made clear that Iran was the current focus of U.S. ire and the target of U.S. proposals to crack down on suspected treaty violators and tighten constraints on civilian nuclear cooperation.

“In the past, the international community has focused too much of its attention on benefit-sharing while devoting insufficient attention to NPT compliance,” stated Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter in an April 30 PrepCom address.

In order to prevent non-nuclear-weapon states from using a civilian program to hide an illegal weapons effort, the United States pushed the PrepCom to support several proposals. One initiative, first unveiled by President George W. Bush in February, would require any state that wanted to be eligible for nuclear trade to sign an agreement (known as an additional protocol) that allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out more intrusive inspections on the state’s territory as a check against unlawful nuclear activities. (See ACT, March 2004.)

At the meeting, the United States further argued that countries must more aggressively seek out, confront, and penalize suspected violators before they actually acquire nuclear weapons. States should be judged and treated by their intentions, not simply their capabilities, the United States contended, because by the time weapons-making capabilities can be proved it will be too late. Speaking the same day as DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf asserted, “Debates about evidentiary standards should not be a substitute for exercising common sense and prudence.”

Although the IAEA, which is responsible for verifying NPT compliance, has charged Tehran with activities violating the NPT, the agency has frustrated the United States by refusing to conclude that those activities were intended to build nuclear weapons. “How long will the international community accept Iran’s dissembling and deceit regarding these violations of core obligations?” Wolf asked.

Washington wants all states to cut off nuclear cooperation with Iran and increase pressure on it to abandon certain aspects of its nuclear program. Many countries, such as Russia, are opposed to such actions. “We hope that more active cooperation between Iran and the IAEA…will make it possible to close the ‘Iranian file’ in the nearest future and put it on a more routine track,” Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said April 27.

The U.S. focus on Iran within the broader context of non-nuclear-weapon state noncompliance with the treaty did not match the concerns voiced by the NAM states and other delegations, such as the seven members of the New Agenda Coalition—Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and Mexico. These states made clear their belief that the slow pace of disarmament by the five nuclear-weapon states, most pointedly the United States, and the continued possession of nuclear weapons by India, Israel, and Pakistan outside the treaty pose equal or more serious threats to the NPT’s continued vitality.

Speaking April 26 on behalf of the NAM, Malaysian Ambassador Rastam Mohd Isa said, “The [Non-Aligned] Movement remains concerned at the lack of progress towards achieving the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

That same day, Mexican Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba remarked that the New Agenda Coalition felt that “there has still not been a meaningful commitment by the nuclear-weapon states towards fulfilling their obligations.”

Both ambassadors spoke of the need for the nuclear-weapon states to codify previous pledges. One included formalizing so-called negative security assurances—promises not to use nuclear weapons against states that do not have them—while another was implementation of 13 disarmament steps agreed to at the 2000 Review Conference, such as bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Referring to the 13 steps, de Alba said they “cannot be seen as alternatives à la carte.”

However, the United States opposes binding negative security assurances. The Bush administration also has already acted contrary to several of the 13 steps by, among other things, withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to pursue strategic missile defense systems and declaring that it will not ask the Senate to reconsider its 1999 rejection of the CTBT. In fact, U.S. officials insisted at the PrepCom that those commitments no longer be formally referenced. A U.S. government official interviewed May 10 by Arms Control Today explained that the 13 steps are “snapshots in time and that time has changed.”

Washington also came under heavy fire for exploring new types of nuclear weapons. Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi cautioned April 26 that “research and development of new types of easy-to-use nuclear weapons…not only run counter to international trends, but also do harm to international nonproliferation efforts.”

Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker acknowledged new U.S. weapons research May 3 but assured PrepCom attendees that the United States is “not developing any new nuclear weapons” and that “looking at options says nothing about what we will do.” His comments followed a March report from the Bush administration to Congress stating, “Nothing in the NPT…prohibits the United States from carrying out nuclear weapons exploratory research or, for that matter, from developing and fielding new or modified nuclear warheads.” (See ACT, May 2004.)

Washington also found itself at odds with a majority of states over the urgency of establishing a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The NAM and many other states want to use the proposal to pressure Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, but the United States is in no rush and restated a long-standing position that such a zone “will not happen without the achievement of a political settlement that provides safe and secure borders for the parties involved.”

Opposition to North Korea’s bid to become a nuclear power and unhappiness with Indonesian Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat’s attempt as PrepCom chairman to summarize the meeting formally were about the only two things where general agreement emerged. As a result, the PrepCom concluded without an official chairman’s report.





The Nonproliferation Credibility Gap

Daryl G. Kimball

You don’t get something for nothing. More than three decades ago, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) set into place one of the most important international security bargains of all time: states without nuclear weapons pledged not to acquire them, while nuclear-armed states committed to eventually give them up.

The treaty’s success depends on universal compliance with tighter rules prohibiting the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology. It also requires that nuclear-weapon states fulfill their disarmament obligations and give credible assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states that they will not be subjected to nuclear attack.

Tension regarding the mutual obligations of NPT members is nothing new. Yet, at the recently concluded Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, U.S. officials pushed for greater limitations on other states while arguing the United States needs to do little or nothing more on disarmament. As a result, states-parties are more divided than ever about how to enforce the treaty, deal with the three nonsignatories (India, Israel, and Pakistan), and tighten restrictions on the availability of nuclear weapons technology.

Recall that, in 1995, the United States and the other nuclear-weapon states pledged to a set of principles and objectives on nonproliferation and disarmament. They did so in order to win an indefinite extension of the treaty. These goals were reaffirmed and refined at the 2000 NPT conference. The extension of the NPT did not imply the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons. The United States can ill-afford to abdicate its disarmament responsibilities and interests.

Rather than build broad support for a plan to strengthen the treaty in all of its aspects, Bush administration officials chose to use this NPT meeting to level a blunt critique of illicit Iranian and North Korean nuclear activities. With Iran in mind, U.S. officials called on others to support proposals to limit the sale of nuclear technologies that can be used to make bomb material.

This initiative could produce useful but hard-to-win additional limitations on non-nuclear-weapon states’ access to some forms of “peaceful” nuclear technology. Iran’s previously undeclared uranium-enrichment activities do indeed create the possibility that it intends to become the next nuclear-weapon state. There is broad agreement that Iran must fulfill its pledges to allow more intrusive nuclear inspections and make its temporary uranium-enrichment halt permanent.

But achieving these outcomes involves heavy diplomatic lifting. Nonnegotiable U.S. ultimatums, however justifiable, will not do the trick. Nor will they make it any easier for an ongoing British-French-German initiative to convince leaders in Tehran that full compliance with the NPT is in their best interest.

U.S. delegates to the NPT meeting also did their best to block discussion of further disarmament measures, including the possibility of multilateral talks on weapons of mass destruction issues in the Middle East. In an April 27 speech at the conference, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton declared, “[W]e cannot divert attention from the violations we face by focusing on [disarmament] issues that do not exist.”

Or do they? Surely, the United States and Russia have made steady progress in dismantling and securing large portions of their Cold War nuclear stockpiles declared excess under treaties signed more than a decade ago. With the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the two states have pledged to reduce deployed strategic nuclear forces to fewer than 2,200 warheads by 2012. Nevertheless, these actions are based on decisions taken years ago and are woefully behind pace.

The situation is even worse in other areas. Talks with Russia on verification measures and tactical nuclear weapons remain on the backburner. The administration has initiated research on new types of more “usable” nuclear weapons, stiff-armed progress on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and dithered on the fissile material cutoff treaty. President George W. Bush has also approved nuclear-use policies that undercut previous commitments to nonuse of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in the context of the NPT.

Sensing that the Bush administration wants to erase any memory of earlier U.S. commitments to these and other disarmament commitments, leading non-nuclear-weapon states, including several U.S. allies, cried foul at the NPT meeting. Arab states continue to be frustrated by the failure to confront the reality of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal; perhaps as a consequence, they have said little about Iran’s transgressions. The impasse blocked agreement on next steps and even a basic agenda for next year’s Review Conference.

Although there is consensus on the need to strengthen and preserve the NPT, there must also be agreement on how to do so. In the coming months and years, the United States must pursue a more balanced and credible approach that addresses the fundamental obligations of all states. The president’s own nonproliferation proposals, the NPT’s future, and U.S. national security depend on it.





UN Nuclear Expert Diagnoses NPT Ills, Offers Prescriptions

Wade Boese

Following a recent round of sparring between the nuclear “haves” and “have-nots” over who is most responsible for putting the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime at risk, the United Nations’ top nuclear expert said May 14 that all states share the blame.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei
presented a sobering assessment of the nuclear nonproliferation regime a week after a contentious NPT states-parties meeting ended. Speaking to the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, he described the regime as “eroding in terms of legitimacy” and warned that more thinking must be done “outside the box” if it is to be shored up.

To achieve success in stemming the spread of nuclear weapons, ElBaradei said that countries with nuclear weapons must move more convincingly to eliminate their arsenals, the international community must be more willing to punish any government attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, and states must be willing to accept greater constraints on the types of nuclear technologies they can possess.

The director-general faulted the NPT’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as non-NPT members India, Pakistan, and Israel for clinging to their nuclear arsenals and thereby suggesting that such arms confer security benefits, power, and prestige.

He extended this line of criticism to all 26 NATO members for keeping nuclear weapons as a salient feature of the alliance’s defense posture, remarking that nonproliferation was unsustainable if NATO members continued “relying on the nuclear umbrella and [saying] everyone else should sit quietly in the cold.”

However, possession of nuclear weapons by several states does not justify complacency in the face of efforts by additional countries to acquire these arms, ElBaradei indicated. He blasted the international community for failing to confront North Korea when it announced its NPT withdrawal early last year. “If that is not [a] threat to international peace and security, what is?” the director-general asked. He pointed to a widespread perception that “the international community will not respond or would respond selectively” to such violations.

To address this problem, ElBaradei suggested creating some type of UN Security Council “response mechanism.” He pointed out that France is developing a proposal for automatic sanctions if a country withdraws from the NPT.

The director-general also spoke positively of the Bush administration’s call to halt the spread of enrichment and reprocessing facilities to states that do not already possess them. Although the NPT legally permits national ownership of such capabilities, they are key to developing nuclear weapons, and ElBaradei said they simply were not necessary from an “economic point of view.” ElBaradei is convening a group of experts this summer to look at how to address this issue.

ElBaradei further praised a U.S. proposal to end the worldwide civilian reactor use of highly enriched uranium, which is an essential ingredient for nuclear weapons. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with ElBaradei May 26 to discuss the U.S. plan.

ElBaradei offered some suggestions of his own as well. He recommended that the current export control regime, which he described as “busted right now,” should entail legally binding, not voluntary, commitments and expand its membership because some countries with nuclear materials, such as India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, are outside of it. ElBaradei’s remarks largely pertained to the 40-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and 35-member Zangger Committee, through which the majority of nuclear suppliers seek to coordinate their export control policies.

Ultimately, ElBaradei warned, the nonproliferation regime is bound to fail if more is not done to address the insecurity that some states feel. “Unless we link nonproliferation to security, I think we will continue to…go around in circles,” ElBaradei said.

A new collective security arrangement not based on nuclear weapons must be built, the director-general argued. He volunteered no specific proposals, however, and noted that constructing such a system and building trust in it would take time.

Until then, ElBaradei suggested one possibility might be to entrust the Security Council with “some remnant nuclear arsenal to deal with…possible cheaters in the future.” He said he raised the proposal “for lack of better ideas” and encouraged more thinking by all.





Congress Appears in No Rush to Pass Additional Protocol Implementing Legislation

Michael Cowden

The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee, but Republicans and Democrats hope to see action taken on the bill before the July 4 recess.

Both, however, acknowledge that the process could take longer than expected.

“This is something that will take some time,” Andy Fisher, spokesperson for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), told Arms Control Today. “Numerous committees in both houses have an interest in the legislation.”

After failing to detect Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, the IAEA negotiated a new, more invasive inspection regime for countries who agree to participate. Codified in the 1997 model Additional Protocol to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the tougher rules allow IAEA officials to conduct short-notice inspections and require participating states to provide more information to the IAEA about their nuclear material and nuclear weapons-related equipment.

The United States signed such an additional protocol in 1998. But in approving its version in March, the Senate, at the behest of the Bush administration, inserted broad exemptions to protect military as well as commercial nuclear secrets. (See ACT, April 2004.)

“I do not believe that the additional protocol will be a burden for the United States,” said Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a March 31 statement.

Although other signatories to the treaty do not enjoy such exemptions, U.S. participation is seen as an important symbolic step in encouraging other countries, such as Iran, to sign an additional protocol.

A Vienna-based diplomat said that U.S. implementation of an additional protocol would set a good example for countries that have not yet done so. He said it also could help prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons, citing Libya’s nuclear program as something that could have been stopped by a protocol.

The implementing bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December. Although the Senate unanimously endorsed an additional protocol itself on March 31, no vote has been scheduled in that chamber for the implementing legislation, which, unlike a treaty, must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Implementing legislation describes the nuts-and-bolts process of how the treaty will work under U.S. law and is needed before it can be enforced domestically. The Senate also insisted that such implementing legislation be in place less than six months after the United States chooses to deposit its instrument of ratification to the agreement—the final step needed to become international law. The Bush administration has not yet carried out that step.

Fisher declined to suggest a timeline for Senate action, but staffers from each party predicted the measure will go to the floor in late June or early July.

One staffer said jurisdictional issues are mainly to blame for delays. The implementing legislation was initially referred to the Foreign Relations panel, but many of its provisions, like the ones concerning the issuing of warrants under U.S. law, pertain to issues that are usually handled by the Judiciary Committee.

Implementing legislation has yet to be introduced in the House.

A Democratic congressional staff member suggested that companion legislation would not be introduced in the House until after the Senate approves its version. He suggested, moreover, that the legislation would pass quickly once introduced in the House because, he said, the White House is eager to put additional diplomatic pressure on Iran.





The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee...

Bush, ElBaradei, Discuss Proposals of Nuclear Nonproliferation Talks

Wade Boese

Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In anticipation, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mohamed ElBaradei, the United Nations’ top nuclear expert, met in mid-March to discuss possible proposals.

Although the nuclear nonproliferation regime was recently buoyed by Libya’s December 2003 renunciation of its nuclear weapons program, the exposure of illicit Iranian nuclear activities and the disclosure of Abdul Qadeer Khan’s black market nuclear network highlighted the regime’s ills.

With the help of the Pakistani-based Khan network, NPT states-parties Libya and Iran pursued secret nuclear work for years without being caught. North Korea, which announced its withdrawal from the NPT last year, also conducted nuclear-related dealings with Khan. (See ACT, March 2004.)

These revelations have spurred calls for reform from Washington, other world capitals, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for making sure states do not illegally use their peaceful nuclear programs to build atomic bombs covertly.

At Washington’s invitation, ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, visited the United States March 15-18 to discuss proposals for remedying the ailing nonproliferation regime. ElBaradei met with Bush, top officials from the CIA and the Departments of Energy and State, and members of Congress.

ElBaradei summed up his message to the president in a March 18 PBS interview as “[T]his is a different ball game and we have to revise the rules.”

Possible revisions discussed at the meetings included cleaning up and securing weapons-usable material worldwide, strengthening export controls, and denying uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them. Currently, 15 states possess such capabilities, which are legal under the NPT but necessary for making nuclear weapons. ElBaradei does not want to see that total grow.

Although Bush and ElBaradei share many of the same concerns and believe that the threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons demands that the past rules of the nonproliferation regime be updated, they have yet to announce a set of agreed specific proposals or general strategy.

Both men have laid out initiatives separately: Bush in a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University and ElBaradei in a series of written pieces and interviews. (See ACT, March 2004 and November 2003.) Bush’s proposals have stressed getting individual states to do a better job of clamping down on their own nuclear materials and technologies, while ElBaradei has urged that states subject their nuclear programs to more stringent multinational controls. There is some overlap, such as ending the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in reactors around the globe.

The forthcoming NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting, which is scheduled from April 26 to May 7 in New York, will likely see a full airing of proposals to amend the nonproliferation regime. Indonesian Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat will serve as the meeting’s chairman.

Treaty compliance and enforcement will be the central themes pushed at the PrepCom by the U.S. delegation, which will be headed by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter said, “Verification and especially compliance are going to be important topics at the PrepCom.” The reason, she explained, is because the treaty “has been under assault by
North Korea, Iran, and other countries of concern.”

If past PrepComs are any guide to what can be expected, the United States will not be the only state reprimanding other NPT members for failing to live up to their commitments. In fact, the United States will face the same charges.

Many states have previously alleged that Washington, as well as Beijing, London, Paris, and Moscow, have not done enough to reduce the role and size of their nuclear arsenals. Article VI of the NPT calls upon all treaty members to work toward disarmament.

In 2000, these five capitals joined in agreeing to 13 steps to advance toward that goal, but they have made mixed progress in fulfilling their pledges. For example, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear testing, has not been brought into force, and negotiation of a treaty to end the production of HEU and plutonium for weapons purposes has not been initiated even though a five-year deadline was set for its completion. The Bush administration is now reviewing whether it supports such negotiations. (See ACT, March 2004.)

However, the administration contends it has a solid NPT record, citing its 2002 treaty with Russia to reduce their nuclear forces to fewer than 2,200 deployed strategic warheads each by the end of 2012. “I think we can point toward greater progress under this administration in moving toward the objectives of Article VI than can be pointed to under the entire history of the NPT,” Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker asserted in a Jan. 21 interview with Arms Control Today.

DeSutter said, “I think it would be a very sad thing given the assault we’re seeing on the NPT by virtue of the noncompliance that we’ve got if countries focused on the United States instead of where the problem is.”





Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered...

Kazakhstan Signs IAEA Additional Protocol

Kazakhstan signed an additional protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement Feb. 6, giving the IAEA a green light to conduct more intrusive monitoring of the former Soviet republic’s nuclear activities.

Kazakhstan inherited the world’s fourth-largest nuclear weapons arsenal after the Soviet Union collapsed. In December 1993, the country decided to terminate its nuclear program and join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state.

Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain

Leonard Weiss

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) establishes a balance of obligations undertaken respectively by nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states to ensure nonproliferation and move toward a nuclear weapons-free world. Often referred to as containing the Grand Bargain, the pact calls on the nuclear-weapon states to initiate negotiations to eliminate their arsenals (Article VI) and not to assist efforts by non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons (Article I). At the same time, the NPT requires the non-nuclear-weapon states to forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons (Article II) and to place all of their nuclear facilities under international safeguards (Article III). In examining the success of the Grand Bargain, much has been written over the years, and especially recently, about the transgressions of non-nuclear-weapon state “cheaters”—states such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea who became states-parties to the NPT but prepared either secretly or openly to mount a nuclear weapons program. Yet, less attention has been paid to the failures of nuclear-weapon states to meet their commitments under the NPT.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that any compliance failure by a prominent state-party to the NPT is a potentially serious blow to the long-term survival of the treaty, the existing nonproliferation norm that the treaty has helped nurture, and the hopes for a peaceful world. In this respect, the NPT obligations of the nuclear-weapon states are crucial. If collective action to confront a proliferator and roll back or otherwise neutralize its program is to be successful, the most powerful nations must come to the table with clean hands if their leadership is to be viewed seriously and not cynically. At the same time, this task is made more difficult by the fact that the five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the NPT (the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China), by virtue of their special status as permanent members of the UN Security Council, enjoy veto power over UN sanctions and investigations. Enforcing adherence to their commitments requires them to police themselves and each other.

The Nuclear-Weapon States and Article I

The obligations contained in Article I of the NPT (see box) are among the most critical elements of the current nonproliferation regime because, without outside assistance, would-be proliferators, even if relatively advanced technologically, are hard-pressed to succeed in their plans. Indeed, the history of proliferation tells us that every country that has decided to make nuclear weapons since the end of World War II received assistance in its nuclear endeavor either as a result of scientific collaboration with the United States or other states with nuclear weapons or via espionage. The Soviet Union’s first weapon was at least partially assisted by espionage at the Manhattan Project, and the Soviets in turn provided important assistance to the Chinese program. The French and British programs were assisted by their collaboration with the United States on the Manhattan Project. France made a conscious decision in 1956 to give Israel the means to acquire the bomb, and Israel in turn provided some assistance to the French program and perhaps to the South African program as well, possibly in return for South African nuclear materials. The Indian program was substantially aided by the unwitting assistance of Canada and the United States. The Pakistani program proceeded from theft of design plans for a European nuclear enrichment plant, assistance from China, and a substantial clandestine worldwide purchasing program for the technology and components to complete the needed infrastructure to make weapons.

More recently, despite their NPT vows, the nuclear-weapon states have fostered a second wave of proliferation, with Russia indirectly aiding Iran’s nuclear weapons program and China helping Pakistan further its nuclear weapons program with tacit U.S. acquiescence.

NPT Article I

Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.


Beginning in the early 1980s by its own recent admission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has pursued, by legal and illegal means, the building of a fissile material production infrastructure that could have as its ultimate development the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Among the illegalities committed by Iran during this period, as detailed in an IAEA report, are the unsafeguarded production of small quantities of plutonium and the unsafeguarded importation and/or building of centrifuges and lasers for the enrichment of uranium. The IAEA has also discovered, via environmental sampling, evidence of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at an Iranian nuclear facility, although the Iranians deny that they produced such material. Denials notwithstanding, the Iranian program is unambiguously oriented toward a nuclear-weapon capability. In response to international pressure, Iran has agreed to “suspend” its enrichment and plutonium separation activities and to permit more intrusive inspections in the future.

Moscow has advanced Tehran’s ability to acquire nuclear technology by aiding Iran in the construction of a nuclear reactor at the city of Bushehr. Such nuclear assistance by a nuclear-weapon state carries with it the transfer of technology that would be indirectly helpful to a proliferator’s nuclear weapons program and is therefore proscribed under Article I. To be sure, if the Russians were unaware of the Iranian activities, then they would not be in violation of Article I; but the question is: Was Russian intelligence in the dark about Iranian nuclear activities for 20 years, or did Russia turn a blind eye to Iran’s nuclear program in order to proceed with the reactor deal? At the very least, there was insufficient attention paid to considerable reports over the years that the Iranians were moving in the direction of achieving a weapons capability. That alone does not make Russian assistance to Iran a violation of Article I, but it suggests a willingness to skirt the associated obligations via legalistic interpretations.

Not that Russia was alone. How China and the United States dealt with Pakistan’s situation also illustrates how some nuclear-weapon states have either violated or skirted their NPT commitments vis-à-vis Article I.


Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program began more than 20 years ago. It has reportedly included in 1983 the design for a 25-kiloton nuclear explosive device that was the object of the fourth nuclear test carried out by the Chinese. In addition, China reportedly gave Pakistan enough HEU in 1983 to fuel two nuclear weapons, sold tritium to Pakistan in 1986 that can be used to “boost” the explosive yield of nuclear weapons, and provided technical support for the construction of the Kahuta gas centrifuge nuclear-enrichment complex that has since been the major source of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapon material production.

All of this activity took place prior to China’s accession to the NPT in 1992. In the years leading up to and following China’s decision to sign and ratify the NPT, China went through a series of policy moves that gradually moved it closer to alignment with the other nuclear powers on nonproliferation policy. Initially, Chinese policy was characterized by support for proliferation and open hostility to the treaty when it was presented for signature in 1968. It gradually ended its support for proliferation, joining the IAEA in 1984 and agreeing to place all its nuclear exports under safeguards. It took further positive steps in the 1990s, signing the NPT in 1992 and calling on nuclear-weapon states to issue no-first-use pledges and positive and negative security assurances and voting for the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. This record of apparent continual progress in the evolution of China’s legal support for nonproliferation has unfortunately not always been backed up by appropriate action. In particular, China’s support of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program did not end with China’s accession to the treaty in 1992.

In 1994 the China National Nuclear Corporation sold 5,000 ring magnets to the unsafeguarded A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory at Kahuta. This equipment is used in special suspension bearings at the tops of rotating cylinders in gas centrifuges allowing for the production of weapons-grade HEU. The magnets were delivered in three shipments between December 1994 and mid-1995. Although both the CIA director and the U.S. secretary of defense were reported to believe that the Chinese government approved the sale and had therefore violated Article I of the NPT as well as U.S. law, the Clinton administration in 1996 chose not to impose sanctions on China. The grounds for this decision were stated to be that there was no evidence that the Chinese government had “willfully aided or abetted” Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program via the ring magnet sale and that China had (1) promised to provide assistance only to safeguarded facilities, (2) reaffirmed its commitment to nonproliferation, and (3) agreed to consultations on export control and proliferation issues. Pakistan was also not penalized.

Contemporaneous with these events, China sold to Pakistan in 1996 and helped install a special industrial furnace that can be used to melt plutonium or HEU into the shape of bomb cores and was reported to have provided assistance to Pakistan during 1994-1996 in the construction of an unsafeguarded production reactor at Khushab that could produce plutonium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that China was indeed in violation of Article I but got away with it with U.S. complicity. That was not, however, the first time nor the last time that U.S. policy involving Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program found itself at odds with its own expressions of support for nonproliferation.

United States/Pakistan

For nearly three decades, except for two short periods, the United States has largely turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, emphasizing other more immediate foreign policy priorities, such as using Pakistan as the main supply base for supporting the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has renewed this emphasis on short-term tactical goals over more important long-term strategic needs. The administration moved quickly to lift many remaining sanctions on Islamabad that had been imposed following Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests. As part of a U.S.-supplied program of stepped-up defense assistance, Pakistan is now seeking Bush administration approval to upgrade its fleet of F-16s, at least some of which are believed to have been refurbished to carry nuclear weapons. The United States is now providing hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Islamabad, and some U.S. aid, even if not specifically nuclear, can release Pakistani resources that can be used to fund additions to its nuclear arsenal and that increases the risk of nuclear war in South Asia. Pakistan’s egregious record, along with the history of U.S. assistance in the face of that record, provides an arguable case that the United States has been and is in violation of its Article I commitment not to, in any way, assist or encourage the making of nuclear weapons by a non-nuclear-weapon state as defined by the NPT.

Yet, some supporters of U.S. policy toward Pakistan want to compound these errors further. They argue that the presence in Pakistan of radical Islamic groups allied with or sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda makes it imperative for the United States to shore up Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s regime in order to make a coup less probable and to help the Pakistanis protect their nuclear weapons from theft, even though doing so might also be a violation of Article I. History has shown, however, that the instability of Pakistani politics means there are no guarantees that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will not ultimately fall (by inheritance or otherwise) into the hands of elements unfriendly to the United States. Our previous abandonment of a strong nonproliferation stance in South Asia for a tactical advance in the Cold War ended badly for all involved, and a further dilution of Article I obligations for the current war on terrorism is sure to do so again.

NPT Article II

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Consequences of Article I Violations

The result of collaborating with or turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program can be seen in the better-known and more recent attempts of North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear weapons. There has been much hand-wringing, attempted diplomacy, and thinly veiled threats over Pyongyang’s decision to withdraw from the NPT and proceed to reprocess 8,000 spent fuel rods in order to obtain plutonium for nuclear weapons. If North Korea were to succeed in producing an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the subsequent political turmoil in the region and globally would be difficult to overestimate. Likewise, a nuclear Iran might well inflame a region that is already a tinderbox. Yet, the major role of Pakistan in assisting these illicit programs has been insufficiently publicized. Pakistan traded nuclear weapons-related technology to North Korea in return for missile technology, and Iran has recently admitted that its clandestine work on nuclear enrichment was also aided by Pakistan.

These unholy trading activities have the potential of morphing into a threat that was not envisioned when the NPT was drafted nearly four decades ago: terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons. North Korea is well known for financing its nearly bankrupt regime through exports of ballistic missiles, and Pyongyang has shown few scruples in terms of screening out potential buyers; it is not unimaginable that a desperate Kim Jong Il might sell nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology to terrorists. The United States lists Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Pakistan may even prove more of a tempting target for terrorists than these two better known rogue states. Pakistan is an authoritarian-led country with significant sympathy for al Qaeda at high levels within its powerful military and its nuclear establishment. It is a country that has at least 30 nuclear weapons waiting to be seized in the event of a coup, a country that sponsored the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the 1990s, a country that has supported terrorism in Kashmir, and a country that is evidently prepared to trade its nuclear-weapon technology to anyone who will provide it with a quid pro quo that enables it better to confront its larger and stronger Indian neighbor.

NPT Article III

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agencys safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this article shall be applied to all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.
2. Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this article.
3. The safeguards required by this article shall be implemented in a manner designed to comply with article IV of this Treaty, and to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of the Parties or international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this article and the principle of safeguarding set forth in the Preamble of the Treaty.
4. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall conclude agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet the requirements of this article either individually or together with other States in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Negotiation of such agreements shall commence within 180 days from the original entry into force of this Treaty. For States depositing their instruments of ratification or accession after the 180-day period, negotiation of such agreements shall commence not later than the date of such deposit. Such agreements shall enter into force not later than eighteen months after the date of initiation of negotiations.

The Nuclear-Weapon States and Article VI

The nuclear-weapon states can also be fairly criticized for failing to fulfill their obligations under Article VI, which requires measures toward eliminating nuclear arsenals. It is fashionable these days to claim that there is no connection between the presence of nuclear weapons in the five nuclear-weapon states recognized under the NPT and the desire by other countries to proliferate. Although it is undoubtedly true that the existence of nuclear weapons in the nuclear-weapon states is not the sole motivator of a proliferator, the presence of such weapons and the attitudes toward them cannot help but have an impact on the decision of a non-nuclear-weapon state to change its nuclear status. To the extent that nuclear weapons are seen by the nuclear-weapon states as central to their strategic posture and foreign policy, the message being sent to the world is that the commitment to Article VI is a sham, and that nuclear weapons bring international prestige and other benefits.

Those who claim that Article VI has only a tenuous relationship to the health of the NPT should recall the hard fact that the early proposals for the NPT were being aggressively attacked by India and others as being unacceptably discriminatory in favor of the five nuclear-weapon states. The addition of Article VI to the treaty blunted these attacks and allowed the treaty to go forward, albeit without the Indians, who would not give up their right to make nuclear weapons. Moreover, the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 was predicated in part on assurances of continued commitment by the nuclear-weapon states to Article VI.

Although the vast majority of non-nuclear-weapon states evidently see sufficient value in their membership in the NPT to give the nuclear-weapon states a wide berth in carrying out their disarmament obligations, a substantial part of every NPT Review Conference is devoted to the subject of Article VI. Complaints about the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to satisfy their obligations have been rising with each successive conference, aided in part by a 1996 unanimous opinion of the International Court of Justice that “[t]here 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.” Unfortunately, the court did not define what is meant by “good faith,” so it has been easy for the nuclear-weapon states either to ignore the court or claim that their actions are in keeping with the goal of a nuclear-disarmed world.

To be sure, the end of the Cold War has ended the nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia, has resulted in a reduction of the number of nuclear weapons in existence, and has started the shutdown of fissile material production in the United States and Russia. START has brought down the number of deployed strategic warheads to 6,000 (from a level of 10,000 each for the United States and Russia), and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) approved by the U.S. Senate on March 6, 2003, sets a goal for the two states of deploying no more than 2,200 warheads a piece by December 31, 2012. In addition, as a result of parallel unilateral reductions by the United States and Russia, total U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons have been reduced by nearly 90 percent.

All these happy facts do not present a complete picture of compliance with Article VI. For example, under SORT the United States will be storing rather than dismantling thousands of warheads removed from active deployment, thereby allowing fast redeployment whenever desired.

Additionally, the United States will still maintain large numbers of nonstrategic warheads.

Of course, it is not only the United States that is hedging on progress toward fulfillment of Article VI. Russia will also be able to store rather than destroy strategic warheads, and it currently deploys at least an estimated 3,500 nonstrategic nuclear weapons. In addition, Russia has thousands more undeployed tactical nuclear weapons. As for the other weapon states, neither France nor the United Kingdom has given any indication that they would be prepared to reduce their own nuclear stockpiles commensurate with reductions undertaken by the United States and Russia. China, despite claiming to support the opinion issued by the International Court of Justice, has embarked on a substantial program of modernization of its nuclear weapon systems and is expected to add to its stockpile of warheads. This may be motivated in part by India’s nuclear buildup, plans by the United States to build ballistic missile defenses, and reports that Taiwan may be interested in such defenses. However, it is unhelpful in the quest for progress on Article VI.

Most unhelpful of all are some policy decisions made by the Bush administration in the wake of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, given the longtime U.S. leadership role on nonproliferation efforts and contemporary U.S. military dominance.

Recall that at the previous review conference in 1995, which unanimously approved the indefinite extension of the NPT, the nuclear weapons states agreed to strengthen the NPT review process and pursue specific principles and objectives for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. In a follow-up to this agreement at the 2000 conference, the nuclear-weapon states elaborated and strengthened the principles adopted in 1995. In particular, they agreed to an “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals,” along with 13 “practical steps” to fulfill their earlier pledge for systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI. Although the United States signed on to these steps at the 2000 conference, it has now reversed field and backed off a number of provisions, to wit:

Provision 1: The Bush administration has said it will not resubmit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. The Senate rejected ratification in 1999 during the Clinton administration. Because 44 countries designated as nuclear-capable states must ratify the agreement, and neither India, Pakistan, nor North Korea has signed it while 10 others have signed but not ratified, the treaty is effectively dead regardless of the U.S. position. Although the United States is maintaining its moratorium on testing, it is keeping alive the possibility of testing if its stockpile deteriorates or officials believe that circumstances demand it. In addition, the United States is considering the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons and other new nuclear warheads with the intended purpose of attacking bunkers or other tough targets. The development of such weapons might require testing for effectiveness.

Provision 5: SORT allows for the return to operational service of warheads that have been removed and stored, ostensibly to take care of the possibility that some operational warheads may need replacement on grounds of safety or reliability. Unlike previous U.S.-Russian treaties, SORT is missing a key element of irreversibility, provisions requiring the destruction of launchers for nuclear-tipped missiles. Also, the treaty’s invocation of “unforeseen changes in the global security environment” has been cited as undermining the pledge of strict adherence to the principle of irreversibility.

Provision 7: The United States has officially withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to pursue nationwide missile defenses and has abandoned START II and START III in favor of SORT. Among other things, this rescinds START II’s prohibition of multiple warheads on missiles—multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles—and allows for storage rather than destruction of warheads or delivery vehicles.

Provision 9(d): Although the currently ongoing storage and retirement of warheads fulfills the letter of this provision, the fact that remaining strategic warheads are still on high alert presents an unnecessarily dangerous situation.

Provision 9(e): The Bush administration’s nuclear posture review projects retention of nuclear weapons for the indefinite future, and the administration is also looking at new types of weapons for new missions. For example, a key administration policy document unveiled in January 2003, NSPD-17, more formally raises the possibility of using nuclear weapons to retaliate for a chemical or biological weapons attack. (See ACT, January 2003.)

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.

Whether the nuclear-weapon states, and particularly the United States, are in violation of their Article VI commitments depends on how one defines “good faith.” The stated U.S. position is still one of support for the NPT and for Article VI, but there is no question that the reversal of the pledges made at the 2000 conference are serious matters deserving serious consideration in world councils. Undoubtedly, the next NPT review conference in 2005 will devote considerable attention to this issue. There is a tendency in some circles to deride all the attention given to Article VI because it is seen by some as a utopian fantasy with no real prospect of implementation in any time frame of relevance to the next few generations. Critics also point out that India, Pakistan, and Israel have nuclear weapons but are outside the NPT and therefore have no Article VI obligations, but this should be a reason to find a way to bring those outliers into the nonproliferation regime, not a reason to abandon the Grand Bargain that made the regime possible in the first place.

Nonetheless, critics of Article VI have a point based on the behavior of the nuclear-weapon states. It is certainly the case that the nuclear-weapon states give lots of lip service to Article VI but do not appear to be making any significant security decisions that are driven by their obligations under it. Does this matter if there are no resulting near-term defections from the NPT by non-weapon states? I would argue that it does. The security issue that is now at the top of everyone’s agenda, namely, international terrorism, will be affected eventually by policy decisions that are relevant to the goals of Article VI. Can nuclear weapons protect us against terrorists? If not, how prudent is it to possess indefinitely arsenals of nuclear weapons when terrorists are known to be seeking them?

Articles I and VI are Complementary

We are living in an era where a proliferator with one nuclear weapon can present an unacceptable risk if he is willing to turn his weapon over to terrorists. That is why the proliferation problem is so critical today. We have already seen the results of nuclear-weapon states’ inattentiveness to and violations of Article I, the rising risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Violations of the Grand Bargain in letter or in spirit by nuclear-weapon states undermine the NPT and decrease support for strong measures to deter proliferators who have themselves violated the Grand Bargain. Yet, ensuring that there is no assistance given to proliferators is only part of the necessary equation. The rest of the Grand Bargain is equally important for the long term, as the threat of nuclear terrorism as well as nuclear war would become moot in a world without nuclear weapons and new supplies of fissile materials (the latter being the objective of a needed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty). Thus, Article VI goes hand in hand with Article I as necessary and complementary measures that the nuclear-weapon states must continue to undertake to reach the goal of a safer world in the short term and in the longer term.

On any given day, failure to comply with Article I can have consequences that may not be reversed by returning to compliance the day after. The long term nature of Article VI does not present the same immediate risk provided it is clear that the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free world is maintained. But maintaining the Grand Bargain does require evidence that the nuclear-weapon states are undertaking good faith efforts toward that goal.
In this context, “good faith” means, at the very least, the de-emphasis of nuclear weapons in a country’s strategic posture and the adoption of policies that will create the conditions under which further steps toward disarmament are seen as prudent and security enhancing. Current policies by the United States and the other states with nuclear weapons are not taking us in that direction.


The "13 Steps"

1. Achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

2. Maintain a moratorium on nuclear testing pending entry into force of the CTBT.

3. Work toward moving the conference on Disarmament (CD) to begin a program of work leading to a verifiable negotiated Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

4. Work toward establishing a subsidiary body within the CD dealing with nuclear disarmament.

5. Apply the principle of irreversibility to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and related arms control, and weapon reduction measures.

6. Establish an “unequivocal undertaking” by the nuclear-weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

7. Achieve the early entry into force and full implementation of START II, conclude the START III Treaty, and strengthen the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

8. Complete and implement the Trilateral Initiative between the United States, Russia, and the IAEA, whereby the IAEA will take custody of surplus fissile materials arising from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

9. Engage in:

a. further unilateral reductions of nuclear weapons;
b. increased transparency of nuclear weapon capabilities;
c. further reductions of non-strategic nuclear weapons;
d. measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons;
e. diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies; and
f. the process, “as soon as appropriate,” leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

10. Create arrangements by which fissile material no longer needed for military purposes will be placed within IAEA or other relevant international verification arrangement such that the material remains permanently outside military programs.

11. Reaffirm commitment to general and complete disarmament under international control.

12. Issue regular reports on implementation of Article VI.

13. Develop further verification capabilities needed to assure compliance with disarmament agreements.


Leonard Weiss is a private consultant who has worked on nonproliferation issues for more than 25 years and wrote or directed major legislation on that topic during his tenure as chief of staff for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs (1977-1999).

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World Leaders Rethinking Key NPT Provision

Christine Kucia

Stung by the apparent strides of North Korea and Iran toward developing nuclear weapons, U.S. and international policymakers are rethinking Article IV of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In recent speeches, key officials have proposed changing the provision, which facilitates procurement of nuclear technology and material by non-nuclear weapon-states for peaceful applications if they agree not to build nuclear weapons. The changes would help prevent countries seeking nuclear weapons from gaining access to the materials needed to build a bomb.

“Recent events have made it clear that the nonproliferation regime is under growing stress,” Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the UN General Assembly Nov. 3. Reiterating an idea he expressed in an October interview with Arms Control Today, ElBaradei suggested that nonproliferation security structures needed to be overhauled. (See ACT, November 2003.) In his UN speech, ElBaradei recommended “limiting the processing of weapon[s]-usable material…in civilian nuclear programs—as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment—by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control.” He said controlling the availability of fissile material worldwide is crucial to allowing nuclear power development to proceed while guarding against the spread of nuclear weapons know-how.

ElBaradei’s annual report to the United Nations cites Iran’s breach of its safeguards agreements in developing its nuclear power fuel-cycle. He also expressed hope that North Korea would rejoin the nuclear nonproliferation regime. North Korea announced its withdrawal as a state-party to the NPT after announcing the existence of a uranium-enrichment program and restarting its suspended plutonium program. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) In response, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which includes representatives of the United States, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, told North Korea Nov. 21 that it would suspend its nuclear power assistance program, citing Pyongyang’s nonproliferation violations.

Russian atomic energy minister Alexander Rumyantsev and U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham offered similar perspectives of a fragile nonproliferation framework during their presentations to a meeting of the UN First Committee, which focuses on disarmament matters. Rumyantsev emphasized the security of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide. Russia, the United States, and the IAEA have been actively engaged in the retrieval of Soviet- and Russian-supplied highly enriched uranium from research reactors around the world in order to stem the proliferation threat posed by vulnerable stores of the weapons-usable material. Rumyantsev built upon a proposal offered by ElBaradei, suggesting “construction in the long term under IAEA auspices of several large international [spent nuclear fuel] handling centers.” Russia previously has suggested that it could host such centers, but no action has been taken to date.

Abraham called the NPT and IAEA “properly the center of the nuclear nonproliferation regime” but stressed that world leaders must “think about how to ensure that the essential ‘bargain’ between nuclear and non-nuclear states—a bargain central to advancing the underlying principles of Atoms for Peace—can be sustained into the future.”






Stung by the apparent strides of North Korea and Iran toward developing nuclear weapons, U.S. and international policymakers are rethinking Article IV of the 1968...


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