Tracking Number:  366788

Title:  "The NPT: History's Most Successful Non-Proliferation Treaty." Informative look at the success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) and the accord's likely benefits in the future. (941107)

Date:  19941107


11/07/94 THE NPT: HISTORY'S MOST SUCCESSFUL NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY (Backgrounder on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) (1720) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer Washington -- In 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proposed by Ireland that called for nuclear weapon states to refrain from providing weapons to non-nuclear states.

Two years later, another Irish draft resolution on the "prevention of the wider dissemination of nuclear weapons" was also adopted by the Assembly. What evolved from that 1961 resolution is history's most successful non-proliferation treaty: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

With 163 signatories, the NPT currently has the largest number of members of any arms control agreement, and it is the only nuclear non-proliferation agreement that is global in scope.

During the 1960's, when the NPT was negotiated, many observers predicted that there would be 20 to 30 avowed nuclear weapon states today. In fact, this has not happened. Since 1970, when the NPT was brought into force, the ranks of declared nuclear weapons states (the United States, Soviet Union/Russia, Britain, France, and China) have grown in number only because of the breakup of the Soviet Union -- with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inheriting Soviet nuclear weapons on their soil. These three newly independent states -- Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine -- have committed themselves to adhere to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states "in the shortest possible time."

What is the NPT? In broad terms the NPT constitutes an agreement of non-nuclear states to forego nuclear weapons, to put peaceful nuclear facilities under the international safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and to provide rights to technical cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In addition, for nuclear weapons states, the NPT is an undertaking to end the arms race and pursue nuclear disarmament.

Critics say that the NPT is "discriminatory," because it accepts five nuclear powers and freezes out all others. NPT proponents ask, if every state in the world had nuclear weapons, would anyone feel safer?

In fact, the Treaty did not create nuclear weapon "haves" and "have-nots" -- it only recognized reality and helped stop a deadly trend in its tracks. Furthermore, Article Six of the Treaty obligates the nuclear weapons states to pursue in good faith measures related to nuclear disarmament and to ending the nuclear arms race. With the end of the Cold War, great progress has been made towards this goal. Consider what has been done or agreed to:

-- 2,000 warheads from an entire class of weapons have been eliminated under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty;

-- The United States and former Soviet Union have made unilateral decisions to withdraw and dismantle thousands more of their tactical nuclear arms; and

-- The START and START II agreements have reversed the strategic arms race and taken more than 17,000 nuclear weapons off missiles and bombers.

The vast majority of NPT members are non-nuclear, non-aligned countries. For them the Treaty provides a number of very important benefits:

-- the security of knowing that their neighbors and regional rivals are not nuclear armed and will not be able effectively to pursue nuclear-weapons ambitions;

-- the fiscal savings and sanity that come from avoidance of regional arms races;

-- the lessening of the risk that nuclear weapons somewhere will be used, with the tragic consequences to human life and the global environment;

-- the meaningful security guarantees and assurances that stem from participation in treaties, security arrangements, regional regimes and global norms; and

-- access to trade in the fullest range of nuclear-related commodities and technologies.

Although the NPT has proved itself to be an effective tool in insuring global security and nuclear stability, it is facing critical crossroads. The Treaty, which entered into force March 5, 1970, provides that its parties shall meet 25 years thereafter to decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods.

That critical 25-year mark comes next year; and in April 1995 a conference will be held to determine the future of the NPT.

The Clinton administration maintains that extending the Treaty for a fixed term of years will not work. For one thing, it would not serve the cause of non-proliferation to have countries jockeying for position as the Treaty's expiration date grew near. For another, further extending the Treaty at the end of the fixed period would require its amendment -- a daunting procedural and political hurdle.

Therefore, the United State supports indefinite and unconditional extension of the treaty.

The prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction is a central element of U.S. foreign policy. In the fall of 1993, President Bill Clinton reiterated before the United Nations the American view. The president declared:

"We intend to weave non-proliferation more deeply into the fabric of our relationships with the world's nations and institutions. We seek to build a world of increasing pressures for non-proliferation, but increasingly open trade and technology for states that live by accepted international norms."

In short, the United States seeks a global environment in which nations that act responsibly will benefit from full participation in the international community, including both relevant security assurances and thriving commercial relationships. Those that don't act responsibly will become commercial and political outcasts.

The United States has made a point of practicing what its preaches in this regard. It is dismantling approximately 2000 nuclear weapons each year -- the highest rate that technical limitations will permit. In fact, under the START II agreement, the United States is committed to reduce nuclear weapons to 1972 levels, effectively wiping out 20 years of the arms race.

Furthermore, U.S. law prohibits the United States from engaging in nuclear cooperation with any country that does not have a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. This policy, moreover, has been adopted by all major nuclear suppliers.

Throughout its 25 years as a Treaty member, the United States has supported technical cooperation projects in NPT-member countries in such diverse areas as agricultural research, nuclear medicine, and nuclear energy in an effort to enhance the technological knowledge and promote the development and economic well-being of those countries.

Not all countries have abided by the terms of the Treaty. Iran, for example, is a member of the NPT, but there is strong evidence that it is pursuing nuclear weapons technology. Without outside help, Iran is believed to be some years away from its nuclear goals -- and the United States is committed to denying Iran that help.

Iraq's nuclear program, the scope of which became known after the Gulf War, also demonstrated that adherence to the NPT is not by itself a sufficient basis to presume the absence of a proliferation threat. The IAEA, however, has since then strengthened its system of safeguards, reaffirmed the right to conduct special inspections at undeclared sites, and approved a voluntary program of reporting nuclear exports to the Agency. Analysis of the combined data will enhance IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

In North Korea, the IAEA's inspections have demonstrated to the world its vigilance in pursuing compliance with international safeguards agreements. During the Agency's inspections to verify the completeness and correctness of North Korea's initial declaration, the Agency discovered discrepancies that led it to seek special inspections at undeclared sites.

The situation in North Korea demonstrates a global norm at work and the fact that the NPT is able to function as intended by using an effective verification. When non-compliance was detected in North Korea, the matter was referred to the UN Security Council, and international pressure was placed on North Korea to live up to its obligations as a NPT signatory.

A number of other states are considered technologically advanced enough to manufacture nuclear weapons within a few weeks of a decision to do so. These "threshold" states include Israel, India and Pakistan. None are members of the NPT. The United States and other countries continue to pursue discussions with these states aimed at confidence-building. The goal is to promote regional security -- an environment in which nations can feel safe even without nuclear weapons in their arsenals.

Indeed, with the Cold War over, regional rivalries and nuclear proliferation pose the gravest threats to international security. The nearly universal support that now exists for the NPT is a formidable political force against states that have remained outside the regime, or parties that have not complied with their NPT obligations. By making the NPT a permanent part of the international security structure, the NPT could continue to serve as a stable foundation upon which other vitally needed measures for disarmament can be built.