Tracking Number:  392119

Title:  "The Non-Proliferation Treaty: the Case for Indefinite Extension." Remarks by Vice President Al Gore at the NPT review conference regarding the need to permanently extend the nuclear non-proliferation accord. (950424)

Date:  19950424


The Non-Proliferation Treaty: The Case for Indefinite Extension Vice President Gore, Secretary Christopher

Vice President Gore Remarks before the NPT Extension and Review Conference, New York City, April 19, 1995.

In just a matter of weeks, the world will commemorate the gathering in San Francisco half a century ago of delegates from some 50 countries who met--even as the final embers of world war smoldered in Europe and Asia- -to create a new world body for the post-war era. The proposal to call this organization "the United Nations" was adopted by acclamation, amidst the hopes of all people for lives permanently free of the "scourge of war."

This moment of promise, however, coincided with the dawn of a new era in our world's history--the atomic age--an era that carried with it unique dangers to the future of humankind.

As were those who created the United Nations, we are assembled at a moment of unusual opportunity and great risk. The confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union has ended. Our governments have moved with great speed to put behind them a relationship based on a nuclear balance of terror. That alone profoundly diminishes the risk of nuclear war in the world, but it does not eliminate that risk. Should nuclear weapons proliferate, those risks could again increase, and the opportunity we currently have to reduce the global nuclear danger will be lost.

With this conference, the struggle to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons enters a critical phase. At the outset of the nuclear era the technological and financial requirements for constructing nuclear weapons could be met by only a few countries. That is no longer true. The knowledge and capacity to build nuclear weapons and their delivery systems increasingly is available. Most countries have recognized that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would bring greater insecurity and danger. But the few countries that wish to seek nuclear weapons have an increasing possibility of succeeding. Should they succeed, the consequences will not be merely local but, inevitably, global.

In short, the diminishing risk that nuclear war would be caused by one rivalry is offset by an increasing risk that it will be caused by others. It is axiomatic that continuing progress in controlling and eliminating nuclear weapons will be easier if the number of countries possessing them is not increasing.

This, of course, is the essence of the challenge which the treaty was designed to meet. At the time of its creation, the treaty represented a delicate balance between competing and seemingly irreconcilable interests.

It met the security needs of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states. It also took careful account of the universal desire that peaceful nuclear technologies be made available for the general benefit of all peoples, while not leading to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The result was an agreement that balanced the interests of all sides and identified a path toward a more peaceful future.

First, declared nuclear weapons states would not assist others to acquire nuclear weapons, while non-weapons states committed to forswear these weapons for the duration of the treaty. States in a position to do so also undertook to share peaceful nuclear technology under strict international safeguards and accepted a solemn obligation to work for further disarmament measures.

Now, after a quarter of a century of experience with this treaty, we are gathered to determine whether the cause of peace is best served by continuing the treaty under temporary arrangements or, by using our one- time option to give it a permanent basis, by supporting its indefinite extension without conditions.

The United States believes that it is vital that the treaty be extended indefinitely--without conditions. I am here to represent my country and my President in explaining why we hold this belief so firmly and to discuss the reasons why we disagree with other approaches--much as we understand and respect the concerns that these approaches reflect.

The case for indefinite extension can be stated succinctly and convincingly. First and foremost, the treaty creates a more secure world for all its members--nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states alike. By providing an internationally recognized, verifiable means for states to foreswear nuclear weapons forever, the treaty helps prevent regional rivalries from evolving into regional nuclear arms races. Without the treaty, many more nations already would have decided, however reluctantly, that they needed nuclear arms to deter a neighbor or hedge against future uncertainty. By making it possible for the vast majority of the world's nations to remain non-nuclear without jeopardizing their security, the treaty reinforces the global stability that is a necessary foundation for further progress in arms control and disarmament.

While we believe the case for indefinite extension is compelling, any candid evaluation of the treaty must respond to the principal arguments that are often directed against it. These arguments are: first, that the treaty is inherently discriminatory; second, that the nuclear weapons states have failed to live up to their commitments under Article VI; third, that the indefinite extension of the treaty without conditions will free the nuclear weapons states from effective further pressure to disarm; fourth, that the treaty exposes non-nuclear states to the risk of intimidation by nuclear weapons states and states not party to the treaty; and fifth, that permanent extension of the treaty without conditions will destroy the capacity of the agreement to be adapted to future circumstances. I shall speak to each of these issues.

First, it is true that the treaty recognized as a matter of practical necessity an initial division of states between those possessing nuclear weapons and those who pledged not to acquire them at all. But the treaty did not create a permanent class of nuclear weapons states.

What the treaty did create was a requirement that those who already possessed nuclear weapons not help others to acquire them, coupled with a binding legal obligation under Article VI to pursue good-faith negotiations on nuclear arms control and disarmament. By extending the treaty indefinitely, non-nuclear weapons states will ensure that this obligation remains permanently binding and will create the conditions for its ultimate achievement.

Second, some argue that the nuclear weapons states have failed to live up to their commitments under Article VI. Here, the evidence strongly supports the case that the trend among nuclear weapons states is running strongly in the direction prescribed by their obligations under Article VI of the treaty.

-- The United States and Russia have, under the INF Treaty, eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons delivery systems.

-- Last December, the United States and Russia, along with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, brought the START I Treaty into force, and under its terms, 9,000 nuclear weapons will be removed from delivery vehicles subject to elimination under this treaty.

-- The statesmanship of the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine have resulted in these nations eschewing nuclear weapons. It is appropriate today that we salute these three nations, whose decisions to eliminate the nuclear weapons on their territories and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states represent true steps forward for peace.

-- The United States and Russia are working with our legislatures to ratify the START II Treaty, which will remove another 5,000 weapons from the deployed arsenals of the United States and Russia.

-- Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin have agreed to deactivate systems scheduled for elimination under START II after that treaty has been ratified.

-- We also have agreed to detarget our nuclear missiles so that no nation's children are targeted by these weapons.

-- To further match our words with deeds, the United States has stopped producing fissile materials for nuclear explosives. In addition, President Clinton has launched a new, global effort to halt the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives.

-- Last month, President Clinton announced that the United States would remove 200 metric tons of fissile material from its stockpile so that it never again could be used for nuclear weapons. Last year, for the first time, the United States submitted weapons material from our stockpile to IAEA safeguards.

These are the tangible forms of progress toward fulfillment of Article VI and important building blocks as we design the structures for peace and security in the 21st century. But we must continue to build upon them in the days and weeks ahead.

For this reason, both President Yeltsin and President Clinton last September directed their experts to develop steps to adapt nuclear forces to the changed international security climate and stated publicly their shared belief that this changed climate will permit--and indeed, require--additional progress in reducing the size and structure of their nuclear forces and to look forward to the possibility of continued reductions. Indeed, only two weeks ago in Geneva, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom joined the United States to solemnly reaffirm our commitment, as stated in Article VI, to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, which remains our ultimate goal.

We also have instructed our delegation in Geneva to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty "at the earliest possible time." To further propel that effort, the President has extended the U.S. moratorium on nuclear tests to overlap with the expected completion of test ban negotiations, and he withdrew a previous U.S. proposal for a 10-year withdrawal provision in the test ban treaty.

If the Conference on Disarmament does its job, we are prepared to conclude that the United States has already conducted its last nuclear test.

The third argument made against indefinite extension of the NPT is that it will free the nuclear weapons states from effective further pressure to disarm. Rather than indefinite extension, some argue that the best way to ensure that the major nuclear weapons states move toward disarmament is to hold the NPT hostage by subjecting it to periodic live-or-die votes or by extending it with conditions of a sort that reintroduce the live-or-die principle by indirect means.

There are two very serious flaws to this argument. First, as regards the major nuclear weapons states, the last thing that we need as we wrestle with the problem of further constraining nuclear weapons in ways that are irrevocable is for the treaty itself to become a covenant subject to revocation at regular intervals. It is worth noting that even one of the longest review periods under discussion--25 years--is well within the service lifetime of a major nuclear weapons system. In practical effect, rolling periods of review can have the same consequences for nuclear planning as would a decision taken right now to terminate the treaty.

Second, making the treaty subject to periodic risk will send a very powerful signal to states that aspire to acquire nuclear weapons. Such a decision will encourage them to hold their options in reserve rather than to accept the permanence of their obligations under the treaty. States not party to the treaty will be encouraged to hope that it will one day fall away.

Introducing uncertainty into the calculus of nuclear decision-making will not reinforce the goals of the NPT. On the contrary, it will threaten the real progress that is now being made among the original nuclear weapons states, and it will encourage would-be proliferators to lie low and to clandestinely pursue their objectives.

The fourth argument made against indefinite extension of the treaty is that the treaty exposes non-nuclear states to the risk of intimidation by nuclear weapons states and states not party to the NPT.

Since the nuclear weapons states clearly understand that damaging the NPT also damages their own security, they have strong motives to refrain from nuclear threats and, instead, to provide credible assurances designed to allay the concerns of others. That is why, earlier this month, President Clinton issued a declaration providing robust positive and negative security assurances. Each of the other four nuclear weapons states has provided parallel statements.

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution welcoming these assurances and setting forth in unprecedented detail the means to respond in the event that a non-nuclear party to the treaty is subject to a nuclear threat.

In addition, the very success of the NPT builds a barrier against nuclear threats, whether by parties or non-parties. By establishing a global norm for non-proliferation, a norm that the world community has demonstrated it is willing to defend, the treaty has far more effectively discouraged nuclear intimidation than would the indiscriminate threat of nuclear weapons.

Finally, in response to the fifth argument that an indefinite extension of the NPT without conditions will set it in stone and destroy its ability to meet changed circumstances, I would point first to the radical changes in the world that the treaty has handled without difficulty, and I would also point to reserves of flexibility inherent in procedures for review and amendment that are built into the treaty and will not be altered by a decision to extend it indefinitely without conditions. The treaty provides for a review at five-year intervals, giving all parties the opportunity to raise concerns about the operation of the treaty. Even with indefinite extension of the treaty, these reviews will continue, and I pledge that the U.S. will work closely with other delegations to ensure that the review mechanism remains vital and effective. The NPT will remain a living document.

In short, I believe that all of the questions and criticisms of the NPT can be answered, not only by logic and argument but by the performance of the treaty and its parties over the past 25 years.

In the post-Cold War era--an era in which superpower confrontation has been replaced by cooperation to eliminate nuclear arms but in which the dangers of nuclear proliferation are increasingly apparent--the treaty remains central to the cause of peace.

We ask you--the representatives of the largest community of nations to adhere to any arms control agreement--to support the indefinite and unconditional extension of the treaty, not as a favor or concession to anyone but because it is deeply in the security interests of each one of us to do so.

Even more than when it was concluded 25 years ago, the treaty reduces the nuclear threat faced by each and every one of its parties, creates the basis for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and makes a critical contribution to the global stability needed to achieve further measures of arms control and disarmament.

The decision that you must make on the future duration of the treaty is a momentous one. It will not only affect the policies of governments but the future of all peoples. These are choices for which we must expect to be held fully accountable.

A quarter-century ago, legislative bodies throughout the world in ratifying the treaty, accepted that they would be bound by a decision made by a majority of the parties. Any suggestion that this decision might be made through secret ballot undermines the democratic spirit of that process. We must expect to take responsibility for our actions. Nations which call for accountability must accept its burdens. The United States strongly rejects any notion that the decisions of this conference cannot stand the light of day and calls upon all countries to vote openly.

When the Non-Proliferation Treaty was put into force 25 years ago, few could have suspected the difference it would make in all our lives. Today, we know what those who were present at the creation of the atomic age could only hope--that proliferation can be halted and that nations can work together to protect their mutual security. We cannot rest--will not rest--until those goals--and the Non-Proliferation Treaty-- become enduring realities.

One of my country's greatest leaders, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, told the American people in a moment of crisis that their generation had a "rendezvous with destiny." It was a phrase that caused our entire nation to realize that we held in our own hands the power to decide the outcome of great issues. We, too, are at a moment that should be considered a rendezvous with destiny. In this moment of decision, therefore, with faith in peace as our guide, and the hopes of our children as our inspiration, I urge you to choose rightly by voting to extend this vital treaty indefinitely and without conditions.

Secretary Christopher

Welcoming remarks to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Extension and Review Conference, New York City, April 17, 1995.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates: It is a great privilege as foreign minister of the host country to welcome you to the Non- Proliferation Treaty Extension and Review Conference.

Let me congratulate you, Ambassador Dhanapala, on your election as president of this historic conference. My colleagues from around the world and I have high confidence in your capable leadership.

It is fitting that we should meet at the United Nations to deliberate the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty--the NPT. Few agreements have better embodied the principles that have guided this institution since its creation. Indeed, the collective force of the NPT has been a shining example of what nations can do, in the words of the UN Charter, "to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security."

We should recall the world in which the NPT came into force a quarter- century ago. The Cold War struggle had created a nuclear standoff that threatened the survival not only of the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies--but that of every nation. That struggle also contributed to a costly and dangerous global nuclear arms race. The prospect of 10 or more new nuclear powers seemed just over the horizon. It was a world in which fear outpaced hope.

Today, we live in a safer, freer, and better world. The Cold War is over; the strategic forces of the superpowers are standing down while their nuclear arsenals are shrinking dramatically. The international community has done its part to reduce the nuclear danger for the entire world. The heart of this effort has been the NPT. Simply put, the NPT has worked.

I believe that the NPT truly is one of the most important treaties of all time. Many of the NPT's achievements cannot be quantified--the weapons not built, the nuclear materials not diverted, and the wars not started. But the results are nonetheless impressive. Since coming into force, the NPT has kept the number of nuclear powers far lower than initially forecast, it has given the parties confidence in the nuclear intentions of other nations, it has reduced the risk of nuclear conflict, it has advanced nuclear disarmament, it has bolstered regional security, it has promoted the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy, and it has undergirded the international community's efforts to halt the spread of all weapons of mass destruction.

By its purpose and its strength, this treaty has earned the widest adherence of any international arms control agreement. The nations assembled here have supported the NPT because it has benefited all of us. It has protected the security of the nuclear and the non-nuclear, the strong and the less powerful, the land-locked and the coastal states. As President Kennedy said before the UN in 1961:

A nuclear disaster, spread by winds and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike.

Fortunately, the disaster of which President Kennedy warned has not come to pass. The international community has taken important steps to diminish the nuclear threat. The number and reach of nuclear weapons- free zones is growing. The nuclear arsenals of the two former Cold War adversaries are being reduced by almost two-thirds. Negotiations are advancing on a comprehensive test ban treaty and a cutoff on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The purpose of the NPT is to preserve the security of all, not the nuclear weapons monopoly of a few. The nuclear weapons states have committed themselves to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament, which remains our ultimate goal. The treaty is the basis for assurances to non-nuclear treaty partners that their security interests continue to be served by their wise and far-sighted choice.

The security that the NPT helps provide must be constantly reinforced. Even in a world in which hope is now outpacing fear, we know that the future is by no means free from danger. While the prospect of global nuclear war recedes, the prospect of the spread of nuclear weapons remains. Together, we share the responsibility to meet that common threat.

In the next four weeks, the nations assembled here will reach a decision with the most fateful consequences for their national security and for world peace. For all nations and all peoples, the future of the NPT will be even more important than its past. Thank you very much. (###)