Go to Home Page
  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 2, April 28, 1998

1998 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 2 General Debate Begins

The Second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2000 Review Conference of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) opened on 27 April at around 11.15 am and swiftly appointed Ambassador Eugeniusz Wyzner of Poland as its Chair. Ambassador Andelfo Garcia of Colombia and Ambassador Markku Reimaa of Finland were appointed Vice Chairs. Additionally it was agreed that Garcia, who had been nominated by the Movement of Non-Aligned States, should be Chair of the Third PrepCom, due to be held in New York in 1999. To the relief of many, there was no repeat of last year's delays over whether the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and North Korea would be seated as Member States.

 The first two days will be devoted to general debate, including a three hour informal session on Tuesday afternoon for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to address the delegates.

Printer Friendly

See Also
1998 NPT Index

General statements were made on the first day by sixteen delegations: South Africa, the United Kingdom for the European Union and others, China, Indonesia, Japan, Switzerland, Myanmar, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey, Russia, Bangladesh, Morocco and Iraq.

Some interventions were near-facsimiles of past statements to the 1997 PrepCom, while others were cliché-rich but thin on content, so as space is limited, this summary will seek only to highlight a few of the more interesting issues to emerge. Other themes are likely to be addressed more fully in future NPT briefings, as more delegations put their ideas and concerns on the table.

 Nuclear Disarmament
Three of the nuclear weapon states (NWS) spoke. Norman Wulf aimed to give a comprehensive and positive overview of the "numerous practical steps" taken by the United States in support of its NPT obligations, devoting considerable time to Article VI. Referring to the bilateral START process and multilateral CTBT, as classic disarmament approaches, Wulf also outlined arms control measures such as the unilateral reduction of tactical nuclear weapons, detargeting, cessation of fissile materials production and attempts to increase fissile material transparency, saying that the US "wants its NPT partners to recognise and understand the relationship between this range of 'non-classic' arms control measures and the nuclear disarmament process."

Grigori Berdennikov gave Russia's gloomier overview. After enumerating Russian arms reductions under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and START I and noting the realisation of "unilateral disarmament initiatives" in reducing tactical nuclear weapons, Berdennikov spoke of Russia's efforts to withdraw plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) from military programmes and welcomed initiatives to make Central and East Europe and Central Asia into areas free of nuclear weapons. Taking aim at NATO's continuing nuclear policies, he reiterated Russia's call for nuclear weapons not to be placed outside the territory of the nuclear States. Referring almost certainly to US plans for modernisation and missile defence, Berdennikov warned that continued progress in nuclear weapon reductions would only be possible "if appropriate guaranties are provided against reproducing the nuclear arms race of the past". He also issued a challenge to Britain, China and France, saying that Russia "would like to see the other nuclear powers joining the efforts to reduce nuclear weapons".

Sha Zukang's statement for China was also rather pessimistic. He accused "some countries" of clinging to a "Cold War mentality" by expanding military blocs and developing "sophisticated hi-tech weapons" and argued that the NWS should abandon nuclear deterrence policies and conclude legally binding no-use and no-first-use agreements. China's concerns about US plans to develop strategic missile defence systems were underlined several times, as Sha noted that such plans "violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, jeopardise regional and global strategic security and stability, hamper further progress in nuclear disarmament, and may even trigger a new round of the arms race."

 Indonesia, however, castigated "self laudatory" references which "cannot conceal that there are still an estimated 36,000 nuclear weapons with their inherent dangers". New Zealand urged the NWS to take seriously the proposals in the Canberra Commission Report, saying "we want to see progress on steps such as taking nuclear weapons off alert; no first use undertakings; removing warheads from delivery vehicles; [and] ending deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons". Canada referred to START being "at a standstill" and proposed text to reaffirm the importance of the US-Russian bilateral process and further progress on nuclear disarmament, including the engagement of the other three NWS. Several States criticised the lack of a nuclear disarmament committee in the CD. Myanmar called on the Second PrepCom to make recommendations for the CD to negotiate "a universal and legally-binding multilateral instrument... committing all states to the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons". Japan called on the NWS to "share information on various practical issues which they are encountering in their current nuclear disarmament efforts" including financial and technical problems regarding the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

The British Ambassador, Ian Soutar, spoke on behalf of the European Union (EU) and 13 associated countries. As we have come to expect from committee-drafting by 15 states with diverse security perspectives, the EU statement sounded positive but said little, reduced to making approving noises about the range of issues, utilising the language of the 1995 Principles and Objectives (P&O) so as to avoid controversy among its members. It did, however, express the hope that "START III will be followed by further reductions with the aim of eliminating these weapons globally."

We will have to wait until the cluster debates for more substantive statements from Britain and France regarding their role in the fulfilment of this hope.


 One issue on which all the nuclear weapon states (and several others from the Western group) seemed to agree was the necessity for getting negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty (FMCT) underway. Japan made a particularly strong pitch, condemning three "wasted" years of deadlock in the CD and calling on the NPT PrepCom to express "as a whole, its firm determination to commence FMCT negotiations" on the basis of the 'Shannon Report' and mandate agreed in March 1995. Norway reiterated its call for voluntary transparency measures from all nuclear capable states, with particular responsibility on the NWS. Although encouraging greater openness with regard to existing fissile material stockpiles, Norway seemed to back away from its 1997 statement calling for declaration, clarification and inspections of stocks. Canada proposed language for a P&O rolling text supporting the FMCT commitment and urging the NWS to increase transparency with regard to military stocks of fissile materials and "increase the amount of fissile material declared excess", putting this under permanent safeguards. Morocco said it was essential for the CD to give utmost priority to a fissile materials ban and castigated that body for "wasting time" on less important issues that were already being dealt with in other fora. Indonesia, however, condemned the NWS who, "while willing to end their production are unwilling to give up existing stockpiles". Indonesia wanted a "ban on existing material which also bans future production of weapon-usable fissile material."

 Other Issues

Several statements made obligatory references to "peaceful uses" of nuclear technology and export controls. Many others mentioned security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states, an issue expected to be discussed in greater detail in a specifically allocated session. A number of delegations emphasised the importance of the CTBT, welcoming the early ratification by Britain and France and urging others to follow. While Russia and China made oblique reference to NATO's expansion, Bangladesh was rather blunter, calling the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapon states a "violation of the spirit of the NPT". Turkey, for its part, informed the PrepCom delegates that "apart from the nuclear umbrella of the NATO alliance" Turkey did not possess nuclear weapons and had no intention of doing so. Reha Keskintepe also emphasised Turkey's concerns about Middle East security but said that it was "disingenuous to single out any one country for the lack of progress" on establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in the region. Iraq accused the United States of exercising a "double standard" because it backed away from implementing the Resolution on the Middle East adopted at the same time as the 1995 decisions on extending and strengthening the review of the NPT.

Strengthening the Review
Several countries underlined that the post-1995 review process was intended to be "substantive" and "qualitatively different". The EU suggested building further on the recommendations in the Chair's working paper from 1997. The United States wanted the "expansion and enhancement" of agreed sections of that paper. South Africa, Switzerland, Canada and Indonesia suggested that it was time to begin to develop a rolling text or document. Canada even provided substantial examples of text on the range of issues covered by the Treaty and P&O, as "input for [a] possible revised Chair's working paper". Norway reminded delegations that though the NWS bore the primary obligation to fulfil their Article VI commitment, other states should "remain involved, supportive and constructive", providing a context for nuclear disarmament activities. However, on this first day of the Second NPT PrepCom, there were disappointingly few concrete proposals for effective progress in the future.