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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 5, April 30, 1998

1998 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 5 General Debate Concludes

The general exchange of views at the Second PrepCom concluded on Wednesday morning with statements from Viet Nam, Chile, Argentina, Malaysia and also the United Kingdom on behalf of the five declared nuclear weapon states (P-5). In addition, this briefing will cover several statements given during Tuesday's debate.

The debate on cluster 1, dealing with nuclear disarmament, is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, with the special debate on the fissile material production ban or cut-off (FMCT) scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but likely to spill into Friday. There have been numerous statements with some interesting new proposals, notably from South Africa, Canada and Australia. As the cluster debates are now closed to NGOs, however, it will take a bit longer to collect and assimilate the various interventions that I was not present to hear, so briefings on the

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1998 NPT Index

nuclear disarmament and FMCT debates will not be ready until Monday.

Review Process

In the General debate, Mexico made clear its view that the Review Process should go beyond the "first exercise" and results of the 1997 PrepCom, in order to put together a coherent compilation of ideas, principles and concrete methods that could serve as recommendations for the full implementation of the Treaty's objectives, and "above all, nuclear disarmament". Sri Lanka emphasised that the PrepComs should be viewed as a "cumulative process that would drive the 2000 Review" and reminded delegates that it was their responsibility to "formulate strategies to influence and accelerate the progress leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons". Sri Lanka stressed that the nuclear disarmament cluster should have priority and be given sufficient focus and time. Iran argued for the establishment of a "follow-up mechanism" to ensure full implementation of the Treaty and recommendations, and proposed creating an "open-ended standing committee" to address all aspects of the NPT, including compliance issues. Chile suggested that the ideal method for progress should utilise the Chair's paper from the first PrepCom and incorporate national positions and new elements with the aim of formulating concrete and constructive proposals. Chile also expressed support and interest in Canada's proposals. Australia backed South Africa's view that it would be "logical and desirable" to work for a new P&O document "which would guide our nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts in the period after the 2000 Review Conference..."

Egypt proclaimed that the "ultimate aim of the NPT is universal nuclear disarmament" and proposed that NPT States should "submit written reports on the progress achieved to date and their future plans to implement each provision of the Principles and Objectives" (P&O). South Korea backed calls for the NWS to be "more forthcoming in informing the international community of the activities and progress in their efforts toward nuclear disarmament".

Principal Issues Raised

Several states proclaimed that nuclear disarmament was of the highest priority. Malaysia and Egypt argued that "outmoded nuclear deterrence strategies and doctrines" must be delegitimised and abandoned. Malaysia regretted that the unanimous ICJ opinion which "unambiguously underscored the States Parties' obligation under Article VI of the NPT" and had twice been endorsed by the UN General Assembly (1996 resolution 51/45M and 1997 resolution 52/38O) "has yet to be responded positively to by the nuclear weapon states".

Several NAM delegations endorsed the non-aligned statement, with Viet Nam and Colombia expressing their fullest backing. Colombia also underlined the priority importance of nuclear disarmament and the ICJ's authoritative advisory opinion. Sri Lanka called on the Review Process to address nuclear smuggling and terrorism, issues of safety and the environment, export-import control of illicit nuclear material, and institutional support from the IAEA. Sri Lanka wanted nuclear disarmament to be addressed in the CD as well as by the NPT review process. Calling on all states to promote the entry into force of the CTBT, Sri Lanka also warned that "if testing continues, under whatever pretext, technical or other" it could undermine the CTBT. Egypt expressed its scepticism that the presidential consultations on nuclear disarmament recently agreed by the CD would bear fruit, citing the lack of political will of some of the NWS. Chile gave its general support to the NAM statement but mentioned that it had reservations on certain paragraphs.

While many delegations affirmed their support for negotiations on the fissban, Australia argued for the PrepCom to make recommendations that would enable the CD to get to work on the FMCT on the basis of the 1995 Shannon Report. Egypt again argued that it supported the general aim of banning fissile materials, but "it can only be effective if it is applied to both future as well as already produced fissile material, i.e. stockpiles". Malaysia and Viet Nam mentioned the South East Asian NWFZ Treaty (Bangkok), which entered into force on 27 March 1997, hoping that consultations between the NWS and countries in the region would enable the protocols to be signed and ratified by all the NWS. Several countries, particularly Egypt, Syria and Iran, raised concerns about the current obstacles to establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and hoped that the review process would work out practical steps towards implementing the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.

Chile and Argentina both raised concerns about shipments of nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel moving through adjacent waters, wanting coordination in the international fora to strengthen safety regulations. Argentina especially recalled two communiqués in January 1997, from Argentina and from Chile, Brazil and Uruguay, calling for regulations including guarantees on routes, obligations to communicate to coastal states for emergency planning in the event of accident, and provisions for salvage and compensation if such an accident should occur.

Many, including Chile, Colombia, Algeria, Egypt and Viet Nam, emphasised the importance of negative security assurances, which Algeria called an essential measure to accompany the non-proliferation regime. Although they generally seemed to endorse the goal of an NSA protocol to the NPT, Egypt summed up the dominant NAM support for this work to be done by the recently-established ad hoc committee in the CD, rather than through the NPT Review Process.

Several countries also emphasised the importance of the Article IV commitment to the "inalienable right" to nuclear energy. Chile called for more transparency on export controls and said that the export control regime should be progressively multilateralised in its structure and scope. Australia called for a "strong but transparent nuclear export control regime". Iran focused a significant part of its intervention on criticising the policies and practices of the export control regime set up under the auspices of the Nuclear Supplier Group, quoting the 1995 P&O regarding the promotion of transparency and claiming that the NPT declaration had recognised the IAEA as the "sole competent authority", although that language was not adopted in any of the consensus decisions. Iran also called for security arrangements to prevent safeguarded nuclear facilities from being attacked.

South Korea gave 'ardent backing' to the activities of the CTBT Organisation's Preparatory Commission and Provision Technical Secretariat in establishing the verification regime, urging all States to sign and ratify. This just preceded a detailed statement on the CTBTO PrepCom's progress towards implementing the test ban treaty, presented by Masabumi Sato, Director of the Legal and External Relations Division of the PTS. South Korea also raised concern about North Korea's "non-compliance with the IAEA safeguards agreement", citing three inter-related elements.

In this regard, I would like to apologise to the DPRK for wrongly attributing part of the delay in starting the first NPT PrepCom in 1997 to their request to be seated as an observer rather than a State Party and for implying that they might do the same this year. I now understand that the delay was wholly due to the difficulties over Yugoslavia's seat, and that beyond an initial inquiry, DPRK has not attempted to attend the NPT meetings since 1995.

P-5 Statement

The five declared NWS have continued with the precedent, set in 1997, of presenting a paper with their "shared views" regarding NPT implementation. Read by a British representative, the P-5 statement called on all states to "contribute to the success" of the CTBT and urged immediate commencement of negotiations of a FMCT in accordance with the 1995 Shannon report to the CD. Most of the statement was a bland but collective reaffirmation of support for various aspects of the Treaty, with particular emphasis on the enhanced IAEA safeguards regime and nuclear security and safety issues, including transparency in the development of nuclear energy. The P-5 interest in transparency did not appear to extend to nuclear weapon-related activities, however.

Although they reaffirmed their "determination to continue the pursuit...of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally..." and welcomed their countries' achievements so far in the START process and in steps towards placing fissile materials "no longer required for their defence purposes" under IAEA safeguards, the NWS seemed particularly keen to emphasise the responsibility of other States Parties in implementing the Treaty, including Article VI. The P-5 concluded, however, by promising to "continue to work together for the success of the preparatory process and the 2000 Review Conference and on related issues ".[Emphasis added]

WRITTEN BY REBECCA JOHNSON, Acronym Institute