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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 7, May 4, 1998

1998 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 7 Procedural Questions

Where is the PrepCom leading?

As the first week of the Second PrepCom drew to a close, questions need to be asked about where this is all leading. After a constructive week of debates, including a number of useful and interesting ideas for facilitating the start of negotiations on a fissile materials production ban and making further progress on nuclear disarmament, the frustration level was high as diplomats from about 25 key NPT Parties emerged from a "private meeting" held under the auspices of the Chair, Ambassador Eugeniusz Wyzner of Poland, late on Friday.

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1998 NPT Index

More clarity is needed regarding what NPT Parties want the Review Process to achieve and what they want to come out of this PrepCom in particular. The Polish delegation itself offered some general guidelines, saying that it was necessary for the strengthened review process to meet a "two-fold objective": to review the operation of the Treaty, in order to satisfy the requirements of Article VIII.3; and to "promote the practical implementation of the 'Principles and Objectives' of 1995". Yet as more states put in text to the already heavy compilation of proposals attached to the Chair's working paper in 1997, what is all this profusion of language leading to?

Was the entire review process intended to be a four-year gathering of text for the final document or other agreements to be adopted in the year 2000? Much of the language being proposed now and carefully laid down will be redundant by the year 2000. The Main Committees at the 2000 Review Conference will end up reviewing all these issues and will generate even more text. Devoting the review process to elongating the tedious process of accumulating text does not seem a very good use of the time and money and would not adequately fulfil the aspirations of the States Parties in 1995 for a meaningful and strengthened process for reviewing and implementing the Treaty.

 What, then, should the review process be doing? A majority of States now seem to agree that the 1995 P&O should stand as a benchmark of its time, but not be revised or amended in the future. Instead, they seem keen to see an updated (new) set of Principles and Objectives being developed for each Review Conference in the future. Not all will be new, of course, as many of the principles in the P&O are enduring and need only to be re-stated. Time-dependent objectives, however, such as the programme of action on nuclear disarmament or references to specific NWFZ, would need to be reformulated and updated. This would seem to be a useful and workable proposal, providing that States agree i) that P&O should be renewed in this way every five years; and ii) that in between the Review Conferences, a primary task of the strengthened review process is to work on implementing the P&O agreed at the preceding review conference. Otherwise, why go to the bother of adopting them in the first place?

 If it is agreed that a major task of the review process is to facilitate the implementation of the preceding P&O, then proposals at PrepComs should go into three categories: i) actions to be undertaken by the PrepCom itself, such as Canada's proposals for the PrepCom to issue a statement on START or endorse holding the CTBT conference on entry into force in 1999; ii) recommendations to the next PrepCom, such as proposals for special time to be allocated for certain issues; and iii) recommendations to the next Review Conference, such as deciding that future Review Conferences should formulate their own set of P&O or South Africa's proposals for a subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament.

Although NPT Parties cannot impose their recommendations directly on other fora, such as the CD or bilateral or regional bodies, a further very important function of the review process should be to provide a sounding board for constructive ideas aimed at resolving obstacles or conflicts that stand in the way of negotiations or activities relevant to the NPT's full implementation. In that respect, the discussion on the FMCT has been helpful, even if NPT parties cannot themselves go further than expressing a formal or informal call for more to be done to facilitate progress. Nevertheless, the ideas can be channelled back to the CD or the bilateral or regional participants in ways that can exert pressure or assist solution-building.

As for accumulating text and recommendations for the next Review Conference, it would seem sensible not to start gathering language for an updated P&O until the 2000 Review Conference itself and to spend less energy on repetitive language proposals for potential review documents that are likely to be out of date before they are even considered for agreement. The strengthened review process deserves to have more relevance than that.


Many States spoke positively of the debate on addressing fissile materials. Several useful proposals for getting beyond the 'nuclear disarmament versus non-proliferation' debate have been advanced. While the NWS are still adamant that the first stage should be a limited cut-off treaty, some, including Britain and France, are accepting that the Shannon mandate did not preclude discussion of wider issues within the context of the negotiations. The United States and Russia emphasised what they were already doing to declare some plutonium and HEU as 'excess' and place it under IAEA safeguards.

Although the NAM statement referred to the objective of a treaty banning the production and stockpiling of fissile materials for nuclear weapons et al, many States took heart from the fact that they did not make their call for the immediate commencement of negotiations dependent on CD negotiations for timebound nuclear disarmament. In a similarly constructive vein, while supporting Austria's February proposal for the CD to start negotiations on the basis of the 1995 Shannon mandate, a number of Western delegations have suggested ways in which the thorny question of asymmetric stockpiles could be addressed in conjunction with a cut-off treaty. Canada reiterated its CD proposal for a Presidential statement to redefine the context of the core Shannon mandate, especially with respect to scope negotiations and entry into force, a suggestion backed by several states. Norway affirmed the four points in its 1997 proposal for voluntary transparency measures, including cooperative international measures to clarify and confirm the voluntary declarations, with encouragement for the NWS to permit inspections of their holdings and agreed monitored reductions of the stockpiles.

One of the more innovative proposals came from Australia, building on the statement of the Foreign Minister to the CD in February. Recognising that if approaches to a FMCT are to succeed, they must take account of the security situations of the NWS and non-NPT states and their regions, Australia put forward the view of a cut-off treaty not as a stand alone, one-off negotiation, but rather as "a framework instrument which evolves into a comprehensive regime governing the production, stockpiling and disposition of fissile material". Accordingly, Australia proposed that the conclusion of a first treaty codifying a basic FMCT should be followed by "a second agreement providing for greater transparency over fissile material inventories and gradually bringing fissile material stocks under strict and effective international control". Verification would also require "an innovative, multifaceted approach involving a balance of bilateral, plurilateral and appropriate international -- and possibly regional -- arrangements..."

NAM countries, however, including Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa, emphasised the importance of any fissban covering not only future but also past production as well as the management of weapon-usable fissile materials. Indonesia posed five questions to be addressed in fissban negotiations and called for plutonium and HEU from dismantled warheads to be placed in internationally-monitored storage "in order to assure that they will not be re-used for weapons."