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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 9, May 8, 1998

1998 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 9 Brinkmanship

With just one day to go and facing the prospect of getting even less than in 1997, the non-nuclear-weapon Parties to the NPT are facing a stark choice: whether it is better to have a minimal agreement or no agreement at all. As the President of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference pointed out in a recent article: "the importance of 1995 as a watershed demanding a fundamentally different approach to the review process does not appear to have been grasped and, instead, a 'business as usual' attitude is being self-righteously adopted by some countries." [Jayantha Dhanapala, in the UNIDIR newsletter 37, March 1998, p 9]

An hour short of midnight, delegates to the Second PrepCom of the 2000 Review Conference emerged from open-ended consultations under the auspices of the Chair, Eugeniusz Wyzner of Poland. Some appeared quietly pleased that the PrepCom appeared to be heading for oblivion;

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1998 NPT Index

some were frustrated or angry, because even the modest gains of 1997 have been put in jeopardy; a few were complacent that the lid would stay on and the PrepCom would close with some form of lowest-common-denominator report; all were hot and tired. Disagreements are sharpest on three issues: the Middle East, security assurances and nuclear disarmament.

During the day three sets of negotiations were pursued among representatives of some 30-35 delegations (in addition to those identified in Briefing 8 are Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Netherlands, Morocco, Syria, South Korea, with a few others participating at times). The main consultations focused on trying to get agreement on around 22 paragraphs of compromise language proposed in a Chair's "non-paper" which, if accepted, would probably be destined for inclusion in paragraph 3 of the Chair's working paper. Two other groups met, under the auspices of Andelfo Garcia (Colombia) and Markku Reimaa (Finland), with a view to ascertaining whether agreement would be possible on procedural recommendations to the next PrepCom and to the 2000 Review Conference and to consider Canada's proposal that current issues should be reflected in the Chair's paper or PrepCom report.

After hours of intensive negotiations, 11 or 12 paragraphs had been agreed, with compromise language on universality, non-proliferation, NWFZ, safeguards, illegal trafficking, nuclear energy, safety and transport. Outstanding issues include several paragraphs relating to Article VI on nuclear disarmament, security assurances and proposed language on export controls and attacks against nuclear facilities. Some of the NWS want to dilute a proposed reference to the ICJ opinion 'to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects...' and water down references to fissile material stockpiles. On security assurances they would prefer to emphasise the assurances associated with NWFZ and their unilateral assurances, as well as UNSC 984 (April 1995), rather than negotiations on a legally binding treaty or protocol to the NPT.

Garcia's consultations concerned the procedures for the Third (1999) PrepCom, including whether to recommend that additional time be allocated for specific issues, as proposed by South Africa on nuclear disarmament and Egypt on the Middle East, and already provided to three issues at this second PrepCom. Despite -- or because of -- the fact that the special sessions on the FMCT, the Middle East and security assurances generated more focused papers and constructive suggestions than the generalised cluster debates, the NWS are reportedly opposing the allocation of time to any issues in the future. Their intransigence is giving rise to concern that they are seeking to roll back the precedents set by the First PrepCom in 1997, which some delegations are determined to defend. Due to further opposition from some of the NWS, Garcia's group was reportedly unable even to find language that would reflect (let alone recommend) the proposal from South Africa for establishment of a subsidiary body at the 2000 Review Conference.

Reimaa's consultations looked at Canada's proposals for the PrepCom to report on the issues which had been given particular time and attention and to have some provision for commenting on relevant issues of the day. The NWS appear set against giving the PrepComs this kind of relevant role or provision, arguing that paragraph 3 could adequately reflect any such issues as were capable of attracting agreement. Despite achieving no agreement on the concept, however, the group attempted to find language that would reflect the special sessions on FMCT, security assurances and the Middle East, the latter being the subject of difficult negotiations between Egypt and others.

The NPT Parties are due to return to the Chair's consultations on Friday morning to try to find agreement on the remaining issues. This will not be easy, as a growing number of delegations are already indicating that they will resist what they see as a concerted attempt by the nuclear weapon states to turn the review process into a mere drafting exercise. While there is still time to show a willingness to engage constructively, build on the work of the first PrepCom, and provide room to make progress on important procedural and substantive questions towards the year 2000, the optimistic mood of the first week has vanished.

Cluster Debate Summaries The cluster debates finished on Wednesday, with Article IV and the special session devoted to security assurances. Due to the fact that the cluster debates are open only to NPT Parties, it has not been possible to do more than provide a snapshot or gist of the issues, as raised. As more of the interventions become available, however, I hope to provide more extensive coverage of the substantive issues discussed during the Second PrepCom in a longer analysis which will be published in June in Disarmament Diplomacy 26.

Nuclear energy In this short debate, many statements supported the Article IV provision on nuclear energy and called for wider financial contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund. Austria, however, refused to back nuclear power and criticised the increasingly common argument that enhanced nuclear energy use is the solution to the problems of fossil fuels and climate change. Some concerns were raised about the environmental and health risks from nuclear operations and the transshipment of radioactive waste and plutonium, and several countries called for wider adherence to the various conventions on nuclear safety, and the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste, civil liability etc. Many statements welcomed the IAEA's recently published Plutonium Management Guidelines.

Both China and Iran objected to measures that went beyond the IAEA safeguards, arguing that 'peaceful uses' were still being impeded. Repeating its concerns about export controls, arguing that "these unilaterally restrictive measures had negative consequences" on the development of countries, Iran proposed that "effective transfer guidelines" be multilaterally negotiated among all supplier and recipient states. While EU states and others reiterated the importance of the export control regime to enable supplier states to comply with their Treaty obligations under Articles I and II, Britain, as current Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, also reported on the first steps being undertaken by the NSG to provide greater transparency, in line with the 1995 P&O decisions.

In response to a request made by Kyrgyzstan in the General Debate, the IAEA briefly reported on various radiological assessment studies of areas affected by nuclear production, testing, dumping or accidents, including Chernobyl, Tomsk, Moruroa and Fangataufa, Bikini Atoll, Semipalatinsk and the Arctic around the Kara and Barents Seas.

Security Assurances In the time allocated by the first PrepCom for focusing on security assurances, South Africa called for negotiations on legally binding security assurances "within the NPT umbrella, as opposed to some other forum". South Africa has also issued a working paper on security assurances in which it argues that the beneficiaries of such guarantees should be the non-nuclear weapon parties to the NPT, and that the differences between NNWS which are part of nuclear alliances and those which are not would also need to be reflected. The general NAM position favours unconditional security assurances to all NNWS, regardless. China called for a legally binding international agreement on no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against NNWS, and said there was "no reason to impose various obligations" on the NNWS. China also called for a no-first-use agreement among the NWS. Despite the frequent references in NAM countries' statements to the ad hoc committee on negative security assurances (NSA) recently established in the CD, there seems to be a growing eagerness among NAM countries to pursue this issue in the NPT context as well. Myanmar argued that a protocol to the NPT or other legally binding instrument on NSA was a goal "achievable in time for the 2000 Review Conference only if the nuclear weapon states show a greater measure of political will."

Although acknowledging the support by many States for a global NSA treaty, the United States said that the time was not ripe, but that it was "useful to continue consideration of this issue" in the CD. In the US view, "the best opportunity to make progress" on NSA was in the context of regional approaches involving NWFZ. Australia agreed, but also would not rule out the option of a protocol to the NPT. Reminding NPT Parties of the substantive work on security assurances accomplished in 1995 under the auspices of Richard Starr, as Friend of the Chair of Main Committee I, Australia attached his report, although the 1995 NPTREC's failure to agree a Final Document meant that the report could not be formally adopted.