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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Briefing 3, May 12, 1999

1999 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 3 Nuclear Disarmament (1)

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and issues relating to articles I, II and VI of the NPT have been raised in three sessions: the 10 May general debate, a general session devoted to cluster 1, and special time, which had been allocated to specific consideration of paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995 Principles and Objectives. The special session was intended to promote discussion of practical steps which might be included in a programme of action in principles and objectives for 2000 and several states took the opportunity to make concrete and interesting proposals. While the EU shared Australia's characterisation of progress on disarmament in the last five years as "impressive", Egypt summed up the majority assessment that progress had been "slight" by comparison with what was required and the post Cold War opportunities.

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All the NWS and many others gave their views, in individual or collective statements. In addition to the working paper from more than 100 NPT parties in the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (NAM), essentially the same as in 1998, there was a ground-breaking statement sponsored by the 'New Agenda Coalition' (NAC) and 25 other parties.

This briefing covers non-proliferation, testing, the CTBT, START, tactical nuclear weapons, nuclear sharing and missile defence. Briefing 4 will cover proposals for concrete programmes or proposals for action, fissile materials issues (fissban) and security assurances. Since the cluster debates are now closed to NGO participation and not all interventions were available in English or French (or were not in written form), some may have been missed.

Nuclear Weapon States

Each of the NWS reported on the progress they had made in fulfilment of their obligations under article VI. For the first time, Russia and France gave more details and figures on the cuts and measures undertaken, along the lines of the report given by the United States at the 1998 PrepCom. Britain did likewise, also issuing an information pack containing detail from its 1998 strategic defence review. The United States updated last year's report and issued two substantial fact sheets on its classic and 'non-classic' arms control approaches, including cooperative measures with Russia on safety, control, protection and accountancy. China argued that its doctrine of no-first use, rejection of deterrence concepts, and restraint in the build-up of its arsenal over the years was proof of its commitment to the Treaty, but other than that gave no information on its nuclear forces or any measures it had undertaken since 1995.

Apart from their stated commitments to the CTBT (which China, Russia and the United States have yet to ratify) and to negotiating a ban on fissile material production (fissban) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the NWS said little about further concrete steps they would be prepared to take or about how to move beyond the impasse in the START process. The United States commented that "external realities" such as "domestic and international policy factors, the global security environment, and... financial resources" were related to the process of arms control and disarmament, a point parallelled by China's remarks about "US-led NATO's... gunboat policies" not being conducive to international security and stability, and therefore jeopardising efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Dismissing those "trying to identify a new agenda" for disarmament, the United States said that "we have an existing agenda that remains to be completed".

Proliferation and Non-Compliance

Some 20 statements, including Iran, Malaysia, Brazil, Australia, the NWS and the EU on behalf of 26 European countries, raised explicit concerns about the May 1998 tests conducted by India and Pakistan. Others, such as the NAC statement, referred more obliquely to "severe setbacks" in South Asia and criticised the fact that these countries have begun echoing rationales for "minimum credible deterrence".

Although many insisted that the PrepCom and 2000 Review conference could not ignore the tests, there seemed to be a general feeling that the time for expressing condemnation, as such, was over. In considering how to address the situation, South Africa and others concurred with the view expressed by Japan, who wanted it made "abundantly clear that the demonstration of nuclear weapons capability will not bring even a hint of a reward or imply status" as a NWS. Many argued for the PrepCom and RevCon to call for full implementation of UNSC resolution 1172 adopted unanimously on June 6 1998, just after the tests. Canada also asserted that further progress on nuclear disarmament by the NWS and the "devaluation of the political significance they ascribe to nuclear weapons" would be crucial to discouraging nuclear weapons proliferation "as witnessed in South Asia". A number of statements raised concerns about Israel, which will be covered in a later briefing after the special session on the Middle East resolution.

Some statements, notably Britain and the United States also targetted non-compliance by NPT-parties Iraq and North Korea (DPRK). In the general debate, Iraq claimed there was 'abundant proof' of cooperation between the US, UK and Israel, in violation of Article I. Britain and the United States denied the accusation and directed attention instead to Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapon programme and the need to reinstate IAEA inspections there. South Korea (ROK) also emphasised non-compliance by DPRK and made a pointed reference to the special responsibilities and obligations of the NWS to comply with article I. South Korea called for the full implementation of the 1992 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.


Around 20 interventions, including the NAM, EU and NAC statements, emphasised the importance of the comprehensive test ban treaty, an explicit priority identified in the NPT preamble and the 1995 Principles & Objectives. The CTBT Organisation, set up in Vienna to prepare for the Treaty's implementation, briefed delegations on the state of readiness of the verification regime, noting that there was strong support -- both political and fiscal -- for the CTBT. Some echoed Venezuela's view that the South Asian tests had highlighted the necessity for all governments to sign and ratify the CTBT. Several announced their intention to do so before the Special 'Article XIV' Conference on entry into force, due to take place in October. Some referred to the undertakings by India and Pakistan not to impede entry into force and urged them to sign in time to participate in the Special Conference.

It was noted that of the NWS, only Britain and France had ratified. While there are growing concerns that the Clinton Administration has given up on getting the CTBT ratified this year, Russia equally disturbingly said that it had to "take into account the ratification processes of the 44 countries whose adherence was made a condition of entry into force", implying that it was waiting for others. Though China's formal position is that it will soon put the Treaty to the People's Congress for ratification, a senior Chinese official told a meeting organised by NGOs to promote the Treaty's entry into force that some countries among the 44 "could have second thoughts" in the light of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia and Washington's decision to push ahead with missile defence plans.


Notwithstanding the reports from the US and Russia on their efforts to cut their strategic arsenals, welcomed by the EU and others, many delegations expressed disappointment at the non-ratification of START II by Russia. Like the NAC, many urged both countries to move beyond the impasse and begin negotiating START III reduction levels and beyond. Switzerland also emphasised that the reductions should be made irreversible, encompassing the destruction of the warheads and missiles rather than merely their dismantlement.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

A number of statements raised concerns about tactical nuclear weapons. Countries as diverse as Canada, Finland, Switzerland, the Kyrgyz Republic and Nigeria thought that tactical nuclear weapons needed more attention. Concerned that the role of tactical nuclear weapons could increase in importance again, these delegations advocated measures ranging from greater transparency and confidence-building to unilateral reductions, preferably with "contractual verification arrangements". The NAC statement also argued for a reduction in reliance on non-strategic weapons.

Russia supported the implementation of declared unilateral initiatives on tactical nuclear weapons and proposed that all [i.e. NATO/US] tactical nuclear weapons be returned to their country of origin. China likewise proposed that "all the nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil should be withdrawn to their owner's territory".

NATO and Nuclear Sharing

Concerns about NATO have been raised in several ways. Some, notably China, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Iran, expressed anxiety about NATO's expansion, its strategic concept as confirmed in the April 1999 Washington Summit, and the bombing of Yugoslavia, which they regarded as flouting international law and threatening international security and further progress on arms control and non-proliferation. The NAM working paper, Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa focussed concern on nuclear sharing among NATO States. Egypt reiterated its proposal, echoed in the NAM paper, that the 2000 RevCon should unambiguously state that articles I and II allow for no exceptions and are binding in times of war and peace alike.

Missile Defence

China, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Mongolia raised concerns about the destabilising effect of US missile defence plans on arms control and disarmament efforts. China proposed recommendations to the 2000 Conference committing states parties to "refrain from engaging in the research or development of missile defence systems, which could upset global and regional strategic stability and... trigger off a new... arms race". Russia warned that the maintenance of and compliance with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was a prerequisite for further nuclear weapon reductions.

Written by Rebecca Johnson with assistance from Nicola Butler.