Arjun Makhijani, 917-734-2132 (cell);
Daryl Kimball, 202-546-0795, ext. 136
(United Nations, New York) On the opening day of the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a group of 75 civil society representatives from 19 countries called upon NPT States Parties to "redouble efforts to work together to advance progress toward fulfillment of Article VI of the Treaty." In a letter delivered to the heads of state of all NPT member states and India, Pakistan and Israel, the non-governmental organizations said ".it is essential that consensus be found among States Parties on new Benchmarks and Goalsfor action over the next five years." Article VI of the 1968 NPT obligates the nuclear weapon
states to "the cessation of the nuclear arms race ... and to nuclear disarmament."
The signatories, who include former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, former Russian NPT negotiator Roland Timerbaev, and retired Admiral L Ramdas, Former Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy, said that while some progress has been achieved since the 1995 NPT review, a new nuclear arms race is on the horizon and ".new nuclear dangers have emerged in South Asia, the Middle East, North East Asia and elsewhere. and key elements of the Treaty, particularly those relating to Article VI, remain unfulfilled." The letter notes that the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning Article VI, states that: "there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."
"Nuclear non-proliferation depends on progress on nuclear disarmament, and nuclear disarmament is made possible by effective non-proliferation efforts and norms. It is vital that the nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT reaffirm their legal obligation to nuclear disarmament by explicitly accepting the World Court's interpretation of the treaty. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, it is vital that they be seen as respecting the rule of law in the nuclear arena," said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
The civil society appeal reinforces recommendations for nuclear risk reduction from the New Agenda Coalition states, including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden.
The letter to NPT delegates also calls for: "Immediate action by the Russian Federation and the United States of America to implement the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II and conclude and implement START III at an early date. Following the prompt conclusion of START III, the other nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT and other states that may possess nuclear weapons should join in the process of reducing their nuclear arsenals, with the goal of eliminating all nuclear forces." This month, Russia finally ratified the START II agreement, but differences over U.S. plans for national missile defenses threaten to delay its implementation and the conclusion of a follow-on START III agreement.
The non-governmental experts letter also calls upon states to agree to adopt ".policies that diminish the role of nuclear weapons in order to create a stable atmosphere for disarmament and contribute to international confidence and security." Even after START II, the U.S. and Russia will retain thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, poised for mass attack, with decision-makers having just minutes to decide whether to launch thousands of nuclear-armed missiles. The U.S. and Russia will still possess thousands more tactical nuclear weapons and thousands of nuclear weapons held in "reserve."
"In this context," say the 75 Signatories of the letter, "all nuclear capable states, whether or not they are parties to the NPT, should take early steps to eliminate all tactical nuclear weapons from their arsenals, [and] proceed to the de-alerting and removal of all nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles."
The group of signatories, also call upon all states to agree to ". pursue the immediate and unconditional signature and ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by all States, and, pending the entry into force of the Treaty, respect the letter and spirit of CTBT by ceasing the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and committing not to produce new types of nuclear weapons." Fifty-five states have ratified the CTBT so far, including 28 of the 44 states needed for its entry into force. The U.S. Senate failed to approve the Treaty on October 13, 1999.
"The CTBT is a vital step toward ending a new nuclear arms race between the superpowers and in South Asia. Its promise can only be fulfilled if key states exercise the political leadership needed to secure its entry into force and to refrain from misusing advanced technologies to build new bombs without the aid of nuclear explosions," said Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers.
Addressing one of the most controversial topics at the NPT Conference, the civil society letter calls upon NPT states to agree to ". refrain from actions that will aid or abet missile proliferation. [and] adherence by States Parties to all obligations under the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty." The United States is pursuing a costly and technologically unproven "limited" missile defense system that threatens to undermine bilateral nuclear arms reductions and begin a new arms race.
The civil society letter also called upon states to agree to: end production of weapons-usable fissile materials and tritium; put all fissile materials declared to be in excess of military requirements and all commercial and research nuclear facilities under appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards; the conclusion of legally-binding assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the NPT against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and implementation of existing Nuclear-Weapon Free Zones and the establishment of additional Nuclear-Weapon Free Zones, especially in regions of tension, such as the Middle East.
"To advance the international disarmament dialogue beyond the NPT Conference this month, all states should agree to the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and other appropriate subsidiary bodies at the Conference on Disarmament to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," said Ambassador Roland Timerbaev of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia.