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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

03 May 2005

U.S. Proposes Withholding Nuclear Benefits from NPT Violators

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference opens

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The seventh Review Conference of the Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opened May 2 at a time of heightened concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons, as well as the challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program and North Korea's withdrawal from the treaty regime -- the first such withdrawal in the NPT's 35-year history.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker, focusing on the threats posed by North Korea and Iran, asked the conference to endorse a U.S. proposal that no state should receive help to develop its peaceful nuclear programs if it tries to develop nuclear weapons.

"We must remain mindful that the treaty will not continue to advance our security in the future if we do not successfully confront the current proliferation challenges.  Our common obligation is clear," Rademaker told the opening session.

"This conference offers us the opportunity to expand our understanding of these critical challenges and to seek common ground on ways to respond," he said.

The treaty's language is "explicit and unambiguous," Rademaker said.  "States asserting their right to receive the benefits of peaceful nuclear development must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under Articles I and II of the NPT.  No state in violation of Articles I or II should receive the benefits of Article IV.  All nuclear assistance to such a state, bilaterally or through the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], should cease."

Rademaker, head of the U.S. delegation, cited the problems with North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program, the nuclear black market network of A.Q. Khan, and the efforts of terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction as major issues facing the NPT.

While the Khan network has been disbanded, he said, "we are still uncovering and repairing the damage it has wrought upon the nuclear nonproliferation regime.  It is imperative that no other networks take its place."

Every possible step must be taken to thwart terrorists, Rademaker said.  "This means improving the security of nuclear materials, stopping illicit nuclear trafficking, strengthening safeguards, establishing and enforcing effective export controls, and acting decisively to dismantle terrorist networks everywhere."

The United States "remains committed to universal adherence to the NPT," the assistant secretary said.  "We hope that countries outside will join the treaty, which they can do only as non-nuclear weapon states."

The conference at U.N. headquarters in New York will run from May 2 to 27.  It brings together top officials from the 188 states that are party to the NPT -- the most widely adhered-to multilateral disarmament agreement -- to undertake a formal five-year review.  A plenary and three main committees will examine various aspects of the treaty in depth.  While decisions taken at the review conference are not legally binding on the parties to the treaty, it is an important forum for focusing world attention on the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Under the terms of the treaty, the five nuclear weapons states -- the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia -- pledge to move toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons (Article I) while the nonnuclear states pledge not to pursue them (Article II).  Three other nuclear states -- India, Pakistan, and Israel -- are not parties to the treaty.  The treaty also guarantees that countries without nuclear weapons will have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Rademaker also discussed President Bush's plan to prevent further proliferation, which includes restricting the export of sensitive technologies, creating a special safeguards committee of the IAEA, strengthening the initiative to intercept and prevent illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction, and expanding U.S. and Russian efforts to eliminate and secure sensitive materials.

"We cannot afford to be complacent," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said as he opened the review conference.  "As custodians of the NPT, you must come to terms with all the nuclear dangers that threaten humanity," he said, including the possibility of a deadly nuclear detonation, increased threats of terrorism, the discovery of clandestine nuclear programs, and the emergence of the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market.

The secretary-general challenged the conference to accept that disarmament, nonproliferation and the right to peaceful uses are "all too important to be held hostage to the politics of the past" and to acknowledge that they all impose responsibilities on all states.

As the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons has been more pronounced, "the universal obligation for all states to establish effective national controls and enforcement measures has increased," Annan said.

The secretary-general asserted that the Vienna-based IAEA should be given more authority in inspections and verifying compliance with the treaty.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, who also addressed the conference, proposed putting nuclear fuel production under either regional or international control and called for a temporary moratorium on new nuclear fuel cycle facilities while new international controls are negotiated.

ElBaradei summed up the NPT in two words:  security and development.  He spoke of the weaknesses in the NPT regime including the acquisition of sensitive nuclear know-how by more and more countries, the limitations of IAEA's verification authority, and the imbalance between the nuclear haves and have-nots.

"Unless we regard the treaty as part of a living, dynamic regime capable of evolving to match changing realities, it will fade into irrelevance and leave us vulnerable and unprotected," ElBaradei said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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