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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 44, March 2000

Secretary of State Albright on NPT

"Time to renew faith in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty", International Herald Tribune, March 7, 2000.

"Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the landmark Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, perhaps the most important multilateral arms control agreement in history. It is the bedrock of global efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons.

Under the nonproliferation treaty, 182 non-nuclear-weapon states agreed to forgo any pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the five nuclear-weapon states agreed not to help others acquire nuclear arms.

All parties to the treaty agreed to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation and to pursue good faith negotiations toward nuclear disarmament.

This is a treaty that by all accounts works. It has had many successes in preventing proliferation, facilitating nuclear cooperation and promoting arms control and disarmament.

In the last 10 years, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa all renounced their nuclear ambitions and joined the treaty, providing assurances that their nuclear energy programs were peaceful.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, only one nuclear-weapon state emerged, Russia. All the other newly independent states joined the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states, and all nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan were returned to Russia.

Today all but Cuba, India, Israel and Pakistan are parties to the treaty.

The past decade, however, has not been trouble-free. The most serious challenge to the regime came in 1991 with the discovery that Iraq, a party to the treaty, had a secret program to develop nuclear weapons. Just a few years later the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered that North Korea was concealing the full extent of its nuclear program.

The nonproliferation treaty weathered both those storms, including North Korea's attempt to withdraw from the treaty. Instead of abandoning the fight, member states rallied together to strengthen the system of nuclear inspections.

Most importantly, treaty parties agreed in New York in 1995 to extend the treaty, without conditions, indefinitely.

Permanent extension of the treaty opened a new and more hopeful chapter in our history. It reminded us, despite our varying views on how well we have implemented our commitments, that we share a common goal - to make every effort to avert the danger of a nuclear war.

Next month the parties will meet again to review progress in achieving the goals set out by the treaty. There is likely to be much debate on the effectiveness of the nonproliferation norm and the pace of nuclear disarmament. A thorough, balanced debate can reaffirm the importance of the treaty as a whole.

We have had some setbacks since the last review in 1995- from the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests to continued Iraqi defiance of the UN Security Council and aggressive procurement efforts by some determined proliferators. On the other hand, we have made clear progress in helping to keep the ex-Soviet stockpile under control, in implementing modern systems of export controls, in freezing North Korean plutonium production, in strengthening compliance mechanisms, in establishing additional regional nonproliferation arrangements and in expanding adherence to the treaty. We have also made steady progress toward the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

In 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed on the outlines of a START-3 treaty that would cut arsenals by 80 percent from their Cold War peaks. Independently of those negotiations, both countries continue to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. Since 1988, the United States has dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear warheads - more than half of the US nuclear warhead stockpile.

The United States is also working closely with Russia on ways to dispose of military plutonium and on the shutdown of military plutonium production reactors. The United States itself has not produced fissile material for nuclear weapons since it unilaterally halted production in 1992.

In that year, the United States also stopped testing nuclear weapons, even before negotiations began for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. And it will continue to work for negotiations on a treaty that would ban for all time the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives.

At the review conference in New York, the US failure to ratify the test ban treaty will surely be held up by some states as a misstep on the road toward disarmament. The United States, however, remains committed to bringing the test ban treaty into force and to maintaining its test moratorium.

We are seeking a constructive dialogue with the US Senate which we hope will eventually lead to the treaty's ratification.

Looking forward, the nuclear danger clearly has not ended. We have a long way to go on the road to disarmament, to universal acceptance of nonproliferation norms and full compliance with non-proliferation commitments. But we cannot get there without a strong non-proliferation treaty. We urge all nations to help preserve and reinforce this important treaty."

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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