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Power and Security Assurances
By Jenni Rissanen and Rebecca Johnson

Sixth NPT Review Conference, Briefing No 15, May 16, 2000

Briefing # 15 continues with an update on the Main Committee II and III issues (safeguards and nuclear energy) being addressed during closed informal sessions and President's Consultations on May 15 and 16. As discussed in Briefing # 14, Markku Reimaa (Finland) and Adam Kobieracki (Poland) have coordinated informal meetings to resolve some of the outstanding issues on safeguards and nuclear energy, especially the transhipment of nuclear materials, liability, technical cooperation and the controversial relation asserted between nuclear energy and sustainable development. In addition, this briefing gives an overview of discussions on negative and positive security assurances during the NPT Conference.

Nuclear Energy

Reimaa has been doing well with his MC.III issues. It now looks as if all but two or three issues have been agreed, although sometimes at the expense of their meaningfulness. Austria, Sweden and others who had been opposing Iraq and Iran's attempts to add specific language emphasizing a country's right to nuclear-power production within the context of sustainable development, are now apparently close to an agreement. However, Samoa, representing the Pacific Island nations, still has doubts about the current proposed language. New Zealand now also seems to be standing alone in its hesitation to compromise over the intensely debated question of liability for nuclear-related damage. New Zealand wants there to be an acknowledgement that economic damage could be done to tourist or fisheries-based economies as a result of nuclear accidents or events even if actual serious contamination was avoided. France, however, reportedly feels that it has gone as far as it can go in meeting New Zealand's and others' concerns. The dispute over the text on the IAEA's technical co-operation fund now seems to have been resolved. Iran disliked the reference to 'voluntary' contributions to the co-operation fund fearing that 'voluntary' would imply that some countries could impose conditions on their contributions. As a compromise, the word 'voluntary' was kept and a reference to the IAEA Statute was added, meeting Iran's concerns. It is understood that China wanted to add a reference to a 'target budget' for the future. This was accepted but without the promise of an increased budget that China wanted as well. All in all, however, it looks as if the Main Committee III issues will soon be resolved. Whether the content sufficiently reflects majority views in civil society beyond the Conference walls is a rather different matter.

Safeguards and Export Controls

Kobieracki had also been continuing work in informal sessions and break-out or working groups, seeking compromises to clean up the contested language in MC.II's report. It is said that the report now contains at least four or more clean safeguards-related paragraphs after Tuesday's consultations. Among the issues that now appear to have been resolved is the question of protection of a State's rights in case of alleged non-compliance not verified by the IAEA. The NAM agreed to remove the reference to non-compliance verification by the IAEA. The question of the IAEA's access to the UN Security Council was solved with a reference to the UN Charter. The NWS also agreed to keep the scope of their additional protocols to their voluntary safeguards agreements "under review", as wanted by many NNWS. However, there remain a number of sticky, outstanding issues, such as export controls, in the MC.II basket which still defy the best attempts to get agreement.

Security Assurances

More than 25 States Parties spoke on security assurances or guarantees during the general debate. Many expressed their disappointment that the CD had not started negotiations on a legally binding treaty to assure non-nuclear-weapon-states (NNWS) against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and emphasised the necessity of getting the negotiations underway as soon as possible. Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia said that the UN Security Council resolution 984 (1995) on security assurances (in which the five NWS described the conditions under which they would assist a country attacked with nuclear weapons and noted the separate, unilateral statements made by each to the CD in April 1995) did not suffice. Thailand called security assurances "a good starting point" for the NWS to fulfil their Article VI obligations and Belarus argued that since the NNWS had renounced nuclear weapons it was necessary to give them binding assurances against attacks with those weapons. South Africa was disappointed to once again find itself expressing regret about the failure and delays in providing the NNWS with reliable assurances. Canada called the impasse on this issue in the Conference on Disarmament "inexcusable". Mexico said the New Agenda Coalition wanted NNWS to be provided with negative security assurances at an early date.

Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned States Parties (NAM), called for negotiations on a legal instrument and proposed that it be annexed to the NPT. Kazakhstan also proposed that a protocol be annexed to the Treaty. The European Union (EU) recognised that security assurances were a way of addressing countries' security concerns, and said that it was ready to pursue the issue further. Armenia believed that security assurances could induce countries to join and comply with the NPT.

France felt that it had met the NNWS's concerns by having given assurances through the UNSC resolution 984 and by having ratified the protocols of nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) Treaties. Iran and Nigeria opposed confining security assurances to NWFZ, and Iran emphasised that they should not be made conditional in any way. Responding to the calls for a treaty on security assurances, the United States argued that "the fact is that there is no consensus that would allow such ideas to be accepted", and encouraged States not to "spend time trying to accomplish the unachievable". Instead, the United States, referring to past resolutions, unilateral declarations and NWFZ Treaties, wanted States to pay more attention to the "record of progress on security assurances."

China, Egypt, the EU, the NAM, the NATO-5 (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway) and Switzerland addressed security assurances in their working papers. China, the only NWS with a no-first-use policy, urged the other nuclear powers to renounce their first-use policies and to commit themselves to no-first-use and conclude an international legal instrument to this effect. In addition, China called for unconditional negative security assurances for NWFZs. Switzerland, in its proposal for "elements for a new action plan", called for the intensification of efforts towards legally binding global security assurances as a practical measure towards the implementation of Article VI. The NATO-5 rather modestly proposed that States Parties agree to agree that legally binding security assurances by the NWS "would strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime." Switzerland wanted security assurances to be made unconditional and to apply to all NPT parties without exception and without any reservations relating to chemical or biological weapons, such as expressed by the United States when signing the protocol to the Pelindaba Treaty governing the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Regarding positive security assurances (whereby the NWS promise to come to the aid of any country attacked with nuclear weapons) as the corollary of negative assurances, Switzerland called for a treaty on positive as well as negative security assurances, as a means of completing and reinforcing the existing assurances.

Egypt, in an extensive working paper on the issue, urged the NPT Conference to call upon the UN Security Council to continue considering the issue and to address seven principles: the recognition of the threat nuclear weapons pose; a trigger mechanism to ensure Security Council response to threats or attacks; a commitment by the Council to take effective collective measures to prevent such threats and suppress aggression involving nuclear weapons; the renunciation by the P-5 of the their veto-power in the Council with regard to security assurances; the commencement of negotiations in the CD on a legally binding treaty; an unconditional commitment by the NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those NNWS party to the NPT that do not possess or place nuclear weapons in their territories; and finally an undertaking in a joint statement by the NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NNWS party to the NPT or NWFZ "at any time or under any circumstances" pending negotiations and adoption of a legally binding treaty.

The language calling for negotiations on a legally binding treaty on security assurances proposed by the Chair of MC.I, Ambassador Camilo Reyes of Colombia, was viewed as unacceptable to the NWS. Britain made an attempt to bridge the differences of view between the NWS and NNWS with a proposal that was rejected by many NNWS as too vague -- a 'talks about talks' proposal. Britain suggested that the Review Conference recognise the reaffirmation of UNSC resolution 984 by the NWS and that the issue remains "of continuing concern" to the Security Council. Furthermore, it wanted the Conference to welcome the "commitment of the [NWS] to exchange views" relating to the positive security assurances contained in the resolution. The NWS would "commit themselves to the pursuit" of considering security assurances to NNWS party to the NPT.

Brazil, however, said the UK language would be a step backward when in fact it was time to build on the language from 1995. Questioning where such an "exchange of views" would take place and who would take part, Brazil expressed the fear that the NNWS would not be invited to the NWS' "private tea party". The Philippines felt Britain's proposal would "flunk" if it were to be put to the test. Myanmar (Burma) was supported by many NNWS when it said that nuclear powers should not have any problem in reaffirming the language agreed in 1995. Germany suggested looking at the NATO-5 language on security assurances as a compromise. The NATO-5 paper, which was subsequently backed by Finland, Sweden, Spain and Denmark, merely stated that legally binding security assurances "would strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime". Britain said it had taken note that many States felt that the Conference should, at a minimum, preserve what was agreed in 1995. The US "saw merit" in the UK proposal, and Russia expressed a readiness to reaffirm the 1995 language if the UK language was unacceptable to others.

The report of MC.I contained six paragraphs on security assurances, in which the Conference would affirm the UN Charter principle under which States must refrain from using force against each other and that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is "the only genuine guarantee" against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The text also reaffirms the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision that further measures "could" take the form of a treaty, which had reflected the different views in the debate at that time (and now). The text then proposes that the Preparatory Committee be directed to develop such an instrument for the next Review Conference to consider. In addition, the report "notes" that an ad hoc committee was established in the CD, and that there is a need for the unconditional commitment by all NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NNWS and to conclude an international instrument to that effect. In an effort to recognise the NWS' commitments so far, the current text also recognises "the important role" that NWFZ and their protocols have had in extending negative security assurances. However, it also underlines the importance of bringing those assurances into effect, thus reflecting concerns by those NNWS that are still waiting for the NWS to conclude their protocol ratification processes.

Written by Jenni Rissanen and Rebecca Johnson, with assistance from Mary Beth Nikitin.

During the NPT Rebecca Johnson and Jenni Rissanen can be contacted at mobile phone 917 302 2822 and fax 212 935 7690.

2000 The Acronym Institute.

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