US Compliance with Article VI of the NPT, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker

US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker
4 February 2005

Bureau of Arms Control
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Washington, D.C.
Arms Control Association
Thursday, February 3, 2005
Stephen Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control

U.S. Compliance With Article VI of the NPT


The United States has long viewed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as an essential instrument of international security. The importance of this Treaty has only increased since 9/11, as our apprehensions have grown about the potential threat of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction.

We therefore view with great alarm the crisis of noncompliance that today faces the NPT. If left unaddressed, this noncompliance will threaten the credibility and viability of the Treaty itself. We find it especially troubling that countries responsible for creating this crisis, including Iran and North Korea today, and Libya and Iraq in the past, are also countries that have long been listed by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism. These countries have an established record of providing support to terrorist organizations, and we have to worry that, should they acquire nuclear weapons, they might be tempted to provide these weapons to their terrorist allies.

For these reasons, one of our chief objectives at the upcoming NPT Review Conference will be to build a consensus that strict compliance with the nonproliferation obligations of the Treaty â€" that is, Articles I, II, and III â€" is fundamental to international security, and that there must be effective and sustained international action in cases of noncompliance to enforce the Treaty and deter future would-be violators.

To strengthen compliance with the Treaty, we also will seek to build a consensus that the Additional Protocol is the new minimum safeguards standard, and that it should be universally implemented and adopted as a condition of peaceful nuclear supply.

In addition, we will seek to build a consensus that the benefits of peaceful nuclear cooperation, which are the subject of Article IV of the Treaty, should not be available to those governments in noncompliance with their nonproliferation obligations under Articles II and III. All states parties must do a better job of preventing Article IV â€" sometimes called the “excuse Articleâ€? â€" from being used to mask prohibited activities, or to claim immunity from punitive measures once prohibited activities are uncovered.

Of course, when we begin to talk about compliance with the NPT, we often hear charges that the nuclear weapons states in general, and the United States in particular: are not making enough progress toward the goal of nuclear disarmament; are not taking specific steps deemed important to nuclear disarmament; or, in the extreme, are not complying with their obligations under Article VI of the NPT. Even worse, some claim that poor performance by the nuclear weapons states under Article VI explains, or even excuses, violations of the Treaty by such countries as Iran and North Korea. Such thinking is not only, misguided, it is dangerous. The fact is that these countries’ violations are a serious threat to international peace and security, and require a strong international response -- regardless of how Article VI implementation is perceived. But these charges against the United States are utterly without foundation, and therefore this entire debate is a regrettable distraction from the real compliance issues that confront the NPT and threaten the security of all nations.

What Article VI Requires

I’ve been asked today to address U.S. compliance with Article VI of the NPT. Critics of U.S. compliance with Article VI point in many directions to make their case against us, but the one direction in which they almost never point is the text of Article VI itself. One might think this a bit odd, considering that our legal obligations under the NPT are defined in the Treaty text. But it is also understandable, because even a cursory review of the Treaty text leaves so little doubt about our compliance with the obligations set forth in Article VI that our critics would have little to complain about if they restricted themselves to arguments based on the text of that article. So, typically, they skip over Article VI itself and rely instead on authorities outside the Treaty text itself, such as policy declarations, government pronouncements, and the academic literature.