US Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Goals: Honoring the Balance

 Event Report on Press Conference & Evening Panel
By Matt Werner
United Nations, New York
May 9, 2005

Read the UN Press Briefing

On May 9th, the Global Security Institute, in partnership with The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission and the Simons Foundation, organized events at the United Nations featuring Dr. Hans Blix, Chairman of the WMD Commission, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA), and Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA). Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, served as moderator of the guest panel, which offered a substantive and lively discussion on the subject of “U.S. Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Goals: Honoring the Balance.”

Over 120 diplomats and NGO representatives were present for the dialogue, many eager to hear a U.S. Congressional position regarding the core bargain of the NPT, which calls for non-proliferation in exchange for disarmament on the part of the five nuclear weapon states recognized under the NPT regime (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France). Of significance was that many of the key diplomats to the NPT Review Conference and Permanent Representatives to the UN were in attendance.

The timing of the event is important because it marks the beginning of the second week of negotiations in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review, a process that takes place every five years at the UN. This is the 7th review of the NPT since its inception in 1970.

A press conference was held earlier in the afternoon at the United Nations, which featured Dr. Hans Blix, Congressman Markey, and Jonathan Granoff. The panelists discussed their views on many topics including the NPT Review Conference, U.S. nuclear policy, WMD inspections and verification, North Korea, and the WMD Commission.

Mr. Granoff began the press conference by calling attention to a factual misrepresentation in a New York Times lead editorial from May 8, 2005 (reprinted in the International Herald Tribune on May 10, 2005), which stated that “the major nuclear weapons states committed themselves to reduce their own stockpiles significantly in exchange for nonnuclear states’ renouncing the ambition of joining their ranks.” He asserted that this statement is incorrect and misleading, as no such language exists in the NPT. He laid out his argument as follows:

· Such a statement is not factually correct. If it were, a credible argument that the reductions from the Cold War high of about 80,000 weapons to the current levels of about 30,000 fulfills compliance with the duties of the nuclear weapons states under the Treaty. The actual language of the document is found in Article VI which states in relevant part: Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. The obligation is nuclear disarmament, not deep reductions.

· Further, when the Treaty was extended in 1995 all states parties to the NPT agreed to: The determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons.

· Then, 1996, the International Court of Justice in analyzing duties under the Treaty and international law, determined unanimously that: There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and to bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

· And to make it unambiguous, at the Treaty’s Review Conference in 2000, all states parties to the NPT agreed to: An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI.

· In exchange for not acquiring nuclear weapons, over 180 countries were promised clear, unambiguous, incremental progress to fulfill the good faith commitment to universal legally binding nuclear disarmament. Deep reductions are only one portion of the commitment. Deep reductions that can be reversed, such as under the current agreement with Russia, do not even fulfill the good faith efforts to move toward disarmament, the core duty under the Treaty. The failures of the NPT to make the world safer rest on the shoulders of all countries that fail to live up their duties with respect to nonproliferation and disarmament.

Dr. Hans Blix began his remarks by acknowledging the success and importance of the NPT as evident in its near universal membership and the decision of several states in the past to renounce their nuclear ambitions in order to join the NPT regime. However, he expressed concern that many parties to the Treaty do not believe the U.S. is taking the “common bargain” as seriously as it had in the past. As examples cited recent U.S. statements that the 13 Practical Steps are irrelevant, the current U.S. proposals for new research on “bunker buster” technology, and how administration officials such as John Bolton have expressed open disdain for international law and treaties.

Congressman Edward Markey, Co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation, criticized current U.S. policy with respect to the NPT as being hypocritical. He stated that, “the United States cannot preach temperance from a barstool.we cannot tell the rest of the world that they should disavow an interest in nuclear weapons even as we have an administration proposing a new generation of more useful nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Markey went on to further assert that the U.S. should sign the CTBT thereby sending a clear message that it does not intend to test a new generation of nuclear weapons. He believes that this would make a very important statement to the rest of the world, particularly in light of the possibility of an imminent nuclear test by North Korea.

Congressman Markey is a current co-sponsor of House Resolution 133 titled the “Non-Proliferation Treaty Enhancement Resolution of 2005.” Among many important statements contained within, this resolution reaffirms the importance of the NPT and the need for the U.S. to not only address non-proliferation concerns but also the need to fulfill obligations contained with Article VI of the NPT calling for nuclear disarmament.

At the evening event, Congressman Weldon, Vice-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, offered his analysis of many issues, including the NPT, nonproliferation, disarmament, and his concerns regarding North Korea.

He asserted that there is a critical need for a robust public debate to take place regarding U.S. nuclear policy. In addition, he characterized the need for a dialogue “that reduces the political rhetoric between the political parties and actually has a substantive dialogue about establishing new strategic frameworks for the 21st century with less reliance on nuclear capability.”

Furthermore, citing “inconsistent foreign policy” as a problem of previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican, he asserted the need to strengthen the enforcement mechanisms within the NPT regime. “I’m a strong supporter of arms control agreements, I’m a strong supporter of the effort to reduce the use and eventually to bring down the number of nuclear weapons throughout the world but we’ve got to have a process that is consistent in its enforcement,” he stated.

Mr. Weldon believes that most members of Congress simply lack an understanding of current U.S. nuclear capabilities in the 21st century and emphasized that, “what we have to do in Washington is raise the level of awareness and debate on this issue.” He also believes that addressing this knowledge gap should be an international effort that needs to extend beyond the U.S. Congress. Accordingly, he has begun parliamentary dialogues with 12 nations, including many of the former Soviet States.

With respect to North Korea, he believes that the U.S. must have a constructive dialogue, as it is the only way to deal with the “crisis” on the Korean Peninsula. He stressed the point further by stating clearly that, “we have to have dialogue, we have to have conversation, and we have to understand that embarrassing Kim Jung Il or the Korean people publicly is not going to allow us to find an end positive solution.”

Read media coverage of the press conference.

Washington Post



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