United Nations Meets to Discuss Non-Proliferation Treaty

* The United Nations Preparatory Committee met in New York City recently to discuss the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Committee met in preparation for the 2005 NPT review conference.

The NPT was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. The objective of the NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated in the Committee in order to educate international delegates about the nuclear weapons complex and ways in which citizens are actively working toward disarmament. Many such participating organizations judge this year to be critical for the NPT, considering that both the U.S. and Great Britain have recently proposed initiatives that would increase nuclear weapons research, design and production in both nations.

For example, the classified U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, which was released in 2002, advocates nuclear weapons of new and advanced designs, such as the low-yield usable nuclear weapon and the robust nuclear earth penetrator. The review also proposes that the U.S. shorten the amount of time necessary to resume nuclear weapons testing in Nevada from 36 to 18 months. Such a change would be directly contrary to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, of which the U.S. is a signatory.

Meanwhile, Great Britain also intends to prepare for further research, design and testing. This includes design of a successor to the Trident nuclear missile.

NGOs are concerned that nuclear weapon states are attempting to overlook the requirements of the NPT to disarm in favor of requirements to curb proliferation. Disarmament would require that the nuclear weapons states relinquish their current arsenals and cease all design and production of further weapons, whereas non-proliferation simply requires these states to ensure that no further countries acquire nuclear weapons.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution recently that further enunciates this distinction. Rhianna Tyson, of the Womenıs International League for Peace and Freedom, said, "The resolution...struck a blow to the delicate balance between disarmament and non-proliferation by failing to reaffirm the intrinsic link between the two indivisible goals."

In fact, many NGOs and international delegates believe that the failure of nuclear weapon states to disarm is the impetus for the desire of non-weapon states to acquire weapons. Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, Brazilian Ambassador at Large for Disarmament and Non-proliferation Matters, said, "The whole edifice of disarmament and non-proliferation has been undermined by the emergence of new strategic and military doctrines based on the development of new nuclear weapons, and on [the] possibility of the use of such weapons on a preemptive basis, even against non-nuclear weapon states. This is a clear example of how those who treasure nuclear weapons can easily have the impulse to seek new motives to stick to them. But one cannot worship in the altar of nuclear weapons and raise heresy charges against those who want to join the sect."

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