Sixth NPT Review Conference
If “the multilateral disarmament machinery has started to rust,” as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the opening session of the current NPT Review Conference, is this the conference that will manage to get some grease to its wheels? The answer to that question is still far from clear, but for those willing to venture a view, the venerable old phrase “cautious optimism” seems to be the one most often turned to. Speaker after speaker has given a good-news-bad-news account of recent developments – real reductions in nuclear arsenals, for example, coupled with reassertions of nuclear first-use and deterrence doctrines – while expressing the expectation that the conference will extract from States a renewed commitment to the disarmament obligations defined by the NPT.
Let the negotiations begin:
Approaching its mid-point, the debate in the NPT Review Conference has moved from plenary statements into three thematic “main” committees. Main Committee I (MC I) is dealing broadly with disarmament; MC II attends to safeguards, non-proliferation topics such as export controls and physical protection, nuclear-weapon-free-zones, and regional issues; and MC III is focussed on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Once the opening statements in each of the main committees have been heard, each of the chairs will offer draft texts and the delegates will turn to the more focussed work of negotiating common texts that restate shared commitments and that define a common action program for the next five years.
Two additional forums have also been established. Under MC I, “subsidiary body 1” will hold four meetings to address “practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI,” with a particular focus on the obligation of Nuclear Weapon States to pursue with determination “the ultimate goal of eliminating” their nuclear weapons (as re-stated in the 1995 Review Conference). “Subsidiary body 2” under MC II, and chaired by Canada’s Ambassador for Disarmament, Christopher Westdal, has been given the thorny task of building a consensus response to “regional issues,” including especially the implementation of the 1995 Middle East
resolution, which called, among other things, on the states of the region “to take practical steps …towards…the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological.” Add to that issues related to nuclear developments in South Asia and one is once again drawn to familiar phrases and metaphors about rough waters and treacherous shoals. Amb. Westdal has four meetings to bring the issues to a safe harbour.
Canada’s key objectives:
Canada has now made opening statements in each of the three Main Committees, elaborating on the priority objectives outlined in the earlier statement to the plenary by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy:
– agreement on an updated five-year disarmament and non-proliferation action plan (including bringing the CTBT into force, commencement of negotiations toward a ban on the production of fissile materials, further START arms reductions, maintain the integrity of the ABM Treaty, promotion of universal and comprehensive safeguards to control the flow of nuclear weapons materials and technology, and improved verification and inspectionof nuclear facilities);
– promote the universality of the NPT through efforts to bring the four states remaining outside the NPT – Cuba, India, Israel, and Pakistan – into full membership and compliance with the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states;
– a strengthened NPT review process, including the increased participation of the NGO community; and
– greater transparency in nuclear disarmament, nationally, bilaterally, and multilaterally.
Main Committee I disarmament statement:
In MC I Amb. Westdal emphasized an integrated action plan – “without disarmament, we will have proliferation” – and set out a number of additional measures by which the member states, especially the nuclear weapon states (NWS), can demonstrate both commitment and progress toward the disarmament obligations that are central to the Treaty, including:
– accelerated START III negotiations (on strategic and tactical weapons) which draw the other three NWS into the process;
– changes in nuclear doctrine and operations to enhance safety and security at reduced numerical and alert levels;
– the preservation of the ABM Treaty and its contribution to strategic stability;
– the establishment of a standing mechanism within the CD to discuss outer space issues, especially non-weaponization;
– CTBT entry into force and a universal affirmation of “the ending of all nuclear explosive testing, in all environments, for all time;”
– measures in the CD to address both the non-proliferation and disarmament aspects of the control of fissile materials through negotiations toward a ban on further production and measures to deal with existing stocks.
Canada elaborated on these measures in a MC I working paper on “selected elements of a Programme of Action,” and presented a proposal for “increased NGO access and participation and enhanced media awareness” as means of strengthening the NPT review process.
Main Committee II statement on IAEA safeguards:
Canada’s statement to MC II emphasized that IAEA safeguards administered under Article III of the treaty are a fundamental pillar of the non-proliferation regime, and called on the 54 states parties that have not yet concluded a safeguards agreement to rectify that situation as soon as possible so as to demonstrate “universal adherence” to and “unanimous support” for the NPT. The statement also supported the view that states not party to the NPT should nevertheless enter into comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA.
Canada also emphasized that states must comply fully with the requirements of their respective safeguards agreements. The IAEA’s inability to verify North Korea’s compliance with the Treaty, and the fact that since December 1998 the IAEA has been unable to implement its mandate in Iraq pursuant to the relevant Security Council resolutions, were noted with concern.
Canada stressed the importance of acknowledging the progress made over the last five years by the IAEA secretariat and its member states in strengthening the effectiveness an in improving the efficiency of the agency’s safeguards system. It noted the importance of continued work with respect to the integration of the new measures, particularly those in the model additional protocol, with the existing measures.
The NPT Review Conference was asked to urge transparency in nuclear-related export controls within a framework of dialogue and co-operation among interested states parties to the NPT. Canada also encouraged all states parties to ratify the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material.
Canada reaffirmed support for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones, welcomed the new zones in South East Asia and Africa, and urged further efforts, particularly in regions of tension such as the Middle East and South Asia, to establish additional NWFZs.
Main Committee III statement on nuclear energy:
The statement reviewed the NPT’s focus on international cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the context of commitments to disarmament and non-proliferation. Canada has concluded binding bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with 38 countries which provide assurances, additional to established NPT commitments, that cooperation will be used only for peaceful, non-explosive end-uses. Canada views such bilateral agreements to be practical expressions of NPT commitments and encouraged the review conference to endorse such instruments.
Identifying nuclear safety and the storage and disposal of nuclear waste as “two of the most important issues facing peaceful nuclear cooperation,” Canada encouraged the review conference to reaffirm the objective that “all States should, through rigorous national measures and international cooperation, maintain the highest practicable levels of nuclear safety, including nuclear fuel waste management, and observe standards and guidelines in nuclear materials accounting, physical protection and transport of nuclear materials.”
Canada also encouraged the conference to endorse efforts within the G-7 Nuclear Safety Working Group to improve the safety and operations of nuclear power reactors in Central and Eastern Europe, and to urge all States which operate or are planning nuclear power reactors to join the Nuclear Safety Convention and participate in its next Review Meeting. The entry into force of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radio Active Waste Management was identified as a priority, and all states were urged to join the Conventions on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident or
Canada asked the conference to affirm the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in facilitating nuclear cooperation and ensuring that it is only for peaceful non-explosive purposes and to call on States to make every effort to ensure that the agency has the financial and human resources needed to effectively meeting its responsibilities in the areas of technical cooperation, safeguards, nuclear energy and safety.
Finally, Canada pointed out that NPT Article V concerning peaceful nuclear explosions has been overtaken by Article VIII of the CTBT, which prohibits such explosions.
Statement of the five NWS:
The joint statement of the five nuclear weapon states has been the subject of frequent commentary, by NGOs and other states alike. The NWS declaration, including their assertion of an “unequivocal commitment to the ultimate goals of a complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” was welcomed by many, especially as an indication of their common effort to make a positive contribution to the Review Conference. Canada noted particular elements with approval, including the affirmation of the ABM Treaty “as a cornerstone of strategic stability,” and welcomed the
declaration of de-targeting as a first step toward de-alerting and de-mating of nuclear forces.
NGOs in a roundtable table with conference delegates argued that the continuing use of the term “ultimate,” and the implied linkage between nuclear and general and complete disarmament, are attempts to delay action on the Treaty’s Article VI obligation to the final stages of general and complete disarmament. In that context, attention was drawn to Canada’s statement in MC I that nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament are not linked obligations under Article VI of the NPT, but are two distinct undertakings. States are thus obliged by the Treaty “to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ both, ‘on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,’ and also, ‘on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.’ The first of these commitments,” the Canadian statement points out, “is not conditional upon the achievement of the second.” This matter was the subject of a working paper which Canada submitted to the May 1999 NPT PrepCom.
Statement by the “New Agenda Coalition”:
The other joint statement calling for “unequivocal” action, this one by the seven states referred to as the “new agenda coalition,” was also widely welcomed by other states and especially by NGOs. This call was to the NWS to “make an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and, in the course of the forthcoming review period 2000-20005, to engage in an accelerated process of negotiations and to take steps leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States Parties are committed under article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” The NAC statement went on to identify a range of issues relevant to the success of the Review Conference, including:
– lessening the role of nuclear weapons in security policies,
– involving all NWS in nuclear strategic arms reduction talks,
– preserving the integrity of the ABM Treaty,
– reducing and eliminating tactical nuclear weapons,
– transparency, and
– promoting the universality of NPT.
Many NGOs identified the NAC agenda as providing a realistic set of benchmarks for measuring the success of the Review conference, and Canada noted the extensive overlap in the measures it had put before the conference and those put forward by the NAC. Canada also noted that the NAC paper had been refined as a result of consultations with other states and expressed the expectation that major elements of the NAC document will find their way into a proposed final product of the Review Conference.
NGO statements in Plenary:
The afternoon of May 3 was devoted to statements by NGOs. In a prefatory statement, the 14 statements on a wide range of issues and from around the world were described as being “part of a collective spirit…that calls for the full and complete abolition of nuclear weapons and their infrastructure, the safe and responsible care of radioactive materials, and the development of an engaged democratic process regarding nuclear decision making.”
The Mayor of Nagasaki, Mr. Iccho Itoh, told delegates that the use of nuclear weapons is in violation of international law on grounds that “attacks on civilian communities, the infliction of unnecessary suffering, and the destruction of the natural environment are prohibited.” He pointed out the ICJ opinion that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law,” and concluded: “Now is the time for the nuclear states to announce their political commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Earth and to begin negotiations for the swift conclusion of a Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty that will ban the development, manufacture, testing, deployment and use of all nuclear weapons.”
Lisbeth Gronlund of the Union of Concerned Scientists focussed on the proposed US National Missile Defense system, pointing out that “the pursuit of invulnerability implicit in national missile defence is more likely to increase rather than decrease threats to U.S. and international security,” inasmuch as Russia and China would feel compelled to respond with increased and enhanced forces and, in the case of Russia, a continued and dangerous launch on warning alert posture that would enhance insecurity. She advocated measures to delegitimize the use of ballistic missiles: “Countries should begin work on a regime to reduce and eventually eliminate ballistic missiles
entirely except for space-launch purposes. An important and visible step would be a missile flight-test ban, which would halt ballistic missile development. ”
Other speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, Jonathon Schell with an eloquent deconstruction of the concept of deterrence, Lawyer Peter Weiss, the Indian journalist and author Achin Vanaik, and Alice Slater of Abolition 2000. Admiral L Ramdas (Ret.), the former Chief of the Indian Naval Staff, concluded the presentations with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The only moral which can be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it shall not be destroyed by counter bombs. Violence cannot be destroyed by counter violence.”