2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference: Key Issues and Implications
The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, is the centerpiece of international nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The NPT recognizes five nations (the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China) as nuclear-weapon states; 189 countries are parties to the NPT. India, Israel, and Pakistan have never signed the treaty and possess nuclear weapons. North Korea acceded to the NPT but announced its withdrawal in 2003. Several countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa, ended their nuclear weapons programs and joined the NPT in the 1990s. Others--Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan--gave up former Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories and joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states in the 1990s. Iraq had a nuclear weapons program prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. UN inspectors subsequently oversaw the program's dismantlement, and Iraq is now in full compliance with the NPT. Libya gave up a clandestine nuclear weapons program after a 2003 agreement. Iran was found in noncompliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards obligations in 2005, and the matter was referred to the UN Security Council. The IAEA has reported that Syria has not fully cooperated with an investigation into its nuclear activities. There are three key dimensions, or 'pillars, ' of the NPT: nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In exchange for non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) pledging not to acquire nuclear weapons, they are guaranteed access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. For their part, the NPT nuclear-weapon states agree to pursue nuclear disarmament and not assist another country in developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA implements the treaty in as far as it is responsible for monitoring the peaceful use of nuclear energy and providing technical assistance to states. Events in the past decade have stressed the nonproliferation regime. Revelations about illicit procurement networks, advancements in India and Pakistan's nuclear arsenals, North Korea's nuclear tests, Iran's defiance of UN Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear program and noncompliance with IAEA safeguards, and questions about the Syrian nuclear program have all contributed to uncertainty over the robustness of the regime. There has been increased interest in nuclear power, placing additional resource demands on the IAEA. The United States and Russia continue formal efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals. At the same time, several states have given up their nuclear weapons programs during the past decade, and countries have been working together to prevent illicit nuclear transfers and improve nuclear security. Many see the 2010 NPT Review Conference, beginning on May 3, 2010, as an important test of the viability of the treaty and how it will evolve to meet new challenges. History suggests that the United States plays a leadership role in all aspects of the nonproliferation regime. The Obama Administration has emphasized in strategy documents that it views the NPT as the 'centerpiece' of the nonproliferation regime and has pledged to strengthen the treaty. The Administration sees a linkage between the disarmament and nonproliferation commitments under the treaty. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, for example, says that progress on arms control is 'a means of strengthening our ability to mobilize broad international support for the measures needed to reinforce the nonproliferation regime and secure materials worldwide.' The Nuclear Posture Review also says that the conditions for nuclear disarmament will not be possible without stronger proliferation controls. The ability of the Administration to garner international support for its proposals to strengthen the nonproliferation regime may be tested at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. This report will be updated as events warrant.
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