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1984 Revisited:

Rearmament is Disarmament? 

Comments on Implementation of

Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty

 

Prepared for the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy

Table of Contents

1. Summary

2. Recommendations

3. The Emperor has no Clothes: Conditionality and Article VI

4. Nuclear Weapons States: Rearmament is Disarmament

5. Idealism or Realism: The Tide Moves

6. 2000 Review: Fireworks or Fizzle

7. Making it happen

"Each of the Parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." - Article VI, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

 

1. Summary

Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obliges States parties to negotiate in good faith on effective measures for nuclear disarmament. Currently most nuclear weapon States (NWS) say that they are ultimately in favor of nuclear disarmament but they currently refuse to enter into negotiations on nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament or any other multi-lateral forum. Instead certain NWS are continuing their research, testing, development, production and deployment of nuclear weapons systems.

A convergence of international developments indicates that the possibility of total nuclear disarmament has moved from a pipe dream to an achievable goal.

States parties of the NPT should use the opportunity of the strengthened review process to make greater progress towards the fulfillment of the Article VI obligation for nuclear disarmament.

2. Recommendations

  1. States parties should:
    1. Call for negotiations to begin in 1998 leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention, which would provide for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons under international verification and control.
    2. Call for the immediate implementation by the nuclear weapon States of initial disarmament steps as recommended by the United Nations, Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the Generals and Admirals’ Statement, the Group of 21 and the Civil Leaders Statement.
    3. Establish an intersessional working group on nuclear disarmament.

2. Non-nuclear States should remind the nuclear weapon States that if progress is not made towards complete nuclear disarmament, the non-proliferation regime is likely to unravel.

 

3. Conditionality and Article VI

The specific obligation of the NWS to pursue negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons was reaffirmed in the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament which were adopted by consensus at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the NPT.

The International Court of Justice, in its advisory opinion of July 1996,  reaffirmed this obligation, and noted that this required the conclusion of negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.

a) Conditionality excuse

Some NWS seek to make the fulfillment of this obligation conditional upon other factors. The United States, for example, has linked this obligation with the obligation to achieve general and complete disarmament and implies that the former is not possible without the latter. In explaining its opposition to the U.N. draft resolution on the ICJ advisory opinion the U.S. referred to "the mischaracterization of NPT Article VI and the NPT Principles and Objectives decision document, which are selectively quoted ... by omitting crucial references to ‘general and complete disarmament’."( United States explanation of vote on United Nations draft resolution A/C.1/L.37, November 10, 1997)

The Chairman’s Working Paper for the NPT Preparatory Committee contains language proposed by NWS that "The States parties... recognize that nuclear disarmament can only take place in a stable international security environment," i.e. an environment that is not likely to exist within the lifetime of anyone alive today.

The NWS are correct in asserting that nuclear disarmament, general and complete disarmament, and international security are related, but they have the relationship reversed. Nuclear disarmament is a part of general and complete disarmament, and its achievement will assist and preceed the achievement of general and complete disarmament, not the other way around. The elimination of nuclear weapons will drastically reduce the need for conventional weapons which many States now rely upon to deter or counter nuclear weapons. In addition, the achievement of nuclear disarmament will allow greater attention to be focused on next steps towards general and complete disarmament.

Similarly the achievement of nuclear disarmament will contribute tremendously to global security, not only as a consequence of the reduced threat resulting from the elimination of nuclear weapons, but also from the adoption of confidence building and security measures which will inevitably be adopted as part of a nuclear disarmament regime.

Thus, even if, as some NWS assert, nuclear disarmament is conditional on progress towards general and complete disarmament and on an improvement in international security, this is no reason not to commence nuclear disarmament negotiations, but rather an additional reason to start such negotiations.

The conditionality advanced by some NWS becomes fallacious when one considers that the barrier to nuclear disarmament cited by them, i.e. the lack of progress on general and complete disarmament, is in fact caused largely by these very same States, which are the largest conventional arms producers and exporters in the world.

b) The Emperor has no clothes

The conditionality excuse evaporates completely under examination of the NPT, which makes no such conditions. This is evident from:

i) The formulation of Article VI which, while noting obligations for nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament, makes no mention of conditionality, but includes a clear division, in the form of a comma, between these two obligations.

ii) The ninth preambular paragraph of the NPT which declares the intention of States parties "to achieve the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament" without any mention of conditionality with respect to general and complete disarmament or international security.

iii) The fourth preambular paragraph of UN General Assembly Resolution 2373 (June 12, 1968), which welcomed the conclusion of the NPT and expressed the conviction that "an agreement to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons must be followed as soon as possible by effective measures on the cessation of the nuclear arms race and on nuclear disarmament..." Again no mention is made of any link to general and complete disarmament or international security.

In addition, The International Court of Justice reaffirmed unanimously that "there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects," without mentioning any such conditionality.

 

4. Nuclear Weapons States: Rearmament is Disarmament?

While not committing itself to nuclear abolition, the United States argues that they are implementing their Article VI obligations in a step-by-step manner, and cites the achievement of the START, INF and CTBT treaties, withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from surface ships, adherence to nuclear free zones and pursuance of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

While States deserve recognition for the progress and hard work done to achieve such steps, even a cursory look will reveal that they are limited achievements towards the goal of nuclear disarmament. Indeed, very little progress on any of the above has been made since the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

The START and INF treaties, while reducing the total number of delivery systems, do not require destruction of nuclear warheads. Some reduction of nuclear warhead numbers has taken place. However the lowest number envisaged, even if START III were to be negotiated, remains in the thousands of mostly strategic weapons, still well above the number which could destroy not only entire countries but possibly all life on earth.

The CTBT, while prohibiting testing by nuclear explosions, does not prohibit other forms of testing. For that reason it is viewed by many as discriminatory, restraining only those countries that do not have the technology to do non-explosive testing. In addition, it is unlikely to enter into force in the foreseeable future because of the lack of fulfillment of entry-into-force requirements.

Adherence by the NWS to nuclear weapon free zones has been reluctant at best. The U.S. ended its military cooperation with New Zealand in 1984 in retaliation for New Zealand declaring itself a nuclear weapon free zone. The U.S. also opposed Palau’s attempt to establish itself as a nuclear weapon free zone. In addition, three of the NWS opposed United Nations General Assembly Resolution 52/38 N (December 9, 1997) which called for the NWS to ratify the appropriate protocols of the regional nuclear weapon free zones.

The fissile material cutoff treaty, as proposed by the NWS, is more of a non-proliferation measure than a disarmament measure. An FMCT which only prohibits production would affect the ability of the "have-nots" to develop nuclear weapons, but would not affect the ability of the NWS to maintain or even enhance their nuclear weapons stockpiles as they all have more than adequate stockpiles of fissile material.

Thus the "disarmament measures" cited by the NWS hardly qualify for the term. At the same time, the NWS, particularly the U.S., are rearming through a continuation of research, testing, development, deployment and production of nuclear weapons systems, often under the guise of innocuous Orwellian sounding names such as Stockpile Stewardship and Management.

Current programs include:

* Production of plutonium triggers for hydrogen bombs. These triggers are small nuclear weapons in themselves, used in hydrogen bombs to initiate the fusion reaction. Los Alamos National Laboratory is preparing to produce these for the first time in almost 40 years.

* The U.S. has conducted three sub-critical tests in Nevada since the signing of the CTBT. These are explosive tests of nuclear weapons which do not reach criticality.

* The U.S. has developed a new warhead, a modification of the B61, which has been designed as a low-yield counter-proliferation weapon. In addition the US has continued to build delivery systems, particularly Trident submarines and Trident II missiles. The U.K. is modernizing its nuclear force by replacing its existing nuclear armed submarine fleet with Trident systems.

* The U.S. is planning to resume production of tritium, a neutron provider in nuclear weapons, despite the fact that existing stocks of tritium would suffice for existing weapons stockpiles for 20 years and for a smaller stockpile until the end of the 21st century. These plans indicate that the U.S. has no intention of making deep reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles anytime before the 22nd century.

* The National Ignition Facility, one of the new facilities being built in the U.S. as part of the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, will enable fusion experiments to enhance designs of thermonuclear weapons and possibly even to enable the design of a fusion weapon which would not require fissile material.

"The fuel for hydrogen fusion is relatively easy to obtain and a pure hydrogen bomb, if perfected, could in theory be very cheap to build." – New York Times, May 27, 1997.

In addition the NWS maintain their nuclear weapons on alert status and, with the exception of China, maintain policies of first use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. recently reaffirmed its policy not only of first use of nuclear weapons, but also a policy of flexible use including use against non-nuclear threats.

Finally, the NWS, with the exception of China, refuse to commence negotiations which would lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons under a nuclear weapons convention, as called for in United Nations Resolution 52/38 O, and also refuse to allow the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament.

5. Idealism or Realism: The Tide Moves.

Recent developments betoken a groundswell of expert and grassroots opinion in favor of nuclear abolition. International Court of Justice President Bedjaoui has noted that "the goal is no longer utopian and that it is the duty of all to seek to attain it more actively than ever. The destiny of man depends on the will to enter into this commitment..."

Other key developments indicating the desirability and practicality of complete nuclear disarmament include:

* In August 1996, the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons released its report which concluded that nuclear disarmament was necessary and achievable.

* On December 5, 1996, 60 retired Generals and Admirals, including General George Lee Butler, former Head of the U.S. Strategic Command which controlls all nuclear weapons, released a statement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

* On December 10, 1996 and again on December 9, 1997, the U.N. General Assembly called for the immediate commencement of negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

* On March 13, 1997, the European Parliament called on all members to support negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

* On November 17, 1997, the United Nations distributed a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (A/C.1/52/7) submitted by Costa Rica. The model convention outlines a practical regime for the elimination of nuclear weapons and deals with the legal, technical and political issues that would need to be addressed.

* On February 2, 1998, 117 Civil Leaders including 47 past or present heads of State released a statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the implementation of steps towards that goal.

* Over 1000 citizens’ organizations have joined Abolition 2000, an international network calling for the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention.

* On February 2, The Nation published as a special issue a long article entitled "The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons," containing pro-abolition interviews with such world leaders as Helmut Schmidt, Robert McNamara, Senator Alan Cranston, Mikhail Gorbachev and Gen. Charles Horner.

* Public opinion polls indicate support for a nuclear weapons convention in the U.S. and U.K. at over 80%, and Canada at over 90%.

"…the long sought prospect of a world free of the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons is suddenly within reach… This is an extraordinary moment…But it is also perishable: the specter of nuclear proliferation cannot be indefinitely contained." Statement by International Civilian Leaders

The NWS continue to resist the call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, but this can be overcome by political pressure and momentum generated by other governments and the public. The recent success of the landmines campaign, which also focussed on the complete ban on an inhumane and indiscriminate weapons system despite the resistance of many States, demonstrates this.

 

6. 2000 Review: Fireworks or Fizzle?

The 2000 Review of the Non-Proliferation treaty has the potential to produce significant measures to complete the process of the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it could produce "a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

States parties should not accept tokenism or deception from the NWS. The first steps should be taken immediately so that the 2000 Review Conference can set the scene for the full implementation of the Article VI nuclear disarmament obligation through the rapid conclusion of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention.

States parties should call now for the immediate implementation of steps which have been proposed by the United Nations, Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the Group of 21 Program of Action for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the Generals and Admirals Statement and the Civil Leaders Statement These include

* Commencing negotiations which would lead to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention

* Taking all nuclear forces off alert

* Ending deployment of all nuclear weapons

* Removing warheads from delivery vehicles

* Negotiating further reductions in nuclear stockpiles

* Concluding agreements on no-first-use or no-use of nuclear weapons or non-use against non-nuclear weapons States

* Closure or conversion of all nuclear test sites

* Ending of all nuclear weapons modernization and research, excepting research necessary for the destruction of nuclear weapons and the verification of arms control agreements

* Ending the production of nuclear warheads, their components and nuclear weapons delivery systems

* Establishing a registry of nuclear weapons and fissile material

* Placing all fissile material under international control

Those steps that have not been implemented by the year 2000 should be listed in the final document of the NPT 2000 Review as the next steps to be concluded.

 

7. Making it happen

Over the past two years the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to make progress, having failed to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament. The Review process of the NPT offers an alternative complementary path to stimulate progress and to lay some of the groundwork for negotiations.

The proposal in the Chairman’s working paper to establish an intersessional working group to assist in the achievement of a nuclear weapons convention should be supported.

"Negotiations, as a matter of some urgency, on a nuclear-weapons convention should commence,.. This could be assisted through the establishment of an intersessional working group." – NPT Chairman’s working paper (NPT/CONF.2000/PC.32/Corr.1)

While negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention itself would achieve little without the agreement of the NWS, an intersessional working group could pave the way for such negotiations through considering the legal, political and technical measures necessary for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

It should be made clear to the NWS that if they move rapidly towards the implementation of their NPT obligations, it would assist in achieving the aim of universality while, at the same time, improving security globally. The NWS should also be told in no uncertain terms that if on the other hand they persist in non-implementation of their obligations, universality is impossible, and other States parties may start to reassess their participation in the treaty.

 

"…we need to remind the nuclear weapon States that if progress is not made towards the goal of elimination, then we fear that the whole system of non-proliferation might be at risk." -Marshall Islands, 11 April 1997 (NPT/CONF.2000/pc.1/11)

 

 

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