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Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation Letter re UN Summit to House International Relations Committee

September 26, 2005

The Honorable Henry J. Hyde, Chairman
The Honorable Tom Lantos, Ranking Minority Member
Members of the Committee
House International Relations Committee
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2170
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Hearing on UN Rhetoric or Reform, September 28

Dear Mr. Hyde, Mr. Lantos, and Members of the Committee,

Regarding the upcoming hearing on the UN Summit, I write to urge you to inquire into how it was that the section on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament was dropped from the outcome document. The Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) has nearly 25 years experience in analyzing international law matters related to disarmament and security. Based two blocks from the United Nations in New York City, LCNP closely follows UN deliberations, most recently the negotiations on the outcome document. Our considered view, developed below, is that it was the intervention by Ambassador John Bolton, by letter to other UN ambassadors dated September 1, 2005, that led to the omission of the disarmament/non-proliferation section. The result was that the outcome document fails to address such crucial and time-urgent matters as establishing the additional protocol to IAEA safeguards agreement as the standard for compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and commencing negotiations on banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

This setback comes in the wake of the failure of the May 2005 Review Conference for the NPT to yield an agreement on next steps for non-proliferation and disarmament. The Summit was an opportunity to remedy that failure and to prevent the slow-motion disintegration of the non-proliferation regime. That is what heads of state can do; agree on action when less-empowered elements of their government have been unable to do so.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change had originally envisioned that the Summit would come to grips with basic challenges of peace and security, not least those posed by the existence and spread of nuclear arms. Negotiations that began last spring sought, at least in a modest way, to fulfill this expectation. The August 5 draft outcome document[1] generally affirmed the need for compliance with the NPT nuclear disarmament obligation while also stressing the need for strengthening of non-proliferation measures. Among other things, it provided that heads of state would “resolve to”:

  • Appeal to all States to take action, in a multilateral framework, to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in all its aspects;
  • Also appeal to the nuclear weapon States to take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament with the objective of eliminating all such weapons, including through the implementation of article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty;
  • Maintain a moratorium on nuclear test explosions pending the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and call upon all States to sign and ratify the Treaty;
  • Strengthen the verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the peaceful use of nuclear energy by adopting the Model Additional Protocol and call for universal accession to the comprehensive safeguards agreement the standard for compliance;
  • Strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention through continued multilateral and national efforts to improve its verification and implementation …;
  • Take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery, … and adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws which prohibit non-state actors from gaining access to such weapons and means of delivery, and otherwise comply in full with Security Council Resolution 1540;
  • Urge the Conference on Disarmament to agree on a programme of work which includes, inter alia, the commencement, without delay, of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and effective measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

The August 5 draft covered many (not all) key items on the WMD control agenda and addressed issues regarding non-proliferation and disarmament in a balanced way. Although more negotiation was certainly in the cards, the draft did appear to form the basis for a consensus agreement. All this was swept away when on September 1, 2005 Ambassador Bolton released proposed changes to the non-proliferation and disarmament section,[2] as part of the larger U.S. campaign to revise the entire document. Negotiations following the Ambassador Bolton’s intervention, instead of improving the August draft, drastically weakened it, ending in the removal altogether of the section.

Here the United States as represented by Ambassador Bolton bears the lion’s share of responsibility. First, the U.S. line by line revision of the disarmament and non-proliferation section invited other governments to take a similar approach, which some of them in fact did.

Second, the U.S. approach was very provocative. This is best illustrated by the deletion of a reference to the NPT’s “three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy” and the substitution of a reference to the NPT’s “role in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons.” This proposal went in the face of a broad and deep international consensus that a viable non-proliferation regime requires progress on arms control/disarmament and a recognition of the right to non-weapons uses of nuclear power. Other proposed changes included deletion of the provision regarding implementation of the nuclear disarmament obligation under the NPT and of the provision regarding a program of work in the Conference on Disarmament for negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty and prevention of an arms race in outer space (both quoted above).

In general, while the current administration’s position on certain matters like the CTBT may have necessitated some proposals for changes in language, Ambassador Bolton’s proposals went far beyond simply reflecting current U.S. policy and instead threw a massive wrench into the works.

Spurred on by the U.S. intervention, other countries dug in their heels on their favored positions. Among them were Pakistan, India, and some members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Other countries opposing the early August draft included Israel and France. The vast majority of countries that were generally supportive of the early August text were ignored.

We concur with Secretary-General’s assessment that the dropping of the disarmament/non-proliferation section was a “real disgrace,” especially coming in the wake of the failed NPT Review Conference last spring. It is deeply regrettable that heads of state were not able to endorse key measures like the IAEA additional protocol, the implementation of national measures preventing terrorists from gaining access to WMD, and the revitalization of Conference on Disarmament, in particular through the commencement of negotiations on a fissile materials treaty.

For now is definitely not the time for inaction. The process of verified reduction of nuclear arsenals has come to a halt while national security doctrines in the United States and elsewhere give an expanded role to the option of nuclear use. There have been no multilateral nuclear negotiations since the text of the CTBT was agreed in 1996. North Korea is the first country to announce its withdrawal from the NPT, and great care must be taken in the Middle East that no country eventually decides to join Israel as a nuclear-armed country. The risk of terrorist use of a nuclear explosive cannot be overlooked. Accordingly, at the hearing, in addition to inquiring into the reasons for the UN Summit failure regarding disarmament/non-proliferation, the Committee should also explore what steps the United States will be taking, at the United Nations, the Conference on Disarmament, and elsewhere, to rectify the failures at the NPT Review Conference and the UN Summit.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish more information.

Very truly yours,

Dr. John Burroughs
Executive Director
Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy

1. Access at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1comindex1.html#M5.

2. http://www.un.int/usa/reform-un-jrb-ltr-nonprolif-9-05.pdf.


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