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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

U.N. Head Calls For Productive Nuclear Treaty Meeting

Maintenance crews perform work on the French ballistic-missile submarine Triomphant in 2007. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday expressed hopes for success in the May review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (Marcel Mochet/Getty Images)

The secretary general of the United Nations on Friday said he hoped for a productive Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in May, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I would like to underscore the importance of a successful review conference," U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement observing the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the treaty intended to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

The treaty now has 189 member states, including recognized nuclear powers China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It "has remained the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and a framework for promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Ban said.

However, there are continuing questions about the nonproliferation regime as nations such as India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea conducted nuclear-weapon operations outside of the treaty.

Review conferences have been held at five year intervals over the decades.The last conference in 2005 ended in confusion and produced no final document on promoting the regime.
.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Obama administration at the review conference would highlight its commitment "to reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and to building momentum for their eventual elimination."

"The international nuclear nonproliferation regime must be strengthened to confront the evolving threats from terrorists and other nonstate actors with nuclear ambitions as well as the ongoing challenge of governments that flaunt their nuclear nonproliferation obligations," Rice said (Agence France-Presse/, March 8).

In a statement released Friday, President Barack Obama said "the threat of global nuclear war has passed, but the danger of nuclear proliferation endures, making the basic bargain of the NPT more important than ever."

He touched on U.S. efforts to encourage nuclear disarmament by negotiating a replacement agreement with Russia to the expired-1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and his administration's pursuit of Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as well as its support of a fissile material cutoff treaty.

"Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," Obama said.
Obama also highlighted his decision to host a summit next month in Washington that will focus on international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapon materials.

"At this spring’s [NPT] review conference and beyond, we will continue to work with allies and partners to strengthen the NPT and to enforce the rights and responsibilities of every nation, because the world cannot afford additional proliferation or regional arms races," he said.

"Finally, to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the United States seeks a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation among nations, including an international fuel bank and the necessary resources and authority to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency," Obama said (White House release, March 5).

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement Friday emphasized Washington's resolve to honor the requirements of the treaty, including movement toward nuclear disarmament, and to "guarantee access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes to all those abiding by their nonproliferation commitments."

The White House has dispatched envoys around the world to encourage greater support of the treaty, Clinton said (U.S. State Department release, March 5).

Others are taking a dim view on the efficacy of the 40-year-old treaty, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Forty years after the nonproliferation treaty came into force, nuclear weapons and the means to produce them are still spreading, and the promise of disarmament is unfulfilled," said International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons spokesman Tim Wright.

Nuclear-armed states India, Israel and Pakistan have refused to ratify the treaty and North Korea pulled out of the pact in 2003. The nuclear powers, meanwhile, maintain their strategic arsenals.

United States Institute of Peace Vice President Michael Lekson said there are over 23,000 nuclear bombs on the planet today, many on high alert. With nations such as North Korea striving to gain recognition as a nuclear-weapon state, confidence in the NPT agreement has never been lower, he said.

"We are in the worse shape than ever before," Lekson said at a conference recently in New York.

The May review conference will be "a moment of accountability," said Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Nonproliferation Program Deputy Director Deepti Choubey.

That Egypt is set to lead the conference is an indication that any new agreement on the treaty will not result in the kinds of marked advancements sought by supporters of global nuclear disarmament, said former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Gregory Schulte.

The Middle Eastern nation is part of a group of countries that are stymieing efforts to expand the Additional Protocol to cover all nations, according to Xinhua. The protocol to IAEA safeguards agreements permits more intrusive oversight of a nation's nuclear activities. Cairo and others object to expanding the protocol because they do not feel that the five nuclear powers have put in enough effort to assure a more equal nuclear world (Lucie-Claire Saunders, Xinhua News Agency, March 6).