7 May 2009, No. 4

Competing visions of disarmament
Michael Spies & Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will

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The NPT PrepCom heard many different—but not necessarily exclusive—takes on how to proceed with disarmament as it proceeded through its Cluster One discussion on 6 May. Cluster One focuses on implementation of the provisions of the Treaty relating to non-proliferation, disarmament and international peace and security, specifically: Articles I and II and preambular paragraphs 1 to 3; Article VI and preambular paragraphs 8 to 12; and security assurances.

All five nuclear weapon states delivered statements to this cluster, giving sometimes divergent takes on the requirements of achieving nuclear disarmament, each from their own unique perspective.

The US delegation reflected mainly on US policy changes stemming from President Obama’s 5 April speech in Prague, rather than discussing possible future steps in the NPT context. The lack of future oriented discussion likely reflects the ongoing nature of the new administration’s policy reviews, the most important of which will be the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review.

The US statement did offer some refreshing breaks from the recent past. Notably, the United States recognized its special responsibility as nuclear weapon state to lead disarmament efforts, though it still stuck to the formulation that non-nuclear weapon states must do more to help make disarmament possible by establishing the “necessary” conditions. The statement also cast the ongoing post-START negotiations with Russia as the first part of a step-by-step process leading to disarmament, rather than an indefinite end point.

France and the United Kingdom each recalled their respective recent proposals for achieving disarmament. Both proposals call for further US/Russian strategic arms reductions and do not immediately involve processes that would bind or constrain their own nuclear arsenals, with the exception of pursuing steps already agreed to (i.e. the CTBT and an FMCT). Whereas the French proposal deals with broader multilateral arms control issues—particularly dealing with the issue of missiles—the UK approach places emphasis on dealing with proliferation, linking pursuit of disarmament to dealing with proliferation concerns.

Russia and, to a lesser though increasing extent, China focused on pursuing disarmament measures that would also incidentally improve possible perceived security imbalances with the United States. Russia specifically called for steps to create a stable strategic security environment suitable for disarmament, outlining its familiar initiatives. These include preventing a build up of conventional capabilities to offset nuclear reductions and ceasing development of space weapons and missile defenses, both priorities for China as well.

For its part, China generally stuck to its traditional positions, calling for non-first use commitments, legally-binding security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states, de-targeting, and withdrawing nuclear weapons to national territories. China also called for an end to nuclear sharing and nuclear umbrella arrangements.

In addition, the US, UK, and French delegations delivered reports on their nuclear disarmament efforts, giving general overviews of their reductions of warheads and fissile materials. These informal reports followed from the past practice of these delegations, which opt not to provide more formal reports to the PrepComs as many delegations would like, especially following from the step 12 of the 13 practical steps.

Agenda adopted for 2010

Of critical importance, the smoothest—or at least quickest—adoption of an agenda in recent NPT history occurred Wednesday morning. After intense consultations with all delegations, the chair submitted a draft provisional agenda for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, which the PrepCom adopted without discussion.

The agenda is the same as the one used at the 2000 Review Conference, with a minor technical update: in paragraph 16, the phrase “and the final document of the 2000 Review Conference” has been added. The text of the agenda is available at www.reachingcriticalwill.org. The PrepCom also moved quickly though other procedural matters related to the 2010 RevCon (see the News in Brief, page 10).

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