Eliminating Nuclear Threats

A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers



GARETH EVANS and YORIKO KAWAGUCHI CO-CHAIRS                    Commission Members


16. A Package for the 2010 NPT Review Conference

The Importance of the Review Conference

16.1     Since it entered into force in 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been simultaneously the cornerstone of non-proliferation efforts, the foundation for the promotion of nuclear disarmament and the guarantor of the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Its breadth of membership gives it great normative force – every state is a member but for India, Pakistan and Israel (and North Korea, to the extent that its claim to have withdrawn from the treaty is accepted) – and, as we have noted elsewhere, it has been remarkably successful in holding the line against what was widely expected in the 1960s to be, by now, a world with a score or more nuclear-armed states. But, as we have also noted earlier in this report, the treaty regime has been under great strain in recent years – not least with the challenges posed by the A.Q. Khan illicit network, North Korea’s breakout, Iran’s testing of some of its conceptual and enforcement limits, and the indifference shown by most of the nuclear-weapon state NPT members most of the time to their disarmament obligations under it.

16.2     The NPT made provision for five-yearly meetings of its member states to “review the progress of the Treaty”. Particularly since the 1995 Review Conference, which had the responsibility of deciding whether the treaty was to continue in force – and which resolved that it should, indefinitely – these have become major occasions, in the words of the 1995 decision, to “look forward as well as back …identify the areas in which, and the means through which, further progress should be sought in the future [and] address specifically what might be done to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty and to achieve its universality”.

16.3     The 2000 Review Conference, taking place against the troubling background of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons tests, and the loss of momentum following the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), was successful particularly in reaching agreement on a series of measures that would advance disarmament (the “Thirteen Practical Steps”, discussed below). But the 2005 conference was an unrelieved disaster, with considerable evident backsliding on disarmament by key weapon states, and no agreement reached about anything at all. All eyes are now on the May 2010 Review Conference, in the hope that it will not only recapture lost ground but advance significantly both the disarmament and non-proliferation agendas. In the new atmosphere which has accompanied, in particular, the change of U.S. administration, there is some optimism that this will happen.

16.4     The review conference process itself is disconcertingly complex for the uninitiated, with a preparatory committee process extending over three years and the conference itself involving three major committees – on disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses respectively – wrestling with literally hundreds of working papers and competing draft texts. It is important in this context that attention be prioritized, with the main goal being to reach agreement on a relatively small number of important substantive issues. While many issues ranging beyond this core will be debated and the subject of proposed resolutions, for 2010 we believe that priority attention should be focused on reaching agreement in the three areas discussed successively below: a “new consensus” statement on disarmament; specific new measures to strengthen the NPT non-proliferation regime and the IAEA; and ways of taking forward the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and enhancing nuclear-weapon-free zones. In addition the opportunity should be taken to reinforce whatever momentum is generated on the issue of nuclear security by the April 2010 Summit, and to clearly restate the general international commitment to support the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

16.5     In the lead-up to the 2010 Review Conference it is important, in order to build a sense of, and heighten expectations as to, what may be achievable, that action be pursued on as many as possible of the related “Short Term Action Agenda to 2012” items identified in Section 17 below – including early U.S.-Russian agreement on a START follow-on treaty making big cuts in deployed strategic weapons; efforts to bring the North Korean and Iran situations closer to resolution; a serious start to negotiations in Geneva on fissile material production cut-off; and significant forward movement on the counter-terrorism and related nuclear security issues to be debated at the President Obama-initiated summit scheduled for April 2010.

Updating the “Thirteen Practical Steps” on Disarmament

16.6     The “Thirteen Practical Steps”, adopted as part of the final document of the 2000 NPT review conference on the initiative of the New Agenda Coalition (of seven states favouring early nuclear disarmament), was an important statement of commitment of a kind which deserves to be put on the record again in 2010. The failure of the 2005 conference owed much to the unwillingness of the U.S. (supported by France publicly and Russia privately), to support its reaffirmation in any form – a hardly surprising attitude given the Bush administration’s previous decisions in 2001 not to seek to ratify the CTBT, in 2002 to abrogate the ABM Treaty, in the same year to halt (with Russian acquiescence) the Trilateral Initiative work on verification of weapon-origin material, and in 2004 not to support any fissile material cut-off treaty that was verifiable.

16.7     In considering what it might be possible to agree upon for 2010 in the new and more positive current atmosphere, it is to be noted that few if any NPT member states appears to be arguing for the reaffirmation of the 2000 text without change. A good deal of the original language negotiated still has resonance and relevance, but some of it is outdated, and the document as a whole is not as sharply-focused and accessibly ordered as it might be. In the following paragraphs the Commission, after reviewing the present text, proposes that a revised twenty-point “New International Consensus on Action for Nuclear Disarmament” be adopted (see Box 16-1). We have taken into account in formulating this proposal (and in our other recommendations elsewhere in this report) not only the draft recommendations already before the review conference, but a number of substantial recent contributions to the international debate, including the “Five Point Proposal” of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in October 2008 and the “Eleven Benchmarks” proposed by former Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone in April 2009.

16.8     We propose that the terms of this statement be applicable where relevant to the three nuclear-armed states – India, Pakistan and Israel – which remain outside the NPT, and be capable of being embraced also by them. The Commission is of course conscious of the strength of feeling among many NPT member states about the non-membership of these states, and the obvious desirability of universality in the treaty’s membership were that at all capable of realization. But the well-known problem is that none of these states would apply to join the treaty, if at all, other than as a weapon state, and that none would be accepted other than as a non-weapon state. Given that reality, the most immediately important objective here as elsewhere, in the interests of achieving a nuclear weapon free world, is not to be stalemated at the threshold in this way, but to ensure so far as possible that the “elephants outside the room” accept effectively the same commitments, with respect to both disarmament and non-proliferation, as NPT member states.

16.9     Language worth preserving from 2000. Referring to the relevant paragraph numbers in the 2000 final document, it will be seen that the “importance and urgency” of bringing the CTBT into force (#1) has only increased since then, as has the need for preserving the moratorium on testing in the meantime (#2). The principle of the irreversibility of nuclear disarmament and arms control and reduction measures (#5) remains a crucial basic principle, albeit not easy to enforce. The “unequivocal undertaking… to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals” (#6) remains the starting point for the whole disarmament enterprise. The six specific disarmament steps identified for the nuclear-weapon states (#9) all remain applicable, and should be central elements in any new statement, although some of the language could be a little sharper, and made potentially applicable to nuclear-armed states outside the NPT as well. There is still a need to bring unrequired fissile material under international verification (#10). The reference to “general and complete disarmament” as the ultimate objective (#11) looks, as always, a little Quixotic in the world as we know it, but it is clearly articulated in Article VI of the NPT, and the international aspiration remains. Reporting obligations (#12) are still appropriate, although they could be widened. And the further development of verification capabilities (#13) remains a necessity.

16.10     Modified and new language needed. In the 2000 document, the reference to the Conference on Disarmament fissile material negotiations needs now to reflect recent developments (#3), as does the following reference to the CD’s role in nuclear disarmament. The reference to U.S.-Russian treaty negotiations (#7) is no longer applicable, with the U.S. abrogation of the ABM treaty in 2002 effectively nullifying START II. And with the Trilateral Initiative on verification (#8) running its course, different language is needed on taking this issue further. Beyond that new, as distinct from corrective, language is we think appropriate on a number of issues. In particular, it is important to start systematically focusing attention and commitment not only on long-term or ultimate disarmament objectives, and very immediate short-term ones, but also on what we describe as the medium-term objective of achieving, by 2025, a “minimization point”: as discussed elsewhere, particularly in Section 18, this is characterized by very low numbers of nuclear weapons, together with significant doctrinal changes (drastically limiting the role of nuclear weapons) and accompanying force posture changes (deployments, launch arrangements and the like making that doctrinal marginalization credible in practice). We also believe, as discussed further in Section 17, that unqualified negative security assurances – that nuclear weapons will not be used against non-nuclear-weapon state NPT members, or at least those in compliance with their NPT obligations – are important ways of demonstrating diminishing commitment to nuclear weapons, and ought to be incorporated in any new statement.

16.11     A new twenty-point action statement. Bringing these various elements together, we propose for the consideration of the May 2010 NPT Review Conference the draft statement set out in the accompanying Box 16-1. This would need to be taken into the negotiating process with a group of state sponsors, as was the 2000 proposal by the New Agenda Coalition, and will clearly need to have the support, among others, of the five nuclear-weapon state NPT members. The language proposed does not always read as strongly as our own recommendations elsewhere, but not every bridge has to be crossed at once. The main point of seeking its adoption is not to create at this stage any binding legal obligations on those states, or anyone else, but rather – as always with these kinds of documents – to create a normative consensus on what is the broad path to follow and the right thing for each state to do, raising the political costs for those who choose to act otherwise.


BOX 16-1

“A New International Consensus on Action for Nuclear Disarmament”

The States party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference in May 2010 to agree:

On the Objective: A World Free of Nuclear Weapons

1. To reaffirm the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI.

2. On the need for nuclear-armed States not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to make a similar undertaking to accomplish ultimately the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, and to acknowledge the universal and binding nature of the norms against testing, acquisition, and use or threat of use of nuclear weapons otherwise than for defence against nuclear attack.

On Key Building Blocks: Banning Testing and Limiting Fissile Material

3. On the importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

4. On a continuing moratorium on nuclear-weapon-test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty.

5. On the need to maintain and increase support for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in further developing the treaty verification regime.

6. On the need to negotiate to an early conclusion in the Conference on Disarmament a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

7. On the need for all nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed states, to declare or maintain a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapon purposes pending the conclusion of this treaty.

8. On the need for nuclear-weapon States and other nuclear-armed States to make arrangements to place fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes.

On Specific Steps toward Nuclear Disarmament

9. On the need for nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed states, to make an early commitment to not increasing their nuclear arsenals, and take whatever steps are necessary, unilaterally, bilaterally or multilaterally, to achieve nuclear disarmament, in a way that promotes international stability and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.

10. On the need to set as an interim objective the achievement in the medium term, as soon as possible and no later than 2025, of a world in which:

(a) the number of all nuclear weapons, of whatever size, role or deployed status, is reduced to a small fraction of those in existence in 2010;

(b) the doctrine of every State with nuclear weapons is firmly committed to no first use of them, on the basis that their sole remaining purpose is to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others; and

(c) the deployment and launch-alert status of those weapons is wholly consistent with that doctrine.

11. On the particular need for leadership from, and cooperation between, those nuclear-weapon States which posses the greatest numbers of nuclear weapons in agreeing early on deep reductions, and making sustained efforts to continue such reductions for all classes of weapons.

12. On the need for all the nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed States, to make further efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals, and act early to prepare the ground – through studies, strategic dialogues with each other, and preparatory work in the Conference on Disarmament – for a multilateral disarmament process.

13. On the need for the nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed States, to accept and announce as soon as possible a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in their security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination. 

14. On the need for the nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed States, to as soon as possible give unequivocal negative security assurances, endorsed by the UN Security Council, that they will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States not determined by the Security Council to be in non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

15. On the need for the nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed states, to take concrete measures in relation to the operational status of nuclear weapons systems to the extent possible at each stage of the disarmament process, in particular to lengthen launch decision times and to generally reduce the risk of accident or miscalculation.

On Transparency

16. On the need for increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States, and other nuclear-armed States, with regard to nuclear weapons capabilities, in the implementation of arms control agreements and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.

On Accountability

17. To all States with significant nuclear programs making regular reports, to the relevant United Nations organs and within the framework of the strengthened review process for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, on the implementation of their disarmament and non-proliferation obligations and programs including, in the case of nuclear-weapon States and other nuclear-armed States, on their nuclear arsenals, fissile material not required for military purposes, and delivery vehicles.

On Verification

18. To further study and development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon free world.

On Irreversibility

19. To the principle of irreversibility applying to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and other related arms control and reduction measures.

On General and Complete Disarmament

20. To reaffirm that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

Specific Measures to Strengthen the NPT and IAEA

16.12     The necessary measures to strengthen the NPT legal regime, and IAEA on which it depends for institutional support, were fully addressed in Section 9, but those of them that could most usefully be endorsed by the 2010 Review Conference may be summarized as follows.

16.13     As to safeguards and verification, the most critical need is for all states to accept the application of the Additional Protocol. To encourage universal take-up, all states should make such acceptance a condition of their nuclear exports.

16.14     As to compliance and enforcement, the most critical need is agreement to strengthen collective measures to deal with withdrawal from the NPT, with the NPT Review Conference declaring that a state withdrawing from the NPT is not free to use for non-peaceful purposes nuclear materials, equipment and technology acquired while party to the NPT; recommending that the Security Council make it clear that any withdrawal will be regarded prima facie as a threat to international peace and security; and recommending to states that they make it a condition of nuclear exports that safeguards agreements continue to apply after any such withdrawal.

16.15     As to strengthening the IAEA, the most critical need, if the agency is to fully and effectively perform its assigned functions, is for its regular budget to be significantly increased – without any “zero real growth constraint” and so as to reduce reliance on extra-budgetary support for key functions – as recommended in 2008 by the independent Zedillo Commission on the Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond.

The Middle East and Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

16.16     Successive review conferences have given strong support to the establishment and further development of nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ), six of which are now in force around the world – in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South East Asia, Central Asia, Africa and, effectively though not so described, the Antarctic. Though varying in their strength and specificity, these zones generally prohibit the testing, stationing, development and use of nuclear weapons within a designated territory, and include protocols by which nuclear-weapon states can renounce the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons against states included in the zone. The Commission strongly encourages all NPT nuclear-weapon state members to sign and ratify the protocols for all the Zones and, similarly, all the other nuclear-armed states (so long as they remain outside the NPT) to issue stand-alone negative security assurances for each of them.


BOX 16-2

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Demarcation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, nuclear-weapon-free status and nuclear-weapon-free geographical regions


Demarcation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, nuclear-weapon-free status and nuclear-weapon-free geographical regions

Nuclear-weapon-free zones

1. The 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean
2. The 1985 South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty
3. The 1995 Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone
4. The 1996 African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty
5. The 2006 Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

The treaties establishing the nuclear-weapon-free zones, inter alia, ban nuclear weapons within the respective territories of the zones, including the acquisition, posession, placement, testing and use of such weapons.

Nuclear-weapon-free status

6. In 1992, Mongolia declared its nuclear-weapon-free status, which is internationally recognised and prohibits, inter alia, the aquisition, posession, placement, testing and use of nuclear weapons on its territory.

Nuclear-weapon-free geographical regions

7. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty, inter alia, prohibits any measures of military nature on the continent of Antarctica, including any testing of nuclear weapons.

Source: UN Office for Disarmament Affairs


16.17     The Commission believes that the NWFZs have made, and continue to make, a very important contribution to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, notably the oldest and in many ways most substantive and successful of them, the Latin American and Caribbean NWFZ established under the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco. Not the least of their role has been in helping to build and consolidate the normative constraint against nuclear weapons. States that have joined these zones reinforce their commitments under the NPT, and this second layer of commitments, made explicitly to neighbours, raises confidence that non-proliferation obligations will be upheld, and increases the probability and severity of backlash against a state that does not comply. We support any effort to introduce them in parts of the world not presently covered.

16.18     Most current attention in this respect focuses, as it has for many years, on the issue of a NWFZ, or broader Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ), for the Middle East. Agreement on a resolution at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, calling for practical steps to be taken towards the establishment of such a zone, was undoubtedly an essential element in achieving the decision then to indefinitely extend the treaty’s duration. It will be equally important at the 2010 conference to make significant further progress on this front, difficult though that will be if movement on a wider Middle East peace process continues to remain largely stalled.

16.19     The Commission supports, in this context, a major new effort being made to implement the 1995 resolution, and in particular the convening by the Secretary General of the UN – of a conference of all states concerned to address creative and fresh ways and means to do so, including the identification of confidence building measures that all key states in the region can embrace, with early consultations – drawing explicitly on the experience of other zones – to facilitate that. A Special Representative should be appointed to shepherd these efforts. No-one doubts that it will be a protracted process for a NWFZ agreement to be negotiated and enter into force, but the prerequisites for it, and the basic elements that any such agreement would need to contain, can and should be discussed now.

16.20     Most of the obstacles that have impeded convening such a meeting, and the follow-on process that would hopefully follow it, are debating points or negotiating tactics stemming from reluctance on the part of Israel to confirm or concede its deterrent, and on the part of Arab states to normalize relations while the Palestinian issue remains unresolved. But given the longer-term unsustainability of the nuclear imbalance, the clear interest of all states is in removing nuclear proliferation as a source of regional resentment and instability. The experiences of Latin America, the South Pacific and most recently Africa with nuclear-weapon-free zones have thoroughly validated the concept. Disarmament and peace must be pursued in parallel.

16.21     Participating in a conference would not require an immediate, and some would argue premature, end to Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. (The “opacity” issue, as it affects Israel, is discussed again in more detail in Section 17, paras 17.33–38.) In coded language, successive Israeli governments have indicated readiness to abolish their weapons (and fissile-material stocks) and be part of a NWFZ if a sustainable peace in the region is achieved. Israel’s conventional military pre-eminence is such that the foreboding about existential threat that originally warranted the build-up of a deterrent is no longer appropriate. Moreover, none of the other states of the region is any longer outright rejectionist: all have at various times (not least in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative first proposed by then Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2002 and re-endorsed at the Arab League Summit in 2007) indicated the possibility of normalization, of recognizing and cooperating with Israel, if certain conditions are met. Even Iran has said that it would respect the decision of a majority of the Palestinian people should they opt to accept a two-state solution. Since all relevant regional countries are already members of the UN there should be no formal inhibition about them participating in a meeting process under these auspices. The Commission believes that they should.


Recommendation on Priorities for the 2010 NPT Review Conference

41. The following should be the major priority issues for the 2010 NPT Review Conference:

(a) Action for Disarmament. Agreement on a twenty-point statement, “A New International Consensus for Action on Nuclear Disarmament” (see Box 16-1), updating and extending the “Thirteen Practical Steps” agreed in 2000.

(b) Strengthening Safeguards and Enforcement. Agreement:

  • that all states should accept the application of the Additional Protocol and that, to encourage its universal take-up, acceptance should be made a condition of all states’ nuclear exports;

  • to declare that a state withdrawing from the NPT is not free to use for non-peaceful purposes nuclear materials, equipment and technology acquired while party to the NPT;

  • to recommend that the Security Council make it clear that any withdrawal will be regarded prima facie as a threat to international peace and security; and

  • to recommend to states that they make it a condition of nuclear exports that safeguards agreements continue to apply after any such withdrawal.

(c) Strengthening the IAEA. Agreement that the IAEA’s budget be significantly increased – without any “zero real growth” constraint, and so as to reduce reliance on extra-budgetary support for key functions – as recommended in 2008 by the Zedillo Commission.

(d) Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone. Agreement that the Secretary-General of the UN should convene an early conference of all relevant states to address creative and fresh ways to implement the 1995 resolution, including the identification of confidence building measures that all key states in the region can embrace, and to commence early consultations to facilitate that.

(e) Nuclear security. Agreement that states should take further measures to strengthen the security of nuclear materials and facilities, including early adoption of the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the most recent international standards, accelerated implementation of the cooperative threat reduction and associated programs worldwide, and greater commitment to international capacity building and information sharing.

(f) Peaceful uses. Agreement that the inalienable right to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes remains one of the fundamental objectives of the NPT and to dedicate increased resources, including through the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme, to assist developing states in taking full advantage of peaceful nuclear energy for human development.


Next: 17. Short Term Action Agenda: To 2012 – Achieving Initial Benchmarks