The Second NPT PrepCom for the 2005 Review Conference: Prospects for Progress

The Second NPT PrepCom for the 2005 Review Conference: Prospects for Progress

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Jean du Preez

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies


The second session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2005 Review Conference (RevCon) of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was held from April 28 to May 9, 2003 in Geneva, under the chairmanship of Ambassador László Molnár of Hungary. This PrepCom, the second of three sessions that will be held prior to the 2005 RevCon, represented the end of the first phase of the "new" strengthened review process (as decided at the 2000 RevCon). Under the new process, the first two sessions (2002 and 2003) considered "principles, objectives, and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality." The third PrepCom session will need to make recommendations to the 2005 RevCon, taking into account the deliberations and results of the two previous sessions.

One hundred and six States parties and representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) participated in the PrepCom, while representatives from the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the European Commission, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference attended as observers. Representatives from 37 non-governmental organizations also attended the plenary meetings of the PrepCom.

The chairman prepared a Chairman's Factual Summary of the Committee's consideration of the issues, which was annexed to the 2003 PrepCom report. This document captures the chairman's factual distillation of the views expressed by States parties on a number of substantive matters, including North Korea's withdrawal from the Treaty, concerns over Iranian non-compliance, security assurances, export controls, and strengthened physical protection of nuclear material.

The 2003 NPT PrepCom was held amid grave concerns about the role and effectiveness of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, in particular given the lack of commitment by some States parties—nuclear weapons States (NWS) and non-nuclear weapons States (NNWS) alike—to their respective Treaty obligations. Despite Cuba's long-awaited accession to the Treaty in November 2002, the States parties were confronted with several challenges to the NPT: most notably the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK's) decision to withdraw from the NPT and restart its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon; the U.S. National Security Strategy (which established the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes as official U.S. policy); the invasion of Iraq to rid it of weapons of mass destruction; allegations that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program; and the apparent lack of commitment by the NWS to implement their nuclear disarmament obligations. All these issues served to focus attention at the meeting on the test of political will regarding nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and the role that the NPT will take in leading these efforts.

The second PrepCom session, similarly to the 2002 session, concluded relatively successfully. Despite some speculation that North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT on April 10, 2003 (the first State party to do so) would lead to a procedural, and potentially divisive debate at the start of the meeting, the chairman, in a display of diplomatic skills and political resolve, announced that he would take custody of the DPRK's nameplate and that it would not be displayed among those of the States parties, but that it would remain in the conference room. Although this ensured a "smooth" start of the meeting, the States parties' acceptance of this "soft" reaction to one of the most significant challenges to the Treaty seems to be indicative of a "business as usual" type of approach taken by many States parties to the present-day challenges to the Treaty.

In comparison to the lack of interaction between delegations experienced at the first PrepCom session, innovative efforts by the chairman resulted in more lively and productive interaction. But many delegations, including some NWS, were notably quiet, both in engaging others and responding to others' attempts to engage them. Although several issues were highlighted, such as security assurances, non-strategic nuclear weapons, and nonproliferation and disarmament education (with working papers offering concrete and constructive proposals as bases for discussion and deliberation), it is questionable whether much progress was made towards agreeing on substantive recommendations at the next PrepCom.

Although the PrepCom session focused on all aspects of the Treaty's implementation, the issues that received the most attention were North Korea's withdrawal from the Treaty and its continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program; possible Iranian non-compliance; nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament; the need for security assurance against the use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapons states; the Middle East; the need for strengthened physical security of nuclear materials and the threat of nuclear terrorism; the value of export controls; and access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The chairman prepared a Chairman's Factual Summary (hereafter, "the Summary") of the Committee's consideration of all the issues, which was annexed to the 2003 PrepCom report.

North Korea's Withdrawal and Non-Compliance

North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT on January 10, 2003, stating then that its withdrawal "will come into force automatically and immediately" on the next day. North Korea stated that it had suspended its 1994 withdrawal from the Treaty on the last day of the required three-month notice period and thus did not need to give further notice to other NPT parties nor the UN Security Council as required under Article X. Although the NPT States parties have not formally addressed this matter, the generally held view is that North Korea's withdrawal came into effect on April 10, 2003, when its three-month notice of withdrawal expired.

The PrepCom, the first meeting of NPT States parties since the DPRK's withdrawal did not, however, issue a specific reaction to this important and potentially dangerous development. Despite being the most significant challenge to date to the Treaty, the North Korean issue is addressed in the Summary only in the context of regional issues such as the Middle East and South East Asia and the need for universal adherence to the Treaty. Although the Summary refers to calls made for North Korea to "dismantle its nuclear weapons program in a prompt, verifiable, and irreversible way…and to comply with all safeguards obligations pursuant to the Treaty" and for the crisis to be "resolved peacefully, through diplomatic means," the NPT States parties' collective response to the DPRK's withdrawal was surprisingly weak, especially considering the concerns expressed by the majority of national delegations. The chairman clearly tried to satisfy the concerns expressed by States such as Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, all of which objected to stronger language.

Allegations of Iranian Non-Compliance

The scope and sophistication of the nuclear program in Iran gave rise to questions and concerns by several States regarding Iran's compliance with its NPT obligations. The U.S. delegation, for instance, focused most of its attention during the PrepCom on Iran. It used its opening debate statement to start this campaign, accusing Iran of "conducting an alarming, clandestine program to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities that we believe make sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program." The United States, and a number of other States, most notably European Union members, repeatedly questioned the economic justification for Iran's advanced nuclear program—which includes pursuit of the entire nuclear fuel cycle. They called on Iran to demonstrate its peaceful intentions through increased cooperation with the IAEA, including the signing and bringing into force of an Additional Protocol, which would allow for more comprehensive verification measures.

The standoff between the United States and Iran—with the United States supported by about 40 other States (mostly the European Union and Australia)—threatened to cause a deadlock over the status of the Summary as an attachment to the official PrepCom report. The chairman, as a result of intense, last-minute consultations with the U.S. and Iranian delegations, presented a carefully worded paragraph linking the Iranian issue with the need for all States parties, particularly those with advanced nuclear programs, "to conclude, bring into force, and implement an Additional Protocol to their comprehensive safeguards agreement at the earliest opportunity, which enhances the confidence of States parties and helps eliminate concerns regarding their nuclear programs." In a clear attempt to reflect U.S. concerns, this paragraph also calls on Iran "to sign an Additional Protocol and to ensure full and forthcoming cooperation with the IAEA, whose secretariat is expected to provide a comprehensive report at the June 2003 meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors." The chairman, furthermore, innovatively balanced the concerns over Iranian non-compliance with the legitimate right of all States to utilize the atom for peaceful purposes—while emphasizing that ownership of capabilities that could be utilized to develop nuclear weapons places a special responsibility on the States concerned. He also included a reference to Iranian explanations regarding its program by referring to a statement made by Iranian Vice-President Reza Aghazadeh at the IAEA in May 2003, thereby linking the "inalienable right of all States parties in full compliance with the Treaty to develop the research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination, as well as the inviolability of nuclear facilities." This paragraph ultimately led to agreement among all delegations that the Summary could be attached to the official PrepCom report.

Nuclear Disarmament and the 13 "Practical Steps"

Stressing that compliance also applies to nuclear disarmament obligations, most NNWS expressed frustration with the lack of progress toward this goal, recalling the unequivocal undertaking given by the NWS to totally eliminate their nuclear arsenals as part of the "13 practical steps" agreed to at the 2000 RevCon. This frustration was particularly targeted at the faltering commitment demonstrated by the NWS to implement many of the 13 practical steps. In particular, the New Agenda Coalition, a group of like-minded States comprising Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden, noted that there had been some positive developments (such as Cuba's accession and progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone [NWFZ] in Central Asia), but with regard to nuclear disarmament, progress had been "dismal."

The Summary further expands on the continued need for nuclear disarmament identified in the Summary of the 2002 PrepCom session. The chairman tries to balance the concerns over the lack of progress toward implementing the 13 practical steps with extensive references to initiatives taken by the NWS to implement their Article VI obligations. To this end, the NWS argued that they had taken significant steps to reduce their nuclear arsenals consistent with their Article VI obligations. The United States emphasized that it had already dismantled 13,000 nuclear weapons and had eliminated more than a dozen different types of warheads. The Russian Federation declared that it had reduced its strategic warheads to "5,518 units" and reduced its deployed strategic delivery systems to "1,136 units." The United Kingdom drew attention to the work it had done on verification for nuclear disarmament and stated that its stockpile of operationally available nuclear warheads had been reduced to fewer than 200, "which represents a reduction of more than 70 percent in the potential explosive power of [its] deterrent since the end of the Cold War." France indicated that it was pursuing dismantlement of its fissile material installations and had dismantled its nuclear weapons testing site. China presented a working paper outlining its basic positions on nuclear disarmament. The United States and the Russian Federation also emphasized the Moscow Treaty as a significant development in the fulfillment of its Article VI commitments. While the signing of the Treaty was welcomed by some NNWS (most notably the EU and NATO States), many other States parties cautioned that the importance of the principles of irreversibility and transparency should not be disregarded. The New Agenda Coalition questioned the Treaty's contribution to nuclear disarmament as it "does not contain verification procedures and it ignores non-operational warheads."

Despite strong pressure from the United States not to do so, the chairman uses language taken from the 2002 PrepCom Summary stating that the States parties "remained committed to implementing Article VI of the Treaty and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on ‘Principles and objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament' and the Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference, in particular the unequivocal undertaking and the thirteen practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to implement nuclear disarmament that were agreed to." The Summary also refers to the strong support expressed for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and that States parties "urged" the remaining 13 States whose ratification was necessary, and in particular those two remaining NWS (United States and China) whose ratification was a prerequisite for its entry-into-force, to ratify without delay. Likewise, the Summary "notes" the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and its decision on the development of missile defense systems and expressed "certain" concerns that the withdrawal has brought an "additional element of uncertainty to international security, has impacted negatively on strategic stability, and will have negative consequences on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation," and that this could lead to a "new arms race on earth and in outer space."

The Summary also expands on the issue of a fissile material ban and emphasized that the "commencement of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, in accordance with the Shannon report and the mandate contained therein, was the next logical step in the process of nuclear disarmament." The reference to the Shannon report suggests that the chairman tried to capture the emphasis placed on the importance of both the nonproliferation and disarmament aspects of fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations. The Summary, like the 2002 Summary, calls for States that have not yet done so to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and continues to call for an agreement on a program of work in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). In so doing, it noted the need for the CD to establish a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament.

Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

Although non-strategic nuclear weapons have traditionally been overlooked in the formal arms reduction process, the 2000 Review Conference Final Document mandated that the PrepCom for the 2005 Conference should make recommendations on this issue. The issue has since gained increased importance. The attacks of September 11, 2001 provoked greater awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the January 2002 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review advocated research into modified and new generations of low-yield nuclear weapons to combat the increasing threat of hardened and deeply buried targets. Several delegations, most notably Germany (at the 2002 PrepCom session), the New Agenda Coalition, and Austria, advanced arguments for placing greater emphasis on the danger involved with non-strategic nuclear weapons. The wide support for these proposals at this PrepCom session may result in some progress at the 2005 RevCon.

Although the Russian Federation expressed some support for addressing the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons in the context of reductions of other kinds of nuclear armaments, it emphasized the need for the maintenance of strategic stability. The United States, on the other hand, stated that after reviewing the potential for further arms control instruments on non-strategic nuclear weapons, "we concluded that such an approach is not possible. The nature of the remaining non-strategic nuclear weapons and their delivery systems make it far more difficult to have confidence in treaty implementation than is the case for strategic systems." The positions of some NATO members, such as the Netherlands, were also of particular concern because they implied that "these weapons support NATO's nuclear posture." The Dutch delegation's statement that "a limited number of TNW deployed in Europe are politically and physically well protected and there is no possibility that those weapons will be transferred to other NNWS" implied that there is continued usefulness for these weapons in the European theatre and that if the United States were to reduce its non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, there would be a great imbalance in the numbers of these weapons between NATO and Russia.

The Summary addresses the importance of further reductions in non-strategic nuclear weapons, "based on unilateral initiatives" and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process and called for "formalization and increased transparency" in the implementation of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991 and 1992 between the Russian Federation and the United States. While recognizing that substantial reductions of non-strategic nuclear weapons had taken place through unilateral actions, and that the dismantling of these weapons under the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiative had been partially concluded, the Summary also reflects the view "by some States parties" (referring to those States that made specific proposal in this regard) that non-strategic weapons "must be further reduced in a transparent, accountable, verifiable, and irreversible manner, and that negotiations should begin on further reductions of those weapons as soon as possible." Making the linkage with the threat of terrorism, the Summary emphasizes the need to enhance security of the transport and storage of these weapons. In an attempt to reflect Russian concerns over the issue, the Summary also comments: "the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons is of a comprehensive nature and is linked to other aspects of strategic stability and therefore cannot be considered separately from other types of weapons."

Security Assurances and the Threat of Use of New Kinds of Nuclear Weapons

Given that little progress has been made towards nuclear disarmament, and that new security doctrines include the potential use of nuclear weapons against NNWS, the issue of negative security assurances (NSAs) gained renewed attention during this PrepCom. Many States parties stressed that NNWS party to the NPT have the right to unconditional and legally binding NSAs as a transitional measure until the goal of nuclear disarmament has been fully achieved. The 2000 RevCon decided that the PrepCom has to make recommendations on the issue to the 2005 RevCon. In this context, many States parties shared the views expressed by the South African delegation that "security assurances rightfully belong to those who have given up the nuclear weapon option as opposed to those that are still keeping their options open." It was also noted that NNWS party to the Treaty are in a "less enviable" position than that of non-party States. Comments were also made that if security assurances are being considered for North Korea to bring it back into the Treaty, this would imply that States that have been in compliance with their NPT obligations will not be able to rely on the NPT to achieve legally binding security assurances, giving the impression that the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation leads to such assurances being granted.

The New Agenda Coalition submitted a detailed proposal on scope, format, and other aspects involved with security assurances, including text for a draft legal instrument that could take the form either of a protocol or an agreement. The proposed draft instrument included both positive and negative security assurances, but allowed for the cessation of security assurances in the event that a NWS was attacked by a NNWS in association or alliance with a NWS.

During the debate, most of the NWS referred to their assurances given in April 1995 (Security Council resolution 984), stating that their respective policies on this issue remained unchanged. China reiterated its unilateral no-first-use and negative security assurance policy, and urged the other NWS to confirm their commitments in a legally binding form. Russia supported the application of legally binding NSAs through protocols to nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs), but also noted the possibility of establishing an ad hoc committee within the CD to negotiate a universal and legally binding agreement on security assurances.

It was, however, notable that the NWS—in particular the United States, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom—in stark contrast to their reaffirmation of previously given security assurances, failed to address widely held concerns about the development and possible use of new types of nuclear weapons against NNWS. In this regard, the United States failed to address concerns over its new doctrine of pre-emptive attack and threatened use of nuclear weapons against NNWS that use chemical or biological weapons. Many States consider this doctrine to be in contravention of both politically and legally binding NSAs already given by the United States. It is ironic that only a few weeks after the PrepCom, the U.S. Senate voted down an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization bill that would have preserved the ban (the 1993 Spratt-Furse law) on pursuing research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons by the United States. It is also disconcerting that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a speech to the Duma after the PrepCom, stated that "work to create new types of Russian weapons, weapons of the new generation, including those regarded by specialists as strategic weapons, is in the practical implementation stage." Moreover, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon had stated before the Parliamentary Defence Select Committee only a month before the start of the PrepCom that the United Kingdom "would retain the right to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state."

The Summary indicates that many States parties reaffirmed that NNWS should be effectively assured by NWS against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Reaffirmations of commitments under Security Council resolution 984 (1995) were also expressed. The Summary also reflects the call by many States parties (as mandated by the 2000 RevCon Final Document) that efforts to conclude a universal, unconditional, and legally binding instrument on security assurances to NNWS should be pursued as a matter of priority, and that this could take the form of an agreement or protocol to the Treaty, without prejudice to the legally binding security assurances already given by the five NWS in the framework of the treaties regarding NWFZs. The Summary includes an expression of concern that recent developments (referring to the implications of the possible use of new kinds of nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive manner) "might undermine commitments taken under the respective Security Council resolutions." It is also interesting that the chairman included a new element with respect to security assurances, i.e., that the granting of security assurances should be linked to the fulfillment of NPT obligations. This seems to imply that legally binding assurances will only be available to NNWS that are in compliance with the Treaty. The Summary also acknowledges that several States parties, including China, had emphasized the importance of a no-first-use policy, and it includes a reference to a proposal made by South Africa that a further subsidiary body be established to Main Committee I at the 2005 RevCon to address to address the issue in more detail. It is noteworthy to recall that a subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament established at the 2000 RevCon led to the adoption of the "13 practical steps" toward nuclear disarmament.

The Middle East

Since many of the burning issues confronting the NPT at this PrepCom related to the Middle East, the chairman approached these issues with great caution. In doing so, he clearly avoided a situation in which the PrepCom was derailed over disagreements related to the Middle East (as was the case during the 1998 PrepCom). In addition to naming Iran in the Summary, he specifically calls on Israel (as was the case in the 2000 RevCon Final Document) "to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible and to place its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards." The support given by all States parties at the 2000 RevCon for the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction was also reaffirmed.

It is also interesting that the chairman avoided any justification of the war against Iraq, while leaving the impression that questions remain about the true reasons for that war. He stated that the States parties "recalled that there remained unresolved questions regarding Iraq's programs of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and noted the importance of clarifying those outstanding issues." As in the case with the reference to the "road-map" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, he linked the justification by the United States and the United Kingdom for the war in Iraq, i.e., disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction capabilities, with the establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. He also acknowledged the IAEA's readiness to resume its verification activities in Iraq.

Nonproliferation Export Controls and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Many States (predominantly States parties from the developing world) reiterated the inalienable right of all States parties to the Treaty to engage in the research, development, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as stipulated in Article IV of the NPT. They expressed frustration that stringent export controls were preventing the effective implementation of Article IV. On the other hand, developed States parties (e.g., EU countries, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada, and especially the United States) emphasized the link between nonproliferation and peaceful uses, and urged the further conclusion of comprehensive safeguard agreements and Additional Protocols, as well as the stringent use of export controls and physical protection measures. The statement by the Republic of Korea that the "benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy cannot be made available to those states that remain outside the Treaty or violate their NPT obligations" seemed to reflect the sentiments of these States. The United States also stated that "the inalienable right to develop nuclear energy is not an entitlement but rather flows from demonstrable and verifiable compliance with Articles I, II, and III of the Treaty….No one could seriously maintain that a country not complying with its NPT nonproliferation obligations should nonetheless have a ‘right' to benefit from nuclear cooperation. No such unconditional right exists." The United States used the examples of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran as illustrations of countries that maintained the façade of peaceful programs while working towards building nuclear weapon capacities.

As was the case with the 2002 chairman's Summary, the Summary of the 2003 PrepCom session does not reflect a balanced approach between the three pillars of the Treaty, i.e., nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. To address the concerns of developing States, the "inalienable right of the States parties to engage in research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination" was reaffirmed; to balance this right with compliance provisions of the Treaty, the Summary emphasizes that "full and transparent implementation of strengthened safeguards is necessary to build the confidence which is a prerequisite for international nuclear cooperation." The Summary also includes a call "to fully ensure free, unimpeded, and non-discriminatory transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes." It also stated that "full compliance with all provisions of the Treaty is the basic condition for receiving the benefits of Article IV."

It is significant that the Summary contains a specific paragraph dealing with the value of nonproliferation export controls. Given the extreme sensitivities in this regard, the Summary does not include any explicit reference to export controls and such reference was also not possible in the Final Declaration of the 2000 RevCon—as a result of the concerns expressed by, in particular, States parties from the developing world. The statement in the Summary that "State[s] parties underlined that effective export controls, together with comprehensive safeguards, are central to cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which depends on the existence of a climate of confidence about non-proliferation" is likely to result in a heated debate at the next PrepCom. The explicit reference to "the important role of the international export control framework for nuclear-related materials and technologies, namely the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG]…, in particular their utility in guiding States in setting up their national export control policies" would further add to the controversy. As most States parties, especially those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), are not members of these regimes, and in fact consider them to be discriminatory in nature, attempts to include specific references to the Zangger Committee and the NSG have so far been unsuccessful in NPT documents. Although the text includes references to "the importance of transparency in export controls" and that "nothing in the Treaty should be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all parties to the Treaty to develop research, production, and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in keeping with the non-proliferation obligations of Articles I and II of the Treaty," it is unlikely that this approach would satisfy concerns shared by many developing States parties.

Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Terrorism

Given the increase in the perceived threat of nuclear terrorism, many States parties and the IAEA representatives emphasized the importance of safety and security of peaceful nuclear programs to ensure that terrorists do not gain access to nuclear/radioactive materials. The Summary reflects the strong support for the work done by the IAEA to address this issue. In so doing, it made a clear reference to the support for the IAEA action plan on protection against nuclear terrorism and the Agency's work in support of States' efforts to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive material. The paragraph also included a call for support of the G-8's "Kananaskis principles" to prevent terrorists, and those harbouring them, from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and related material.

The concerns expressed by coastal States parties (e.g., Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey) over maritime transport of nuclear and radioactive materials resulted in an emphasis in the Summary that "all transport of nuclear and radioactive material, including maritime transport, should be carried out in a safe and secure manner in strict conformity with international standards established by the relevant international organizations, such as the IAEA and the International Maritime Organization." Many States parties (e.g., New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Russia, Japan, and the United States) also supported the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and urged other States to accede to the Convention. The Summary states that "States parties urged the strengthening of the physical protection of nuclear material and facilities as an element of the nonproliferation regime that should be emphasized particularly in the light of the heightened risk of nuclear terrorism." It also referred to the conclusion of the work to prepare a well-defined draft amendment to the CPPNM and called for early action with respect to the strengthening of CPPNM and noted that "States parties recommended the early convening of a diplomatic conference to amend the CPPNM" and that "Many States parties called upon States that had not yet done so to accede to the CPPNM."

The importance of strengthening nuclear safety, radiation protection, safety of radioactive waste management, and the safe transport of radioactive materials is also addressed in the Summary, which notes the need for "maintaining the highest standards of safety at civilian nuclear installations through national measures and international cooperation" and that the efforts of the IAEA in the promotion of safety in all its aspects were welcomed. The Summary also includes an important call on States parties that had not yet acceded to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, as well as the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, to do so.

Strengthening of the Review Process and Enforcement of the NPT

Of further interest at the PrepCom was a proposal by South Africa to again review the strengthened review process at the 2005 RevCon based on the outcome of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) 2001/2002 Review Conference decision following the demise of the Ad hoc group negotiations. The South African proposal suggested that the BWC approach to undertake substantive work on an annual basis would provide the opportunity to address the issue of achieving significant progress and strengthening the implementation of the Treaty. The South African delegation, however, indicated that delegations should consider the content of the proposal "on the basis that our next PrepCom meeting in 2004 may consider recommendations on the issue to the Review Conference."

In a similar vein, and building on a proposal made during the 2000 RevCon, the Irish delegation again suggested that consideration be given to establishing "annual General Conferences of States parties to the NPT to take place in years other than those in which Review Conference are held." Ireland also recalled its former proposal that a "small secretariat be established within the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs to distribute information received from the States parties and [to] prepare an annual report to the proposed general Conference." Ireland noted that an advantage of this proposal would be to provide a forum "in which an NPT party could react to issues affecting the implementation of the Treaty which require an early response."

The German delegation also submitted proposals as "food for thought" on how to strengthen the "enforcement of the NPT." Germany suggested that a heads of state-level UN Security Council meeting be convened, modeled after the 1992 meeting at which the Council declared the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction a threat to international peace and security. The German delegation argued that the overall goal of such a Security Council meeting should be "the establishment of a new strategic consensus on how to deal with serious cases of non-compliance effectively and by making use of the possibilities provided for in the UN Charter." Germany furthermore proposed that "special conferences of NPT State[s] parties" could be convened in cases of serious violations of Treaty obligations. With regard to withdrawals from the Treaty, Germany suggested that a State party contemplating withdrawal "would be called upon to conduct prior consultations with NPT States parties before exercising its right in accordance with Article X. Such consultations could take place in the context of a special conference of the NPT to be convened immediately." Such consultations would provide an opportunity "for exploring ways and means to prevent a withdrawal." Although no in-depth discussions were held on these proposals, several delegations indicated that these ideas merit further consideration.

Conclusion: Progress and Prospects for 2005

If judged by the "smooth" way in which the PrepCom concluded its work, the relatively substantive interaction among delegations, and the fact that the Chairman's Factual Summary was partially negotiated and attached to the official PrepCom report, the PrepCom could be considered successful. If, however, measured against the true purposes of the PrepCom (as agreed to at the 2000 RevCon)—to "consider principles, objectives, and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality," progress remains questionable. Real progress and prospects for agreement at the 2005 RevCon should not be judged by the "smooth" conclusion of meetings or by the number of interactions between delegations, but should be measured by the level of agreement on progress made towards the full implementation of all aspects of the Treaty.

The 2003 session of the PrepCom, at which the Summary by the Chair again took the place of a negotiated text, was the last opportunity before the 2005 RevCon in which to engage in a discussion on substance rather than text. Although the initiatives brought forth and diplomatic skills demonstrated by the chairmen of the first two PrepCom sessions are commendable, the successful achievement of two factual summaries is not indicative of any agreement among NPT States parties on the implementation of the Treaty's provisions. It is indeed questionable whether these summaries will be used as a basis for recommendations to the 2005 RevCon when the States parties meet again at the third PrepCom session.

In view of the decision taken at the 2000 RevCon on "Improving the effectiveness of the strengthened review process for the Treaty"—that recommendations to the 2005 RevCon should only be considered at the third PrepCom—the States parties will have to face tough questions at the next session on how to effectively address cases of non-compliance and potential withdrawals from the NPT, as well as how to prevent any rollbacks from undertakings given and agreements reached in the context of the strengthened review process. A lot of work lies ahead—in addition to preparing for the next session and the PrepCom itself—to formulate and agree on specific recommendations to the RevCon. Given the rather dismal track record set by the preparatory process for the 2000 RevCon (it could not agree on any substantive recommendations to that Conference), the chairperson of the third PrepCom session (Indonesia will nominate a candidate) will indeed face a formidable challenge.

The continued validity of the strengthened review process as an integral part of the package that led to the decision to indefinitely extend the life of the Treaty and the decision taken at the 2000 RevCon to "further improve" this process will be called into question if the next PrepCom again fails to make concrete recommendations to the next RevCon. Only strong political will by all States parties—NWS and NNWS alike—will determine whether the next RevCon will be successful.


  • Rebecca Johnson, "NPT Report: Rogues and Rhetoric: The 2003 NPT PrepCom Slides Backwards," Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 71, June-July 2003,
  • Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
  • Jean du Preez and Lawrence Scheinman, "Iran Rebuked for Failing to Comply with IAEA Safeguards," Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
  • Jean du Preez, "Security Assurances Against the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons: Is Progress Possible at the NPT Prepcom?" Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
  • Preparatory Committee, NPT PrepCom 2003, "Report of the Preparatory Committee on its Second Session"

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