The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
UN Disarmament Committee Forecasts Troubled Nonproliferation Future
The year 2006 marked one of the worst years in the history of nonproliferation, disarmament and arms control. Following the failed 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the inability of the United Nations World Summit to address any of the nonproliferation and disarmament challenges facing the world today, the year 2006 left even deeper scars.
The nuclear test by North Korea on 9 October 2006 dealt a serious blow to the nuclear nonproliferation regime and made a mockery of the Korean Six-party talks, the NPT and Security Council enforcement. Of further concern was Iran's continued cat and mouse game with the IAEA leading to what has proven to be "paper-tiger" Chapter VII Security Council actions. The United States/India nuclear cooperation deal – despite its serious implications for the credibility of the NPT and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) – sailed through the U.S. Congress and is likely to lead to a change in the NSG's longstanding restrictions on nuclear trade with India.
Continued research in the United States on a Reliable Warhead Replacement for its nuclear arsenal has raised concerns that this could be a slippery slope to new types of nuclear weapons, which could lead to possible resumption of nuclear testing and another nuclear arms race. Equally concerning was the announcement by the British government that the United Kingdom intends to replace – instead of dismantle – its submarine-based Trident nuclear missiles with more advanced U.S. sourced technology. Following hints that U.S. nuclear warheads may be used against potential terrorist targets, French President Chirac commented in early 2006 that states "who would use terrorist means" against France may face non-conventional retaliation.
There was a glimmer of hope that at least the eight-year long deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) would finally be broken, and that negotiations on a watered down mandate for a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) would start during 2007. However, last minute filibustering by a few CD members at the end of the 2006 session led to the conclusion of yet another failed year for the only multilateral disarmament negotiating body.
To top off the list of disappointments, the Review Conference of the UN Program of Action on small arms that took place in summer 2006 failed to produce an outcome document, largely due to the efforts of one member state.
As if these challenges were not enough reason to cast a dark shadow over any prospects for progress during 2007, especially at the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the events and voting patterns at the 61st session of the General Assembly First Committee (FC) showed that the dividing lines between UN member states are running deeper than ever.
Compared to the 2005 session, the 2006 First Committee was less apathetic and witnessed more initiative – most notably, the adoption of the resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Still, on closer inspection, the session was more about great expectations than great achievements. It did not foster broader agreement on issues of most pressing concern – if anything, the speeches and voting records highlighted the differences in principled positions, as well as hardening in the stance of several states. The texts of most of the resolutions remained the same as in previous years, and where they changed substantially, it led to greater division among the member states. Disagreements over such key substantive issues as nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances, prohibition of the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, and extension of control over the transfers of conventional weapons persisted. Adding to the rift, U.S. support for multilateral initiatives and UN resolutions on disarmament matters reached an all-time low. Developments, successes and setbacks on key resolutions are discussed in greater detail below.
The 61st session of the UNGA FC was held from 2 to 31 October and chaired by Ms. Mona Juul of Norway, the first woman to chair the FC since the creation of the UN. Several developments in the field of nonproliferation and disarmament influenced the debates in the FC.
In summer 2006, the U.S. delegation circulated at the CD a proposal for a treaty on the cessation of production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The draft text did not cover international treaty verification and elimination of existing stockpiles of fissile material, but provided some grounds for debate. Through the initiative of the six CD presidents, constructive discussions took place during the 2006 session, which appeared to have opened an opportunity to break the long-standing deadlock, with an FMCT being the central issue. In their opening statements at the FC, Mexico, Switzerland, Japan, Belarus, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and other delegations voiced their support for the start of negotiations on an FMCT without conditions, while New Zealand, Indonesia, Australia and especially Pakistan stressed that the future treaty must be verifiable.
Tensions surrounding the North Korean nuclear program remained high given the country's missile and nuclear weapons tests in 2006. The DPRK conducted a series of ballistic missile tests on 5 July 2006. The Security Council responded with Resolution 1695 on 15 July, condemning the tests and imposing sanctions on North Korea's missile program. In early October, the DPRK announced its intention to conduct a nuclear test. In view of this announcement, as well as the 10th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), a number of delegations spoke of the importance of the entry-into-force of the CTBT and called on the states to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing in the meantime. While North Korea conducted a nuclear test (on 9 October 2006) during the committee's session, there was surprisingly very little discussion of the matter. The test did, however, increase further the importance of reaffirming the international norm against nuclear testing as well as support for the CTBT, and in the end, resulted in three FC resolutions condemning the test. The Security Council of course reacted strongly by passing Resolution 1718, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, condemning the test. The resolution mandated that "all Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories," any materials relating to missile or weapons of mass destruction programs.
The absence of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis continued through the FC session. On 31 July, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1696, in which it expressed its serious concern over the continued inability of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program after more than three years of efforts. The Council demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and set a deadline (31 August 2006) for Iran to do so or face the possibility of economic and diplomatic sanctions. However, the deadline subsequently passed and by the start of the FC session, no action had been taken against Iran. The nuclear talks with Iran remained stalled during the period of the FC session, with China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States unable to reach an agreement as to how to proceed on the issue. The stand-off created a renewed urgency to discuss the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, treaty compliance and the need for negative security assurances to be provided by nuclear-weapon states (NWS) to non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS). A majority of states – particularly the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) – reaffirmed the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. South Africa, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Turkey and several other states qualified that such right should be exercised along with compliance with treaty obligations, and highlighted the importance of the IAEA safeguards.
The treaty establishing the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-free Zone was signed by the five Central Asian states (C-5) on 8 September 2006 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, marking perhaps the only major positive development in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in years. The United States, Great Britain and France (P-3) objected to the signing of the treaty given their concerns that previous security agreements may take precedence over the provisions of the CANWFZ treaty. In particular, the P-3 are concerned that, under the 1992 Tashkent Collective Security Treaty, Russia will still be able to transport nuclear weapons through Central Asia or deploy them in the region in the future. The Kazakh foreign minister commented after the signing ceremony that the issue remained open to interpretation. On 1 September 2006, the C-5 sent a note to the NWS, indicating their willingness to continue the consultations; however, this issue remained unresolved at the outset of the FC. The introduction of the draft resolution on the CANWFZ treaty was delayed, as consultations on the text continued, and support of a number of European states to the resolution remained uncertain till the last moment.
The FC general debate covered a wide array of issues in disarmament and international security, but there was clearly no consensus on key issues, especially nuclear disarmament. While there was general agreement that the NPT regime requires strengthening, the divide between the NNWS and NWS is deepening, with the debate spinning around the "disarmament first" versus "nonproliferation first" arguments. Furthermore, the lack of unified approach among the NNWS themselves was once again evidenced by the introduction of three different resolutions on nuclear disarmament.
A resolution consistently backed by Japan "Renewed Determination towards the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons" (A/RES/61/74), again received strong support, including from four of the NWS (China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom voted in favor). The United States and Israel called the resolution realistic and balanced, but the United States voted against it given the reference to the CTBT. The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 169 in favor, three against (DPRK, India and the United States) and eight abstentions (Bhutan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Myanmar Pakistan). Several changes were made in the text compared to 2005: the resolution condemned the DPRK's nuclear test and stressed the importance of the NPT review process in view of the upcoming first session of the Preparatory Committee. The resolution also calls on the CD to immediately resume its substantive work, taking into account the developments during the 2006 session of the conference. Understood as a reference to an FMCT and a call to start unconditional negotiations on this treaty, this prompted some states, such as Iran and Egypt, to abstain on the resolution. Both cited their disagreement with an emphasis on FMCT negotiations, while not mentioning other proposed subsidiary bodies at the CD. Egypt further stated that the resolution should have clearly reflected the commitments of NWS under the 13 Practical Steps towards nuclear disarmament adopted at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
The first draft of the New Agenda Coalition resolution, "Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: Accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament" (A/RES/61/65), did not differ significantly from the previous year. It featured slightly stronger language on the NPT, emphasizing the central role of the treaty, and a new paragraph calling on the DPRK to rescind its withdrawal from the NPT. After the announcement of the nuclear test by the DPRK, the sponsors revised the text to condemn all nuclear tests by all states, regardless of their membership in the NPT. This phrasing raised objections from the NWS, and, following further consultations, the NAC revised the draft once again. The final text was even more controversial as it only condemned tests by states not yet party to the NPT and "any further nuclear-weapon test by any State whatsoever." Both India and Pakistan expressed their dissatisfaction with such language, stating that it was selective and discriminatory. The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 148 in favor, 7 against (DPRK, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, United Kingdom and the United States) and 12 abstentions.
The NAM-backed "Nuclear Disarmament" resolution (A/RES/61/78) featured, as in years past, an exhaustive list of measures ranging from ceasing the improvement, development and production of nuclear warheads and delivery systems to adoption of no-first-use policy by the NWS, conclusion of a treaty on NSAs and establishment of an ad-hoc committee on nuclear disarmament at the CD. The voting record on this resolution was also virtually identical to last year's, gaining a limited support with 105 votes in favor, 45 against and 16 abstentions.
The traditional Canadian draft resolution "Prohibition of the production of fissile material for weapons purposes" (A/C.1/61/L.23) was introduced again. Following the debate in the CD towards the end of its 2006 session and in light of the U.S.-proposed FMCT (tabled in June 2006), the draft resolution urged the CD to commence the negotiations on an FMCT, regardless of whether it should be verifiable or not and without linkage to progress on other subsidiary bodies on PAROS, NSAs and nuclear disarmament. Despite strong support for an FMCT voiced by many delegations during the general debate, the draft resolution soon became the target of many delegations who expressed concerns the draft emphasized an FMCT over other priority issues, and that it ignored the importance of FMCT verifiability and the inclusion of existing fissile material stockpiles. Given the divergence of opinions and lack of time to bridge differences, the Canadian delegation decided to withdraw the resolution.
Malaysia again introduced the resolution "Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons" (A/RES/61/83). Compared to previous years, the text of this resolution has not changed substantially, and there again was a separate vote on operational paragraph 1, which underlines the conclusion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the obligation of the NWS to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament. As further evidence of their hardening position vis-à-vis nuclear disarmament, France joined Israel, Russia and the United States in voting against the paragraph. The resolution as a whole was adopted by a vote of 117 in favor, 27 against and 26 abstentions.
The resolution "The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East" (A/RES/61/103), which calls for Israel to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state was passed with 156 votes for, six abstentions, and four against the resolution. As in previous years, the United States and Israel opposed the resolution. It was interesting that unlike previous years several states expressed concern that while Israel was called by name, Iran was not. While voting in favor of A/RES/61/103, Finland on behalf of the EU said it was concerned that the draft resolution had not reflected some of the recent developments in nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, alluding to the IAEA and Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear program. Canada and Australia abstained on the same draft resolution, citing their concern that it did not mention Iran's non-compliance with its IAEA Safeguards Agreement. 
At arguably one of the most crucial periods in the history of the nonproliferation regime, when international efforts to advance disarmament and nonproliferation require informed leadership of the most powerful nations, the United States placed itself in opposition to the vast majority of states at the FC. It voted against 24 resolutions and 1 decision out of 52 resolutions and 2 decisions considered. Of those, the United States cast the sole negative vote 12 times; in eight other votes, it was in a minority of fewer than four.
While in most cases the United States maintained its previous positions – such as on PAROS, nuclear disarmament and relationship between disarmament and development, on some issues, particularly negative security assurances (NSAs), the U.S. negative stance has hardened. This was the first time that the United States voted against the resolution dealing with NSAs. Emphasized further by the U.S. delegation's explanation that the United States "opposes a treaty on negative security assurances or any other binding instrument on security assurances,"  the sole negative vote carries a dangerous message: protection against U.S. aggression requires a nuclear arsenal. It is ironic that North Korea voted in favor of that resolution.
In some cases, the United States found itself in agreement with unlikely allies. At a time when the norm against nuclear testing needed reaffirmation, the United States – joined only by North Korea – voted against the resolution on the CTBT (A/RES/61/104). While supporting the paragraph that condemned the test carried out by the DPRK, the United States reiterated its opposition to the treaty overall.
The United States was also alone in voting against the resolutions on prevention of an arms race in outer space (A/RES/61/58) and transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (A/RES/61/75). The U.S. delegation explained its negative vote on the outer space arms race resolution by saying, "There is no arms race in space, and no prospect of an arms race in space. Thus there is no arms control problem for the international community to address."  This statement stands in sharp contrast to the updated U.S. Space Policy authorized by President George W. Bush on 31 August2006. This updated policy places a greater emphasis on the U.S. freedom of action in outer space and opposition to any legal regimes that may limit such freedom. The policy also states that the United States would "take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests."  Overwhelming support for the resolutions on PAROS and transparency and confidence-building in outer space activities showed that member states perceive the threat of an arms race in outer space as real. The PAROS resolution was adopted by a vote of 166 in favor, one against and two abstentions (Côte d'Ivoir and Israel). A Russian resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities was adopted by a vote of 167 in favor, one against and one abstention (Israel).
"Convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament" (Indonesia, A/RES/61/60) was another resolution for which the United States found itself as the only country in opposition. The hardened U.S. position on this issue, as opposed to it abstention in past years, resulted in a voted resolution. There were no abstentions and 166 votes in favor with one vote against. The United States did not explain its vote.
Adoption of resolutions on nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) ranged from being almost a matter of formality to high controversy. The resolution on Mongolia's international security and nuclear weapon-free status retained the support of the committee and was adopted without a vote. Similarly, the resolution on "Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East" (A/RES/61/56) was once again approved unanimously.
In sharp contrast to the unanimous support for the controversial concept of an NWFZ in the Middle East, especially given Israel's nuclear arsenal and fears about Iran's nuclear intentions, was the divided support for the Central Asian NWFZ treaty signed shortly before the FC session commenced. The resolution "Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia" (A/RES/61/88) was introduced by Uzbekistan after extensive consultation. The first draft of the resolution "noted with satisfaction" the signing of the treaty. Compared to language in other resolutions welcoming existing NWFZs, this wording indicated a less enthusiastic approach vis-à-vis the CANWFZ. After informal consultations with European and NAM delegations, the text was changed to "welcomes." While the resolution recognizes the contribution of the CANWZ to nonproliferation and regional and international security, it does not mention nuclear disarmament. It also recognizes the establishment of the CANWFZ as an effective contribution to combating international terrorism and preventing non-state actors from acquiring nuclear materials and technologies. While the disagreements between the Central Asian states and the P-3 persist, the resolution notes the readiness of the C-5 to continue consultations with NWS on a number of provisions of the treaty.
The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 128 in favor, three against (France, the United Kingdom and the United States) and 36 abstentions, including Australia and Canada. The European votes split, with most of the European Union abstaining. Germany expressed disappointment that the resolution did not reflect a "balance," referring to the German delegation's suggestion that the text should also note the readiness of the NWS to continue consultations on the treaty and protocol. The United Kingdom, on behalf of France and the United States, explained its negative vote with the continuing concern over Article XII of the treaty. Of those who voted in favor, several States Parties to the Treaty of Tlatelolco spoke particularly strongly in support of the treaty and draft resolution. Indonesia, speaking on behalf of NAM, expressed its wish to see a stronger resolution that would send a clearer message on disarmament, and one in which the General Assembly would full-heartedly welcome the new NWFZ.
The Brazilian sponsored resolution "Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas" (A/RES/61/69) was passed with 168 votes in favor, seven abstentions, and three against (France, United Kingdom and United States). The text of the draft resolution remained essentially the same as in past years, and there again was a separate vote on the operative paragraph 5 and its last three words. The paragraph welcomes the steps taken to conclude further NWFZ treaties in the Middle East and South Asia. It was retained as a whole. India said that such language contradicted the principles of the establishment of NWFZ on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned and abstained on the resolution. As in previous years, France, the United Kingdom and the United States voted against the resolution, given their view that the ambiguity regarding the zone's coverage of the high seas had not been sufficiently addressed in the draft. Ironically an overwhelming majority of states that abstained on the CANWFZ resolution voted in favor of this resolution despite its positive reference to the signing of the CANWFZ Treaty.
The adoption of the draft resolution on an arms trade treaty (A/RES/61/89) was perhaps the biggest break-through of the 2006 session, though not without difficulties and certain reservations. This new resolution was introduced by the United Kingdom and co-sponsored by a large number of states with the aim of starting the process towards a legally binding international instrument on standards for the trade and transfer in conventional arms. The idea of the treaty received wide support expressed in the opening statements of the EU, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, Kenya, South Korea, Oman, Nigeria, Serbia, Ukraine and others. However, major arms exporters such as the United States, Russia, China, Israel and Belarus did not address this initiative in their opening statements.
The resolution requests the UN Secretary-General to submit a report containing the views of member states on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters of the future treaty, and to establish a group of governmental experts (GGE) who would also examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters of the future legal instrument on arms trade. The decision to include the latter request in the draft was criticized by a number of states. Cuba, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, the Russian Federation and others expressed their disagreement with the establishment of a GGE before member states have submitted their views on the matter. Because of this divergence of views, there was a separate vote on two operative paragraphs, and both were retained (133-1-26 and 133-1-24, respectively). Explaining its abstention on the resolution as a whole, Russia stated that it did not see the need for a new international instrument regulating arms trade. China also abstained, arguing that the draft did not reflect the need for a different approach to arms exporting states. The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 139 in favor, 24 abstentions and one against. The United States was again the only state to cast a negative vote. It did not provide an explanation of its vote.
The outcome of the debates and voting at the 61st session of the First Committee does not bode well for initiatives to deal with pressing concerns of disarmament and international security. Bearing in mind that the FC is not a negotiating forum, but a platform for states to set priorities and express positions on various issues, the 2006 session further emphasized the deep divides among UN member states on how to deal with current disarmament and nonproliferation challenges. It also clearly showed an increased tendency by the United States to oppose multilateral initiatives in this regard. While the unanimous adoption of the resolutions on implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) were followed by successful review conferences of these two conventions, the FC debates and voting patterns did not signal similar positive outcomes for the 2007 CD session or the first Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference. In contrast, the FC session demonstrated, among other things, that the positions of both NWS and NNWS have further hardened, especially with regard to an FMCT, NSAs and nuclear disarmament.
The FC also marked an important shift in focus on the resolution "Risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East" (A/RES/61/103). Many delegations expressed concerns that Iran, like Israel, should be mentioned in the text. The refusal of the sponsors to name Iran and the adoption of the resolution with 156 votes in favor showed that the majority of states are not ready to oppose Iran's insistence on the right to uranium enrichment. This is a clear signal that concerns over Iran's non-compliance with its safeguards agreement and the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, coupled with further strengthening of treaty verification measures, is likely to create serious divisions among NPT delegations at the 2007 NPT PrepCom meeting
The increased uncompromising position of the United States on most disarmament issues, including an arms race in outer space, puts it at odds not only with the NNWS, in particular those from the NAM, but also with other NWS such as Russia and China. Furthermore, if judged by their statements at the FC, U.S. and Russian approaches to nuclear disarmament and arms control are drifting further apart. While Russia seemed to stress the need for continued bilateral nuclear arms reduction processes, the United States hardly mentioned nuclear disarmament and arms control at all. This is a further signal that the next NPT Review Conference will face major challenges in bringing closer the positions of the NWS and NNWS, but also the positions of the two major NWS.
Yet, the most significant question to be addressed in the wake of the 2006 FC is whether any political will still exists among NWS and NNWS alike to bridge the gaps between their approaches to disarmament and nonproliferation.
 Quoted in Molly Moore, "Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible," The Washington Post, 20 January 2006, www.washingtonpost.com.
 Canada introduced the resolution "The Conference on Disarmament decision (CD/1547) of 11 August 1998 to establish, under item 1 of its agenda entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament," an ad hoc committee to negotiate, on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator (CD/1299) and the mandate contained therein, a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices"
 Explanation of vote of the delegation of the United States on draft resolution "Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons" (A/RES/61/57), 23 October 2006.
 Explanation of vote of the delegation of the United States on draft resolutions "Prevention of an arms race in outer space" and "Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities" at the 61st session of the UNGA First Committee, 26 October, 2006, www.reachingcriticalwill.org
 U.S. National Space Policy, https://news.bbc.co.uk
 The Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone was signed by all five Central Asian states on 8 September 2006 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan.
 Article XII of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty states that the treaty "does not affect the rights and obligations of the Parties under other international treaties which they may have concluded prior to the date of the entry into force" of CANWFZ.
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