July 19, 1994

REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM
DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
TO A CONFERENCE ON NPT REVIEW AND EXTENSION AT THE
LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY

I'd like to thank the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the Department of Energy for sponsoring this conference. It is an important opportunity -- in no small part because of the distinguished international audience gathered here this evening -- to address a topic whose importance has been widely noted, but which has yet to receive the urgent attention it demands.

I am here because ACDA has no higher priority than winning the indefinite and unconditional extension of the NPT next year.

The NPT's entry into force in 1970 transformed the acquisition of nuclear weapons from an act of national pride to a violation of international law. If it crumbles -- indeed, if cracks are detected -- a great deal of the nuclear security architecture painstakingly constructed by the international community may begin to collapse.

The NPT serves two mutually reinforcing aims: nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The Treaty balances positive and negative rights and obligations. As you know, it is at once an agreement to forego nuclear weapons; an agreement to put peaceful nuclear facilities under international safeguards; an undertaking to end the arms race and pursue nuclear disarmament; and an agreement promoting access to technical cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

THE TREATY'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND IMPORTANCE

Let me summarize at the outset why we hold the Treaty so dear. The NPT has successfully put in place a global norm against the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. During the 1960s, when it was negotiated, many predicted that there would be 20-30 avowed nuclear weapon states today But in fact, there are only five -- the same as when the NPT was brought into force -- and three other "threshold" states.

The NPT system has steadily expanded since 1970, and there has been considerable tangible progress in recent years -- with the accessions of China, France, South Africa, the Baltics and the majority of the newly independent states; the announced intentions of Argentina and algeria; and the non-nuclear decisions of Chile and Brazil. With 164 parties (and counting), the NPT enjoys the widest adherence of any arms control agreement in history.

As the only nuclear nonproliferation agreement of global reach, the Treaty has codified an international standard of behavior against which the actions of even states outside the regime are measured. Indeed, the NPT sets the fundamental legal standard and political framework for all the cases of greatest concern to the international community: for our ongoing denuclearization efforts with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine; for seeking to encourage constructive steps by India, Pakistan, and Israel; and for keeping a watchful eye and international pressure on countries, like North Korea and Iraq, that historically have not respected their agreements.

When the Argentines communicated to us their decision to join the NPT, the words they used revealed a powerful legal and even moral norm at work. They said that they had long kept open their nuclear option out of a desire to add to their security, but found that it had the opposite effect -- of excluding them from the political and economic circles where they realize their true security lies.

The NPT also provides essential support for peaceful uses of nuclear energy under effective international safeguards. NPT parties are required to conclude full-scope safeguards agreements with the IAEA whose duration is tied to the duration of the NPT.

By law, the U.S. may not engage in significant nuclear cooperation with any country that does not have such a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. And this policy has been adopted by nearly all major nuclear suppliers. So the end of the NPT would mean the destruction of the basis for peaceful nuclear cooperation between NPT parties.

The United States has long believed that adherence to the NPT should facilitate international nuclear cooperation. As a result, when choosing opportunities for peaceful nuclear cooperation, it is U.S. policy to accord preference to NPT and Treaty of Tlatelolco parties.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST INDEFINITE EXTENSION

Let me address the principal arguments against indefinite and unconditional extension. Some complain that the NPT is "discriminatory," because it accepts five nuclear powers and freezes out all others. But remember that the Treaty did not create nuclear weapon "haves" and "have-nots." It only recognized that inherited reality -- and helped stop a deadly trend in its tracks -- while at the same time committing the nuclear weapon states to pursue nuclear disarmament.

Remember this: The measure of arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements lies not in their egalitarianism, but in their contributions to international security.

The fact is, if the world were to insist today on a reflexive nuclear equality, the likely result would be a leveling up not a leveling down: not a world freed of nuclear weapons, but a world filled with nuclear weapons states.

Another argument one hears is that indefinite extension would legitimize nuclear weapons for all time. In fact, the opposite is true.

In recent years -- with the NPT in place -- we and the former Soviet Union have:

Taken together, these actions have resulted in nuclear disarmament on a massive scale. The NPT's call for an end to the arms race has been met. The race now is to bring down force levels as quickly, safely, and securely as possible. Thousands of nuclear weapons are being dismantled. The United States alone is dismantling around 2,000 nuclear weapons a year, the highest rate that technical limitations will permit.

And now, the ledger in fulfillment of NPT Article VI includes two additional multilateral efforts -- to negotiate a world-wide fissile material cutoff treaty and to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty, or CTBT.

A cutoff treaty would cap the amount of material available for nuclear explosives. It could bring the unsafeguarded nuclear programs of certain non-NPT states under some measure of restraint for the first time. And it would prevent any further production of separated plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for weapons in the five declared nuclear-weapon states.

Achieving a CTBT is also an imperative for the United States -- a fact underscored earlier this year when I delivered a personal message from President Clinton to the Conference on Disarmament ("CD") in Geneva. The President's message said that of all the items on the Conference's agenda, "none is more important" than negotiating a CTBT "at the earliest possible time." We want to ensure that the first half-century of nuclear explosions is the last.

An important contribution to the test-ban negotiations has been the testing moratorium observed by all but one of the nuclear weapons powers. I urge all countries to join in calling on China to reconsider its position and refrain from further testing.

The NPT is an important stimulus to these disarmament steps. Pressure to disarm will be kept on the nuclear weapons states by reaffirming Article VI and keeping it in force indefinitely. The perverse result of easing this pressure would flow not from making the Treaty permanent, but from crippling it through lesser steps.

And as it creates political incentives to disarmament, the NPT also fosters the global conditions that permit deep reductions. It is a simple, practical reality that arms control will suffer if the barriers against nuclear proliferation are lowered. Indeed, it is clear that -- perhaps unlike the Cold War period -- further progress in arms control depends on the security of a permanent NPT. Well, it is then argued, why not hold up the NPT -- or just extend it for a short time -- as a way to force even greater progress on the nuclear weapon states? Some, for example, suggest that we should hold NPT extension hostage to conclusion of a CTBT, then make it permanent.

There are many flaws to such arguments, but two main ones. First, treating the NPT as a bargaining chip is dangerously self-defeating. And second, it jeopardizes what in practical terms is our one realistic opportunity to make the NPT last forever.

Those who think the NPT is a bargaining chip ignore a cardinal rule: don't gamble with something you can't afford to lose.

For reasons that include geography, the countries most immediately put at risk by nuclear proliferators are their immediate and regional neighbors -- not the United States. We support the NPT in our own interests, to be sure. But it is even more strongly in the interests of countries located in regions of tension.

The NPT gives all member countries the security of knowing that their neighbors and regional rivals will not be able effectively to pursue nuclear-weapons ambitions -- not only because they have agreed not to, but also because there is a global system to verify that they haven't. It provides the fiscal savings and physical safety that come from avoidance of regional nuclear arms races.

We are also keenly aware of the importance attached by many parties to the issue of security assurances. The United States is committed not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, such as the Tlatelolco Treaty, unless the U.S. is attacked by that non-nuclear weapon state in alliance with a nuclear weapon state. In addition, the positive security assurances given at the time of signature of the NPT could be updated. We are open to discussion on this issue.

So for all those whose votes will decide its fate, the NPT is a source not of leverage, but of security. The NPT's greatest value to the international community is not as a lever, for moving the nuclear states, but as a shield, to ward off regional arms races and nuclear dangers.

Many countries have testified to this truth with their deeds. In Latin America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa, nations have adopted or are moving toward nuclear-weapon-free zones that do not contain analogues to the NPT's Article VI. This confirms that it is not principally Article VI that draws countries to a commitment against acquiring nuclear weapons, but rather, a recognition that their own security is enhanced when they codify the norm of nuclear nonproliferation in their own backyards.

And the corollary of the bargaining chip argument -- the proposition that indefinite extension can be put off -- is particularly dangerous because it is so seductively plausible ... and so wrong.

Article X.2 of the Treaty explicitly spells out the three and only three extension options the parties have in 1995: indefinite extension, extension for a fixed period, or extension for fixed periods. What is not made explicit in the Treaty -- but is so important to its fate -- is that 1995 represents the only realistic opportunity the parties have to give the NPT an indefinite extension that is legally binding on every member without the need to go back to parliaments for ratification.

Extending the Treaty for a fixed term won't work. Because it presently contains no provision for a further extension decision after the first, it would have to be amended to provide for such a decision, or else expire. Treaty amendment, in turn, would require not only the votes of a specialized majority of parties -- including all members of the IAEA Board and all five nuclear weapon states -- but also ratification by 83 national legislatures (at present count).

It is not realistic to count on achieving amendment. Simply collecting the ratifications of most parties could take years -- after all, it took 19 years for the 98 original NPT signatories to ratify the Treaty. And even if the amendment were brought into force, it would only apply to those states that actually ratify it, giving many states an easy way to back out of the Treaty.

The Treaty also can be extended for fixed periods. The length of each period, number of periods, and the type of transition mechanism that would be needed to go from one period to the next would have to be resolved. By requiring (and deferring) such difficult decisions -- many of which have uncertain legality -- this option also clearly risks the possibility of eventual Treaty expiration. Again, indefinite extension is the only way to ensure that the NPT will endure.

Another frequent criticism of the NPT is that certain countries have not joined. Some states, for example, have said that support for indefinite extension would be difficult without Israel's adherence to the NPT.

But enlarging the prospect that the NPT may lapse at some point makes it less likely -- not more likely -- that states like Israel, India and Pakistan ultimately will join. The best chance for their ultimate adherence lies in a strong Treaty that is a permanent part of the international security system.

The same principle holds in every region: it is the NPT that provides the essential worldwide framework for addressing diverse proliferation problems and promoting stability. Had there been no NPT, an agreement very much like it probably would have had to be invented to address the proliferation dangers inherent in the breakup of a nuclear superpower into a dozen newly independent states. The commitments of most of these states to the NPT as non-nuclear weapon state parties have done much to ease tensions and reduce risks during this challenging formative period.

In Africa, South Africa's adherence to the NPT helped to open a security dialogue with other African states and pave the way for negotiation of an African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty Here, as in Latin America with the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the NPT and regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties complement and reinforce one another.

In the Middle East, the NPT is the only norm in force against nuclear proliferation. If it should expire after some limited extension, there would be no formal constraints on Iraqi, Iranian and Libyan nuclear weapons programs, for example, and no basis for acting against these or any other states whose nonproliferation bona fides might be open to question. This would surely heighten proliferation pressures and set back the painstaking Mideast peace process.

Related to the universality argument is the argument that the NPT does not deserve indefinite extension because it has not solved every nuclear proliferation problem, such as North Korea and Iraq. But this betrays a misunderstanding of where arms control and nonproliferation regimes leave off, and where the need for political will in the international community begins.

The IAEA has risen to the challenge revealed by the case of Iraq by strengthening its system of safeguards -- reaffirming the right to special inspections at undeclared sites, and approving a voluntary program of reporting nuclear exports. And field trials are already underway to test other strengthening measures.

In North Korea, the IAEA's inspections have demonstrated its dogged vigilance in the pursuit of international safeguards agreements. In verifying North Korea's initial declaration, the Agency found discrepancies that led it to seek special inspections at undeclared sites.

While the case of North Korea is yet to be resolved, the fact that the NPT's enforcement requires political will in the international community is hardly an indictment of the Treaty. To the contrary, the engagement of the UN demonstrates that the NPT system works -- for it is only the UN Security Council that can act on behalf of the international community to enforce its norms.

But if the NPT reflects so much wisdom, why not follow its own initial pattern of a 25-year term? Because any doubts that led to that compromise have been resolved. The NPT was untested then; now we know the global nonproliferation regime works. Then the future was unclear; now we have experienced the Treaty's effective operation over time and through changing conditions. Countries' responses to it could not be predicted then; now we know it has the broadest adherence of any international arms control agreement. So our best guide now is not the uncertainty of 1968, but the informed confidence of 1995.

Arms control regimes typically are permanent including the ABM, START and INF treaties, the Chemical Weapons Convention, even the regional nuclear-zones. Surely the most successful, broadest and now increasingly vital global arms control regime deserves equal status.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF A WORLD WITHOUT THE NPT

I believe it is established that anything less than an indefinite extension will jeopardize the NPT's future. So the question becomes, why would that be a bad outcome?

No one can predict definitively the nature of a world without the NPT But each of us must think concretely about the massive proliferation pressures that could be tragically unloosed if the Treaty ever expires.

Among the nuclear weapon states, the obligation for good faith negotiations toward disarmament would be gone -- and pressures to maintain and build large arsenals and develop new weapons would reappear.

In the former Soviet Union, the basis for averting several newly independent nuclear weapon states would be undermined.

As to the threshold states, any political leverage for universal adherence to nonproliferation norms would be gravely weakened, not strengthened.

In Northeast Asia, would the spotlight of world attention be shining as white-hot as it is on North Korea without the NPT? Consider what the other nations in that region might feel compelled to do without the bulwark -- the constant gravitational pull and pressure -- exerted by the NPT And then consider the cascading effect their actions would be likely to have on still other countries.

Consider also the group of countries that is almost entirely ignored in NPT discussions: all the others -- all the countries for whom nuclear arms are not an issue, because they have made and kept nuclear nonproliferation commitments. The NPT's greatest achievements are invisible -- consisting of bad things not happening, nuclear material not diverted, weapons not made. We cannot know which additional countries might have decided, but for the NPT, that they needed nuclear arms. We do know that more than 40 countries may well have the required technical and economic resources.

Without the NPT, we have to assume that over time many of those bad things would begin to happen. We would be very hard pressed to keep states from hedging their nuclear bets against an uncertain future.

Think about your own nation's specific security concerns. None would be helped by the NPT's weakening. All would be worsened.

And we could not count on continuation of the important cooperation on peaceful nuclear commerce that so many states enjoy as NPT parties. Since the duration of NPT parties' IAEA safeguards agreements are tied to the Treaty's duration, the Treaty's infirmity could cast doubt on the status of these safeguards agreements. Without realistic backups in most cases, domestic laws and political pressures might well force suppliers to curtail or completely cut off nuclear cooperation out of concern that it could contribute to proliferation in a world without a nuclear safety net.

Nor should one believe that the nuclear-weapon-free zones in various states of completion around the world are a panacea. They cannot accomplish what Article VI can (and already has). And they do nothing to resist proliferation pressures outside of their own regions. So while they may supplement the NPT, no one should be under the illusion they will ever be a substitute for it.

The Japanese have a saying: "The nail that stands out will be hammered down. " Today proliferant countries know how that feels" because they are exposed to the global hammer against nuclear weapons -- the NPT. But in a world without the Treaty, the nails sticking out -- especially in regions of tension -- could become those states not pursuing or possessing nuclear arms. Countries might avoid standing out in such a world not by resisting pressures to have nuclear weapons, but by succumbing to them.

All this explains why the United States is sparing no effort to ensure the Treaty's indefinite extension. I am especially pleased that the Senate last week confirmed one of our country's finest public servants, Tom Graham, to lead our effort, with Ambassadorial rank. He has been working tirelessly with many of you and your colleagues, listening to your concems about the NPT, and sharing our thinking about it as well.

CONCLUSION

You may have heard the apocryphal story of the young man who climbs the distant mountaintop to seek advice from the revered old wise man who renounced vast riches and celebrity. When he asks the wise man what he should do he is told only, "My son, avoid hedonism, do not seek fame -- such things are but a snare and a delusion."

The young man looks at the wise man and says: "Thank you, sage one. Could I just try them for a month first?"

One of the problems with nuclear weapons, of course, is that you can't just try them for a month. Let me try to talk to you candidly about the Soviet-American nuclear standoff as I see it.

The Cold War was a terrible necessity. We and the Soviets scaled the nuclear heights -- in the process expending staggering resources and talent, and making the perils of nuclear catastrophe a daily companion.

Now, at last, we are climbing down from the precipice. And we implore you -- with urgency, with sincerity, from our own experience: do not start up that mountain. Its crevasses are treacherous; avalanches are a constant risk; the trip will sap your time and treasure. The two countries that have spent the most time at the highest altitudes are returning to earth with alacrity and relief.

Amassing a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons did not preserve the Soviet Union -- but it helped bankrupt it. And is it mere coincidence that the rise of Germany and Japan as great industrial powers was not burdened by nuclear weapons?

With the end of the Cold War, nuclear proliferation pressures may be more substantial than ever. So this is at once the best time to buttress international security -- and the most essential.

The Clinton Administration is genuinely committed to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. We will achieve a CTBT -- the only question is when -- and sooner is much better than later. 1995 is our only realistic chance to make the NPT permanent. And unless we succeed in those matters -- as well as our efforts to bring the START Treaties into force and effectively clarify the ABM Treaty -- I fear it may be a long time before further strategic reductions can even be on the table.

Now especially, with superpower nuclear arsenals falling and CTBT prospects rising -- with the largest nuclear weapons powers finally able to deemphasize nuclear weapons in their defense planning -- this is no time to abandon the covenant that has enabled us to turn the arms race around.

Our challenge is to recognize the singular nature of this decision and seize this moment. We need to elevate NPT extension to a higher plane -- above the din of politics as usual at the UN, above the ordinary international jockeying and horse-trading. History will not treat us kindly if we act irresponsibly. But far harder to bear would be our own realization that we miscalculated with our children's security.

We must realize instead that in April 1995 we will be taking, together, the most fateful single vote for world peace of the remainder of this century and years to come.

If our seriousness of purpose reflects the true stakes, I know we will do the right thing -- and enshrine this indispensable agreement for all nations, for all people, for all time.