June 21, 1993

ADDRESS BY MICHAEL D. ROSENTHAL, DIVISION CHIEF
FOR INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR AFFAIRS NONPROLIFERATION
POLICY BUREAU, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
BEFORE THE AMERICAN NUCLEAR SOCIETY, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

I am very pleased to have the honor and the opportunity to participate in your program today. I want to talk with you about a subject that I believe is crucial both to an orderly, stable environment for international nuclear cooperation and commerce and to a world in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons is prevented and the nuclear arsenals of the world depleted.

My subject is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in particular, the future of that Treaty. In the spring of 1995, less than two years from now, a conference will be held in New York to determine whether, in the words of the NPT, "the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods." According to the Treaty, the decision will be taken by a majority of the parties to the Treaty. Last month, the parties to the Treaty held the first of four Preparatory Committee meetings for the 1995 Extension Conference. This is an appropriate moment, therefore, to address the question of the Treaty's duration.

Not only is the NPT essential to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it is also essential to support a worldwide regime for the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and, in particular, for international nuclear cooperation. Let me briefly illustrate one specific aspect. NPT parties are required to conclude full-scope safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) whose duration is tied to the duration of the NPT. By law, the United States may not engage in nuclear cooperation with any country that does not have such a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Were the NPT to end, all of these safeguards agreements would also end, and the basis for cooperation with other countries would be destroyed.

So, these two objectives, promoting worldwide development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons are inseparable, and it is the NPT that holds them together.

My argument is that the NPT should be extended indefinitely. This is the position of the Government of the United States and a number of other governments, including the other two depositaries, Britain and Russia. It is a position that is strongly supported by a number of significant developments in the world. I want to explore several of these developments and some of the reasons why indefinite extension is the right course.

To begin, let me point out that the NPT duration provision is unique. No other arms control treaty has such a provision. Nearly all multilateral arms control treaties are of indefinite duration. So an obvious question is: if initially a duration of 25 years seemed appropriate in 1968, when the Treaty was concluded, why wouldn't a similar duration make sense now? In order to explain why it would not, we need to understand that conditions today differ greatly from those that prevailed in 1965 to 1968, when the Treaty was negotiated. Three conditions, in particular, made it difficult to obtain a provision for indefinite duration.

First, at that time, the world did not have any experience in operating a complex, global, comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation regime. The NPT was literally breaking new ground, and, understandably, some of the provisions discussed during negotiation were viewed with a great deal of skepticism. For example, there was a great deal of concern about NPT safeguards. As I mentioned a moment ago, Article III of the Treaty requires all non-nuclear weapon states party to the Treaty to conclude with the IAEA an agreement for full-scope NPT safeguards, that is safeguards on all nuclear material in all present and future peaceful nuclear activities. Some states felt that such an intrusive system of monitoring could be especially burdensome and that IAEA safeguards could compromise sensitive, proprietary commercial information and thus be a negative factor in peaceful nuclear development and trade.

Second, the conditions of international security in 1968 were not altogether favorable. Although by the time negotiations began on the NPT, the United States and the Soviet Union had concluded several arms control agreements, superpower relations were neither cordial nor stable. The United States and the Soviet Union had not yet addressed strategic arms control issues in negotiation, and reductions of conventional forces massed in Central Europe were not even under consideration. Although there was no reason to believe that NATO would not continue, the initial period of commitment of allied states to the Alliance was approaching its end. Allies, adversaries, and neutral states were justifiably sensitive to real and perceived threats to their security, and a number of states felt that in such an uncertain and potentially threatening environment, it would not be prudent to rule out indefinitely the "nuclear option." In brief, while supporting nuclear nonproliferation, a number of states felt that they needed to hedge their future.

Third, no one knew in 1968 how many states would subscribe to the Treaty. Some states were especially concerned that other particular states in their region might not become parties to the Treaty, possibly putting them in a vulnerable position if their commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons were not matched elsewhere in their region. Moreover, some states, France and China among them, made it clear that they did not intend to become parties. Until more could be known about the NPT line-up, a number of states felt strongly that they could not at that time commit themselves to a treaty of indefinite duration.

It was necessary in these circumstances to take into account the unease of a number of states in order to secure their support for the Treaty. Consequently, rather than conclude a treaty of indefinite duration, which both the United States and the Soviet Union favored, the negotiating parties agreed to an initial duration of 25 years with a subsequent decision on its further duration to be made at the end of that period.

Not one of these three conditions exists today.

First, we have had almost a quarter of a century of experience in developing and operating a complex, global nuclear nonproliferation regime. One of the most important characteristics of the nonproliferation regime has been its capacity for adaptability and growth without having to alter the NPT itself. The NPT remains the cornerstone of the regime, but its effectiveness has been augmented by expanded IAEA programs promoting peaceful uses for nuclear energy, by improved safeguards administered by the Agency, and by the development through mutual consultation among major suppliers of norms for export polices. I have in mind especially the Nuclear Suppliers Group's adoption of full-scope safeguards as a condition of supply and its agreement on improved controls for the export of nuclear related dual-use equipment and technology.

The worry expressed during negotiations that IAEA safeguards would be burdensome or commercially threatening to non-nuclear weapon states has not been realized. In fact, the safeguards regime is effective and efficient. Its costs are very little and have proven to be only a tiny fraction of the cost of facilities themselves.

Second, the conditions of international security have changed in a revolutionary way. Relations between the United States and the states of the former Soviet Union have become increasingly cooperative, as demonstrated at the summit meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in Vancouver in April. Such fora as the United Nations Security Council, the G-7, and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe have become useful frameworks within which issues of mutual concern can be discussed. While the Warsaw Pact has ceased to exist, NATO has continued as an effective structure of security in Europe and is the essential forum for consultation among its members on issues bearing upon their security and defense commitments. In addition, in a development few would have predicted several years ago, NATO in 1991 established a new structure, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, as a means of consultation and cooperation on a broad range of security questions between NATO members and former members of the Warsaw Pact, that is the states of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Third, adherence to the Treaty is exceptionally strong. I say "exceptionally" because the NPT has the widest adherence of any arms control treaty in history. With the accession to the Treaty of China and France, all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (and the five declared nuclear weapon states) are now NPT parties. In addition, more than 150 non-nuclear weapon states are parties. We would, of course, like to see universal adherence, but the fact is that today very few states remain outside the NPT, and it should be kept in mind that the exceptional level of adherence necessarily means that non-parties are not unaffected by the Treaty. The international community judges their actions in accordance with the norms established by the NPT.

In sum, for nearly a quarter of a century, the NPT has proven itself to be an effective framework that has:

If in 1995 a decision is not made to extend the Treaty indefinitely, Article X.2 provides other possibilities for extension -- specifically extension for a fixed period or for any number of fixed periods. Neither of these latter possibilities supports the integrity and vitality of the Treaty as effectively as indefinite extension, and the more limited extension options would undermine the NPT as a durable and predictable basis for states' national security planning.

A few states have previously indicated that their continued support for the NPT depends upon achieving various agreements they believe are related to but are, in fact, not part of the Treaty -- for example, a comprehensive test ban treaty, or international legally binding security assurances, or certain additional measures of nuclear disarmament. By extending the Treaty for a fixed period or periods, the parties to the Treaty could try to make further extension decisions conditional upon achievement of these objectives. Were this scheme to work, so the argument goes, the NPT could be useful as leverage to compel faster progress on these other issues.

Why is indefinite extension preferred? First, only indefinite extension eliminates uncertainty and promotes to the maximum extent stability and confidence. During negotiation of the NPT, the United States favored indefinite duration for this very reason, namely that as the end of a period of duration approached, states, uncertain about the future, might feel that they were forced to contemplate alternative security strategies. States would then have to consider the possibility that after a particular date the nonproliferation regime might not exist at all, or that even if it did the regime might be changed in radical and unpredictable ways. Such uncertainty could provoke a range of defensive reactions that would themselves threaten international security and undermine the basis for peaceful nuclear cooperation. Indeed, apart from producing an ambiguous and uncertain situation as the period drew to a close, extending the Treaty for another fixed period would cause some degree of uncertainty from the outset of the period, for it would put in question the sustained commitment by the parties to comply with the norms of nonproliferation.

Second, not extending the NPT indefinitely would give some states an opportunity to try to hold the NPT hostage to certain issues outside the Treaty. Attempting to hold the NPT in check benefits no one and endangers everyone. Assuming just for the sake of argument that certain conditions for duration were specified, one must ask what would happen if these conditions were not met? Would anyone actually be better off without the NPT than with it? In my view, using the NPT as a kind of handy instrument for leverage for other objectives is short-sighted as well as dangerous.

This is not to suggest that Treaty issues as well as other arms control issues (for example, nuclear testing or security assurances) are inappropriate topics for discussion. The negotiators of the NPT anticipated that the operation of the Treaty would benefit from review, and in the Treaty they provided for such discussion at review conferences, which have been held every five years. But making duration of the Treaty conditional upon performance on specific matters outside the Treaty is inappropriate, gains nothing, and risks everything. Also, there are, unfortunately, no guarantees that states would use the extension to pursue only relevant issues. Once we start down this road, seeking to make NPT duration conditional, we are in grave danger of opening up the process to attempts to introduce any number of conditions. With more than 150 parties to the Treaty, there surely would not be any shortage of ideas on other worthwhile -- or perhaps not so worthwhile -- arms control objectives. The mere consideration of conditions would only serve to politicize deliberations on extension.

There are, I believe, a number of other strong, positive reasons why the NPT should be extended indefinitely.

First, as I mentioned earlier, the NPT has proven itself to be effective in promoting the norms of nonproliferation and has remained the foundation of a dynamic nonproliferation regime. In the 1960s, before the NPT was negotiated, many people made grim predictions that by the end of the twentieth century there might be as many as 20 or 30 nuclear weapon states. That instead we can count the states of proliferation concern in single digits is a noticeable contrast to the earlier predictions. There is no question that the difference in the predicted and actual outcomes is due to the NPT and the other elements of the nonproliferation regime.

In part, its success has depended upon several restrictive elements -- commitments not to seek to acquire nuclear weapons, commitments not to transfer weapons technology or control, safeguards to help deter diversion of fissile material to weapons developments. But there is a positive force as well. With the commitment of well over 150 parties not to seek to acquire nuclear weapons capability, the incentive for states to acquire nuclear weapons is thereby greatly reduced.

I am not suggesting that the NPT, or the nonproliferation regime in general, provides an air-tight guarantee that nonproliferation norms will never be violated. The cases of Iraq and North Korea are sobering reminders of the continuing danger of proliferation that exists in today's world. But how much better it is to deal with such problems in the context of an adaptable, well-established regime that provides guidance through clearly understood norms and principles as well as the institutional structures to confront tough challenges. Far from indicating that the NPT has not been effective because it has not removed all danger of proliferation, these and other cases show how much the NPT is needed.

Second, the NPT, with its provision for full-scope IAEA safeguards, has served as a framework for international peaceful nuclear cooperation by providing assurances that nuclear material, equipment, and technology transferred for peaceful purposes will not be misused. Many NPT parties, particularly in the developing world such as Indonesia, Morocco, and Peru, have been able to take advantage of the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology because of their membership in that Treaty. The U.S., as a matter of long-standing policy, has accorded NPT parties special consideration and benefits in international civil nuclear cooperation. U.S. preference for NPT parties is reflected in U.S. policy, law and regulations, and most importantly, in practice.

Third, it is important to see that the NPT has provided a framework within which progress in other arms control areas has occurred. Without the NPT, the nuclear powers would not have been able to focus on bilateral nuclear weapon reductions. Sweeping agreements on reductions of strategic nuclear weapons, as exemplified in the INF, START I, and START II agreements, the implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement, and conclusion last year of an agreement on a global ban on the production, possession and use of chemical weapons are several of the significant developments within the last decade that have turned the world away from arms races and towards greater stability and security.

In conclusion, let me reiterate my principal points.

First, the unique duration provision of the NPT is due not to the intrinsic nature of the Treaty, itself, but to specific political conditions that existed at the time the Treaty was negotiated. None of these conditions exists today.

Second, limiting the duration of the Treaty is both unnecessary and risky, for it creates a dangerous degree of uncertainty.

Third, any attempt to hold the NPT hostage to collateral issues threatens the integrity of the nonproliferation regime. Given the fact that there is no viable alternative to the nonproliferation regime, such an attempt would be irresponsible.

Fourth, for nearly a quarter of a century, the NPT, the foundation of a dynamic nonproliferation regime, has been an effective means of preventing proliferation and for promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation. Proliferation threats exist today and probably will for the indefinite future. The NPT should also continue indefinitely.

Finally, the NPT should be seen as one element, a crucial element, in a growing system of arms control measures. The security and well being of the world demands that no attempt should be made to limit the Treaty, either in scope or time. Because of its central position among all arms control measures, any threat to the integrity of the NPT necessarily threatens the integrity of other measures.

Responsible statesmanship calls for a decision in 1995 to extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty indefinitely.