North Korea, Iran Central to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Talks

NEW YORK, New York, May 3, 2005 (ENS) - "You must come to terms with all the nuclear dangers that threaten humanity," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday, opening a conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). "We cannot afford to be complacent," he told officials from the 188 countries that adhere to the treaty, saying the world faces the possibility of a deadly nuclear detonation, increased threats of terrorism, the discovery of clandestine nuclear programs, and the emergence of the nuclear black market.

Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana called for a world free of nuclear weapons. (Photo courtesy UN)
Annan challenged the conference delegates to accept that disarmament, nonproliferation and the right to peaceful uses are "all too important to be held hostage to the politics of the past" and to acknowledge that they all impose responsibilities on all states.

The seventh Review Conference of the Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at a time of heightened concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons, and worries about Iran's nuclear program and North Korea's withdrawal from the treaty, the first nation to do so in the NPT's 35 year history.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker, focusing on the threats posed by North Korea and Iran, asked the conference to endorse a U.S. proposal that no state should receive help to develop its peaceful nuclear programs if it tries to develop nuclear weapons.

Rademaker

Stephen Rademaker is U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control. Before joining the State Department, he drafted the legislation that created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
"We must remain mindful that the treaty will not continue to advance our security in the future if we do not successfully confront the current proliferation challenges. Our common obligation is clear," Rademaker told the opening session. "This conference offers us the opportunity to expand our understanding of these critical challenges and to seek common ground on ways to respond," he said.

The formal five-year review conference at UN headquarters in New York will run to May 27. A plenary and three main committees will examine various aspects of the treaty in depth. While decisions taken at the review conference are not legally binding on the Parties to the treaty, the forum focuses world attention on the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Under the terms of the treaty, the five nuclear weapons states - the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia - pledge to move toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons (Article I) while the non-nuclear states pledge not to pursue them (Article II). Three other nuclear states - India, Pakistan, and Israel - are not Parties to the treaty.

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Above ground nuclear test fired October 26, 1958 at the Nevada Test Site. After July 1962, all NTS weapons tests were underground. (Photo courtesy DOE)
The treaty also guarantees that countries without nuclear weapons will have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

The treaty's language is "explicit and unambiguous," said Rademaker, head of the U.S. delegation. "States asserting their right to receive the benefits of peaceful nuclear development must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under Articles I and II of the NPT. No state in violation of Articles I or II should receive the benefits of Article IV. All nuclear assistance to such a state, bilaterally or through the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], should cease."

The United States "remains committed to universal adherence to the NPT," the assistant secretary said. "We hope that countries outside will join the treaty, which they can do only as non-nuclear weapon states."

Russia takes a different attitude toward North Korea's nuclear program.

In Moscow today, a senior Russian parliamentarian told the Novosti News Agency he is certain North Korea will conduct the tests of a "nuclear device" this June.

On February 10, North Korea announced it had produced a nuclear weapon. "Thereby, it declared itself a nuclear state," Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the international affairs committee of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said ahead of his visit to Pyongyang.

Kosachev

Russian MP Konstantin Kosachev heads the international affairs committee of Russia's State Duma. (Photo courtesy NUPI Centre for Russian Studies)
Unlike the U.S., Russia "is prepared to support North Korea's peaceful nuclear energy program that would be implemented under strict international control," said Kosachev.

Kosachev said attempts to exert pressure on North Korea were counterproductive. He described the U.S. proposal to submit "the North Korean file" for consideration at the UN Security Council as a last resort measure to be followed by imposing sanctions.

"This policy with respect to North Korea will not bring the result we want," he said. It can "drive North Korea out of the negotiating process for good."

Kosachev said that in Pyongyang the State Duma delegation would discuss issues related to the development of North Korea's nuclear programs. "Under the circumstances it is extremely important to get North Korea engaged in the six-party talks again," said Kosachev.

Six-party talks on Korea's nuclear program were launched in Beijing in August 2003, but came to a deadlock after three rounds over differences between North Korea and the United States. Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan are the other parties to the discussions.

Addressing the delegates at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Annan said that the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) should be given more authority in inspections and verifying compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told delegates that nuclear fuel production should be placed under either regional or international control and called for a temporary moratorium on new nuclear fuel cycle facilities while new international controls are negotiated.

The "choke point" in preventing nuclear weapons development is ensuring effective control over activities involving uranium enrichment and plutonium separation, the IAEA leader said.

ElBaradei summed up the NPT in two words, "security and development." He spoke of the weaknesses in the NPT regime, including the acquisition of sensitive nuclear know-how by more and more countries, the limitations of IAEA's verification authority, and the imbalance between the nuclear haves and have-nots.

ElBaradei

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt has headed the International Atomic Energy Association since December 1997. (Photo by Dean Calma courtesy IAEA)
He urged the meeting to strengthen the IAEA’s verification authority. “The whole purpose of verification is to build confidence. In cases where proliferation concerns exist, I will continue to urge states to be open and transparent. Even if such measures go beyond a state’s legal obligations, they pay valuable dividends in restoring the confidence of the international community,” he said.

"Unless we regard the treaty as part of a living, dynamic regime capable of evolving to match changing realities," ElBaradei said, "it will fade into irrelevance and leave us vulnerable and unprotected."

President of the review conference Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil told reporters in a briefing Friday that because North Korea had left the treaty in January 2003, and so is not a party to it, some parties believe that the status of North Korea should not be the subject of discussion right now, so as not to prejudice the six-party talks.

While that idea still prevails, Duare said, it would not prevent the parties from discussing the issue of Article X, which deals with withdrawal.

The results of the IAEA deliberations on Iran, which is a party to the treaty, will be examined by the conference.

Respecting the three nuclear powers not party to the Treaty – India, Israel and Pakistan - Duarte said that past review conferences had called on those states to join the treaty as non-nuclear powers, a call he expects the 2005 Conference to renew.

Secretary-General Annan today urged a gathering of mayors from around the world to "press ahead" with their valuable work. The Mayors for Peace are meeting at UN Headquarters to promote their vision of a global ban on nuclear weapons by 2020.

The nongovernmental organization is supported by 554 cities in 107 countries and regions headed by city leaders from Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the first atomic bombs ever dropped were used by the United States in 1945 to end World War II.

The mayors are accompanied by several Hibakusha - living witnesses of the horrors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.