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Annan says Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty faces crisis

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned in a speech delivered in Japan Thursday that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [UN backgrounder] faces a twin crisis of "confidence and complicity":

The Treaty embodies a contract between the nuclear weapon States and the rest of the international community. The former committed themselves to move towards general disarmament, and to refrain from threatening the non-nuclear States with nuclear weapons, while facilitating their access to nuclear energy. In return, the latter committed themselves not to acquire or manufacture nuclear weapons, and to accept on-site verification.

Today, each of these pillars has been put into doubt. While some progress toward disarmament has taken place, nuclear weapons worldwide still number in the thousands, many of them on hair-trigger alert. Moreover, the emphasis seems to have shifted towards having fewer, but more potent weapons, and current politico-military thinking seems to embrace the notion of using such weapons in conflict.

To these old challenges have been added new ones, above all the vulnerability exposed by the extensive trafficking in nuclear technology and know-how, by the scientist A.Q. Khan and others. Perhaps most damaging of all, there is also a perception that the possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction offers the best protection against being attacked.

All of this undermines the Treaty’s integrity and authority. If we want to avoid a cascade of nuclear proliferation, we need a major international effort to strengthen the regime before it is too late.
Annan took the international community to task for missing two chances to strengthen the treaty last year by according the International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] more inspection power and providing more incentives to states to forego enrichment, and said that tenacious diplomacy was needed to address nuclear issues presented by developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [JURIST news archive] and Iran [JURIST news archive], the two latest countries said to possess or be seeking nuclear weapons.

Annan complimented Japan [JURIST news archive] on its adherence to the NPT, and held the country up as a model for countries that do not need nuclear weapons for greatness. But he also observed:
We seem to have reached a crossroads. Before us lie two very divergent courses. One path can take us to a world, in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons is restricted and reversed, through trust, dialogue and negotiated agreement, with international guarantees ensuring the supply of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, thereby advancing development and economic well-being.

The other path leads to a world, in which a rapidly growing numbers of States feel obliged to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and in which non-State actors acquire the means to carry out nuclear terrorism. The international community seems almost to be sleepwalking down the latter path -- not by conscious choice, but rather through miscalculation, sterile debate and the paralysis of multilateral mechanisms for confidence-building and conflict-resolution.
The UN News Center has more.

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