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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
The Arms Control Agenda at the UN: Breaking New Ground or Breaking Old Habits?
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Rebecca Johnson

Every year the UN General Assembly adopts a host of resolutions on disarmament without really expecting that most of them will be acted on. Some, however, convey important signals. For many years, the General Assembly had overwhelmingly endorsed resolutions calling for an end to nuclear testing. When the resolution achieved consensus in December 1993, it meant that the nuclear weapon states were finally ready to give a test ban a chance. The result was the long awaited Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that was opened for signature in September 1996.

In 1993, the General Assembly also unanimously agreed on a resolution calling for a global ban on the production of fissile materials for weapon and explosive purposes. But in 1995 and 1996, the General Assembly did not vote on any so called "fissban" resolution, and this too sent a strong, but more somber, message. In this case, the main players at the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament (CD) were so divided over what kind of fissile material cutoff regime they wanted that they would not risk putting a fissban resolution to a vote at the United Nations. Advocates of such a treaty were afraid that a split vote in the assembly would undermine the authority of the consensus endorsement achieved in 1993. At the same time, opponents of a cutoff regime rejoiced in the absence of a UN vote.

During the 51st session of the United Nations, a number of important debates and resolutions on disarmament issues were addressed by the UN First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, which met in New York in October and November 1996. All 46 draft resolutions and decisions adopted by the First Committee also obtained majority support in the General Assembly on December 10, 1996. However, although every UN member state has an equal vote in the General Assembly, some votes are more equal than others.

There is inevitably a handsome majority for disarmament resolutions, especially nuclear disarmament. But to assess a resolution's significance, it is more important to look at which countries co sponsored it; whether a resolution did better or worse in previous sessions; and the balance of power on the vote, particularly which states registered votes against. Consensus at the United Nations can be an indication of a significant breakthrough in support of a resolution, which could lead to negotiations and ultimately a new security enhancing arms control treaty. Alternatively, a UN consensus may simply reflect widespread endorsement of diplomatic rhetoric on an issue that no one wants to be seen as being against, but which is not likely to move forward.

Among the many resolutions considered during the 51st session, only a handful stand out as significant or with the potential to break new ground. Malaysia and its colleagues in the non aligned movement (NAM) laid the first foundation stone for a nuclear weapons convention that would ban all such weapons, just as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) are intended to ban other types of weapons of mass destruction. The United States, backed by 112 others countries, called for a complete ban on anti personnel landmines, although it did not specify how or where this should be negotiated. The United States and Russia co sponsored a resolution on bilateral arms control which not only underlined the high priority to be accorded to further bilateral reductions, but also urged Russia to ratify START II, a singling out that was unusually strong and significant. The United States and Israel were isolated in opposing a special session of all UN member states, which the vast majority of countries—including the European Union—want to be convened in 1999 to discuss a disarmament and security agenda for the 21st century.

The United Nations strongly endorsed the CWC and exhorted both the United States and Russia to ratify it before it enters into force on April 29, 1997. For many delegates, the biggest disappointment was the failure for the second consecutive year to adopt a resolution supporting a ban on the production of fissile materials.

 

Nuclear Weapons Convention

Malaysia's resolution built on the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), delivered on July 8, 1996, in response to a request by the United Nations in 1994. Underlining the unanimous conclusion of the court that "there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control," the resolution "calls upon all states to fulfill that obligation immediately by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1997 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination."

In introducing the resolution, Malaysia's ambassador, Hasmy Bin Agam, backed U.S. Russian arms control efforts such as the START accords and called the views of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons "particularly pertinent." However, he said, the existence of "tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear weapon states, 28 years after the signing of the NPT [nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty], is a sobering reminder that the negotiations on nuclear disarmament ... have been carried out neither in good faith nor in earnest." Exhorting that the present window of opportunity must not be lost, he said it was now necessary to start negotiations leading to the con clusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

Four of the five nuclear powers led the opposition, objecting that the resolution "selectively quoted" from the NPT. The United States complained that the resolution omitted the commitment to complete and general disarmament, "distorting the meaning" of treaty Article VI, which requires states "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." Russia protested that the resolution was silent on the question of the use of nuclear weapons, about which the judges on the ICJ had been unable to agree. Several European delegations echoed these concerns, but the resolution had widespread support from the developing countries. Chile argued that it was appropriate for the resolution to quote verbatim from the part of the court's advisory opinion about which the 14 judges had been unanimous, since the ICJ's judgment on the question of use had been hedged with caveats and potential ambiguity. However, in its unanimous judgment, the ICJ was not merely repeating Article VI obligations under the NPT, but intended to provide an interpretation of the legal situation, informed by the NPT and other relevant treaties and international legal instruments.

Stressing the importance of the ICJ opinion, Iceland feared that the resolution would "subordinate bilateral nuclear arms negotiations to the work of the Conference on Disarmament." The United States and Britain argued that the resolution was not really about the ICJ at all, but repeated calls "for immediate multilateral negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention." In fact, the Malaysian resolution puts the demand for a nuclear weapons convention into the international arena for the first time. Importantly, the resolution did not call for a nuclear weapons convention to be immediately negotiated, but called for commencement of negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention. (Emphasis added.)

The breakdown of votes on the Malaysian resolution was interesting, with the NAM generally solidly in support and cracks showing among European, NATO and allied countries. There was considerable switching in the three votes covering two particular paragraphs and the whole resolution, with some U.S. allies voting "for" while others were resolutely opposed. Russia abstained on both paragraphs but voted against the resolution as a whole. The United States, Britain and France voted "no" throughout, while China voted "yes" on all parts. Canada had requested one of the paragraph votes so that it and other Western countries would be seen as endorsing the unanimous opinion of the ICJ on the legal obligation to bring nuclear disarmament negotiations to conclusion.

With 139 for, seven against (the United States, Britain, France, Latvia, Monaco, Romania and Turkey) and 20 abstentions, the vote clearly reflected the influence of public opinion on these issues. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine joined the NAM and China in endorsing the ICJ opinion. Russia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and various Eastern European countries abstained, including Belarus and Kazakstan, which until recently stored large numbers of former Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories. Only 110 states voted for the specific paragraph calling for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention to begin in 1997. There is some evidence indicating that had the date 1997 been omitted from the call to commence multilateral negotiations, there would have been a higher number voting in support.

In the General Assembly vote on the full resolution, 115 countries voted in favor, 22 states voted against and 32 members abstained. The resolution was supported by the NAM states, China, New Zealand, Sweden and Ireland. Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Turkey joined the Western nuclear powers, Canada and Russia in voting against the resolution. Australia, Austria, Denmark and Finland joined Israel, Japan, Norway and several Eastern European countries in abstaining.

While no one imagines that this resolution will result in negotiations next year, Malaysia's call for a nuclear weapons convention received surprisingly solid support on the first vote, clearly reflecting a shift in perceptions. Whereas just five years ago the idea of a treaty banning nuclear weapons would have been regarded as too idealistic, there is now a growing body of international public opinion, including retired military officers as well as scientists and politicians, which views a nuclear weapons convention as something reasonable to aspire to and achievable with sufficient political will.

With four nuclear weapon states opposed (and China's support lacking practical credibility), negotiations on a convention could not be successfully undertaken until much more has been achieved to reduce these states' nuclear arsenals and their reliance on nuclear weapon based security policies through unilateral initiatives, further U.S. Russian agreements and the involvement, sooner rather than later, of Britain, China and France. For this reason, several countries which consider that a nuclear weapons convention could play an important role in achieving nuclear disarmament worldwide tried to persuade Malaysia to omit the reference to 1997. The non aligned states privately say the date was not important; the point of the resolution was to start the ball rolling.

They recognize that it could take years before a nuclear weapons convention is truly on the negotiating agenda, but they wanted to serve notice on the nuclear powers that what is possible for chemical weapons is even more necessary where nuclear weapons are concerned. They intend for the call for a nuclear weapons convention to become an annual resolution both in the First Committee and General Assembly, and expect that the resolution will gather new votes each year until the momentum is unstoppable.

 

U.S. Russian Arms Control

In 1996, the First Committee and General Assembly also conveyed some interesting messages on U.S. Russian arms control efforts. As in previous years, there were two resolutions on this subject. The resolution supported by the NAM noted the "significant nuclear arsenals" remaining and argued that the responsibility for nuclear disarmament lies primarily with the nuclear weapon states with the largest arsenals. By contrast, the United States introduced a resolution (co sponsored by Russia, Britain and France) which welcomed "significant reductions" in the nuclear arsenals. This resolution focused on the START process, explicitly expressing the hope that Russia will soon ratify START II. With Russian co sponsorship, this departure from the usual rule against singling out particular states is clearly intended to encourage the Russian Duma to ratify START II.

Ratification of START II by the Duma is currently held up for five principal reasons: funding for dismantlement; a perceived imbalance in the provisions of START II in favor of the United States; the vigorous campaign to expand NATO; efforts by the United States to undercut the 1972 ABM Treaty; and internecine conflict and disarray in the Duma, compounded by lack of effective leadership on this issue from the Yeltsin government. With both START II and CWC ratification now held up by the Duma, democrats in Russia will need to take greater initiative and responsibility to pilot these important measures through the ratification process. The United States could do much more to alleviate the first four concerns. For example, the initiative started by the Nunn Lugar security assistance program should be expanded. The sooner that Russian missiles and facilities can be dismantled, the safer the world will be.

Leaders of the Duma argue that full compliance with START II will leave Russia at a strategic disadvantage and force it to manufacture new land based missiles to bring it up to the levels permitted by the treaty. Senior Russian diplomats and Duma members have told U.S. officials that Russian ratification of START II would be easier if the United States would enter into negotiations on the next phase of reductions—a START III accord, bringing warhead levels down more equally to 1,000 to 2,000 each. So far, the U.S. response seems to be: "Ratify START II first and then we'll talk."

The proposed expansion of NATO is probably the ultimate example of a short sighted policy that could create the very threat that it presumably is intended to defend against. NATO's existing advantage in nuclear and conventional forces should deter any possible future attack without making present day Russia, which is not a threat, feel surrounded and threatened. Already there is growing support in Moscow for the argument that rather than reduce its nuclear weapons, Russia should compensate for its conventional weakness by ensuring that it has sufficiently flexible and convincing nuclear force to deter attacks by potential foes. In this context, it is imperative that the United States move quickly to help Russia safely dismantle its nuclear weapon systems and aging facilities so that the substantial arms reduction already underway becomes irreversible. That cannot happen if the United States pursues policies which increase Russia's sense of vulnerability, such as initiating a new race for missile defenses and expanding NATO to Russia's borders. Reducing Russia's huge nuclear arsenal can only be achieved bilaterally, with the United States showing that it is willing to undertake equivalent cuts and assisting an impoverished Russia so that dismantlement becomes a priority.

In addition, Russia has for some years expressed growing concern about U.S. plans to develop theater and strategic ballistic missile defenses. Many in Russia fear that the rationale for the ABM Treaty is being undermined by the United States. As a consequence, there are a growing number of voices objecting to further arms reductions on the grounds that Russia's deterrence posture will require all the weapons it has to overwhelm such defenses. The hard liners are using these arguments to erode Russian support for START II and now the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), both of which must be ratified by the Duma to enter into force.

U.S. efforts to expand NATO to Russia's borders and undercut the ABM Treaty will not enhance U.S. security. If these U.S. policies lead to a negative decision by the Duma on START II, the CWC or the CTBT, this will have a disastrous impact on the General Assembly's agenda calling for major steps in nuclear disarmament.

By voting for a General Assembly resolution with such an explicit criticism of Russia's failure to ratify START II, the Yeltsin government sent a brave message to the Duma. This resolution was endorsed by 160 countries, with just 11 abstentions; no country voted against it. By contrast, most NATO members and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) countries voted against the NAM resolution, or abstained from voting, viewing it as a vehicle to push for "timebound" nuclear disarmament.

 

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

A similar voting pattern could be discerned with two more traditional resolutions on nuclear disarmament. A NAM sponsored resolution urged the nuclear weapon states to stop immediately the qualitative improvement and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and called on them to undertake phased reductions with a view to their total elimination "within a timebound framework." This resolution garnered 110 votes in favor, 39 votes against (mostly NATO and OSCE countries) and 20 abstentions.

A more moderate resolution introduced by Japan, entitled "Nuclear Disarmament With a View to the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons," received 159 votes in favor, with 11 abstentions. The United States, Russia, Britain and France were among those in favor; China abstained. Intended to capture the middle ground but maintain moral pressure on the nuclear weapon states, Japan's resolution focused on the commitments and program of action adopted by NPT parties when they made the treaty permanent in May 1995. Calling for "best efforts for a smooth start of the strengthened review process," the resolution also urged the nuclear weapon states to reduce their arsenals with the ultimate goal of eliminating them. Though moderate by comparison with the NAM sponsored call for timebound nuclear disarmament, the language of Japan's resolution is stronger than that proposed in previous years, indicating growing pressure by U.S. allies for further practical commitments to nuclear disarmament. The fact that the United States, Russia, Britain and France felt obliged to vote in favor of this resolution indicates the unacceptability of old intransigence on this issue.

Significantly, this focus on the NPT was underscored during a December 1996 conference hosted by Japan in Kyoto that was attended by Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) Director John Holum as well as several key disarmament ambassadors. The chair's summary of the proceedings, which was made public, emphasized that there had been general agreement "that the review process starting in 1997 should place particular emphasis on substantive matters, and thus be dynamic and different from past practice of the reviews." Clearly, there are concerns on the part of some countries that, having achieved the indefinite extension of the NPT, the nuclear powers will prove the non aligned correct by placing political or procedural barriers in the way of further progress on nuclear disarmament. Japan and other countries with a vested interest in international stability are anxious that such an attitude by the nuclear weapon states could undermine the non proliferation regime, with disastrous consequences in the future.

 

Cutoff' Divisions Continue

One significant arms control failure during the 51st session of the General Assembly was the withdrawal of a resolution supporting a worldwide ban on the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU). Canada had earlier circulated a draft resolution that called for the "prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." The Canadian draft recalled the December 1993 consensus resolution by the General Assembly, welcomed the negotiating mandate adopted by the CD in March 1995 and called for "the immediate commencement and early conclusion" of cutoff negotiations. However, early on in its consultations with other delegations, Canada decided that it would be impossible to achieve consensus. Considering that a split vote could polarize states even further, the resolution's supporters decided not to risk taking the resolution any further.

This failure confirms the growing view that the CD will not be able to convene an ad hoc committee for cutoff talks and get the negotiations underway early in 1997. It is now clear that the international community needs urgently to reconsider the options for initiating cutoff talks including, if necessary, abandoning the CD mandate and seeking a more viable route toward controlling production and reducing the proliferation threat from fissile materials. The main problems remain whether and how to address existing stockpiles and the relationship of a fissile material cutoff to nuclear disarmament. The CD has been deadlocked on this issue for nearly two years. Even if negotiations were to get started in Geneva, prospects for agreement are slim.

For many non nuclear weapon states, a cutoff regime that does not address existing stockpiles of fissile materials would simply freeze the nuclear status quo. For Pakistan and Egypt, looking toward the nuclear weapons potential of India and Israel, respectively, the status quo is not acceptable. Four of the five nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, Britain and France) have already declared a voluntary halt on their production of plutonium and HEU for weapons, and the United States and Russia are now awash with fissile material from dismantled weapons. China is now believed by some observers to have stopped its production as well. For many countries, putting this de facto moratorium into law should be done by the five major nuclear powers themselves. Negotiations at the CD would not, in their view, guarantee agreement by India, Israel and Pakistan and is not therefore a sufficient priority to spend much time or money on.

A number of non aligned states are also concerned that the fissban issue will be used to tie up the resources and work of the CD for a long time, making further negotiations on nuclear disarmament impossible. Their anxiety could be alleviated if the nuclear weapon states were willing to put a target date on a first step cutoff treaty, in return for an acceptance from the non aligned to keep the controversial and more complicated issue of fissile material stockpiles for a later measure. Providing that there were some assurance that stockpiles and the larger issue of the production of all weapon useable plutonium and HEU could be considered as further steps, with preliminary discussion in an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, for example, such a trade off might shift the logjam.

This kind of trade off also stands a good chance of winning the support of the bulk of non aligned countries, including Egypt. Despite wanting stockpiles addressed, Cairo is especially interested in involving Israel in the process of negotiating fissile material controls. Whether such a deal would bring India and Pakistan on board is open to question, and there is certainly no guarantee that the final stages of cutoff talks at the CD would not replicate the fiasco that nearly derailed the CTBT. Once again, some of the declared nuclear weapon states will insist on having the signature and ratification of the so called "threshold" states (Israel, India and Pakistan) as a binding condition before such a treaty would enter into force. And once again, India is likely to balk, demanding (as it already has) that the cutoff regime should be linked with nuclear disarmament. That does not necessarily mean that the measure is doomed. But if the United States is going to continue to demand that this treaty be negotiated at the CD, it should at least acknowledge the likely scenario. However, this time the CD should be better prepared to let the General Assembly adopt a cutoff treaty if consensus is blocked in Geneva.

Considerable diplomatic finesse may be required to overcome the opposition of Pakistan to a cutoff treaty that does not address existing stockpiles, or the political hostility of India to a regime that is not linked to "timebound" nuclear disarmament. The establishment of a CD ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament may be the price these countries set for allowing a cutoff initiative to go forward. Presently, the United States, Britain and France are not yet willing to pay that price, even if the non aligned states are persuaded to accept a non negotiating role for the committee to begin with. If the nuclear powers are unwilling to go further than a basic cutoff, they should seriously consider alternative ways of making it legally binding among themselves. Refusing to do so implies that they do not regard a cutoff among the five most advanced nuclear weapon states to be intrinsically valuable. That sends all the wrong signals to the rest of the world.

 

Breakthrough On Landmines

Once again there were two resolutions related to anti personnel landmines, though both came from the Western side. Sweden introduced a resolution on the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) that was adopted by consensus. The resolution supported the work already underway on strengthening the CCW and commended the recently amended landmine protocol to the CCW (Protocol II) and the new protocol (Protocol IV) on blinding laser weapons, as agreed by the 1996 review conference.

The United States and more than 110 co sponsors went much further with their resolution calling for "an effective, legally binding, international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti personnel (AP) landmines with a view to completing the negotiations as soon as possible." This resolution was overwhelmingly endorsed by 155 countries in the General Assembly, with no votes against and only 10 abstentions. Because the U.S. sponsored resolution did not specify a forum for negotiations, it steered clear of the controversy generated by the so called "Ottawa Process," a Canadian initiative to negotiate and sign, at a special conference, a global ban in 1997.

On January 17, 1997, the White House issued a statement calling for negotiations on a worldwide treaty banning anti personnel mines, and expressing the Clinton administration's view that the CD "offers the most practical and effective forum for achieving our aim of a ban that is global." This U.S. move has raised the stakes in Geneva. Although Britain and France moved swiftly to back the U.S. initiative, other countries were less comfortable. Advocates of a global landmines ban are concerned that 1) the CD could slow down and possibly derail the Ottawa Process; 2) at best, the CD would only be able to manage a "step by step" progress and, at worst, the landmine issue could become hopelessly bogged down in Geneva's arcane procedures; and 3) negotiations on landmines could become all consuming, thereby preventing the CD from addressing nuclear weapons issues. Mexico, which in New York supported a landmines ban but declared "Any other forum but not the CD," has continued its vehement opposition to this approach. Other advocates of a total ban, such as Austria, Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands, have decided not to block the establishment of landmines negotiations at the CD but are skeptical of its chances of success. These states prefer that the Ottawa process continue as well.

A special conference of concerned states could likely negotiate and sign a formal ban in less than a year, thereby establishing an international legal basis for the prohibition of anti personnel landmines. However, against this backdrop is the concern that such a conference, by excluding some of the world's biggest producers (namely Russia and China), would simply become a club for the virtuous, with little political impact on the widespread problem. Negotiations at the CD, on the other hand, would involve all the players, but with the drawback that talks could be prolonged and possibly unsuccessful, thereby delaying actual progress on the issue.

Advocates of the Ottawa approach argue that once a global legal norm has been established, international pressure will be more effectively brought to bear on landmine producers. They contend that, all things considered, the Canadian initiative would be a speedier and surer way to get Russia, China and others on board than through lengthy, multilateral negotiations at the CD, which some now regard as the kiss of death for arms control endeavors. A twin track approach appears acceptable to the White House, which mentioned support for the Ottawa process in its statement calling on the CD to commence negotiations. However, as Russia has been quick to point out, if the Ottawa process concludes a total ban this year, the two approaches may find themselves on a collision course.

Russia and China are the strongest opponents of a landmines ban and among the 10 states to abstain on the U.S. resolution at the General Assembly. Both countries have said the CCW is the appropriate forum for discussing landmines. While China said it supported "reasonable restrictions" on landmines, it claimed the weapons were a legitimate means of military defense. Russia, which called the Ottawa initiative a "road leading nowhere," said discussions at the CD were feasible. However, Moscow raised questions over the scope of the proposed accord and its verifiability, and argued that emphasis should instead be on intensifying international mine clearance efforts and maintaining the moratoria on exporting anti personnel mines.

In addition to Mexico, several non aligned countries remain to be convinced to back landmines negotiations at the CD. Their fear that this is a ploy by the United States to prevent the CD from addressing nuclear issues could be allayed if the United States, Britain and France withdrew their objections to the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament. Only time will tell whether their other concern—that the CD will paralyze further progress on getting a landmines ban—is legitimate.

 

The Disarmament Agenda

The United States was almost totally isolated in its opposition to the convening in 1999 of a UN special session devoted to disarmament. (The United Nations has convened such sessions in 1978, 1982 and 1988.)

With the exception of a few countries, the entire UN membership backed the non aligned states' call for a fourth special session in 1999, primarily because they believe that there is a clear need for a new security and disarmament agenda as the world enters the 21st century. The United States did not argue against the idea of a special session but rather it opposed the proposed date, wanting the session to be held no earlier than 2001. Washington's arguments ranged from fear of failure (and the possible consequences for the NPT review conference in 2000), to worry that it would be used exclusively to put pressure on the nuclear weapon states for nuclear disarmament, to concern that India could manipulate the 1999 special session.

Inevitably, the UN session will be used to exert pressure for nuclear disarmament. The disappearance of the Cold War has caused many more people to question the utility and morality of nuclear weapons. Providing that there is continued progress on reducing the vast U.S. Russian nuclear arsenals and the other nuclear weapon states are at least engaging in multilateral discussions on nuclear disarmament, the United States has little to fear. But if progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons has been blocked or reversed, then it is legitimate for the international community to try to get it on track again. The United States appears troubled by the possibility that an unsatisfactory UN special session in 1999 could harm the NPT review in 2000. However, delaying a UN special session until after 2000 could result in the non nuclear weapon states venting their frustration at the NPT review conference, which the United States says it wants to avoid.

It is inconceivable that the fourth UN special session would ignore the importance of conventional arms issues such as landmines and light weapons. Not only are these issues becoming increasing salient in the international court of public opinion, but by 1999 it will be clear whether the General Assembly's resolve on banning landmines is being fulfilled either by the CD or through the Ottawa Process.

While the U.S. concern that India may try to use the session as a platform is realistic, such an event could also be utilized by the international community to pressure hold out states that have refused to sign the CTBT. Of 44 designated countries whose accession is necessary before the test ban treaty can take effect, only three—India, Pakistan and North Korea—have not yet signed. Applying pressure on India at a UN special session would likely be more effective than criticizing its non accession to the test ban at a specially convened CTBT conference or through the NPT regime, from which India and Pakistan are excluded as non members.

All things considered, the U.S. opposition to debating a new international disarmament agenda for the coming decade seems ill considered. The United States should withdraw its opposition to holding a special session in 1999 and engage positively in UN discussions scheduled for April and May that will determine the scope and agenda for the session. The fourth UN Special Session on Disarmament, if carefully planned for and utilized wisely by UN member states, can codify new thinking on arms control and disarmament issues and contribute to constructive solutions. Surely the United States would welcome that.

Rebecca Johnson is director of the Disarmament Intelligence Review in London.