The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has suffered a number of blows in recent years, from the disappointing outcome of the 2005 treaty review conference to an inability to staunch Iran’s nuclear ambitions and concerns that a pending U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation deal will further undermine the shaky regime. In this month’s cover story, however, Jean du Preez says that states-parties can shore up the NPT if they embrace the kind of bargains they struck when the treaty was signed in 1968 and extended indefinitely in 1995.
The challenges confronting the NPT are evident in the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. In past decades, the CD, the United Nation’s primary arms control negotiating forum, and similar predecessors helped craft such essential accords as the NPT. Yet in recent years, the forum has effectively ground to a halt, unable to break a stalemate involving the United States and Russia and China. U.S. officials would like to restrict the forum to negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) that would seek to end the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. But China and Russia have insisted that the forum also begin discussions on a treaty aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space. Other countries want talks on nuclear disarmament.
In this month’s issue, we asked two experienced participants and one knowledgeable observer to suggest how to break this logjam. Former Bush administration official Stephen G. Rademaker expresses little optimism that the standoff can be ended, saying that states such as China are not genuinely interested in crafting an FMCT. Ambassador Paul Meyer of Canada says all states, including the United States, need to support a “balanced” work program including both FMCT negotiations and outer space talks.
Michael Krepon suggests a third path. For example, he proposes that, as an interim measure, many of the states with nuclear weapons agree to a voluntary moratorium on fissile material production for nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s Oct. 9 nuclear test delivered perhaps the strongest recent shock to the NPT. C. Kenneth Quinones writes that the handling of a previous North Korean nuclear crisis more than a decade ago offers lessons for resolving this one. He reviews A Moment of Crisis, which focuses on the role former President Jimmy Carter played in that 1993-1994 confrontation.Our news section includes coverage of the effort to restore negotiations aimed at ending the North Korean crisis and tracks other developments from Senate approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear trade deal to efforts to advance a global conventional arms trade treaty.