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Reporting on the 2018 NPT PrepCom
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Authored by Alicia Sanders-Zakre on May 7, 2018

NPT PrepCom Wraps Up with Chair Summary Discussion
May 7, 2018

The final day of the 2018 NPT Preparatory Committee was dedicated to discussing the chair’s summary of the conference, which was released on Thursday evening. The summary is under the chair’s responsibility and thus is not a consensus document and the conference did not vote on it. Instead, the chair allocated two sessions for statements from delegations about the text.

Dozens of states expressed revisions they would have liked to have seen in the text. Several states expressed disappointment in general terms that some viewpoints were presented as consensus opinions in the text while others which gained wide support were not mentioned.The NPT PrepCom Chair's Summary of the Conference

The revisions suggested for the chair’s summary reflects underlying tensions among states on key issues, in particular on the pace of nuclear disarmament, and foreshadows the difficultly the conference may face to reach agreement on a consensus document during the 2020 Review Conference.

New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, pointed out several revisions which it believed would have improved the text, including adding a reference to the need to maintain the moratorium on nuclear testing pending the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and removing the word ”some” when describing nuclear modernization programs which are not consistent with NPT obligations.

Egypt and others expressed disappointment that the emphasis of some states on the need for Israel to join the NPT was not adequately reflected in the summary. South Africa and others resented that language on “creating the conditions” for nuclear disarmament was included in the summary when very few states actually expressed support for this approach. Ireland regretted that language on the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on women and girls was not included in the summary, as it had been last year.

On Twitter following the conclusion of the preparatory committee U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood claimed that states supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) had “sharply criticized” the chair’s summary for “not being fully saturated with paragraphs in support of the ban treaty” and claiming that this was a “transparent effort to undermine the NPT.”

Wood’s assertion is inaccurate because no state actually asked for additional references, let alone paragraphs, about the TPNW in the summary. Several states did suggest that the summary’s existing references to the treaty better reflect how the TPNW was discussed during the conference, including by stating that states had “welcomed” the treaty’s adoption, instead of just “noting” it.

Nuclear-weapon states largely accepted the final document. The United States and France restated their general positions on key topics and claimed that although they could not agree with everything in the final document, it represented the best possible consensus and they did not put forward specific revisions.

France and Russia announced two separate statements they had circulated for signatures from other states during the conference. The statement France announced focused on North Korea, condemning its nuclear and missile activity and welcoming the recent diplomatic opening. It was supported by 63 states. Some states, including Chile, did not support the statement because it did not include a call for North Korea to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Russia’s statement, co-sponsored by China, was in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Russia did not officially announce the number of signatories to its document.

Ambassador Bugajski concluded the conference by thanking his colleagues and committing to work with the chair of the 2019 NPT PrepCom Ambassador Shahrul Ikram of Malaysia to ensure continuity and enhance coordination for the Review Cycle. —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE


“Safety, Security, and Safeguards”: NPT Agrees on Nuclear Energy
May 3, 2018

In discussing the third cluster of issues at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee, states agreed on the “inalienable right” of all states-parties to nuclear energy, discussed their domestic and international efforts to further this NPT pillar and put forward ideas on strengthening the NPT review process.

Almost all states reaffirmed their inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy, which they contended provides numerous benefits for the environment, health and economic development. They praised the integral role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Technical Cooperation Program to facilitate the full utilization of peaceful nuclear energy by all NPT states-parties.

Dozens of states reported on their domestic commitments and international cooperation to guarantee the safety and security of radioactive material. Many states entreated others to join conventions on the subjects, including the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Several states, including Panama and Chile, pointed to the collaboration between coastal and shipping states of radioactive material to effectively communicate and ensure the safe and secure transport of radioactive materials. Additional recommendations on nuclear safety and security were put forth in a working paper by the Vienna Group of Ten, which received wide support.

Several states as well as the European Union and the Non-Aligned Movement discussed their contributions to the safe disposal of radioactive waste and called for the effective implementation of the Code of Practice on the International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste of the IAEA.

Others, including the European Union and Norway, expressed their commitment to minimizing the use of high-enriched uranium, favoring instead low-enriched uranium which is less dangerous because it cannot be used to build nuclear weapons.

In additional to national initiatives, states discussed international cooperation to increase access to peaceful nuclear energy for all state-parties to the NPT.

Many states, including Iraq and Venezuela, emphasized that developed states should provide assistance to developing states-parties to the NPT so that they could benefit from the peaceful use of nuclear energy guaranteed in Article IV of the treaty. Several states criticized the cooperation between certain states-parties of the NPT and non-states-parties of the NPT. A few mentioned Israel by name as the non-state party receiving this technical cooperation.

Many states also discussed their involvement in regional bodies to facilitate technical cooperation and increase peaceful nuclear energy use and announced the training sessions they have held to educate others on peaceful nuclear energy use.

As a special topic of cluster three, on Wednesday evening, the conference discussed possible reforms to the NPT review cycle process. Many states expressed the need for increased transparency. In a working paper, the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) suggested that to increase transparency there should be enhanced reporting by all states-parties on their implementation of the NPT and of the Action Plan agreed to at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Other states, including Germany, stressed the need for increased continuity between the PrepComs and the Review Conference. The United States encouraged more interactive discussions and suggested that issues should be considered holistically, instead of in three separate clusters.

Several states, including Australia and Ireland, pointed out that the conference should bolster its efforts to achieve gender parity and delegations should include more women in leadership roles.

Looking AheadDaryl Kimball, Beatrice Fihn and Jamie Walsh discuss preventing a new arms race at the Arms Control Association side event.

On Thursday morning, the Arms Control Association hosted a side event on progressive measures to prevent a new nuclear arms race with Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and Jamie Walsh, deputy director for disarmament and nonproliferation of the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kimball put forward several recommendations to advance this goal, including using sober language on nuclear weapons, reducing the risks of nuclear launch, pressing for nuclear weapons states to explain how their launch postures are consistent with international law, the United States and Russia meeting to discuss extending New START, reinvigorating efforts to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and convening a high level summit on nuclear disarmament.

Fihn emphasized the need to enforce previous agreements made at the NPT, including the 2010 Action Plan, arguing that neglecting them threatens the NPT. She also described the need to address the dangers posed by all nuclear weapons, instead of just those in certain states and for states which receive nuclear security guarantees from nuclear weapons states (nuclear umbrella states) to speak up about rising nuclear risks.

This year’s Prepcom will close out Friday with discussion of the chair’s summary of the proceedings, which is scheduled to be released late this afternoon (CET). —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE


U.S. Revises Position on WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East as PrepCom Discusses Nonproliferation Issues
May 1, 2018

The second cluster of issues at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee, discussed Friday, April 27 through Tuesday, May 1 centered broadly around nonproliferation issues and included a robust debate about a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) free zone in the Middle East.

One of the points of contention of the topic stemmed from the U.S. working paper “Establishing Regional Conditions Conducive to a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Delivery Systems.” The working paper stated that the “NPT review cycle cannot the primary mechanism for progress on a Middle East WMD-Free Zone.” The United States argued during the debate on the subject of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East (a specific topic in cluster two) that although it supports a WMD-free zone in the region, security conditions are not right at this time to create one. This is a similar argument to the one the United States proffered during cluster one on nuclear disarmament (see previous blog). 

Groups including the Non-Aligned Movement, which also introduced a working paper on the topic, the African Group and the Arab Group strongly rejected this position, contending that states-parties to the NPT had made a commitment to work towards such a zone in successive review conference documents and that this agreement had been fundamental to the decision to indefinitely extend the NPT in 1995.

Many states welcomed export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Hague Code of Conduct, the Australia Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Proliferation Security Initiative. Other states highlighted their contributions to nuclear security and nuclear safety, welcoming the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the 1540 committee and the Nuclear Security Contact Group. Thailand announced that just last week its cabinet approved its accession to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

Dozens of countries praised existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and called for the creation of new ones. Several states urged nuclear-weapon states to lift their reservations on the implementation of nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Over a dozen countries expressed their support for the Additional Protocol, arguing that combined with a Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement, it should constitute the safeguards standard and encouraging those without Additional Protocols to negotiate one with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Russia differed from several other members of the conference on it’s take on the state-level concept, calling for “close political control” over the introduction of the state-level concept to safeguards implementation. Other states, including Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada, welcomed the state-level concept.

For more information on IAEA safeguards, see our factsheet hereThe NPT PrepCom meets in the UN Assembly Hall

Dozens of countries condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and welcomed the recent diplomatic opening, including a summit on Friday between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. France, Germany and the United Kingdom released a new declaration on North Korea on Monday. Dozens of countries also lauded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a successful nonproliferation agreement.

Countries sparred again in right-of-reply exchanges over the hosting of U.S. nuclear weapons on NATO territory. The United States and Germany insisted that the weapons are always under U.S. control and Iran alleged that transfers violate U.S. commitment to Article I of the NPT and hosting NATO countries’ commitment to Article II. Iran also objected to U.S. criticism and accused the United States of violating the JCPOA “on a daily basis” by making public statements against it. U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood flatly rejected these claims. The Arms Control Association released an issue brief on Monday on how to respond to Trump’s repeated threats to violate the landmark agreement.

Syria interjected to deny its use of chemical weapons and Lebanon voiced its discontent with the U.S. negative characterization of Hezbollah.

Several states expressed support for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as part of the solution to regional proliferation problems. France urged North Korea to sign and ratify the CTBT to build upon its stated nuclear and missile test ban and the European Union encouraged all states in the Middle East to join the CTBT as a stepping stone to a WMD Free Zone. —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE


Cluster 1 Revives Article VI Concerns, Shows Potential Cooperation on Interim Measures
April 27, 2018

While the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) PrepCom’s discussion of cluster one (disarmament) issues featured the usual disagreement over implementation of the treaty’s Article VI disarmament obligations, it also highlights opportunities for cooperation on modest, interim steps on disarmament.

The P5 discord was apparent during cluster one debate, including when Russia stated that it “could not confirm” that the United States had met limits on its strategic forces imposed by New START. The dominant disagreement, however, continued to be over the lack of progress on the implementation of key Article VI goals and objectives, and how to take forward disarmament under difficult international security conditions.P5 states meet before NPT PrepCom session on Tuesday. Photo credit: U.S. Mission to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva

Implementation and compliance with Article VI has long been a point of contention between those who argue that nuclear-weapon states have not adequately fulfilled key objectives and goals agreed at past Review Conferences and that ongoing programs to replace and upgrade nuclear arsenals are a violation of Article VI, and others who contend that they have done all they could on Article VI in a difficult security environment.

Austria urged member states to reconsider nuclear-weapon states’ arguments that nuclear weapons contribute to global peace and stability and introduced a working paper on the humanitarian perspective of nuclear weapons and security.

The general civility around the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was shattered as France and Russia devoted similar lengthy paragraphs to denounce the treaty. Over 20 states welcomed its adoption.

In “rights of replies” exchanged Thursday, Iran contended that the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review violates the NPT. Germany and the Netherlands rejected earlier accusations that their hosting of U.S. nuclear weapons was also a violation of the NPT.

There was widespread agreement on the value of nuclear disarmament verification. The QUAD nuclear verification partnership, comprised of Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, briefed the conference on a verification simulation, called LETTERPRESS, conducted in October of last year. Many states welcomed the work of the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification and the creation of the Group of Governmental Experts on the same subject.

The need for additional transparency from nuclear-weapon states about nuclear postures and doctrines was also a common theme, and was voiced by both nuclear-weapon states, including the United States, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Japan, conveying the recommendations of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, suggested that nuclear-weapon states fill out a standardized form and regularly report on their nuclear forces, as the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) has suggested previously. The NPDI also hosted a side event on enhancing transparency on Friday.

Raising concerns about the growing risk of nuclear use, states called for risk reduction measures. “In the current security climate, the risk that nuclear weapons will be used, by accident, miscalculation or design is increasing. In light of this, we see few things more urgent than the development of risk reduction agenda,” the Swedish representative stated on Thursday.

Many states specifically called on the United States and Russia to resolve compliance concerns with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and to extend New START or pursue additional nuclear reductions. Several states, including Finland, while welcoming New START, lamented that there is not a treaty limiting non-strategic nuclear weapons and expressed concern about the risks posed by these nuclear weapons in particular.

Ahead of the NPT gathering, a group of more than 40 senior experts and former officials from the United States, Europe, and Russia issued a joint statement urging the United States and Russian leaders to agree to extension of New START.

The United States declared that it had completed its review of the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) and that it “will continue to support the commencement of negotiations on an FMCT,” which many other delegations also voiced support for. Additionally, many states called for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

One specific topic chosen for the discussion at the cluster was negative security assurances, guarantees from nuclear-weapon states not to strike non-nuclear weapons states with nuclear weapons. Some states, including South Africa argued that there should be a legally binding treaty on negative security assurances, while others, including the Netherlands, suggested strengthening the existing provisions in nuclear-weapon-free zones on negative security assurances. The United States stated that it could not support universal, legally-binding negative security assurances, but that it did offer “voluntary” negative security assurances, as articulated in the Nuclear Posture Review.

No countries took the floor Friday morning to speak about nuclear disarmament education at the specially designated session, although the EU and a few others supported disarmament education in statements.

Today through Tuesday the conference will discuss cluster two issues, which broadly relate to nonproliferation concerns. —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE


General Debate Reveals P5 Discord, Points of Agreement Among Others
April 25, 2018

Disagreement among the nuclear-weapon states (or P5) was glaringly evident during the opening of the Preparatory Committee, as both the United States and Russia called each other out by name for violating arms control agreements and exchanged heated right-of-replies (joined by the United Kingdom and Syria) about chemical weapons use by Syria and in the UK.Photo credit: UNODA Geneva

The P5 met on Tuesday morning but did not produce a joint statement. Russia and China circulated a joint statement in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that U.S. President Trump has threatened to pull out of on May 12. The United States and Russia also reportedly met Wednesday morning.

Although the U.S. - Russian spat over chemical weapons use at the end of both the first and second days of the 2018 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee stole the show, there were many points of agreement among other NPT states-parties delivering opening remarks.

Most states alluded to the particularly challenging security environment in which this PrepCom takes place, singling out in particular North Korea’s missile and nuclear development. The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative introduced a working paper on the subject. Most states expressed support for the JCPOA as a solution to previous concerns about Iranian nuclear development.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concluded with Iran is a robust nonproliferation agreement and an asset for international peace and security. It needs to be preserved and continue to be strictly implemented by all parties, under rigorous [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA supervision,” French Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament Alice Guitton stated in opening remarks.

In part as a response to this daunting security environment, at least ten countries and several blocs, including the Non-Aligned Movement, the New Agenda Coalition, the Nordic countries and the European Union, all supported advancing nuclear risk reduction measures. Several expressly supported negative security assurances, on which subject the Non-Aligned Movement submitted a working paper, while others advocated for de-alerting postures and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. As usual, China submitted that other nuclear weapons states should join its no-first-use posture.

The negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) also garnered wide support from a diverse group of countries, as well as two associated working papers from the EU and the Non-Aligned Movement, respectively. Dr. Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) held a press conference on April 25 on North Korea’s recent announcement that it would close its Punggye-ri testing site, urging it to also sign and ratify the CTBT.

What was notably absent from this PrepCom was a tense exchange among those that support the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and those that oppose it. While the treaty was mentioned by both camps, on the one hand to welcome its adoption and on the other in passing critical references, neither side devoted lengthy paragraphs to condone or condemn the new treaty.

This represents a welcome shift from previous conferences, including recent UN General Assembly First Committees, where nuclear-weapon states spent paragraphs criticizing the treaty, and is consistent with both sides stated intention not to overly focus on the TPNW during the PrepCom (see previous blog).

In an opening statement delivered by Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford, the United States joined fellow nuclear weapons states and EU allies in condemning North Korea’s behavior but unlike many of its colleagues it did not explicitly express support for the JCPOA, risk reduction measures, negotiating an FMCT, or the entry into force of the CTBT.

The United States did independently submit two working papers - one entitled “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament” and the other on negotiating a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East.

The first working paper argues that the “easing of international tension” and “strengthening of trust” in order to facilitate disarmament, as referenced in the preamble of the NPT is a prerequisite to fulfilling one of the treaty’s articles, Article VI, which commits all states-parties to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations. Some of the conditions needed before progress can be made on nuclear disarmament, the working paper contends, are:

  • the denuclearization of North Korea;
  • Iran’s verified compliance with its non-proliferation commitments;
  • the recognition of the right of Israel to exist;
  • adherence by all states to the Additional Protocol;
  • a moratorium on the production of fissile material;
  • halting the increase and diversification of Russian, Chinese and North Korean nuclear weapons arsenals;
  • improving the transparency of nuclear policies;
  • developing nuclear disarmament verification technologies; and
  • compliance with all states with all international agreements, but in particular Russia with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and “some States” with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This interpretation of Article VI continues to be at odds with many non-nuclear weapon states’ interpretation. “International security will not be advanced, nor the Treaty preserved, by nuclear-weapon States creating doubt about their intention ever to fulfill their disarmament obligations…. Surely, the imposition of conditions for the implementation of any Treaty obligations could only undermine the credibility of the nuclear nonproliferation regime with the NPT as its foundation,” Ambassador Dell Higgie of New Zealand stated on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition in its opening statement.

The New Agenda Coalition also submitted a working paper outlining its views on the disarmament obligation.

The United States recently completed a series of treaty reviews, some of which the administration intends to unveil at the PrepCom, Andrea Hall, senior director at the National Security Council told the Arms Control Association annual meeting on April 19, so more specifics on the U.S. position may come later.

The conference made procedural decisions on its first day, determining that its last preparatory committee of this review cycle will be held in New York from April 29 - May 10, 2019, chaired by Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob of Malaysia and that the 2020 Review Conference will also take place in New York from April 27 to May 22, 2020.

Statements from the PrepCom are available here, working papers here, and a calendar of side-events here. Follow #NPT2018 on Twitter for live tweets. —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE


What to Expect as the 2018 NPT PrepCom Begins
April 20, 2018

The 2018 Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will take place from April 23 – May 4. The PrepCom will begin with general debate for the first two days and then will move into discussion of three different clusters of issues. NPT states-parties will discuss the first cluster, including nuclear disarmament from April 25 to 27, the second cluster, including nuclear non-proliferation from April 27 to May 1 and then the third cluster, including peaceful nuclear energy from May 1 to May 3. On May 4, the PrepCom will consider and adopt a draft report of its meeting. Civil society organizations and government delegations will host side events throughout the conference.Adam Bugajski, Chairman of the 2018 NPT PrepCom. Photo: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations Office and the International Organizations in Vienna

Several working papers have already been submitted and posted on the official UN NPT PrepCom website.

The Arms Control Association will be reporting on the 2018 NPT PrepCom with regular blog posts throughout the two weeks. Ahead of the start of the PrepCom, we spoke with several of the disarmament diplomats who will be attending the conference about their expectations and goals.

Many diplomats emphasized the need for unity in the face of a challenging security environment and long standing divisions on several issues. “Together with like-minded countries, Sweden will seek to contribute by active engagement on all three pillars of the treaty and by promoting concrete proposals with a potential to garner broad support. The normative debate of recent years needs to be complemented by a discussion on practical measures to reduce risks, enhance transparency and build confidence,” Carl Magnus Eriksson, director and deputy head of the Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arms Control Today.

“Achieving full elimination of nuclear weapons requires the participation and cooperation by both nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states. While the nuclear weapon states bear the prime responsibility for reducing and eventually eliminating their nuclear arsenals, non-nuclear weapon states should also contribute to this end. Nuclear disarmament verification clearly represents such a cooperative avenue,” Hans Brattskar, permanent representative of Norway to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva told Arms Control Today.

“In order to increase cooperation and to rebuild trust among states, I encourage all to focus not on our differences, but on our common ground as much as possible,” said Nobushige Takamizawa, Japanese permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament.

At the Arms Control Association Annual Meeting on April 19, New Zealand Conference on Disarmament Permanent Representative Dell Higgie and U.S. National Security Council Senior Director Andrea Hall discussed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the NPT PrepCom. Both agreed that it should not be the focal point of the NPT PrepCom. Dell Higgie stated that she was not worried about TPNW supporters focusing too heavily on the treaty at the PrepCom, instead expressing concern that nuclear weapons states would overly focus on criticizing it. Hall stated that the United States did not intend to focus on the TPNW and that she would be glad if the treaty did not come up at all.

For an exclusive interview with the PrepCom chair, Polish permanent representative to the UN office and international organizations in Vienna, Adam Bugajski, see Arms Control Today, April 2018.

Need a refresher on the NPT before the conference? Check out our NPT at a Glance and Timeline of the NPT factsheets. —ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Author: 
Alicia Sanders-Zakre