(Washington, D.C.): In an April 19 interview with Arms Control Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker outlined the U.S. approach to and goals for a May meeting of states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which is the centerpiece of international efforts to control the spread of and eliminate nuclear weapons. Stating that U.S. adherence to the treaty is "unassailable," Rademaker said the meeting would be a success if participating countries focus on remedying the problem of treaty noncompliance.
Negotiated in 1968, the NPT established one of the most important security bargains of all time: states without nuclear weapons pledged not to acquire them, while nuclear-armed states committed to eventually give them up. Non-nuclear-weapon states were also free to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear technology under strict and verifiable control.
Since the treaty entered into force in 1970, its states-parties, which now number nearly 190 countries, have met every five years to assess the treaty's implementation. The seventh such meeting will take place May 2-27 in New York.
Rademaker asserted the "principal focus" of the conference should be on dealing with treaty noncompliance. He named North Korea and Iran as the foremost violators. A related issue that NPT states-parties should address at the conference is determining under what conditions a non-nuclear-weapon state can exercise its right to nuclear technologies and materials for peaceful purposes, Rademaker stated.
Rademaker also said the United States has an "open mind" to French and German proposals regarding the right to withdraw from the treaty. These proposals aim to prevent states from using nuclear materials and technologies acquired under the treaty to develop nuclear weapons after withdrawing from the accord. "There should be widespread consensus at the upcoming review conference that withdrawal from the NPT is a bad idea and it’s something to be discouraged," Rademaker stated.
Although optimistic about the prospects of the conference, Rademaker warned that it would be a failure if countries "chose to dwell on the past rather than the present and the future." Rademaker was referring to longstanding criticisms from some countries that the United States and other nuclear-weapon states have not made enough progress toward nuclear disarmament. At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, all states-parties, including the United States, agreed to a series of measures known as the "13 practical steps" to work toward disarmament. Since then, the Bush administration has refuted some of those steps by opposing entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. "A lot has changed since the year 2000," Rademaker said, "and we think it is time for the upcoming review conference to address the situation that exists in the year 2005."
The U.S. delegation to the 2005 NPT Review Conference will be led on a day-to-day basis by Ambassador Jackie Sanders, who represents the United States at the 65-member UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Rademaker said no decision has been made on who will be the titular head of the delegation.
A full transcript of the interview can be accessed at <http://www.armscontrol.org/interviews/20050419_Rademaker.asp>. For additional information and resources on the NPT Review Conference visit <http://www.NPT2005.org>.
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