[FOUNTAIN]The nuclear treaty’s serious problem

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[FOUNTAIN]The nuclear treaty’s serious problem

Once, briefly, nuclear weapons were known as “weapons of peace.” This was after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The thinking was that without the atomic bomb, World War II would have dragged on, perhaps costing a million more casualties. But that notion didn’t last long, and a more realistic view of nuclear weapons began to set in.
For nations of military might, nuclear arms were a powerful temptation. The Soviet Union and Britain successfully tested atomic weapons in 1948 and 1952, respectively; France tasted success in 1960. It was around then that the concept of “nonproliferation” appeared.
Poland proposed in 1957 that parts of Eastern Europe be declared nuclear-free zones. In 1958, Ireland proposed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Sweden presented a nonproliferation resolution at the United Nations a few years later. Those proposals prompted the United States and the Soviet Union to draw up a rough draft of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1963. Talks dragged on with little progress until China’s successful test in 1964. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson immediately said countries that gave up nuclear arms programs would receive U.S. protection from nuclear threats. The Soviets proposed a clause in the NPT barring the use of nuclear arms against non-nuclear states. The treaty was adopted at the UN General Assembly in 1968, and went into effect on March 5, 1970.
Thirty-five years later, the NPT has been called a treaty whose success is unparalleled in history. Almost every nation has signed it. Countries that once had nuclear arms, such as South Africa, Ukraine and Belarus, have given them up. But a difficulty not considered at the treaty’s birth is emerging as a serious problem: countries that sign the NPT and pretend to follow its rules until they develop the capacity to enrich and reprocess nuclear fuel, then withdraw from the treaty. North Korea was the first to do so. If this situation is neglected, it will mean giving pardons to wicked countries. The most important task facing the NPT review conference now underway at the United Nations is to solve this problem. Failure to do so will create a credibility crisis for the NPT.

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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