Keeping the NPT on targetIf the 40-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty had been strictly observed, the number of countries with nuclear weapons would not exceed five: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France. But India and Pakistan have already joined their ranks and North Korea has become a de facto member of this exclusive group. That has increased the danger that nuclear materials will be smuggled into the hands of entities such as terrorist groups. If the NPT regime had worked, the nuclear arsenal of the five original members would have been reduced by a much larger scale by now. But the number of nuclear warheads possessed by the five countries is now well over 20,000.
If we can’t successfully mend the porous NPT system, it is impossible to keep humanity safe against threats of nuclear annihilation. That’s why the 189 NPT member states will meet in New York for the first review conference in five years from today until the 28th of May.
The major issues for discussion are expected to include Iran’s nuclear ambition, the creation of a nuclear-free region in the Middle East and the fortification of a nonproliferation regime. Iran, an NPT member, is alleged to be seeking the development of nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful use of nuclear materials. Iran’s nuclear ambitions should be thwarted by whatever means necessary as a litmus test to determine the sustainability of the NPT system.
Although the so-called “denuclearization of the Middle East,” which was agreed upon among Arab countries in 1995, has been presented as a solution to potential nuclear expansion in the area, it is still very hard to predict its success. That’s mostly due to the premise that Israel would give up its nuclear stockpiles.
We also need an effective tool for preventing any country, including North Korea, from developing nuclear weapons within the NPT regime and then hiding by using their right to secede from the regime. If we fail to build such a preventative mechanism at the conference, Iran could emerge as another North Korea.
In order to take one step closer to becoming the “nuclear-free world” advocated by U.S. President Barack Obama, NPT member states should come up with more realistic and effective measures to address these issues. For now the situation looks positive, considering the Obama administration’s pledge not to conduct nuclear attacks against nonnuclear powers, its promise to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the recent strategic nuclear reduction treaty signed by the U.S. and Russia. But the question is how individual member states will respond. Each and every participant should do their best not to repeat the 2005 meeting, which was a feast of empty words.