An achievement for the NPTIn the final statement adopted at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York on Friday, 189 member nations declared that they cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. Denouncing North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 in an emphatic tone, the declaration explicitly states that North Korea is not allowed to obtain nuclear power status. Therefore, it emphasized that North Korea should scrap its existing nuclear arsenals and nuclear programs in a complete and verifiable manner and return to the NPT regime at the earliest date possible. This is the first time such strong rhetoric has been included in the declaration.
It is worth noting that North Korea’s “blood ally” China is also among the signatories to the statement. Other nonaligned countries that maintain relatively close ties with the North - countries from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Central and South Americas - also joined in. A rebuke such as this that comes from 189 countries amounts to a consensus of the international community. If North Korea does not want isolation from the world, it should listen to what they say. The North should understand that the global community does not buy the argument that they can possess nuclear weapons just because they are not a member of the NPT. It is an open secret that the country has consistently been building up its nuclear arsenal by taking advantage of its intermittent membership in the NPT.
This time, NPT member countries achieved something by issuing a final statement after almost a month of fierce debates. Such a development can be construed as progress compared to the 2005 Review Conference, when member nations failed to adopt a declaration due to the conflict of interests between them.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the statement will be effective because there are still unresolved issues arising from the friction between member nations with nuclear weapons and the ones without. And even though the member countries decided to hold an international conference on denuclearization of the Middle East in 2012, Israel immediately refused to participate. Also, Iran, which has been under strong suspicion for its nuclear ambition, is not mentioned at all. The conference also fell short of securing a safety mechanism to prevent Iran from emerging as “another North Korea” by prohibiting unilateral secession from the NPT. Regardless, the conference did confirm the international community’s consensus on the need to maintain the NPT’s basic framework for reduction of nuclear arms, prevention of nuclear proliferation, and peaceful use of nuclear resources. That’s a small but significant achievement.