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Strategic Thought

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United Nations Headquarters – New York City

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Achieving International Security through Diplomacy

by Major Ken Craig

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“If the history of the past fifty years teaches us anything, it is that peace does not follow disarmament – disarmament follows peace.”

– Bernard M. Baruch,
American Financier and Presidential
Advisor, 1870-1965


In March 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (commonly referred to as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT) took effect, becoming a cornerstone in the legal and political efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT has three broad objectives: to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon states; to ensure access to peaceful nuclear technology under international safeguards for all signatories; and to commit nuclear-weapon states to nuclear disarmament.1 The NPT provides the key framework document for the non-proliferation regime, and it offers tangible proof that through effective negotiation, global security can be enhanced. This does not mean that the NPT can rest on its laurels, and indeed, many organizations, including the United Nations (UN), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a host of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to breathe new life into what can only be described as the most successful international arms control treaty in history. Nevertheless, there are many challenges facing the NPT – challenges that should be of concern to all who practise the profession of arms.


Before discussing the issues facing the NPT, some context is necessary to better frame the present day situation. Ever since nuclear weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the international community has sought ways to prevent any future use, or indeed, acquisition of these destructive weapons. Diplomatic efforts in this regard were accelerated in 1949, following the Soviet Union’s test of its first nuclear weapon, and again in 1950, following a similar test by the United Kingdom. Between 1956 and 1959, the United States concluded peaceful-use nuclear cooperation agreements with 40 allied countries, 26 of which accepted United States-mandated nuclear safeguards.2 In return, these 26 were provided with research reactors, nuclear training, and reactor fuel. The Soviet Union concluded similar agreements with nations within its sphere of influence. In 1957, the IAEA was established to provide the institutional foundation for promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to administer safeguards designed to ensure that nuclear assistance was not being used for military purposes. In 1960, the IAEA assumed responsibility for inspections previously implemented by the United States and the Soviet Union on their peaceful-use nuclear exports. That same year, France tested its first nuclear device, which created additional concern that a treaty was needed to limit the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Then in 1962, the world was paralyzed with the spectre of looming potential nuclear war as the United States and the Soviet Union faced off against each other during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Moreover, in 1964, China conducted its first nuclear test. Clearly, the impetus was being generated with respect to the need to establish a treaty that would prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to lay the groundwork for eventual nuclear disarmament.


©Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Deadly Arsenals (2005), www.ProliferationNews.org

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Following intensive negotiations on collective security arrangements, safeguards, and balanced obligations, the United States and the Soviet Union submitted a proposed non-proliferation treaty to the UN. After amendments to the joint proposal, the UN General Assembly on 12 June 1968, approved Resolution 2373, which endorsed the NPT.3 The treaty entered into force 5 March 1970, after the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and 40 additional states ratified it. France and China did not sign the NPT in 1968. However, in 1992, both nations acceded to its terms.

The NPT places very clear expectations upon all parties. Under its terms, a country that detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967 is defined as a nuclear- weapon state. Ironically, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, France, and China) are the only nuclear-weapon states as defined by the treaty. All other signatories are referred to as non-nuclear-weapon states. By acceding to the NPT, the nuclear-weapon states promise not to transfer nuclear weapons to any other state, or to assist any non-nuclear-weapon state in the acquisition, manufacture, or control of nuclear weapons. Additionally, the nuclear-weapon states are obliged under the treaty to negotiate in good faith on effective measures relating to a cessation of the nuclear arms race, and to take generic steps towards complete nuclear disarmament. In exchange for renouncing nuclear weapons, the non- nuclear-weapon states are to gain access to nuclear materials and technology for the peaceful use of nuclear energy under IAEA-administered safeguards. The NPT commits the non-nuclear-weapon states not to build, acquire, or possess nuclear weapons, and to accept safeguards on all their nuclear activities.

Since its inception in 1970, the NPT has been ratified by more countries than any other arms control or disarmament agreement in history. In 2002, Cuba became the 188th nation to accede to the treaty. After first coming on board in 1985, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) withdrew its membership in 2003, becoming the first and only signatory to do so in the Treaty’s 37-year history. As of today, only Israel, Pakistan and India have not signed the NPT. These three countries are known, (or believed in the case of Israel) to possess nuclear weapons. However, as they did not detonate a nuclear device before 1967, they are not considered nuclear-weapon states as prescribed by the treaty. Under the current wording of the NPT, if these nations were to become members, they would have to do so as non-nuclear-weapon states, which would mean eliminating their nuclear arsenals and accepting IAEA inspections on all their nuclear activities.

Canada’s Place in Context

It is important to look at the role that Canada and other key countries have played in the short life of the NPT to date. The list of nations that ratified the treaty steadily rose after it entered into force in 1970. In truth, the near universality of the NPT has less to do with the nuclear ambitions of individual countries than it does with the benefits to be gained by ratifying the treaty. During the Cold War, nations that were members of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO alliance enjoyed the protection offered by the nuclear umbrella of their respective superpowers. The security of the non-nuclear-weapon states in these alliances was assured as any attack by the opposing alliance might provoke a retaliatory nuclear weapon response by their respective superpower. Yet, these same nations could obtain the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology by simply ratifying the NPT. For nations outside these opposing alliances, the nuclear-weapon states offered “negative security assurances” to NPT member non-nuclear-weapon states. The nuclear-weapon states agreed not to use, or to threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states, provided they were not allied with another nuclear-weapon state in launching an attack. The nuclear-weapon states also agreed to refrain from using nuclear weapons in established nuclear-weapons-free zones. To date, three nuclear-weapons-free zones have been ratified: the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco (Latin America), the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga (South Pacific), and the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok (South East Asia). African countries have also signed the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba, creating an additional nuclear-weapons-free zones. However, that treaty has not yet entered into force as it still awaits ratification by at least 28 of the 53 signatories. In 2006, Libya became the 20th African state to ratify the treaty.

General Bell

REUTERS photo by Jo Yong-Hak

U.S. General B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. military in South Korea, speaks during a news conference at a U.S. Army base in Seoul, 9 January 2007. North Korea is likely to test another nuclear device, Bell said, but he declined to comment on reports that an explosion was imminent. 

The first challenge to confront the NPT came at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference that was held in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. According to Article 10.2 of the NPT, 25 years after its establishment, a conference would be convened to decide whether the treaty should continue in force indefinitely, or should be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. In accordance with Article 8.3 of the NPT, member states had been meeting at five-year intervals since 1970 to review the functioning of the Treaty. However, the 1995 Review and Extension Conference was the first such meeting that required a crucial decision. Those that supported the treaty favoured the unconditional indefinite extension of the NPT. The preferred means to achieve this objective was for the Conference to arrive at this decision by consensus, rather than by an actual vote. Some nations, including Canada, were of the opinion that a vote would weaken the legitimacy of the treaty, as it would provide a visible indication of those nations that supported it, and those that did not. The option of extending the treaty for an additional fixed period or periods was deemed unsatisfactory, as it would again weaken the NPT by providing a definitive date when it would expire, or when it would require subsequent re-negotiation. If the NPT was to have a fixed expiry date, it was felt that some nations might be encouraged to pursue a nuclear-weapon capability to hedge against a possible decision to dissolve the treaty. Additionally, there was no clear answer from the legal experts attending the Conference of what would happen to the treaty at the end of a fixed period. Would the treaty expire, or would another extension conference be sufficient to extend its life? Given the questions surrounding these latter two options, the unconditional indefinite extension of the treaty was deemed the only suitable outcome by those nations that supported it.

Opponents of indefinite extension argued that nuclear-weapon states had not lived up to their agreement to take steps towards nuclear disarmament, and that the treaty permanently divided the international community into “have” and “have not” nations. Nevertheless, Canada and most western-aligned countries considered that the benefits of a permanent NPT outweighed the uncertainty that would surround any decision short of unconditional indefinite extension. During the Conference, Canada played an important role behind the scenes in promoting the merits of an unconditional indefinite extension of the treaty.4 Canada’s Ambassador for Disarmament actively solicited the support of 74 undecided countries through one-on-one meetings, arguing that indefinite extension made good sense for world security. Prior to the Conference, Canada was also asked by a group of like-minded countries to sponsor a resolution that called for the unconditional indefinite extension of the NPT. If an overwhelming number of nations co-sponsored the Canadian resolution during the Conference, it was hoped that nations opposed to the extension of the NPT would see the futility in voting against an indefinite extension. By the end of the Conference, 111 of the 175 countries attending the Conference had signed the Canadian resolution. With a clear majority in favour of an unconditional indefinite extension, the Conference president was able to appeal to opposing nations to respect the inevitability of the final outcome such that a vote was avoided, and the treaty was extended indefinitely by consensus.5 At the conclusion of the Conference, Canada’s Ambassador for Disarmament was able to state that the decision to extend the NPT indefinitely had linked “permanence with accountability without division.”6

Current Issues and Challenges

Having briefly reviewed the short life of the treaty to date, one must now focus upon current issues facing the NPT. The challenges for the non-proliferation proponents are three-fold: how to deal with the nuclear-weapon states that remain outside the treaty (Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea); how to resolve the dilemma posed by the apparent nuclear ambitions of Iran; and how to strengthen the NPT for future generations. In all cases, it is clear that addressing the underlying frictions that force a nation to view the possession of nuclear weapons as being in their national self-interest is of utmost importance. Without doing so, nations will be inclined to pursue nuclear weapon programs in order to satisfy their security concerns. If this occurs, then diplomacy will have failed, and the potential for nuclear conflict becomes a much stronger likelihood.

India and Pakistan

In 1974, India exploded a nuclear device using plutonium from a Canadian-supplied reactor that contained heavy water supplied by the United States.7 India had acquired the reactor and heavy water under “peaceful-use” agreements, which they subsequently violated. India views its nuclear-weapon capability as an instrument for maintaining military parity in South East Asia with China, and, to a lesser extent, with Pakistan. India also views this capability as an indication of its aspiration for great power status. Pakistan, with the assistance of China, also embarked upon a nuclear weapon program following its defeat in the Indo-Bangladesh war of 1971.8 Pakistan considers nuclear weapons to be an essential component of its security effort to redress its conventional weapon inferiority with respect to India. In May 1998, India tested several nuclear devices, which were followed two weeks later by similar Pakistani tests. Both nations had thus crossed the nuclear threshold, and there was no denying their status as nuclear-weapon states. In February 2007, India and Pakistan signed a confidence building measures agreement that seeks to reduce the risks of conflict related to the two nations’ nuclear weapons. However, details of the deal have been kept secret.

It is highly unlikely that India and Pakistan can be forced into the non-proliferation regime as non-nuclear-weapon states. They both view the possession of nuclear weapons as a necessary tool for maintaining strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and, in India’s case, a nuclear arsenal supports its claim to great power status. The best way to bring these two countries into the non-proliferation regime is to recognize their status as nuclear-weapon states under the auspices of the NPT. Once India and Pakistan accede to the NPT, they would, in effect, agree not to transfer nuclear technologies to non-nuclear-weapon states, and they will have committed their nations to eventual nuclear disarmament through the terms of the agreement. The inclusion of India and Pakistan within the non-proliferation regime outweighs their continued existence outside any form of regulated controls. The clandestine activities of the Pakistani scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, are a case in point. In 2004, Dr. Khan confessed to the illicit transfer of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea – actions that were undertaken due to the lack of adequate export control regulations and to the absence of IAEA safeguards on Pakistani nuclear sites.9 Placing Indian and Pakistani nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards is paramount to enhancing the non-proliferation regime, and this can best be achieved by creating conditions under which both countries can accede to the NPT.

In March 2006, the United States and India concluded an agreement that will see India gain access to American civilian nuclear technology. Although the deal still requires the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and of the IAEA, in exchange for American assistance in providing nuclear fuel and technology, including reactors, India would place its 14 civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and inspections. However, India has designated its eight other reactors as “military-use,” thus, they are not open to IAEA inspections. Critics argue that India could use the technology transfer to develop more powerful weapons. Another argument against this agreement is that it could threaten the viability of the NPT, since India has refused to accede to the terms of the treaty, has acquired nuclear weapons, and is still able to benefit from the transfer of peaceful-use technology. As previously mentioned, the transfer of peaceful-use technology was one of the key rights afforded to non-nuclear-weapon states in exchange for renouncing a nuclear-weapon capability. Although there may be some merit to these comments, one could also argue that placing Indian civil reactors under IAEA safeguards advances the cause of the non-proliferation regime, a stance supported by the Director General of the IAEA.10 And surely, limiting the further spread of nuclear weapons is of significant importance, not only to states in South East Asia, but also to those in the Middle East.

Wu Dawei

REUTERS photo by Claro Cortes IV

Wu Dawei, China’s chief negotiator in the six-party talks, is chased by journalists as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, 31 January 2007. North Korea will feel compelled to announce plans for another nuclear test if a financial dispute with Washington is not resolved, a source said, a sign of Pyongyang’s impatience with a lack of progress in talks. 


The Middle East continues to dominate headlines around the world, with the Arab-Israeli conflict being at the core of most issues. An added factor in all negotiations is that Israel has maintained a policy of ambiguity at it relates to its nuclear capability. On the one hand, it has never officially disclosed that it possesses nuclear weapons, yet it has refused to accede to the terms of the NPT. Most experts agree that Israel developed a nuclear-weapon capability in the late 1970s with the assistance of South Africa, and that it now possesses up to 200 nuclear devices.11 Naturally, this raises troubling questions for the surrounding Arab states. But the international community should also be concerned with this ambiguous Israeli policy. For example, under what circumstances would Israel use nuclear weapons? Who are the decision-makers? What changes in policy would occur if Iran (or any other Middle Eastern state) were to obtain nuclear weapons? And what security measures and command-and-control protocols are in place? Nevertheless, working on the assumption that Israel has a robust nuclear-weapons capability, the question for the international community is to determine what measures it could adopt to encourage Israel to accede to the terms of the NPT.

A first step could be to continue the efforts of the non-proliferation community to create a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. In point of fact, one of the key resolutions in the 1995 decision to extend the NPT indefinitely was a declaration on the Middle East that called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone.12 The declaration was produced at the insistence of member states of the Arab League, and it called upon non-parties to the treaty (Israel) to accept IAEA safeguards on their nuclear activities. Since 1995, little progress has been made on this issue, and, indeed, subsequent Middle East peace process initiatives have made little mention of a nuclear- weapons-free zone. But, given the challenges posed by the apparent nuclear ambitions of Iran and the generally accepted nuclear capability of Israel, it is time to commence serious dialogue regarding the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. As proposed by the Director General of the IAEA, to achieve success in this matter, there needs to be a clear definition of the zone of application, of universal membership by countries in the region, of an international system of verification to monitor compliance, and of security assurances from the UN Security Council to assist any nation in the region whose security is threatened.13

Only by addressing the factors that have caused Israel to seek a nuclear-weapons capability can it be encouraged to renounce nuclear weapons. Israel views the possession of nuclear weapons as a means to guarantee its national security in the face of surrounding Arab states, many of which oppose the state of Israel’s right to exist. Nevertheless, it could also be argued that Israel’s undeclared nuclear-weapons capability entices countries such as Iran to pursue a similar capability in order to provide a counterbalance to the Israeli nuclear force. Any solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will need to address Israel’s nuclear-weapons capability. Positive security assurances by the UN Security Council, in particular, a joint United States-Russia declaration that makes clear Israel’s right to exist along pre-determined borders, might entice Israel to forego its nuclear-weapons capability. Once neighbouring Arab states are assured that Israel no longer possesses nuclear weapons, they might also forego clandestine efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Israel needs to see its undeclared nuclear capability as a threat to peaceful coexistence with neighbouring Arab states, rather than a security guarantee, (and this, admittedly, is a “tall order.”) Only then will Israel renounce nuclear weapons in favour of acceding to the security and stability afforded by member-ship in the NPT. Peace in the Middle East will not be achieved solely by Israel’s renunciation of nuclear weapons; however, discussions aimed at establishing a lasting peace agreement in the region cannot commence if Israel remains intransigent regarding her undeclared nuclear-weapons capability.

Nuclear facility

REUTERS photo by Caren Firou

A technician works in the control room at the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, 450 kilometers south of Tehran, 3 February 2007. Six envoys representing the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations visited the nuclear facility in Iran as part of Tehran’s attempt to be open about its disputed atomic program. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – North Korea

North Korea signed the NPT in 1985 only at the insistence of the Soviet Union when it was made clear that North Korean membership was necessary for the provision of Soviet nuclear assistance.14 Nevertheless, in April 2003, North Korea became the first, and, to date, only country to withdraw from the NPT. North Korea’s withdrawal followed the failure of the Agreed Framework, a 1994 agreement between the United States and North Korea that sought to normalize relations between the two states, to limit North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and to provide nuclear and oil energy needs to the impoverished Asian state. After months of speculation, on 9 October 2006, North Korea conducted a successful underground nuclear test, becoming the ninth state to join the list of nuclear-weapons nations. Of course, North Korea’s actions have created concern that other nations in the region may withdraw from the NPT and develop their own nuclear-weapons capabilities, thus inviting greater instability in the region. In response to the North Korean test, China chaired a series of meetings in February 2007, the Six-Party Talks (China, North Korea, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States), where a tentative agreement was reached on de-escalating tensions. Under the agreement, North Korea will shut down, for the purpose of eventual abandonment, its Yongbyon nuclear facility, invite back IAEA inspectors, commence bilateral negotiations with the United States aimed at restoring full diplomatic relations between the two nations, and all parties will cooperate in providing emergency heavy fuel oil energy assistance to North Korea. There is no mention in the agreement on the future status of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal, generally agreed to consist of a half-dozen devices, although the Joint Statement does make clear that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a key objective.15

The United States, Russia, and, most significantly, China, play a crucial role when discussing North Korea’s nuclear-weapons ambitions. The Six-Party Talks are an important first step, but much work remains to be done to lay the groundwork for a North Korean renunciation of its nuclear-weapons capability. The United States and Russia have the means to address North Korean energy concerns, and, along with China, all three nations can offer the requisite security guarantees. Only through open dialogue and cooperation will North Korea’s desire to possess nuclear weapons be eliminated. Some analysts suggest that North Korea is playing a game of nuclear blackmail. Nevertheless, if the international community, led by the United States, Russia and China, can convince North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons and return to the provisions of the NPT, then surely this must be viewed as a positive step to ensuring stability in the region and enhancing the strength of the non-proliferation regime.

Islamic Republic of Iran

Iran’s ongoing efforts to enrich uranium to levels required to develop nuclear weapons pose a risk, not only to the Middle East region, but also to the long-term viability of the NPT. Much attention has been paid to Iran’s efforts to circumvent safeguards put in place by the IAEA. Briefly, from 1985 to 2003, Iran embarked upon an extensive nuclear enrichment program without declaring it to the IAEA, claiming that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes, pursuant to its rights under the terms of the NPT. The IAEA has not been in a position to determine whether Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes. However, Iran was found to be enriching uranium at higher rates than is necessary for civilian use, which raised troubling questions about the goal of its nuclear program.16 When the IAEA discovered this breach in 2002, Iran agreed to sign the IAEA Additional Protocol that broadened the Agency’s existing inspection authority. The Additional Protocol, endorsed in 1997, calls for states to provide the IAEA with more information about their nuclear activities, expanded rights of physical access, and use of new verification techniques. Although Iran signed the agreement in December 2003, it has yet to ratify and implement in full the conditions laid out in this protocol.

Iranian President

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility 350 kilometers south of Tehran, 9 April 2007. Iran announced it had begun industrial-scale nuclear fuel production in a fresh snub to the U.N. Security Council, which has imposed two rounds of sanctions on it for refusing to halt such work. 

In June 2006, the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany offered assistance to Iran’s nuclear industry, including the construction of a light water reactor and a long-term supply of fuel, in exchange for an Iranian commitment to halt uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, and to place all nuclear-related facilities under IAEA safeguards. In response to Iran’s refusal of this offer, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution in December 2006 that called upon Iran to suspend proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities and placed limited sanctions on the sale of nuclear-related goods. In February 2007, the IAEA released a report indicating that Iran had not suspended its enrichment-related activities as required by the Security Council resolution. However, due to a lack of cooperation on the part of Iran, the report was unable to conclude whether Iran’s nuclear program was exclusively peaceful in nature.17 It remains to be seen what further actions the UN Security Council takes to address Iran’s refusal to comply with the resolution.

The question then becomes: “Why would Iran seek a nuclear-weapons capability in the first place? As mentioned earlier, Israel’s apparent nuclear-weapons capability is an obvious incentive. Additionally, Iran can probably infer that an attack against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq would not have occurred had Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. Additionally, Iran stands in a position to take a key leadership role within the Arab League should it acquire a nuclear-weapons capability. To address Iranian concerns, there are a number of actions that can be taken. First, the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone, following a statement from Israel renouncing nuclear weapons would set the basis for further negotiation. Secondly, the UN Security Council could offer Iran positive security assurances that address its security concerns. And finally, a group of countries, such as the EU-3 (the United Kingdom, France and Germany), or, perhaps, a joint effort by China and Russia, could guarantee Iran access to nuclear reactor technology and nuclear fuel. Iran must be encouraged to remain within the NPT fold if the treaty is to have lasting significance. Any discussion of Israel taking unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear sites, much as they did against the French-built Osirak reactor near Baghdad in 1981, are counter-productive, and it does not address the long-term security interests in the region. Once Iran is confident that they have reached the nuclear threshold, little can be done to stop it from withdrawing from the NPT and becoming a de facto nuclear-weapon state. The irony is that Iran, as a party to the NPT, faces international condemnation for its clandestine efforts. On the other hand, Israel faces no such attention to its undeclared nuclear-weapons capability, India has received a welcome nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, and yet, neither Israel nor India is party to the treaty.

Strengthening the NPT

The first hurdle in strengthening the NPT was cleared when the treaty was extended indefinitely at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. As mentioned earlier, to do otherwise would have seriously undermined the credibility of the treaty. In 2005, the Director General of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, put forward a list of steps that could be undertaken to strengthen the non-proliferation regime further:18

  1. Control access to nuclear fuel cycle technology. This would include the assured provision of the supply of reactor technology and fuel to all states;

  2. Effective nuclear verification. To date, 34 states party to the NPT have not brought into force comprehensive safeguard agreements, and 118 states do not have the Additional Protocols in force.19 There must be universal acceptance of these safeguards if the IAEA is to build confidence in verification procedures;

  3. Strengthen enforcement mechanisms. Referral to the UN Security Council must be accompanied by effective diplomatic action. This must include action against states such as North Korea that signal their intent to withdraw from the NPT. In this regard, a state must not be permitted to benefit from nuclear equipment and technology acquired under peaceful-use agreements afforded by membership in the NPT. IAEA monitoring should remain in place for technology acquired when the state in question was a member of the NPT;

  4. Protect nuclear material. International and national initiatives to protect existing nuclear material must be continued to prevent the illicit trafficking of such material; and

  5. Accelerate disarmament efforts. One of the key tenets of the NPT is an explicit agreement by the nuclear-weapon states to undertake efforts towards complete nuclear disarmament. This agreement was the “bargain” that the non-nuclear-weapon states were given in exchange for renouncing pursuit of their own nuclear-weapons capability. To date little true progress has been made by the nuclear-weapon states in achieving this goal. There are still 27,000 nuclear warheads in existence and more than 30 countries are in alliances that rely on nuclear deterrence, a list that includes Canada. Clearly, the nuclear-weapon states have not lived up to the spirit of the NPT in taking steps towards nuclear disarmament.

But there are two other important areas in which work can be done to complement the NPT: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). The CTBT bans nuclear explosions, for both military and civil purposes, in any environment, yet the treaty is still not in force 10 years after it was negotiated. For the CTBT to enter into force, the 44 states that formally participated in the 1996 session of the Conference on Disarmament and possess nuclear power or research reactors must ratify the treaty. Canada ratified the CTBT in December 1998.20 To date, several key states, including the United States, China, North Korea, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan have failed to ratify the CTBT. There are numerous reasons for this lack of consensus, but the United States must shoulder much of the blame. In 1999, the CTBT was put before the United States Senate for ratification, but domestic political posturing resulted in a vote that rejected the treaty, despite overwhelming support from America’s senior military leadership, its leading weapons scientists, and key allies.21 Without United States ratification, other key states, including India and Pakistan, also withheld their support for the CTBT. Until the United States elects to ratify the treaty and convince other nations of its importance to the non-proliferation regime, the CTBT will languish unimplemented.

In 1993, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution recommending that negotiations commence for a “non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”22 To date, little progress has been made towards negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). There are concerns over how the fissile cut-off would be verified, with some nations arguing that inspection rights might be too far-reaching, and yet would still not yield the confidence necessary to assure adherence. There are also disagreements over the scope and purpose of the FMCT. Non-nuclear-weapon states argue that the FMCT should be a disarmament measure, rather than simply a limit to existing stockpiles of fissile material. Nuclear-weapon states argue that the fissile cut-off should be focused on the future production of fissile material, and they look to quantify current stockpiles. Pakistan has also expressed concerns that India might possess larger stockpiles of fissile material, permitting India to develop more nuclear weapons than Pakistan. It appears unlikely that efforts towards negotiating a FMCT will commence in the near term without consensus from the nuclear-weapon states on the importance of this treaty.

El Baradei


Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Finally, Israel, Pakistan, India, Iran, and North Korea present their own separate challenges to strengthening the non-proliferation regime. The issues surrounding each nation’s interest in pursuing nuclear weapons must be viewed in the broader context of addressing state security needs. By addressing the motivation for acquiring nuclear weapons, the international community can commence the dialogue necessary to bring these five countries under the NPT umbrella. Once this is accomplished, the treaty will have been strengthened and international security further enhanced. The adherence of these states to the provisions of the NPT, combined with the CTBT, FMCT, and the steps proposed by the Director General of the IAEA, will ensure that the NPT is further strengthened and remain a true pillar of the non-proliferation regime.


In the early 1960s, President Kennedy warned that more than 15 nations could possess nuclear weapons by the 1970s. Due in large part to the NPT, 40 years later, only nine countries have reached the nuclear-weapon threshold. Because of this landmark treaty, few of the 44 countries thought capable of producing nuclear weapons have elected to embark on nuclear-weapon programs. In this regard, the treaty is an unqualified success. There can be no doubt that the world is much safer when the number of countries that possess nuclear weapons is limited, and mechanisms are in place to monitor the nuclear-related activities of non-nuclear-weapon states. The NPT, along with the IAEA, has provided the tools through which to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the continued long-term viability of the treaty can only be assured through continued skilful diplomacy. Leading states must seek to address the underlying frictions that cause a nation to view the possession of nuclear weapons as being in its national interest and all nations must further efforts to conclude agreements, such as the CTBT and FMCT, that complement the NPT. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council must take a leadership role in addressing the conflicts in the Middle East, in South East Asia, and on the Korean Peninsula, and they must also make a greater commitment to eventual disarmament of their own nuclear arsenals. To do otherwise places at risk the viability of the non-proliferation regime and the instrumental role that diplomacy has played in contributing to international security. We must not forget that for the past 40 years, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has provided an enduring framework to curb nuclear proliferation and to render the world safe from the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Major Craig, an air navigator, is currently a staff officer to the Canadian National Military Representative to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Casteau, Belgium. In 1995, he was seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a member of the Canadian Delegation that attended the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.


  1. The complete text of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons can be found at the United Nations Peace and Security through Disarmament website, available at <http://disarmament.un.org/wmd/npt/index.html>.
  2. An excellent source of information regarding the development of nuclear weapons and the current status of various national programs can be found on the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) website, available at <http://www.nti.org/index.html>. Ted Turner and former United States Senator Sam Nunn founded the NTI in 2001 with the express aim of raising public awareness of the threats to global security posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
  3. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2373 (XXII). Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 1672nd plenary meeting, 12 June 1968, accessed at <http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/ resguide/resins.htm>.
  4. Susan B. Welsh, “Delegates Perspectives on the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference,” in The Nonproliferation Review/Spring-Summer 1995, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 3-5.
  5. Ibid., at p. 2.
  6. Statement by Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Christopher Westdal at conclusion of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, noted at <http://www.basicint.org/nuclear/ NPT/1995revcon/npt_up20.htm>.
  7. David Albright and Mark Hibbs, “India’s Silent Bomb,” in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 48, No. 07, (September 1992), pp. 27-31.
  8. Pakistan Country Profile on the Nuclear Threat Initiative website, available at <http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Pakistan/index.html>.
  9. Dr Khan’s activities were reported widely in the media in 2004 when he confessed to the illicit transfer of nuclear-weapons technology. One such article is available on the Global Security website at <http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/pakistan/khan.htm>. Pakistani President Musharraf granted Dr. Khan a pardon in 2004 in exchange for his cooperation with authorities attempting to uncover the extent of his smuggling network.
  10. International Atomic Energy Agency Press Release 2006/05, “IAEA Director General Welcomes U.S. and India Nuclear Deal,” 2 March 2006, available at <http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/PressReleases/ 2006/prn200605.html>.
  11. Israel Country Profile on the Nuclear Threat Initiative website, available at <http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Israel/index.html>.
  12. A copy of the Resolution on the Middle East and other official documents related to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference are available at <http://disarmament.un.org/wmd/npt/ 1995nptrevconf.html>.
  13. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and Sir Joseph Rotblat, “Time is Ripe to Act on Middle East Weapons,” in Financial Times, 3 February 2004.
  14. Jean du Preez and William Potter, “North Korea’s Withdrawal From the NPT: A Reality Check,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 9 April 2003, available at <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/030409.htm>.
  15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,” dated 13 February 2007, available at <http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/ zxxx/t297463.htm>.
  16. Details are contained in the February 2006 UN Security Council Report on Iran, available at <http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/site/ c.glKWLeMTIsG/b.1387817/k.9975/February_2006BRIran.htm>.
  17. Report by the Director General IAEA to Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” dated 22 February 2007, available at <http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2007/
  18. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, “Reflections on Nuclear Challenges Today,” lecture before International Institute for Strategic Studies, 6 December 2005, available at http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2005/ebsp2005n019.html
  19. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, “Introductory Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors,” 6 March 2006, available at http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2006/ebsp2006n003.html.
  20. See the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, available at <www.ctbto.org>.
  21. Daryl Kimball, “How the US Senate Rejected CTBT Ratification,” in Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 40, (September-October 1999), available at <http://www.acronym.org.uk/dd/dd40/40wrong.htm>.
  22. United Nations General Assembly, “Prohibition of the Production of Fissile Materials for Weapons or Other Nuclear Explosive Devices,” UNGA 48/75L, 16 December 1993, available at <http://www.un.org/documents/ ga/res/48/a48r075.htm>.

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