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Indefinite Extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Risks and Reckonings

ACRONYM Report No.7, September 1995

Executive Summary

The 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was held in New York, 17 April to 12 May. It was attended by 175 of 178 states parties and by 195 non-governmental organisations. This is a report of the NPT Conference and analysis of its decisions.

  • On 11 May the states parties decided without a vote to extend the NPT indefinitely. The decision was taken as part of a politically binding package which included Principles and Objectives for non-proliferation and disarmament, and agreement on additional meetings of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to enhance the Treaty review process.
  • The Principles called for the conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) no later than 1996 and a programme of action on nuclear disarmament, including a ban on production of fissile materials for weapons purposes ('Fissban'), and systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons, with the 'ultimate goal[s] of eliminating those weapons...'.
  • Since then, China has conducted two nuclear tests, on 15 May and 17 August, saying that it will stop once a CTBT has entered into force. On 13 June, France announced that it would resume testing with a series of up to eight explosions between September and May (the first of which occurred on 5 September). France claimed these were necessary to enable it to sign a CTBT in 1996. The Conference on Disarmament (CD) still lacks agreement on the main CTBT articles of scope, verification, entry into force and the implementing organisation. The CD has so far failed to convene a committee to negotiate a convention that would ban fissile materials for nuclear weapons purposes, despite agreeing its mandate on 23 March.
  • Universality, and particularly the nuclear weapons programme of Israel, became a major focus of the Conference. At the insistence of 14 Arab states, a resolution on Middle East security issues was also passed without a vote. The Conference urged all states to adhere to the Treaty and sought to put pressure on Israel, India and Pakistan by agreeing in the Principles that NPT parties would not supply nuclear materials and technology to any state that refuses to put its nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards
  • The Conference failed to reach consensus on a Final Declaration summarising its review of the Treaty. It came to important agreements on security assurances, safeguards, cooperation, safety, transshipment and dumping of nuclear materials, and so-called peaceful nuclear explosions. However, there was bitter deadlock on nuclear disarmament. The non-nuclear-weapon states wanted much more than the nuclear-weapon states were prepared to offer.
  • Western states were united on indefinite extension but divided over nuclear disarmament. Non-aligned countries were divided on the extension question but rather more united on substantive issues, particularly nuclear disarmament. They called for a time-bound framework of measures leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Failure by the nuclear-weapon states to fulfil the obligations undertaken in the Treaty would discredit the decisions of the Conference and seriously undermine the non-proliferation regime.
  • Effective implementation of the 'enhanced review' and 'Principles and Objectives' decisions will be vital for the future authority of the NPT. Planning will need to begin now to ensure that the Review PrepCom meeting in 1997 is successful in addressing these issues.

© 1995 The Acronym Institute.