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Nuclear weapons ban should support the Non Proliferation Treaty

A nuclear weapons ban should first do no harm to the NPT, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Adam Mount Richard Nephew 9 Mar 17 Though substantial progress has been made since the end of the Cold War in the dismantlement of US and Russian-held nuclear weapons, non-nuclear weapon states have become frustrated with the pace of disarmament. Two years ago, several states launched a new process that would delegitimize nuclear weapons by declaring a ban on their possession and use. Despite the objection of the nuclear weapon states and their allies, the UN General Assembly voted in late 2016 by a wide margin to begin negotiations on the text of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Though the movement is the product of laudable motives, the ban treaty is likely to have little influence on the nuclear powers’ strategic force-structure decisions, which are the product of a complex mix of strategic and political considerations. On the other hand, a variety of nonproliferation problems would be unaffected by the ban or even worsened. For example, the creation of an alternative treaty structure governing nuclear weapons could lead to “forum-shopping,” in which a state might hope to dilute international condemnation over its noncompliance with the strict verification requirements

of the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by participating in the new nuclear weapons ban treaty.

There is a relatively simple fix: Pro-ban states should insist that the new treaty contain an article reaffirming all participants’ obligations to the NPT. The article should include provisions that automatically rescind standing in the ban treaty should the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) find a signatory to be noncompliant with its NPT obligations.

The ban treaty will remain controversial. It should not be controversial, though, to say that a treaty aspiring to a nuclear-free world should first do no harm to the existing tools we have to prevent the spread of nuclear materials and technology to new states, which are centered around the NPT.

Negotiations on the text. At this early date, with negotiations on the text yet to begin, little is known about the format or content of the nuclear weapons ban treaty. The drafters will have to resolve an underlying tension. A simple and largely rhetorical treaty would maximize the number of signatories, and avoid blowback from states that resist new legal obligations. At the same time, some states will want the treaty to demonstrate substantive progress. This could include any number of steps, ranging from directly strengthening nonproliferation norms and institutions to encouraging the International Court of Justice to reconsider its 1996 decision—which found that nuclear deterrence is legally permissible—on the grounds that the ban movement represents an evolution of international customary law and norms of behavior. The stated aims of the movement and a desire for a greater number of signatures suggest that a simpler text is more likely. In any event, the treaty is unlikely to provide for development of a framework for verifiable disarmament.

Nuclear weapon states have largely declined to participate in the ban process (though the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan sent delegations to the ban movement’s final preparatory conference in Vienna in 2014). Concerned that confrontational rhetoric from some ban states signals a desire to achieve a treaty at any cost, the nuclear weapon states have expressed concern that the ban movement “may negatively affect the prospects for consensus at future NPT Review Conferences.” Observers in nuclear weapon states and elsewhere remain concerned that ban treaty negotiations could undermine the authority of NPT obligations, establish conflicting obligations, erode the effectiveness of the existing NPT system to resolve nonproliferation concerns, lead to a destabilizing counterreaction in nuclear weapon states, or distract attention from other critical priorities for nuclear governance and strategic stability.

Forum-shopping under a ban treaty. Treaty proponents have denied that their pursuit of a ban would distract from the broader nonproliferation agenda, noting that many ban states have supported the treaty precisely because they are committed to nonproliferation. However, their good intention is not sufficient to ensure the ban treaty’s complementarity with the existing NPT regime. If negotiators do not include specific provisions in support of the NPT, they could inadvertently do it substantial harm by creating an opportunity for nuclear aspirants to “forum-shop.”……..

The NPT system—and the arsenal of other tools it enables, through the IAEA and other organizations—is irreplaceable. A nuclear weapons ban treaty will have its best chance to promote a world free of nuclear weapons if it strengthens the NPT.


March 11, 2017 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war

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