University of Twente Student Theses


Negotiating nuclear weapons: a study on the merit of article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for nuclear disarmament

Baas, Richard (2008) Negotiating nuclear weapons: a study on the merit of article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for nuclear disarmament.

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Abstract:In 1970 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force. Since then, it has been regarded as one of the important international legally binding regimes with respect to nuclear weapons, and has proven to be a solid foundation for many subsequent (nuclear) arms control related measures. The NPT makes a distinction between Nuclear Weapon States (NWS; the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China), and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS; all the other state parties to the NPT), of which the latter promised not to (attempt to) acquire nuclear weapons. As part of this bargain, the NNWS gain access to the technology of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, while the NWS have an obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament. This is phrased in Article VI of the NPT, which states that "[e]ach of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control". At present however, around 27,000 nuclear weapons continue to exist, which casts doubts on the merit of this specific Article. Especially since the end of the Cold War, many NNWS and nongovernmental organisations (NGO's) also question the necessity of possessing nuclear weapons, for they argue that the risk on (accidental or intentional) nuclear war should be reduced to zero. The topical research question for this thesis is therefore: What is the merit of Article VI within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for nuclear disarmament? Four additional sub questions have been devised to answer this research question, and are structured to narrow the discussion from broad (nuclear) disarmament towards the nuclear disarmament negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and more specifically nuclear disarmament under Article VI and the NWS' degree of compliance with it. The first sub question deals with the measures that have been taken outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty framework as part of the overall disarmament and arms control discussion. While the two concepts are sometimes used interchangeably and have evolved since the 1940's and 1950's, disarmament can be defined as the reduction of weapons in a specific category of weapons in order to be protected against the threat of weapons. Arms control on the other hand, intends to seek security through a more strict control of weapons. Three concepts of measures taken for nuclear disarmament outside of the NPT framework are addressed in this section. Depending on the perspective of looking at a NWFZ treaty, from a 'local' perspective the concept of a NWFZ is defined as a clear example of disarmament, since it completely prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in a localised area. Moreover, the concept itself does not merely intend to control nuclear weapons, but to seek its total abolishment in the given area. This fits the theoretical rationale underlying the concept for disarmament, for supporters of disarmament want to be protected against the threat of weapons (i.e. negative security assurances), while the supporters of arms control seek security through a more strict control of weapons. The two other measures, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the No-First-Use principle, fit the description of arms control, since they intend to restrict nuclear weapons by prohibiting NWS from nuclear testing or using, not from prohibiting or restricting the possession of nuclear weapon. Nuclear disarmament in Article VI of the NPT however, is the result of long negotiations between many states with all of them having different agenda's. The result therefore, is an ambiguous provision with several interpretations possible. Since Article VI calls for all states to pursue negotiations in good faith, this can be strictly legally interpreted as merely a party's intention, and not as a legal obligation for it is not stated in such manner. As a result, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has presented an Advisory Opinion (which in itself is not legally binding), to also conclude these negotiations. The last ten to fifteen years have also demonstrated a strong willingness on behalf of the NNWS, NGO's, and the ICJ to opt for a broader legal-political interpretation of the Article as part of a broader campaign to call for complete nuclear disarmament. In addition, the Final Documents of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences have provided a blueprint for achieving nuclear disarmament, although the NWS' record on this leaves much to desire for. It is however evident, that broad international opinion is clearly pitted against the possession of nuclear weapons. The last sub question analyses the degree of compliance with Article VI with respect to the five Nuclear Weapon States. This is analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Strictly from a quantitatively perspective, all Nuclear Weapon States have decreased their nuclear arsenals considerably (with the possible exception of China). From a qualitative perspective, the outcome is less promising. All NWS continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals, and continue to regard nuclear weapons as a vital component of their nuclear security strategies. Although the NPT provides a rigid international non-proliferation regime of which a substitute is at present hard to imagine, many challenges remain to be addressed. Some of these challenges are how to deal with states that are not party to the NPT and how to deal with non-state actors. For as long as the NPT is not universally applicable and a credible terrorism threat (with regards to weapons of mass destruction) continues to be present, it is hard to envisage any short-term general and complete nuclear disarmament. And for as long as the NPT is in place, NNWS and NGO's will continue to remind the NWS of their (legal-political) obligation to disarm with respect to Article VI.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Affairs and Non-Proliferation Division of the Security Policy Department
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:European Studies MSc (69303)
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