In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution calling on all states to conclude an international agreement that would ban the acquisition and transfer of nuclear weapons. Four years later, the Geneva disarmament conference began consideration of a draft nonproliferation treaty, or NPT, which took effect in 1970 with the United States, United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union among the 43 original parties. There are nearly 190 signatories today. Shelton Williams, professor of International Politics at Austin College, was a delegate to the 1995 conference at which a majority of the parties supported the indefinite extension of the NPT:
"Well the NPT Treaty is one of the most successful controlled treaties in history next to the U-N Charter. The most ratify treaty in existence all but a handful of nations have yet to ratify it,' he says. " India, Pakistan and Israel are the only ones remaining outside of it, so yes it is the cornerstone of the arms control effort and one of the most successful multi-lateral agreements in history."
On the other hand, Michael Hanlin, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, says while the NPT has made major contributions to global security and economic wellbeing, it has a potentially fatal flaw:
"The non-proliferation treaty overall had some big problems until the last few years and it still is faced by challenges, but I think it has made a lot of progress in terms of how it is implemented by the international atomic energy agency and over seen by the security council. The main problem with the NPT even though admittedly may have checked the initial spread of nuclear weapons back in the 60’s…the main problem however is that it legitimate the transform of nuclear technology," he says. "As long as that for declared purposes that are peaceful, but unfortunately peaceful nuclear technology is very similar to weapons related technology."
One hundred eighty-nine nations are meeting at the United Nations this month (May) to review the flaws and hopefully close the loopholes in the NPT. The United States says, Iran and North Korea have exploited the loopholes to pursue nuclear weapons. Amid accusations from all sides, North Korea has already declared that it will not deal with President Bush. Again, Professor Shelton Williams.
"With regards to North Korea it is a matter of diplomacy and this has been an unbelievable rollercoaster ride on again and off again progress and now we seem to be off again and both sides hurdling insults personal insults to each other leaders is not a good situation," he says. "One would hope that the six party talks would reach some kind of accommodations, but one is beginning to despair that the North Koreans really want to be part of the international community and that is what it really it is all about complying with treaties suggest that you want to be part of the international and I have always thought that the North Koreans were holding out to negotiate a different status in the world in holding out the threat of going nuclear," he adds. " They really aren’t going to gain any military advantage by going nuclear other than to scare everyone of potentially de-stabilizing the region, but they don’t seem to want to negotiate it away and it is a very dicey and dangerous situation."
The Brookings Institution's Michael Hanlin, while acknowledging the belligerency of Iran and North Korea on nuclear matters, points out that the U-S and other nuclear powers are criticized for not always adhering to the spirit of the treaty.
“There are many countries that are quite critical of the Bush administration in particular and existing nuclear weapons states more generally because they say we are keeping arsenals that are too large, we are showing can’t regard for treaties we are selves have committed to such as the anti-ballistic missile treaty from which president Bush had the United States withdraw from several years ago and we are keeping our options open to test more nuclear weapons and that in general we are not complying with the spirit of the non proliferation treaty or some of the direct requirements of that treaty that require the nuclear weapons states to move towards the elimination of their nuclear weapons arsenal and certainly not to improve them indefinitely as some Americans now which to do,” he says. [and] “So there is a lot of pressure in both directions. The real question is can there be a compromise in such that we tighten the flow of technology and other countries get some of what they want from some of what they want from the major nuclear weapon states today and I think the prospects for that are fairly mediocre.”
In opening the month-long NPT review conference, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged countries such Iran and North Korea to renounce their potential bomb technology, and at the same time challenged Washington and Moscow to slash their nuclear arsenals.
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