Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

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Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), formally called the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, is the cornerstone of the international effort to halt the proliferation, or spread, of Nuclear Weapons (State Department, United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, Vol. 21, part 1 [1970], pp. 483–494). The NPT was first signed in 1968 by three nuclear powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom—and by nearly 100 states without nuclear weapons. It came into force in 1970, and by the mid 1990s it had been signed by 168 countries.

The NPT distinguishes between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. It identifies five nuclear-weapon states: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Article II forbids non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the treaty to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. Article III concerns controls and inspections that are intended to prevent the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or explosive devices. These safeguards are applied only to non-nuclear-weapon states and only to peaceful nuclear activities. The treaty contains no provisions for verification of the efforts by nuclear-weapon states to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Under the provisions of Article IV, all parties to the treaty, including non-nuclear-weapon states, may conduct nuclear research and development for peaceful purposes. In return for agreeing not to develop nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-weapon states receive two promises from nuclear-weapon states: the latter will help them to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes (Art. IV), and the latter will "pursue negotiations in Good Faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament" (Art. VI) (as quoted in U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 1982, 93).

Since 1975, NPT signatory countries have held a review conference every five years to discuss treaty compliance and enforcement.

North Korea has caused international concerns since 1993, with its attempts to develop a nuclear arsenal. In 1993, North Korea announced that it would withdraw from the NPT, only to rescind its withdrawal shortly thereafter. In 1994, North Korea and the United States entered into an agreement whereby the United States agreed to provide power supplies and other necessities in exchange for North Korea's promise not to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. However, in October 2002, North Korea announced that it would resume its program to develop these weapons. On January 10, 2003, it announced again that it would withdraw from the treaty, effective the following day. Although the NPT requires that nations adhere to a three-month waiting period to withdraw from the treaty, North Korea claimed that it had already done so, for it originally had announced its withdrawal in 1993. North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons have brought crisis to that region, and South Korea and Japan have sought U.S. assistance to resolve the crisis through diplomacy.

Further readings

Dekker, Guido den. 2001. The Law of Arms Control: International Supervision and Enforcement. Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Law International.

Kegley, Charles W., Jr., and Eugene R. Wittkopf. 1993. World Politics. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Mandelbaum, Michael. 1995. "Lessons of the Next Nuclear War." Foreign Affairs (March–April).

Sheehan, Michael. 1988. Arms Control: Theory and Practice. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. 1982. Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements: Texts and Histories of Negotiations.


Arms Control and Disarmament.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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