Zeroing in on Noncompliance: An Interview with Assistant Secretary of State Stephen G. Rademaker on the U.S. Approach to the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference

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Stephen G. Rademaker has served as assistant secretary of state for arms control since August 2002. Recently, he was also charged with overseeing the department's nonproliferation bureau. In an April 19 interview with Arms Control Today, Rademaker shared U.S. views on how to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on the eve of a once-every-five-years NPT Review Conference. Below are excerpts of the interview.

ACT: What is the United States hoping to achieve at the 2005 NPT Review Conference, and what is your strategy for accomplishing those objectives?

Rademaker: The most important challenge facing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is the threat of noncompliance, which we have seen many instances of in recent years. These developments have to be truly alarming to anyone who cares about the nuclear nonproliferation regime. We have had North Korea announce its withdrawal from the treaty [in January 2003], resume nuclear weapons related work, and announce that it has produced nuclear weapons. We have a situation with Iran where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented an 18-year history of deception and violation by Iran of its safeguards obligations,1 all of which in our view is clear evidence that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program. We think delegates to the review conference need to take a careful look at that situation. We also have the case of Libya, which was covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons program until evidence emerged of that program. Once [Libyan leader Moammar] Gaddafi was confronted with that evidence, he chose to renounce his nuclear ambitions. Still, Libya is another example of the compliance problem that we think needs to be the focus of attention.

Of course, underlying all three of these particular compliance issues was the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.2 We learned in Libya of the existence of the Khan network and the fact that a covert operation was underway worldwide to supply countries, including NPT states-parties, contrary to their treaty obligations, interested in developing nuclear weapons. We think we have put the Khan network out of business, but we have to be concerned about the emergence of similar networks in the future.

These are the kinds of developments that have emerged since the last review conference in 2000, and we think the principal focus of attention at the upcoming review conference has to be these problems and what can be done to prevent them from undermining the foundations of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

ACT: When you say these are the problems that need to be looked at, what are you asking other countries to do to address these compliance concerns?

Rademaker: We would like to see a consensus emerge that this is in fact a major challenge and that there is a shared interest among all treaty states-parties in remedying this problem. Once we can achieve agreement that this is a problem that needs to be remedied, then we can begin to talk about what those remedies might be. We do believe it would be important to try and reach agreement about the proper interpretation of Article IV of the treaty, which sets forth the right of non-nuclear-weapon states to peaceful nuclear cooperation. We think that it is clear from the text of Article IV that peaceful nuclear cooperation is an inalienable right for those parties that are in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under the treaty. But for countries that are not in compliance, obviously their right to peaceful nuclear cooperation needs to be implemented in a manner consistent with the simultaneous requirement that they not be seeking nuclear weapons.

ACT: As I am sure you know, the UN high-level panel that included Brent Scowcroft [President George H. W. Bush's national security adviser] noted in its report I "A More secure World: Our Shared Responsibility"] that "lackluster disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states weakens the force of the nonproliferation regime and thus its ability to constrain proliferation. …