Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Pursues Penalty for Renouncing NPT

Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Pursues Penalty for Renouncing NPT

Article excerpt

The U.S. government is "cautiously optimistic" that the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be able to reach agreement at the treaty's 2015 review conference on "a meaningful way" to respond to countries that withdraw from the pact, a senior U.S. official said June 18.

Speaking at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said the treaty parties are "very near consensus" that the issue should be addressed.

A key issue, as Countryman framed it, is that a country that joins the NPT can take advantage of the opportunity to receive peaceful nuclear assistance under the terms of the treaty but then withdraw and "apply those technologies for nuclear weapons purposes."

Article x of the treaty says that a party has the right to withdraw on three months' notice "if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of [the NPT], have jeopardized [its] supreme interests." The issue gained importance after North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, an action that NPT members have not officially recognized.

Since the 2003 announcement, the United States has "aggressively" pursued the issue of how to respond to a party's withdrawal, Countryman said. In the preparatory meetings for the 2015 conference, the United States is seeking to foster agreement that "withdrawal cannot be without consequences," he said. …

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