Nonproliferation Treaty Crucial in Post-Cold-War World

Article excerpt

FRANCE'S tricolor flag will soon be flying alongside those of the 140 nations that already support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), according to a June 3 announcement by President Francois Mitterand. This promises to put an end to the ambivalence France has shown to the treaty since it was concluded in 1968, and help bring other holdout states into the NPT mainstream.

For more than 40 years, the world's two superpowers were engaged in a competition to multiply their own nuclear arsenals - resulting in massive "vertical" proliferation of nuclear weapons. But now, United States-Soviet relations are taking a less confrontational course. So elimination of the world's nuclear arsenals can form a realistic part of our planning for global security. Strengthening the NPT is an essential part of this effort.

The NPT was designed in the 1960s as a compact between states that were declared nuclear-weapons states and those that were not. The nuclear "haves" agreed not to assist non-weapons states to acquire nuclear weapons, but promised them access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Non-weapons signatories undertook not to develop nuclear weapons in the future, and agreed to place all civilian nuclear facilities under a mechanism of inspection "safeguards."

The nuclear "haves" also undertook, in the treaty's oft-quoted Article VI, to pursue negotiations "in good faith" on speedy cessation of the nuclear arms race, on nuclear disarmament, and on "a treaty on general and complete disarmament."

Despite the superpowers' tardiness in fulfilling this undertaking, the NPT won wide support among non-weapons states. As President Bush has noted, it has played a central role in a global non-proliferation effort that has limited the "horizontal" spread of nuclear weapons. But that effort has not been totally successful. A small number of states in the developing world remain outside the NPT. These include China (which has said it will abide by the terms of the NPT), South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Is rael. …

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