What does not exist cannot proliferate

Posted in Other | 02-May-05 | Author: Celso Amorim,Ahmed Gheit,Dermo D. Bautista,P. Goff,Nkosazana | Source: International Herald Tribune

The 35-year-old nonproliferation treaty obliges 183 states to forswear nuclear arms in exchange for a pledge by five nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - to move toward nuclear disarmament.

When the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty came into force 35 years ago, the central bargain of the agreement was that non-nuclear-weapon states like us would renounce their right to develop nuclear weapons, while retaining the inalienable right to undertake research into nuclear energy and to produce and use it for peaceful purposes. In return, the five declared nuclear-weapon states would reduce and eventually eliminate their nuclear weapons.

More recently, our countries formed the New Agenda Coalition to press for the world envisaged by the treaty, a world in which nuclear weapons would have no role. Our philosophy is that the world will be safe only when nuclear weapons are eliminated and we can be sure they will never be produced or used again.

At their meeting this month in New York as part of the five-year review conference called for in the treaty, the signatories will have a timely opportunity to scrutinize what efforts are being made by the nuclear-weapon states - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - in fulfilling their obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

For our part, we remain concerned about their unsatisfactory progress. At the review conference five years ago, the nuclear-weapon states made an "unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals." This goal is all the more important in a world in which terrorists seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the nuclear-weapon states should acknowledge that disarmament and nonproliferation are mutually reinforcing processes: What does not exist cannot proliferate.

It's true that challenges to the treaty are being made by those who would defy or undermine its rules against proliferation - the review conference will need to address concerns that have arisen in recent years about proliferation in various countries. It's also true that the possession of weapons by the declared nuclear powers is no excuse for other nations to develop their own nuclear arsenals.

But challenges also come from fears that existing nuclear arsenals will be extended or modified rather than destroyed. They come from any member that seeks to diminish previous undertakings. They come from any member whose approach fails to reflect the careful balance of the treaty. While nearly 190 countries are now parties to the treaty, the New Agenda Coalition continues to call those states that remain outside - India, Israel and Pakistan - to join as non-nuclear weapon states, thus achieving universality.

In his recent report "In Larger Freedom," the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, pointed out that "the unique status of the nuclear-weapon states also entails a unique responsibility, and they must do more, including but not limited to further reductions in their arsenals and pursuing arms control agreements that entail not just dismantlement but irreversibility." We call on these states, which are also permanent members of the Security Council, to seize this opportunity for leadership to help strengthen the treaty as the cornerstone of international security.

We welcome the statement by President George W. Bush on the 35th anniversary of the entry into force of this treaty in which he reaffirmed the "determination of the United States to carry out its treaty commitments and to work to ensure its continuance in the interest of world peace and security." We have taken at face value such commitments to the treaty.

Proliferation is a threat to the whole international community. All states have an interest and a responsibility to work together to remove that threat. Forging common cause is as much the responsibility of the nuclear-weapon states as it is for the rest of us. The New Agenda Coalition for its part will be playing a constructive role in ensuring a strong outcome to the review conference, an outcome that makes a difference especially in removing the threats of proliferation and the continuing existence of huge arsenals of nuclear weapons.

(Celso Amorim is the foreign minister of Brazil. Ahmed Aboul Gheit is the foreign minister of Egypt. Dermot Ahern is the foreign minister of Ireland. Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista is the foreign minister of Mexico. Phil Goff is the foreign minister of New Zealand. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is the foreign minister of South Africa. Laila Freivalds is the foreign minister of Sweden.)