Nuclear Club Needs to Confront Proliferation Issues

July 18, 1993|By GERARD C. SMITH and JAMES F. LEONARD

Until the United States and the internation al community resolve to strengthen the presumption against nuclear proliferation, the difficulties the Clinton administration has faced in stopping proliferation in Iraq and North Korea are likely to be repeated elsewhere.

The run-up to the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) extension conference provides the United States with an opportunity to assume its global responsibility to lead the world in a safer direction. The United States has made clear that it wants an indefinite, unconditional extension of the NPT. By developing a comprehensive agenda for the control of nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War setting it will have taken a major step toward this important objective.

Each of the following six arms control issues is important in its own; each issue is also intertwined with the treaty's extension, and will have to be dealt if the extension conference is to be a success.

Nuclear testing:

With the administration's decision on July 3 to extend the U.S. testing halt, the United States should now set as its objective the negotiation and signing by all the nuclear and near-nuclear states, and by most other governments as well, of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB) by the end of 1994 or early 1995.

To have a fair chance of meeting this target, the United States should promptly obtain the views of other nuclear and near-nuclear governments and develop a negotiating strategy and procedure. The treaty text should be kept simple, with verification provisions relegated to a protocol and adopted separately from the treaty.

If this schedule proves impossible, the fall-back should be a commitment among the five nuclear powers to maintain the present testing halt through 1995 and to conclude negotiations on a treaty by 1996 -- the deadline suggested in the U.S. legislation. U.S. objectives at the extension conference will be more readily secured if the CTB negotiation is finished by 1995; but if a good faith effort has been made and the delays are not ours, then the great majority of NPT parties will cooperate at the conference.

Production of material for weapons:

Next to the test ban, a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons (a "cutoff") will be the most important new "reinforcement" that can be brought to the non-proliferation structure.

As with nuclear testing, the U.S. objective should be a global treaty, embracing all the nuclear and near-nuclear states and the majority of the international community. In principle, development of a treaty text could be achievable by late 1994. However, since difficulties may arise, including concerns about verification, civil uses of plutonium and the unknown position our negotiators will find in China, a cutoff effective at some date between 1995 and 2000 may be the most that can be achieved before the 1995 NPT conference.

Side understandings among key states that lock in whatever unilateral cutoffs can be then be effected would help build confidence that no state had resumed production of weapon material while negotiations went forward. It would also put the weight of the U.S. behind the successful conclusion of a treaty.

Constraints on use of nuclear weapons:

With the end of the Cold War, support in the United States for a "no first use" policy has grown to the point where one can envisage its adoption by the Clinton administration. If that cannot be achieved before 1995, priority should be given to a less controversial constraint: an assurance to non-nuclear parties the NPT (or an equivalent agreement) that the United States and the other four acknowledged nuclear powers would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against them. An effective way to register this would be a U.N. Security Council resolution updating the "negative assurances" that were adopted separately in 1978 by the five nuclear powers.

Assurances against nuclear threats:

"Positive assurances" are promises to assist countries threatened with, and victims of, a nuclear attack. The three sponsors of the NPT (the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) offered such assurances in a 1968 Security Resolution, and since neither France nor China criticized this procedure when they joined the NPT last year, it should not be difficult for the Security Council to adopt an improved text. Arrangements to supplement global assurances may, however, be required to meet the needs of Ukraine or other governments (( that perceive themselves as being especially threatened.

Further reductions in nuclear arsenals:

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