2015 NPT Monitoring Report – Disarmament

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova
April 2015

CNS Releases Updated NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report

2015 CNS NPT Monitoring Report2015 Monitoring Report: Implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan, Disarmament Actions 1-22

The ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will convene on April 27-May 22, 2015, in New York. NPT states parties will engage in difficult negotiations aiming to agree on an assessment of the implementation of the treaty and decisions of past Review Conferences (RevCon), and to chart the course for the next review cycle. Central issues for the RevCon include the review and future of the 64-item NPT Action Plan adopted by the 2010 RevCon, progress on nuclear disarmament, and the Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Disarmament section is a key part of the Action Plan, and with progress in this area lacking, states parties continue to disagree about the appropriate pace of its implementation and whether the Action Plan should be updated with deadlines, targets, and priorities for the next review cycle.

The 2015 NPT Monitoring Report is the fourth in the series produced by CNS to review the implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan, focusing on 22 action items on nuclear disarmament as well as recommendations on the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East WMD-free zone. The report covers the developments since the 2010 Review Conference but, wherever possible, highlights in particular the period from April 2014 to April 2015 and provides background on a number of issues.

Doctrines and Arsenals

Overall progress in implementing the disarmament action items since 2010 has been very limited, though in the past year some positive developments took place with regard to transparency and reporting. The role of nuclear weapons in military and security concepts of nuclear weapon states has remained largely the same, with several states reaffirming their belief that nuclear weapons are the ultimate guarantee of their security. The modernization of arsenals in the nuclear weapon states (NWS) is ongoing with respect to the development and production of new delivery systems, upgrades of existing ones, increased “effectiveness” of weapons, and extension of their lifetime. To non-nuclear weapon states, these developments signal continued, long-term reliance on nuclear weapons and put into question nuclear weapon states’ commitment to disarmament. No state has announced unilateral nuclear arsenal reductions since the United Kingdom did so in 2010, and US-Russian dialogue on bilateral arms control steps following New START has been deadlocked due to differences in priorities and the worsening of relations after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

Transparency, Reporting, and Verification

The NWS have achieved limited progress on transparency and reporting through their joint consultations (the “P5 Process”), and submitted their first reports under the standard form developed jointly pursuant to Action 21. For the most part, however, the reports contained information that had already been available previously. Furthermore, as the views on transparency among nuclear weapon states continue to differ, the amount of information and level of detail provided in the reports vary significantly. Reflective of the pre-existing trend, the United States provided the most information on its nuclear arsenal and policies, including an update on the total number of nuclear weapons in its stockpile and the number of warheads dismantled between 2009 and 2013. China, on the other hand, did not report any specifics regarding its arsenal, but described at length its national security doctrine.

The NWS have continued to brief each other about their verification experiences, with China sharing for the first time information on its nuclear disarmament verification related research. In cooperation with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the United States has launched International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification that aims to engage both nuclear- and non-nuclear weapon states on seeking solutions to disarmament verification challenges. The P5 have also agreed on the first edition of a common glossary of key nuclear terms and are planning to present it at the Review Conference.

Humanitarian Dimension

The focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons (HINW) continued to gain momentum in the past year, and representatives of 158 states, along with international and civil society organizations, attended the third HINW Conference in Vienna in December 2014. For the first time, two nuclear-weapon states, the United States and United Kingdom, attended the conference, as well. The move, though not signaling a broader change of positions, was widely welcomed by the non-nuclear weapon states. At the closing of the Vienna Conference, Austria called on NPT parties to “pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and pledged to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders on this matter. Subsequently, more than 60 countries have endorsed the Austrian Pledge. This growing push for a legal prohibition of nuclear weapons stands in stark contrast to the deadlock in the US-Russia discussions on further arms control steps, and the pessimism regarding disarmament generated by the increased tensions between Russia and the West. The interplay of these two trends is likely to shape the discussion of the future of disarmament and the Action Plan at the Review Conference.

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

A significant positive development is the signature by all five nuclear weapon states of the protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) treaty in May 2014. France and the United Kingdom have since ratified the protocol. France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, however, have attached interpretative statements and/or reservations to their respective signatures. The United States is likely to express reservations at the ratification stage. On the other hand, the NWS and ASEAN members have not resolved their disagreement on the signature of the protocol to the Bangkok Treaty, as some of the Southeast Asian NWFZ parties continue to oppose interpretative statements and reservations.

Finally, after some hopeful signs in 2013-early 2014, progress in implementing the recommendations concerning the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle has stalled. After missing the 2012 deadline for the regional conference on the establishment of the zone, the co-conveners and states in the region have been unable to agree on a new date. Disagreements persist about the conference agenda, modalities, and potential outcomes. NPT states parties are now facing the question of how to address the Middle East issue at the RevCon and what measures—if any—they could agree upon as part of an updated Action Plan to help advance the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the region.

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